Tag Archive | "Dennis Pitta"


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Ravens place Brooks, Pitta on physically unable to perform list

Posted on 24 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With rookies and injured veterans having already reported to Owings Mills for training camp, the Ravens officially placed tight end Dennis Pitta and safety Terrence Brooks on the active physically unable to perform list on Friday.

Pitta’s status came as no surprise as he continues to try to work his way back to full strength from the second serious right hip injury of his career. Meanwhile, Brooks has made substantial progress since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December.

The 2014 third-round pick was a limited participant during spring organized team activities, but he increased his activity level as the weeks progressed, creating optimism about his chances of contributing at some point during the 2015 season.

“Terrence Brooks is doing really well,” head coach John Harbaugh said in late May. “No predictions right now, but he looks good. He has worked hard. [Head trainer] Mark Smith does a great job in our training room, and those guys who’ve been there the whole time, they’ve benefited from that.”

Players on the active PUP list still count against the 90-man offseason roster limit and are eligible to return to practice at any point during the summer. However, a player who returns to practice would not be eligible for the reserve PUP list that’s set at the start of the regular season and does not count against the 53-man roster limit.

A player placed on reserve PUP is not eligible to return until after the first six weeks of the season.

The Ravens also placed rookie wide receiver Cam Worthy on the active PUP list earlier in the week.

Quarterbacks will report for training camp on Sunday with the rest of the team reporting on Wednesday. The Ravens will conduct their first full-squad practice on Thursday.

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Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Pitta’s status comes as no surprise entering training camp

Posted on 21 July 2015 by Luke Jones

Anyone surprised by the news of Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta’s status for the start of training camp shouldn’t be.

Even before The Sun reported the 30-year-old is expected to be placed on the physically unable to perform list, all signs had pointed to that reality throughout the offseason and spring.

The Ravens made no secret in preparing for life without Pitta by adding two tight ends — second-rounder Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle in the fifth round — in this year’s draft after they had selected Crockett Gillmore in the third round last year. And though Pitta had done some individual work — catching passes and running routes — during voluntary organized team activities in the spring, his full clearance never appeared imminent.

Pitta will initially be placed on the active PUP list during training camp — which allows a player to return to practice at any point — before he could then be moved to the reserve PUP list for the start of the regular season. Reserve PUP allows a player not to count against the 53-man roster limit, but that player is ineligible to return until after the first six weeks of the regular season.

Whether even that will happen remains to be seen after Pitta suffered two serious right hip injuries in a 14-month period, the second coming in Cleveland on Sept. 21, 2014. The innocent nature in which Pitta re-injured the hip — catching a short Joe Flacco pass and trying to turn upfield without being touched — immediately cast doubt over whether the 2010 fourth-round pick would ever play again.

“He’s going to have to be cleared by the doctors, and No. 2, he’s going to have to decide he wants to play,” head coach John Harbaugh said during last month’s mandatory minicamp. “Obviously, there will be some risk involved. The first thing hasn’t happened yet. He hasn’t been cleared by the doctors. He has been going through — as you saw before — the individual part of [voluntary] practice.

“In minicamp, unless you’re cleared, you can’t come out to practice. I don’t know if that’s a rule or a policy, but that’s the way it goes. Until he gets cleared by the doctors, he won’t be able to practice, and we’ll just have to see where that goes from here.”

Because Pitta’s $4 million base salary is guaranteed for the 2015 season, the Ravens lose nothing by allowing him to continue strengthening the hip in hopes of an eventual return. Confident after Pitta returned late in the 2013 season from the first injury and receiving assurances from doctors that he was at no greater risk to hurt the hip again, general manager Ozzie Newsome signed Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed last year.

His $5 million base salary for 2016 is not guaranteed, meaning the Ravens could cut him after this season and would only have to deal with the dead money from the remaining prorated portion of his $11 signing bonus on the salary cap. This would leave $6.6 million in dead money on next year’s cap if he were to be released next offseason.

With Pitta’s future remaining cloudy, Gillmore and Williams are expected to compete for the starting tight end job this summer.

In his five-year career, Pitta has caught 138 passes for 1,369 yards and 11 touchdowns.

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Pitta not cleared to participate in minicamp

Posted on 16 June 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens welcomed back a number of key players for this week’s mandatory minicamp, but one veteran who had been practicing throughout the spring was not participating on Tuesday.

Attempting to return to the NFL after two serious right hip injuries in two years, tight end Dennis Pitta had taken part in voluntary organized team activity workouts on a limited basis this spring, but he has not been medically cleared to participate in minicamp. Head coach John Harbaugh and others have said throughout offseason that Pitta’s status for the 2015 season will not be determined until later this summer, but Tuesday was a reminder of how far he still has to go to return to action — if it happens at all.

Pitta watched Tuesday’s practice from the sideline.

“A couple things are going to have to happen for him to play, ultimately,” Harbaugh said. “No. 1, he’s going to have to be cleared by the doctors, and No. 2, he’s going to have to decide he wants to play, because, obviously, there will be some risk involved. The first thing hasn’t happened, yet. He hasn’t been cleared by the doctors. He has been going through — as you saw before — the individual part of practice.”

During OTAs, Pitta caught passes and did light agility work with the other Ravens tight ends, but he was relegated to working on his own during the team portions of practices. Baltimore has proceeded this offseason as though Pitta would not be able to play in 2015 and drafted Max Williams in the second round and Nick Boyle in the fifth round of this year’s draft after making Crockett Gillmore a third-round selection last year.

With the soon-to-be 30-year-old Pitta not participating in minicamp, he remains eligible to begin the summer on the physically unable to perform list. The 2010 fourth-round pick’s $4 million base salary for the 2015 season is fully guaranteed.

“Unless you’re cleared, you can’t come out to [minicamp] practice,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know if that’s a rule or a policy, but that’s the way it goes. Until he gets cleared by the doctors, he won’t be able to practice, and we’ll just have to see where that goes from here.”

While several veterans such as linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil and guard Marshal Yanda made their 2015 practice field debuts on the first day of mandatory minicamp, the Ravens were still without a number of players including starting center Jeremy Zuttah (hip), starting right tackle Rick Wagner (foot), rookie guard Robert Myers (shoulder), and wide receivers Michael Campanaro (quadriceps), Aldrick Robinson (knee), and Cam Worthy.

Harbaugh confirmed all players missing from the practice field on Tuesday were dealing with some type of physical ailment, but he would not go into further detail.

“I don’t really remember what it is. It might be the shoulder,” said Harbaugh when asked specifically about the 2015 fifth-rounder Myers. “But all those guys that weren’t practicing today have some tweak. They’re not practicing.”

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Ravens begin voluntary offseason training program

Posted on 20 April 2015 by Luke Jones

With the start of the 2015 regular season less than five months away, the Ravens officially began their voluntary offseason training program on Monday.

The first phase of the program lasts for two weeks and includes only strength and conditioning work, physical rehabilitation, and mental preparation. This part of the offseason is strictly voluntary, but most players beyond select veterans are expected to attend regularly.

A video on the team’s official website that highlighted the first day showed a number of players in attendance including quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Phillip Supernaw, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, running back Justin Forsett, wide receiver Marlon Brown, linebackers C.J. Mosley, Courtney Upshaw, and Albert McClellan, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and offensive lineman John Urschel.

The Ravens did not provide access to media for the first day of the program, but Pitta’s attendance can be viewed as a positive sign as he hopes to continue his NFL career after dislocating and fracturing his right hip twice in a 14-month period.

Coaches are not allowed to lead players in on-field workouts during this first part of the offseason program.

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Veteran tight end Daniels follows Kubiak to Denver

Posted on 10 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Former Ravens tight end Owen Daniels will reunite again with Gary Kubiak again after agreeing to a three-year contract with the Denver Broncos on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old veteran followed Kubiak to Baltimore last year after they had spent eight years together in Houston and will now catch passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The deal is worth a total of $12 million, according to The Denver Post.

Daniels’ departure leaves the Ravens lacking at the tight end position with their only healthy options with experience on the current roster being 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw. The status of Dennis Pitta has yet to be determined for the 2015 season after he suffered a second serious hip injury in 14 months last September, but the Ravens cannot count on his availability.

In 15 games last season, Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns while serving as a reliable option for quarterback Joe Flacco. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed hope last month that Daniels would return to the Ravens.

“We’ve talked to Owen, and Owen says he wants to come back,” Harbaugh said. “I’m sure that he and his agent will talk about what’s best for them financially, and every other way, but he’s very interested in coming back here.”

Of course, with the Ravens’ limited salary cap space and Daniels’ history with Kubiak, Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, and Broncos tight end coach Brian Pariani, Denver was the natural landing spot for the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

The Ravens will see Daniels in 2015 as they visit Denver during the regular season.

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Series of unfortunate events led to Ravens’ 2015 cap woes

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to officially begin on Tuesday, the Ravens find themselves in a familiar position of lacking salary-cap space.

It’s the cost of doing business when you draft well and strive to keep as many of your own young players as you can. That’s the proven method for sustained success compared to those teams who draft poorly and subsequently throw around money on the volatile free-agent market to try to build a winning team.

Of course, the reminder must be delivered to those Ravens fans who panic every March after seeing some players depart and are too impatient to wait for general manager Ozzie Newsome to act. The more levelheaded fans recognize this yearly process and remind anyone who will listen of the old mantra, “In Ozzie we trust.”

But this offseason is unique as the Ravens are dealing with the fallout from a series of unfortunate events that have wreaked havoc on their salary cap, leaving them with just $4.639 million in space before tendering their restricted and exclusive-rights free agents ahead of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Much attention has fallen on the future of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who carries a $16 million cap figure for the 2015 season, but three other events have left Newsome and the Ravens in even worse shape than they might have been under normal circumstances.

The most obvious is the lingering fallout from the Ray Rice saga as the Ravens are still carrying $9.5 million in dead money on their 2015 cap after cutting the running back last Sept. 8. Even though the 28-year-old free agent hasn’t even been on the roster for over six months, his ghost carries the fourth-highest cap figure on the team for the coming season.

Some argued at the time of his signing in 2012 that the Ravens shouldn’t commit to a long-term contract with Rice, but no one could have foreseen the circumstances that led to the termination of his contract.

The second example remains more open-ended, but tight end Dennis Pitta’s second hip injury in 14 months last September has not only left his career in jeopardy but has created another gaping hole of dead resources. Though nothing is official in terms of his playing status, Pitta’s $4 million base salary is guaranteed for 2015 and it would be more costly to cut him than to keep him this year, meaning his $6.2 million cap figure will stay on the books despite the strong possibility that he sits out the season.

It’s fair to question whether the Ravens should have been more conservative before committing to Pitta last offseason — they could have used the franchise or transition tag to make sure his surgically-repaired hip was sound after the first injury — but they had received assurances from doctors that the 29-year-old had no greater risk to injure his hip again.

Those two players alone are responsible for $15.7 million in cap space with Rice no longer on the roster and Pitta potentially unable to play again. It’s akin to having another Ngata weighing on the cap without the benefit of having either player on the field.

A third event more open for debate than the others was the second anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered by cornerback Lardarius Webb only six months after he signed a six-year, $50 million contract in 2012. Prior to his second ACL injury in less than three years, Webb was emerging as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, receiving the fourth-highest grade of all players at his position from Pro Football Focus in 2011.

Few would argue that Webb has ever been the same since then and injuries are surely part of the game, but it was also terrible luck when he had just become one of the highest paid players on the roster. If he had continued on his pre-injury track, the Ravens would likely be able to live with his $12 million cap figure for the 2015 season and their concerns at the corner position would be less severe. Instead, they’re facing the possibility of cutting him and further depleting a position that was Baltimore’s Achilles heel in 2014.

No team — good or bad — is immune to making mistakes as there will always be signings and draft picks that don’t work out, but the three events outlined above have contributed to the Ravens’ worst predicament in several years despite the NFL’s salary cap increasing by $20 million over the last two offseasons.

This isn’t meant as an excuse for Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens as they’ll find a way to make additions to the roster, but it’s a simple reality to keep in mind as you brace for the start of free agency and what figures to be a difficult series of departures.

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Ravens can’t count on Pitta to continue NFL career

Posted on 19 February 2015 by Luke Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh isn’t giving up hope on tight end Dennis Pitta returning to the football field.

But it’s clear the organization isn’t planning on it at this point.

Speaking at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Harbaugh had “nothing definitive” when asked about Pitta’s football status after he suffered two right hip dislocations and fractures in a 14-month period. The 29-year-old has recovered from the second injury suffered in Week 3 of the 2014 campaign, but it hasn’t been determined whether he’ll return to action for the Ravens.

“It’s between Dennis and the doctors right now,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed, but only for what’s best for Dennis. There’s no way in the world that you want anything other than the fact that he can be safe. His hip is fully recovered in the sense of the blood flow is there. There’s no lingering problem from either one of the injuries, so he’s in great position to live a great life, which is the main thing.

“Whether that goes to the next step that he wants or is able to play football — that will be up to them. I’m like you; I’m waiting to hear.”

The Ravens can’t plan on it with 2014 third-round selection Crockett Gillmore the most experienced tight end currently under contract for the 2015 season. Veteran Owen Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns in his first season in Baltimore, but the 32-year-old will be a free agent and has an injury history of his own to consider.

General manager Ozzie Newsome is expected to look to the draft this spring where he will consider prospects such as Minnesota’s Maxx Williams and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary in an underwhelming class of tight ends. In the meantime, there’s nothing the Ravens can really do with Pitta’s five-year, $32 million contract signed last offseason that includes a $4 million base salary that’s fully guaranteed for the 2015 season.

In fact, cutting Pitta right now would cost the Ravens more salary-cap space than keeping him on the roster as he tries to improve enough to make a return at some point. A post-June 1 release would not result in any cap savings, either, making his contract untouchable from a cap standpoint until next season.

“We have nothing to lose by just letting it play out,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a guaranteed contract for next year, so financially, he’s in good shape. We’ll just have to see where it goes. We’ll just plan accordingly.”

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Uncertainty surrounds tight end position for Ravens this offseason

Posted on 28 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Perhaps it’s fitting that the Ravens hired a relative unknown to become their new tight ends coach with so much uncertainty surrounding the position this offseason.

Head coach John Harbaugh announced Wednesday that former NFL tight end and 2014 coaching intern Richard Angulo was being promoted to oversee a position that could look very different for the Ravens next season. With Owen Daniels an unrestricted free agent and Dennis Pitta’s future still unclear, only 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore is a sure bet to be in the mix next season.

Gillmore is looking forward to working with Angulo after both men were new to the Ravens this past season. Handling offensive quality control duties under former coordinator Gary Kubiak, Angulo worked two seasons as the offensive line and strength and conditioning coach at Trinity International University before coming to Baltimore in 2014.

The 6-foot-8 Angulo made 17 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown in a six-year career with stops at St. Louis, Minnesota, Chicago, Jacksonville, and Cleveland.

“He helped me out a lot last year,” Gillmore told WNST.net on Super Bowl Radio Row in Phoenix. “He’d come in and we’d work on some little things, but he’s done a really good job throughout my [learning] process. He’s a player. He’s been around the league, so he has that insight. It’s really pretty much a fresh start for us. He was around, but he had other duties. Now that he can just focus on this, I’m really excited to see what he can do.”

With new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman bringing former Chicago Bears tight ends coach Andy Bischoff with him to Baltimore, many assumed he would have the same title in Baltimore, but Harbaugh hasn’t shied away from hiring younger position coaches after hiring running backs coach Thomas Hammock and wide receivers coach Bobby Engram from the collegiate ranks last year. Bischoff will instead be an offensive quality control coach with Angulo coaching the tight ends.

Angulo will hope to have some veteran experience to work with as the Ravens would like to re-sign Daniels at the right price. After Pitta was limited to just three games before suffering a second devastating right hip injury in a 14-month period, the 32-year-old Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns.

Harbaugh has expressed cautious optimism regarding the football future of Pitta whenever asked for updates over the last couple months, but the eighth-year coach declined to offer specifics last week about the results of the tight end’s recent meeting with specialists.

“I did get kind of an overview of that report from our trainer that I wouldn’t really want to share until Dennis has had a chance to kind of consider all of the ramifications of it,” Harbaugh said. “But I think we’ll have something on that in a couple of weeks, kind of on Dennis’ time frame. We’ll see where that goes.”

For now, Gillmore is the surest thing on the roster despite only making 10 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in the regular season. However, the Colorado State product became a bigger part of the offense as the season progressed and caught six passes for 98 yards over the final five games of the season counting the playoffs.

A year ago at this time, Gillmore was just coming off playing in the Senior Bowl and in the midst of the draft process. Now, he’s glad to be an NFL player attending the Super Bowl on Sunday before diving into his first full offseason.

“I know there’s a lot to work on. Nobody’s perfect, but I feel really good about the season I’m coming off of,” Gillmore said. “I did what I wanted to do as far as getting on the field and making an impact in the passing and running games and special teams. I want to continue to build on all three aspects.”

The Ravens will likely take a look at the draft as well as free agency if Daniels departs via free agency, but they’re hoping Gillmore’s late-season improvement is a sign of more to come from a tight end who has admitted to having more of a blocking mentality than that of a pass-catcher.

Catching both of his touchdowns — one in the wild-card round — against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a good start in helping his popularity in Baltimore.

“I like that. I like spiking it into the stands,” said Gillmore as he smiled. “I like scoring on Pittsburgh. I like beating Pittsburgh.”

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Ravens “cautiously optimistic” about Pitta returning next year

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh remains hopeful that tight end Dennis Pitta will be able to resume his NFL career after suffering two serious hip injuries in the last two seasons.

Harbaugh had no new information about the future of the 29-year-old, who was lost for the season after dislocating and fracturing his right hip for the second time in 14 months in a game against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21. Pitta signed a five-year, $32 million last winter that includes a $4 million guaranteed salary for the 2015 season, meaning there is virtually no chance that Baltimore would consider cutting him this offseason.

“I will say that I’m cautiously optimistic because of the injury,” Harbaugh said. “I think all of us would [say], “OK, is this going to be good?’ We want to make sure he’s going to be totally healthy, totally safe — as much as is reasonable in football — to make make sure that hip is sound and everything before our doctors would ever clear him. In the end, it will be up to the doctors and Dennis to determine that.”

Pitta has expressed a clear desire to continue his playing career after being limited to just seven games in the last two seasons. The 2010 fourth-round pick was emerging as one of the better tight ends in the NFL before suffering the first hip injury on July 27.

A vigorous rehab and the timing of the injury allowed Pitta to return for the final month of the 2013 season, but the second injury led to a slower rehabilitation process in hopes of giving the hip proper time to heal and get stronger. Many have wondered whether Pitta should play again after twice suffering an injury considered so rare in football.

Harbaugh said he spoke to Pitta on Tuesday as the tight end hopes to receive an update on his hip later in the coming days.

“He’s going to see a couple specialists this week, so I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what they say,” Harbaugh said. “But he’s working out today, so that seemed to be positive to me.”

In 50 career games in Baltimore, Pitta has made 138 receptions for 1,369 yards and 11 touchdowns as one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets.

Corners on mend

In addition to having five cornerbacks on injured reserve during the 2014 season, Harbaugh revealed Tuesday that Rashaan Melvin will undergo shoulder surgery that will keep him sidelined until organized team activities in the spring.

The former Miami Dolphins practice squad member started the final three games of the regular season and both postseason games and had played well before being torched by the Patriots for two touchdowns in Saturday’s playoff loss. However, the 6-foot-2 Melvin is regarded as an intriguing option as a depth cornerback for next season.

“If everything goes well, he should be back for OTAs and for minicamp,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we had any other surgeries at this time after the [magnetic resonance imaging exams] came in, so that’s good news. It’s the best we’ve probably been.”

Harbaugh revealed encouraging news about the status of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in late October. Smith remains in a walking boot, but it appears that he’ll be ready to go in plenty of time for spring workouts.

Smith is in line to make $6.898 million for the fifth-year option the Ravens exercised on his rookie contract.

“Jimmy will actually go into the offseason healthy,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be running here in a couple weeks, so he’ll get a chance to get a full offseason in. Maybe four weeks might be the number off the top of my head. It’s pretty encouraging that way.”

Harbaugh, Ravens staff heading to Arizona

Harbaugh confirmed that he and his staff will coach one of the Pro Bowl teams opposed by the Dallas Cowboys staff in Arizona on Jan. 25.

The Denver Broncos staff was originally supposed to be the AFC representative before head coach John Fox parted ways with the organization on Monday, opening the door for the Ravens to receive the invitation. Harbaugh sees it as a fun event while also taking advantage of the opportunity to get to know other players, which could pay off at some point down the road.

“We get to coach a little bit more, which is nice,” said Harbaugh, who added that the Pro Bowl practices would be brief. “I mentioned a few times regarding Steve Smith and other players  — you get to know guys. I got to know Steve really well way back at his first Pro Bowl. That’s always a fun part of it in getting to know some of the players around the league.”

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Ravens secondary still waiting on Webb to get up to game speed

Posted on 25 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After much anticipation for the 2014 debut of Lardarius Webb last Sunday, the Ravens only needed to see Andrew Hawkins easily shake free from the veteran cornerback to realize the time wasn’t yet right.

The shifty receiver completely turned around Webb on a simple out route that went for 24 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter to put Cleveland in Baltimore territory, and it all but ended Webb’s day as he played only four defensive snaps in the eventual 23-21 win for the Ravens. Three weeks of full participation in practice hadn’t compensated for Webb missing nearly all of training camp after being sidelined with back spasms on July 25. Since returning to practice at the end of August, Webb has needed to knock off rust and improve his flexibility in bending for the critically-important backpedal that all cornerbacks need.

“We found out really quick,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees about Webb’s performance in Cleveland. “And I had a great talk with him on Monday, and he understands. When I saw it [coaching] in the press box, I said, ‘He’s not there yet.’ And game speed is faster than practice speed. There’s no way to simulate it. But he has to keep practicing, and he has to feel very confident that he can do it. That’s half the battle playing the back end; you better feel confident that you can do it.”

The secondary has struggled without a healthy and effective Webb as the Ravens’ pass defense is ranked 24th in the NFL and is allowing 262.3 passing yards per game. The combination of Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown hasn’t inspired confidence when either has played opposite Jimmy Smith in the base defense, and the Ravens haven’t received good play at safety where Matt Elam and Darian Stewart have struggled.

Webb hasn’t been listed on the injury report this week as the Ravens prepare for Sunday’s meeting against the Carolina Panthers, which suggests he could see an expanded role from what we saw in Cleveland. The 6-foot-2 Smith is likely to match up with 6-foot-5 rookie Kelvin Benjamin — who leads the Panthers with 19 catches for 253 yards — but the rest of the Panthers’ group of wide receivers doesn’t inspire fear beyond tight end Greg Olsen, who has caught 16 passes for 224 yards through three games.

Pees has tinkered with various alignments in the back end of the defense including the use of Elam as a slot corner, which reflects how little depth the Ravens have had at the cornerback position. A healthy Webb, who is at his best playing inside in the nickel package, would give Pees some flexibility to show different looks since Jackson is also capable of playing the nickel position. However, the Ravens need to finally see a version of Webb ready to play 60 to 70 snaps per game at a high level before making any decisions about the makeup of the secondary.

“We would be fortunate if we had both those guys, because each one of them could play [inside],” Pees said. “The other guy would go outside. We have to make that determination once he’s back.”

Even with Webb’s absence taken into account, Pees isn’t pleased with how his pass defense has performed, even acknowledging Thursday that he needs to do a better job of mixing coverages and pressures as the Ravens have relied heavily on a mostly-ineffective four-man rush and soft zone coverage through the first three weeks of the season.

Elam and others pointed to miscommunication being a problem after Sunday’s game as Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer threw for nearly 300 yards last Sunday, but Pees bristled at the suggestion, perhaps implying that he wants to see defensive backs take more accountability for mishaps. The signature play of the secondary’s problems came in the fourth quarter when Elam was beaten by Browns wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for a 70-yard reception that included the second-year safety looking back at Jackson instead of touching the wideout down before he got up from the ground to gain extra yardage.

“‘Miscommunication’ would not be one of the words I would have used,” said Pees in evaluating the pass defense. “I would have said very poor technique in the back end. There are a couple of them [where] there wasn’t any communication [needed]. Just line up and play and play your position. We were beat on a three-deep coverage that I don’t know what communication is there other than, ‘Get your [butt] deep.’”

Three-headed monster

The Ravens have a three-headed monster shaping up at the running back position that they haven’t enjoyed since 2008 when Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice combined to rush for 2,027 yards in John Harbaugh’s first year as head coach.

Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce, and Lorenzo Taliaferro have all made major contributions to the league’s eighth-ranked rushing attack in the wake of Rice’s release, so it isn’t easy predicting who will receive the biggest workload moving forward. Pierce practiced fully on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Ravens continue to monitor his improvement from a quadriceps injury that sidelined him for last Sunday’s game.

Taliaferro’s 91-yard game in Cleveland has led many to conclude he should be the starter moving forward, but the Ravens have maintained all along that they’ll go with the hot hand in the backfield. And they figure to have another good opportunity Sunday with the Carolina defense allowing 145.3 yards per game on the ground.

“I still go out there just as I did since I got here,” Taliaferro said. “Just make sure I do my job and compete. Even though it’s during the season and not so much of camp now, we’re still competing not just for each other’s job, but to make each other better.”

A rush-by-committee approach is nothing new for offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who guided a number of rushing attacks years ago in Denver where unknown names such as Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary would suddenly emerge as 1,000-yard backs.

Pierce and Taliaferro bring more power and physicality in their rushing style while Forsett is more of a change of pace on third down, but Kubiak also pointed out other differences such as ability to pass protect and the special-teams contributions made by Forsett and Taliaferro that factor into the overall distribution of playing time.

“Lorenzo and Justin are three-down players that play in pass-protection situations, nickel situations, and those types of things,” Kubiak said. “That’s where Bernard needs to keep coming as a player, in my opinion, but he’s working at it and doing that.”

Of course, the biggest reason for the dramatic improvement of the Ravens’ running game has been the offensive line where running lanes have been created consistently unlike last season when the running game averaged only 3.1 yards per carry.

And their strong performance makes the debate over who will carry the ball less significant.

“I think we’re really confident in our running game, and I definitely think that starts with our offensive line,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “They have done a great job in this system, and they really lead the way. And I think you can see that [because] we had three different backs all have big days.”

Replacing Pitta

The offseason arrivals of wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels have eased the season-ending loss of Dennis Pitta a bit, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains within the Baltimore offense.

Of course, the Ravens are more equipped to handle Pitta’s hip injury than they were a year ago, but they will still depend on Daniels and rookie Crockett Gillmore to pick up the slack for one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. Phillip Supernaw was promoted from the practice squad to take Pitta’s place on the 53-man roster, but it remains to be seen what kind of role he can carve out for himself beyond special teams.

“It does make you stop in some of your preparation,” Kubiak said. “‘What happens in the game if this guy goes down? Now what do I go to? What personnel [groups] do I want to be in?’ Those are some things that you have to look at a little bit differently when you have these types of things happen.”

Juszczyk is another option who could see some more opportunities as the fullback has the ability to line up at tight end. He caught three passes for 54 yards and his first touchdown against the Browns last Sunday.

His emergence in the short passing game would be a welcome addition with Pitta no longer an option.

“I don’t think my role will change too much,” Juszczyk said. “I think I’ll be doing a lot of the same stuff I’ve been doing, but maybe more of it.”

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