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Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 14 October 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Welcoming the Dallas Cowboys to Baltimore for the first time since the 2004 season, the Ravens look to continue their NFL-best 13-game winning streak at home on Sunday afternoon.

After three prime-time home games to begin the season, the Ravens were finally able to settle into their regular routine this week for Sunday afternoon games and will face a Dallas team coming off its bye. Baltimore is 3-0 all-time against the Cowboys, including a 2-0 mark at M&T Bank Stadium.

Veteran Bobbie Williams will start at left guard for the first time this season, replacing third-year lineman Ramon Harewood. The former Cincinnati Bengal was signed in early June with the expectation of starting along the Ravens offensive line, but the 36-year-old dealt with swelling in his right ankle that he fractured in December last season and the surprising Harewood beat him out at the end of the preseason.

Harewood was listed as one of the seven inactives prior to Sunday’s kickoff. With him and Jah Reid both listed as inactives, the Ravens will have only seven offensive linemen available against the Cowboys.

With tackles Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele struggling with edge rushers, you have to wonder if veteran Bryant McKinnie will be the next veteran to regain his spot along the starting line should the pair struggle against Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware on Sunday. Through the first five weeks of the regular season, Williams and McKinnie had been relegated to spot duty and special teams.

In another sign of potential concern for their play at tackle, the Ravens have activated third tight end Billy Bajema, who could assist in run blocking and pass protection.

The Ravens surprisingly deactivated kick returner Deonte Thompson, who fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half last week. This likely means No. 3 wide receiver Jacoby Jones will return kicks against Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Dallas offensive line has struggled immensely this season as it’s been unable to open running lanes for Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (3.9 yards per carry) and consistently protect quarterback Tony Romo, who’s tied for third in the league with eight interceptions in only four games.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Dallas wears its white tops with silver pants.

The Baltimore defense will be introduced prior to Sunday’s game, but center Matt Birk will also be announced as he will play in his 200th NFL game.

Here are Sunday’s inactives …

BALTIMORE
G Ramon Harewood
WR Deonte Thompson
DL DeAngelo Tyson
LB Sergio Kindle
DL Bryan Hall
CB Asa Jackson
OL Jah Reid

DALLAS
LB Anthony Spencer
P Brian Moorman
WR Cole Beasley
S Matt Johnson
LB Orie Lemon
OL Ryan Cook
DT Marcus Spears

Follow WNST on Twitter as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live coverage and updates from M&T Bank Stadium throughout the day Sunday as the Ravens try to improve to 5-1 on the season.

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Four Questions for the Ravens Season

Posted on 04 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

Personally, I have high hopes and expectations for the Ravens this season.  But then again, when are expectations not high in Baltimore?  The success the Ravens have had in their short existence is truly unbelievable.  As I said, this season is no different and the Ravens are hoping to make the Super Bowl after reaching the AFC Championship in two of the last four years.  But, no team enters a season without question marks.

Can the Ravens young linebackers replace the production of Suggs?  

As we all know, Terrell Suggs tore his ACL in the off-season.  Because of his injury, linebackers Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, Sergio Kindle, and Albert McClellan must step up.  Kruger had a nice season in 2011 but that was when he had Terrell Suggs on the field commanding double teams.  Kruger is not alone though.  He has the help of some young players but young is the key word.  Kindle, UpShaw, and McClellan are all young and unexperienced.

If the Ravens can not produce any pressure, the team will struggle.  Pernell McPhee is a defensive lineman to keep an eye on.  He was most effective last season when he lined up against guards.  Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata will be a deadly combination this season and can occupy blockers which will help the Ravens young linebackers.

Can Torrey Smith have a break out season? 

Another way the Ravens can make up for the loss of Terrell Suggs is for the offense to be more productive and the pre-season has looked promising for the offense.  Joe Flacco looks much different.  He seems more composed and is scanning the field more effectively.  His favorite target seems to be Torrey Smith.  Smith also looks better.  His route running is more polished and he is now more than a down field threat.

If Torrey Smith had an 800-yard season in 2011 by being a down field threat only, immagine what he can do now that he is more polished?

How will the Ravens use Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson?

Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson were both stars of the pre-season.  They were brought into Ravens camp with little expectations but once they got to camp, they did nothing but perform at a high level.  Rainey, a running back out of Western Kentucky has shown a vast skill set throughout the preseason.  Rainey can run the ball effectively, catch the ball out of the backfield, he can block, and he can even return punts and kicks.  I think Rainey will play a role very similar to how Darren Sproles is used in New Orleans.  He is a play maker and the Ravens need as many of them as possible.

Deonte Thompson has also been very impressive in the preseason.  Like Raney, Thompson has been effective in multiple areas.  He has been explosive at wide receiver and as a kick returner.  Thompson has an opportunity to climb the depth chart even more.  Players like LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss are ahead of him but Thompson has been more impressive in the preseason.  I expect Thompson to be used in multiple situations this season.

Will the special teams improve? 

The Ravens are stacked with options to return punts and kicks.  Jacoby Jones, Asa Jackson, Deonte Thompson, and Bobby Rainey have all shown flashes of brilliance in the return game but returning punts and kicks is not the problem.  The coverage was dreadful last season.  To improve the kickoff and punt coverage, the Ravens made several moves in the offseason.  Cory Graham, a special teams ace from the Bears is expected to play a big role on special teams this year and possibly on defense.  Sean Considine was also signed and is expected to contribute in a big way on special teams.

The special teams coverage did not look good in the preseason but it’s only the preseason.  I expect the special teams to be greatly improved from last season.

 

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Deonte Thompson is Making a Case for a Roster Spot

Posted on 15 August 2012 by jeffreygilley

From day one, Deonte Thompson has been making plays.  The un-drafted free agent from Florida has serious speed and good hands.  Thompson is fighting for a roster spot among group of receivers filled with youth and talent.  Most predict that the Ravens will keep six wide receivers on the final 53-man roster.  Anquan Boldin,  Torrey Smith, and Jacoby Jones are locks to make the roster.  After those three players, the picture is not so clear.

The players competing for the final three wide receiver spots are LaQuan Williams, Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter, and Deonte Thompson.  Williams and Doss will most likely make the roster because of their production on special teams and their potential at wide receiver.  Although coaches have praised Doss, he has struggled to stay on the field due to injuries.  If Doss can’t stay healthy, the Ravens could surprise everyone and let him go.  While this is unlikely, it is still a possibility.

Every team in the league values players who can make an impact on special teams.  The Ravens are no different.  Therefore, the competition for the final three roster spots could come down to special teams.  Williams and Doss have been good on special teams and are somewhat established players in the Ravens organization.  Therefore, you can really narrow down the competition to be between Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson for the final roster spot at wide receiver.

While Tommy Streeter was a sixth round draft pick and Thompson was un-drafted, Thompson seems to be making more of an impact on offense and special teams.  Streeter is more of a project player and Thompson could produce for the Ravens right away.  Therefore, I think Thompson should make the team.

In addition to his potential role on special teams, I think Thompson could make an impact on the offense.  The Ravens are looking for a fourth receiver and neither LaQuan Williams or Dandon Doss have made significant strides to win that job.  Thompson’s presence in the offense would make the Ravens receiving core one of the fastest in the NFL.

If the Ravens do pick Thompson over Streeter, they can still keep Streeter seeing as they love his potential and raw ability.  Streeter could spend one year on the scout team and come back next year to make the team.  After all, Anquan Boldin will be a free agent and the Ravens might decide not to resign him.  Streeter could, one day, become the number two receiver for the Ravens.  He just needs time to develop.

 

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Ravens facing interesting decisions at wide receiver

Posted on 15 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The impressive performance of rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson during training camp has raised questions about how the Ravens will handle roster decisions at what’s considered to be a deep position.

The top of the depth chart is essentially set with starters Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and veteran Jacoby Jones locked into the No. 3 spot, but the questions begin after that. Second-year wideout LaQuan Williams appears to have a strong hold on the No. 4 overall spot on the depth chart after an impressive camp while 2011 fourth-round pick Tandon Doss has dealt with a hamstring injury.

Despite being sidelined for much of the summer, Doss’ pedigree and offseason work suggest he’s still a safe bet to make the 53-man roster, pushing the Ravens’ total to five receivers before you consider the surprising Thompson or 2012 sixth-round draft choice Tommy Streeter. Thompson has performed at a higher level overall with his exceptional speed and better-than-advertised hands in practices, but Streeter’s 6-foot-5 height and straight-line speed make him the player with the higher upside despite his limited route-running ability and inconsistent hands.

However, the question of whether the Ravens can keep six — or even seven — receivers involves much more than the passing tree and reining in passes from quarterback Joe Flacco. Many will try to project a number of players at each position that are ultimately kept on the 53-man roster, but those decisions are determined by versatility and what type of contributions players can make on special teams. In that sense, a wide receiver is suddenly viewed as an all-around football player and not an individual with a specific skill set at a given position.

“The best players will be kept on the roster,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. “And you may be heavy at a position, but I know John [Harbaugh] believes that, and Ozzie [Newsome] believes that we are going to keep our best players, and if you have a bunch of receivers that are your best players, that will dictate that. If you have receivers that aren’t, than you probably will not have a lot. I’m confident that we have a really good group of receivers on this offense. How many? We are probably going to have more than maybe we can keep, so we’ll see.”

Thompson may gain the edge over Streeter when it comes to his ability on special teams where he’s working in a number of areas. Though only listed as the fourth kick returner on the team’s most recent depth chart, Thompson has also worked as a gunner on the punt team and is learning multiple jobs on the special teams units.

It can only help his cause when the Ravens trim their roster to 53 on Aug. 31 for the regular season.

“He’s working at a variety of different positions,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “He’s one of those guys that we like to cross-train, and we have this expression: ‘The more you can do.’ So, for example, on kickoff coverage, he’s worked as an inside player, he’s worked as an outside player. And on punt return team, we’ve had him work at the end where he’s rushing punts. We’ve had him work at the vice, where he’s holding up gunners. And so, he’s got enough skill where he can play a variety of positions, so we’re trying to expose him to all those different opportunities.

“Depending on how the roster all works out, and depending on where the opening is, we can insert him there and see what he can do. So yes, his speed and his agility – and he’s a football player – you watch him play offense and you can see that, because he has the ability to get open. He’s got good hands, he’s got good spatial awareness and a football sense, and it shows up in special teams as well.”

Even if Thompson or Streeter — or neither — find their way onto the 53-man roster, both would be ideal candidates for the eight-man practice squad.

Whether they’d make it that far before being snatched up by any of the other 31 NFL teams, however, remains in doubt.

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Friday notes from training camp

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Friday notes from training camp

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Trying to figure out exactly how the Ravens plan to handle their starting outside linebacker positions has been challenging with conflicting information out there since the start of organized team activities.

While fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger and rookie Courney Upshaw are still listed as the projected starters on the first depth chart released earlier this week, Kruger is listed as the strongside — or “Sam” — linebacker while Upshaw is at the rush linebacker spot, which contradicts what Kruger told reporters during OTAs. Further complicating the situation is the shoulder injury that’s sidelined Upshaw since Monday.

Kruger and the combination of Sergio Kindle and Albert McClellan — with Kindle getting first-team reps while McClellan worked with the second unit Friday — have manned the outside linebacker spots for the starting defense this week, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees is keeping everyone guessing as Kruger has lined up at the strongside position as well as the rush linebacker spot.

When the starting defense came out in its nickel alignment Friday, Kruger and Kindle lined up as defensive ends with Ryan McBean and Bryan Hall lining up at the tackle positions as Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee are still being brought back slowly after injuries.

Regardless of who ultimately lines up at each outside linebacker position at the start of the regular season, there are question marks over the ability of both Kruger and Upshaw to drop into pass coverage, making it understandable that the Ravens are playing around with as many looks as they can to see what will work best without the services of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Return game

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg hasn’t offered much in revealing what the Ravens’ plans are in the return game, but veteran wide receiver Jacoby Jones has a strong hold on the punt return job and is listed in the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Jones has taken the majority of reps as the punt returner even though former punt returner Lardarius Webb may occasionally find himself back deep.

However, the kick returner job appears to be more wide open with no definitive player emerging to receive more reps during practices. Jones is listed as the No. 1 kick returner on the depth chart, but backup running backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry as well as rookie wide receiver Deonte Thompson received reps returning kickoffs on Friday.

Jones has the clear edge in experience, but you have to wonder if the Ravens will want him to handle return duties for both punts and kickoffs when he is expected to be the team’s No. 3 receiver this season.

We will begin to gain more clarity when the Ravens take on the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener on Thursday.

Highlights from practice

Tight end Ed Dickson continues to have an impressive camp as he caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco in an 11-on-11 portion of practice.

Matched up across from Kruger at the line of scrimmage, Dickson found a tiny window as Kruger dropped into zone coverage and Flacco threw a beautiful pass into the end zone for the score.

Though Flacco seemed to develop a better rapport with Dennis Pitta over the course of last season, he appears to be on the same page with Dickson during camp, which is good news after Pitta broke his hand earlier this week.

Flacco also delivered a bullet to wide receiver Torrey Smith on a slant pattern that beat cornerback Danny Gorrer and likely would have gone for a touchdown had the whistle not blown shortly after the reception. Smith has looked more comfortable with the entire passing tree through the early portion of camp and appears to be catching the ball more often with his hands instead of his body as he would tend to do last season.

After receiving Thursday off, rookie kicker Justin Tucker was 5-for-6 on field goal attempts as he connected on tries from 46 and 53 yards before coming up just short on a kick from 60 yards away.

Veteran kicker Billy Cundiff was given Friday off as Rosburg told media a day earlier that he would.

Roster move

With Bryant McKinnie returning to the practice field on Friday, the Ravens waived offensive lineman Paul Madsen after they had signed him in early June.

The rookie from Colorado State had previously been with the Buffalo Bills before being claimed off waivers by Baltimore.

He is the brother of former NBA player Mark Madsen.

 

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