Tag Archive | "Ed Dickson"

Ravens-Broncos: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Broncos: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 05 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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Much has changed from when we last saw the Baltimore Ravens play a meaningful game.

Traveling to Denver to take on the Broncos in a divisional round matchup from last January, the Ravens will play their first regular-season game in franchise history without future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis being a member of the organization. Longtime safety Ed Reed is now with the Houston Texans and a number of other key components from the Super Bowl XLVII championship team have moved on.

Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and quarterback Joe Flacco remains at the helm and general manager Ozzie Newsome reloaded an aging and largely-ineffective defense from a year with savvy veterans and talented rookies alike, and the Ravens have 19 newcomers to their 53-man roster from the end of last season. The most notable among them is former Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who figures to provide an impressive bookend pass-rushing threat to Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs on the opposite edge.

There were no major surprises on the inactives list for either team as the Ravens had already ruled out defensive tackle Arthur Jones (undisclosed illness) and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe) were all listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week. For Denver, the biggest names missing from this one are cornerback Champ Bailey, who is dealing with a foot injury, and suspended linebacker Von Miller.

As expected, Ravens tight end Ed Dickson (hamstring) is active and will play after practicing fully all week and being listed as probable on the final injury report. Defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) is also active after being limited in practice earlier in the week.

Rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette is inactive, meaning the Ravens will have four active receivers available Thursday night. Backup safeties Bryden Trawick and Anthony Levine are active, meaning each figures to play extensive special-teams roles.

Dealing with the sting of last year’s double-overtime loss to the Ravens, Denver figures to be motivated for revenge as these teams meet for the 10th time in the regular season. The Ravens hold a 5-4 edge and also enjoy a 2-0 advantage in postseason meetings.

Baltimore is also 5-0 in season openers under head coach John Harbaugh.

Walt Coleman and his crew will officiate the NFL’s season-opening game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with black pants while Denver will sport their orange home jerseys with white pants.

Here are Thursday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DT Arthur Jones
DT Brandon Williams
WR Deonte Thompson
OL Ryan Jensen
WR Aaron Mellette
T Jah Reid
LB John Simon

DENVER
CB Champ Bailey
RB C.J. Anderson
TE Joel Dreessen
G Chris Kuper
CB Quentin Jammer
G John Moffitt
QB Zac Dysert

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the evening for updates and analysis as Nestor Aparicio brings live coverage from Denver.

 

 

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McClain likely to start season on reserve PUP list

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McClain likely to start season on reserve PUP list

Posted on 20 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Injured linebacker Jameel McClain is still an active member of the Ravens, working out on a daily basis, attending meetings, and even jumping out of the weight room to startle a few oblivious reporters during Tuesday’s practice at the team’s facility.

When the 28-year-old returns to action, however, remains a mystery after he suffered a spinal cord contusion more than nine months ago in a game against the Washington Redskins. McClain was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp and will likely begin the regular season with that designation, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

McClain has undergone periodic magnetic resonance imaging to determine how well his spinal cord is healing, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact despite optimism throughout the offseason that he would be ready to play this season. A limited participant during spring organized team activities, McClain is now facing a minimum of a six-game absence should he be placed on the reserve PUP list, which allows the Ravens to remove him from the 53-man roster but prohibits him from returning until after the first six weeks of the regular season.

“If we go with the PUP [designation], which I think we will at this point, [we’ll] probably get another MRI before we make that decision,” Harbaugh said. “If we do that, then we’ll just do it again when that time comes, and we’ll see where he is.”

In McClain’s absence, the Ravens have turned to veteran newcomer Daryl Smith to man the “Mike” inside linebacker position previously held by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. The Ravens recently renegotiated McClain’s current contract to reduce his 2013 base salary from $3 million to $1.5 million in what didn’t appear to be an encouraging sign for his availability this season.

Injured on Dec. 9 and placed on season-ending injured reserve, McClain was forced to watch from the sideline as the Ravens won Super Boxl XLVII in New Orleans. He made 44 starts over the last three seasons, most of those next to Lewis while serving as the defense’s weakside inside linebacker.

“There are a lot of people that probably think he could play,” Harbaugh said. “I think we’ve had this conversation now with [McClain] and his family, and we all feel like, ‘Let’s be unanimous on this.’ Jameel will continue to remain a part of us through the PUP. He’s in every meeting, [and] he’s training young guys. He’s staying in phenomenal shape.”

Under the rules of the reserve PUP list, a player has a three-week window to begin practicing at the conclusion of the first six weeks. From the point that the player returns to practice, he then has an additional 21-day window before the team must return him to the 53-man roster or place him on IR for the remainder of the season. If the player is unable to return to practice at the conclusion of the first three-week window, he must be placed on IR or released.

Harbaugh made it clear on Tuesday that the Ravens haven’t ruled out McClain from returning this season despite the growing outside pessimism about his status for the 2013 season and even beyond.

“We’ll just keep taking the MRIs, and when the MRI is clear, then he’ll go,” Harbaugh said. “The MRI will be clear. There’s no question that at some point in time it will be clear. It’s just impossible to tell the time frame.”

Attendance steady

Counting down to the all-important third preseason game of the summer, the Ravens were once again looking promising from a health standpoint as tight end Ed Dickson, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, and defensive end Marcus Spears were all practicing for the second straight day.

Dickson worked on a limited basis Monday after being sidelined for two weeks with a slight hamstring tear, but he is not expected to play in Thursday’s game against the Carolina Panthers. However, optimism is growing that he’ll be available for the regular-season opener against Denver on Sept. 5.

“It’s really taken a turn for the better, probably in the last five days,” Harbaugh said. “He’s worked really, extremely hard, so we’re happy to see that and we’ll have to see. You never know. But we’ll have to see where it goes in the next week or so and see where we’re at.”

Dumervil and Spears figure to have a good chance of playing in what’s viewed as the final dress rehearsal for the starting units on Thursday before the start of the regular season.

There were no other changes to the attendance list as wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), linebackers Adrian Hamilton (wrist) and McClain (neck), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee) were all absent from the portion of practice open to the media. Tuesday marked the first time this summer where the Ravens used a regular-season format for media viewing of practice, only opening the first 30 minutes of the afternoon workout to reporters.

Harbaugh said Sunday that cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee) and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) likely have a good chance to receive some reps against Carolina, but a final decision is not expected to be made until the day before the game.

Extensive time for starters Thursday night

Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens plan to play most starters for at least the first half of Thursday’s game against Carolina, following a similar strategy to what they’ve previously done in his tenure.

“It’s individualized,” Harbaugh said. “There will be starters that will probably play into the second half, and there will be starters that probably won’t make it to the end of the half.”

Based on how the final preseason game has been handled in recent seasons, the third preseason will mark the final live-game action of the summer for most starters.

 

 

 

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

Posted on 19 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the third preseason game only a few days away, the Ravens enjoyed their best attendance for practice in quite some time with tight end Ed Dickson highlighting a list of returning players.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), defensive end Marcus Spears (hamstring), wide receiver Torrey Smith, and running back Anthony Allen also returned to the practice field as the Ravens worked in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday afternoon. Dumervil had missed the last two practices after suffering a minor groin injury in the preseason game against Atlanta while Spears had been sidelined since the preseason opener on Aug. 8. According to coach John Harbaugh, Smith was simply given a day of rest on Sunday while Allen was dealing with “a little nick” as both players only sat out one practice.

The best news of the day had to be the return of Dickson, however, as he did some light running and worked on lateral movement while catching some passes in the early portion of practice. While his hamstring is still less than 100 percent, his ability to practice on a limited basis more than two weeks ahead of the Ravens’ regular-season opener in Denver is a promising sign for his availability in Week 1.

“I’m going to test the waters. I don’t want to re-aggravate it, so I’m just going to [listen to] what the coaches say,” Dickson said. “I feel like I’m ready to get out there and do the things I do. Practice is as hard as a game out here. I feel like if I get to practice fully, I feel like I’m good to go.”

Dickson injured his hamstring on Aug. 4 when the Ravens held their first public practice of the summer at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was noncommittal once again when asked whether he would be available for Week 1, but the fourth-year tight end acknowledged an increased level of optimism after making it back to the practice field with plenty of time remaining to work his way back to full strength.

“It’s encouraging just to not to be in the treatment center watching [practice] out the window,” Dickson said. “I feel good.”

Only six players were sidelined for Monday’s workout with outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (wrist) being the only new addition to the list of absentees. Other players not working included wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and tight end Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens released veteran cornerback Chris Johnson earlier in the day on Monday and have yet to fill his spot on the 90-man roster. General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must trim the roster from 90 to 75 players on Aug. 27 and make final cuts on Aug. 31.

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Old friend Stokley officially rejoins Ravens at stadium practice Sunday

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Old friend Stokley officially rejoins Ravens at stadium practice Sunday

Posted on 11 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The man who caught the first touchdown in Ravens Super Bowl history officially reunited with the team who drafted him as wide receiver Brandon Stokley was present for Sunday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

The 37-year-old receiver who played in Baltimore from 1999 through 2002 watched practice but didn’t participate as the Ravens held their second public practice of the summer. Earlier in the day, the Ravens officially announced a one-year contract with Stokley and waived wide receiver Marcus Rivers to create room on their 90-man preseason roster.

With the foot injury to wide receiver Deonte Thompson and the questions surrounding the wide receiver position, Stokley’s addition became a no-brainer in the Ravens’ minds.

“It gives us experience,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It gives us a guy who can catch balls in the slot and has done that over a number of years. He’s done a great job of that. It’s an asset for us. More than anything, it’s a need potentially in a certain area, but we still have guys who are in the process of stepping up there.”

Stokley had a solid season with former Indianapolis teammate Peyton Manning in Denver last year, catching 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns.

For the veteran receiver, Sunday felt like a homecoming as Stokley recalled arriving in Baltimore 14 years earlier as a fresh-faced rookie taken in the fourth round of the 1999 draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette. It only took 384 catches, 5,224 yards, and 39 touchdowns for the 15th-year veteran to come full circle.

“This is where I started. A lot of old, good memories,” said Stokley, who believes he can provide the Ravens with a target who can help move the chains and provide another option inside the red zone. “It’s just a great organization, great fans, just all around a great place. I’m just trying to come in here and work hard, do my best, and hopefully help out in any way that I can.”

Of course, Stokley’s first run with the Ravens didn’t include the opportunity to play with a franchise signal-caller like Joe Flacco as Stokley played with the likes of Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Chris Redman, and Elvis Grbac. In four seasons with Baltimore, he caught just 60 passes before joining Indianapolis where he caught 139 passes while playing with Peyton Manning over the next four seasons.

Stokley was quite complimentary of Flacco after being reminded by reporters that he was on the opposing sideline in Denver when the Baltimore quarterback connected with Jacoby Jones on the 70-yard touchdown to force overtime in the divisional-round thriller against the Broncos.

“He’s unbelievable,” Stokley said. “You saw what he did last year in the playoffs. That run that they went on was awesome. It takes a special quarterback to do that.”

Thompson out, Pierce possible for Atlanta game Thursday night

Harbaugh confirmed that Thompson’s left foot sprain wasn’t something that will keep him sidelined for an extended period of time but ruled out the second-year receiver for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Thompson injured the foot making a 5-yard catch in the second quarter of the preseason opener against Tampa Bay and didn’t return. He was seen wearing a walking boot following the game and hasn’t practiced since. It appears, however, he will be ready to play in the all-important third preseason game in less than two weeks.

“Deonte sprained his foot. It’s not serious,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to hold him out of this game and re-evaluate him on Friday [to] see where he’s at. I would expect him back for the Carolina game.”

The Baltimore coach also confirmed reports that the injury to running back Bernard Pierce’s knee wasn’t serious, labeling the injury as a bruise. The second-year back tweaked his knee on a 20-yard touchdown early in the second quarter of Thursday’ game and didn’t return.

Despite not practicing over the last two days, Pierce still has a chance to play against the Falcons, according to Harbaugh.

Dickson on mend, no timetable for return

Sunday marked a week since Ed Dickson suffered a slightly-torn hamstring tear and while he’s not ready to announce a date for his return, the fourth-year tight end continues to make progress in rehabbing the injury.

“Every little thing I can do, I’m taking it day by day,” Dickson said. “This type of injury with a muscle, you’ve got to take it day by day. I’m doing all the little things, staying conditioned, and trying to catch as many balls as I can.”

Dickson has taken some consolation in knowing he can take his time recovering fully after the recent veteran additions of Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark, but the 2010 third-round pick said it’s been frustrating being sidelined after the season-ending loss of Dennis Pitta on July 27.

Asked whether he was confident that he’d be ready to go for the start of the regular season as Harbaugh has previously said, Dickson wouldn’t speak in specific terms, only expressing concern that he doesn’t want the injury to linger into the regular season.

“I can’t make any predictions,” said Dickson about his availability for the season opener on Sept. 5, “but I’m working hard to do that. I’m trying my hardest to get back out there. It kills me. I’m hard on myself.”

Absences growing at practice

The Ravens were without 13 players for Sunday’s stadium practice as linebacker Courtney Upshaw was a new absence to add to the list.

Joining him as non-participants were wide receivers Thompson (foot) and Marlon Brown, Pierce (knee), tight ends Dickson (hamstring) and Pitta (hip), offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ryan Jensen (foot), cornerback Chris Johnson (undisclosed), linebackers Bryan Hall (hamstring) and Jameel McClain (neck), and defensive linemen Marcus Spears (undisclosed) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee).

Johnson had practiced on Saturday before once again being sidelined for Sunday’s workout.

Odds & ends

Kicker Justin Tucker continued his outstanding training camp as he connected on field goals from 20, 39, 48, 35, 52, and 58 yards. He then proceeded to miss attempts from 64 and 67 yards even though each kick had more than enough distance. The NFL record for the longest field goal is 63 yards. … A day after being chastised for lackadaisical play by Harbaugh, rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette turned in his strongest practice of the summer, making consecutive difficult catches on a slant pattern and sideline route during 7-on-7 drills and topping those receptions with an outstanding leaping catch over the middle for a long gain while working with the second-team offense a few minutes later. … With Thompson sidelined, the Ravens primarily used Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Tandon Doss in their three-wide sets, but David Reed also received some reps with the first-team offense. Harbaugh said after Sunday’s practice that they’re going to take a closer look at Doss in the slot after using him in the slot and on the outside in the first couple weeks of practice. … As he did in his first tour of duty with the Ravens, Stokley will wear No. 80 and plans to practice on Monday. … The Ravens announced approximately 25,000 fans were in attendance for Sunday’s open and free practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

 

 

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Ravens tight end Dickson out “week or so” with slight hamstring tear

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Ravens tight end Dickson out “week or so” with slight hamstring tear

Posted on 05 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already reeling from the season-ending injury to starting tight end Dennis Pitta less than two weeks ago, the Ravens received additional concerning news at the position on Monday.

After leaving Sunday’s practice with a hamstring strain in Annapolis on Sunday, tight end Ed Dickson underwent an MRI and will be sidelined for at least Thursday’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and potentially longer. However, coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence that Dickson will be ready to return to the practice field well before the regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 5.

“There’s a little tear in there, so we’re going to hold him back for a week or so and we’ll see where we’re at,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to try to get him healthy. It’s going to be a matter of time, but it’s not going to be a long time.”

Dickson was sidelined for most of last year’s preseason after suffering a shoulder injury in the first preseason game. That slow start was followed by a disappointing season in which Dickson made only 21 catches for 225 yards and no touchdowns in the regular season. Since Pitta is expected to be sidelined for the entire year with a dislocated and fractured hip that required surgery, the Ravens are expected to feature Dickson prominently in their passing offense.

The fourth-year tight end had turned in a tremendous training camp, showing consistent hands and sometimes lining up in the slot before injuring the hamstring at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium during the first open practice of the summer. As much as the Ravens would like to have him available, they will surely exercise caution to prevent a potential setback for the 2010 third-round pick.

Dickson’s absence has led to newly-signed veteran Visanthe Shiancoe to take most of the reps with the first-team offense with veteran Billy Bajema, rookie Matt Furstenburg, and 2012 practice-squad member Alex Silvestro working behind him. Rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk is also being considered for more action at the tight end position.

The Ravens do not plan to make any additions at the tight end spot in the immediate future, but that could change depending how the current healthy tight ends on the preseason roster perform on Thursday. The 33-year-old Shiancoe is expected to start, but the veteran is just now getting up to speed with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s system.

“We have enough tight ends for Thursday for sure,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll be fine. We [might] have to address it there, depending on how we get out of that game.”

Linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive tackle Terrence Cody, and cornerback Chris Johnson joined Dickson as new absentees from practice, but they were just receiving a day off from practice, according to Harbaugh. Both Smith and Cody were available for post-practice interviews on Sunday and weren’t dealing with any apparent injuries.

Safety James Ihedigbo returned to the practice field after coach John Harbaugh gave the veteran a day off to rest a neck issue he’s dealt with during training camp. His absence was considered precautionary as he continues to battle rookie Matt Elam for the starting strong safety job.

Others not participating on Monday included guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receiver David Reed (groin), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip).

Running back Ray Rice left practice roughly 20 minutes early after turning his ankle, but the injury isn’t considered a concern, according to Harbaugh. The sixth-year back appeared to be receiving a light day in terms of reps throughout the course of the workout.

Offensive lineman Ramon Harewood was practicing for the second straight day after missing a week due to swelling in his knee that required an injection.

Camp highlights from Monday

The Ravens appeared out of sync early during the afternoon practice, committing several penalties and even having issues with some players lining up incorrectly.

At one point with the second-team defense on the field, defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed his frustration by shouting, “We aren’t going to be out there Thursday to line you up!”

Wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Aaron Mellette are beginning to look more comfortable over the last few days of practice. Thompson is receiving extensive reps with the first-team offense in both the three-wide set and some two-wide formations. Meanwhile, the seventh-round rookie Mellette is working more and more with the second-team offense after beginning camp at the bottom of the depth chart and working with the third unit.

Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley continue to split playing time at the center position with the starting offense, but Shipley provided one of the highlight blocks of the day in stopping blitzing inside lineback Josh Bynes in his tracks during an 11-on-11 team drill. Bynes went to the ground and appeared to temporarily be stunned until he went back to the defensive huddle and continued practicing.

Cornerback Corey Graham had a highlight interception return off a pass that bounced off the hands of wide receiver Tandon Doss, who was trying to rein in an errant pass from quarterback Joe Flacco.

Harbaugh on the late Art Donovan

Less than 24 hours after the death of Baltimore Colts legend Art Donovan, Harbaugh shared a story of the first time his father was able to meet the Hall of Fame defensive tackle four years ago and expressed his sadness of the loss of a civic legend.

Senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne took Jack Harbaugh to an alumni dinner to meet Donovan, who was drinking his customary favorite beverage at the event.

“He had a bucket of Schlitz on ice there,” Harbaugh said. “My dad knows Schlitz real well from his days in Crestline, Ohio. He’s familiar with Schlitz. My grandpa drinks Stroh’s, so that’s a good combination -– Schlitz and Stroh’s –- especially if you want a headache in the morning. They drank Schlitz [beers] all night. Art was telling stories and my dad probably told a few stories, too. He can tell a story, too. And they really hit it off real well.

“[Donovan was a] great man, great Baltimore tradition, and he’ll live on in our hearts forever.”

The Ravens flew the flags at their Owings Mills practice facility at half-mast on Monday.

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Visanthe Shiancoe

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Life After Pitta

Posted on 29 July 2013 by timjones60

 Yesterday the Ravens announced the addition of local standout and former Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to help minimize the damage that was suffered with the loss of star tight end Dennis Pitta. To many this move was obvious because of the fact that Shiancoe had appeared at the Ravens practices as an observer. Many took this as a sign that the free agent tight end was on the verge on returning to Baltimore after playing his college ball at Morgan State.

In my opinion the writing is on the wall that Shiancoe’s stint with the Ravens will not go past this season. With Dickson and Pitta both in contract years, Dickson may well play his way out of the Ravens if he performs like most are now expecting him to so he can replace the production lost by Pitta. However the Ravens have already looked into developing players like former Maryland tight end Matt Furstenburg. We can not forget about special teamer Billy Bajema as well. So I look at Shiancoe as an inexpensive band-aid who can hopefully come across the middle with out hearing footsteps (see Ed Dickson).

So with losing Pitta, we lose Flacco’ security blanket and almost a third of his passing touchdowns. The fact that the Ravens lose that much production, we can look for the Ravens to add another slot receiver, or even change the offense with the soon to be addition of Vonta Leach. No matter what Jim Caldwell will have to change some aspect of his offense and time will tell if Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense will be able to flourish.

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Your Monday Reality Check: Newsome has few flaws, but Pitta injury exposes one

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Your Monday Reality Check: Newsome has few flaws, but Pitta injury exposes one

Posted on 29 July 2013 by Glenn Clark

Before you even bother, I’m very aware of how silly it is to criticize one of the best General Managers in NFL history.

I’m even more aware of how silly it is to criticize a General Manager less than six months removed from seeing his assembled talent claim the second Super Bowl title of his tenure.

So I have an idea for you as you rad ahead. Every time you see the terms “Ozzie Newsome”, “Newsome”, “Ravens General Manager”, “Ravens GM”, “Hall of Fame former TE” or anything that would make you think I was referring to “The Wizard of Oz”, insert (in your mind) the phrase “who just won the Super Bowl and is one of the greatest executives in league history” immediately behind his name.

For example…

Ozzie Newsome (in your head: “who just won the Super Bowl and is one of the greatest executives in league history”) will be meeting with the media Monday to discuss his induction speech for Jonathan Ogden at the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend.

Got it? This will go a long way to making sure you understand that despite some criticism I will offer the rest of the way, I’m very aware of the greatness of Ozzie Newsome. Is everyone together on this?

The road to defending the Vince Lombardi Trophy hit a serious bump for the Baltimore Ravens Saturday. As you know, TE Dennis Pitta was lost for the entire 2013 season when he suffered a hip injury in a collision with S James Ihedigbo during the first padded practice of Training Camp.

Since the column (and the radio show) are titled “Reality Check”, I’ll remind you that the season did not end for the Ravens Saturday, despite how many of your friends that root for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers or Washington Redskins will want you to believe it did. The Ravens are very much still in the mix to win the AFC North with the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, and in a down conference they will have as much a chance as any.

For that to happen, the Ravens will need to replace the production of two of their top three pass catchers last year (RB Ray Rice tied Pitta for second with 61). The group they look to in order to make up for it doesn’t inspire a particularly strong amount of confidence.

WR’s Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are both capable if not complete options. Smith made major strides in his all-around game in his second season and could well be primed for a breakout year as QB Joe Flacco’s top target. Jones has long been a decent third receiver option in the NFL, but has never been able to consistently match his superb level of kick returning.

This is the part where we get to the “flaw” I referred to in the headline.

TE Ed Dickson immediately moves to the top of the depth chart with Pitta’s injury. He, recently signed Visanthe Shiancoe, little used Billy Bajema and undrafted rookie free agent Matt Furstenburg fall in line behind that. Shiancoe is well known (thanks in large part to a nationally televised “wardrobe malfunction”), but played in just four games with the New England Patriots in 2012 and didn’t have a single catch. Shiancoe appeared to be on the verge of retirement at the age of 33. Dickson was though of highly enough coming out of Oregon in 2010 that he was drafted a round ahead of Pitta, but he is coming off a season where he had just 21 catches for 225 yards and no TD’s.

Then there are the rest of the receivers. Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson, LaQuan Williams, Tommy Streeter and Aaron Mellette are the guys fighting for a legitimate chance to make the 53 man roster coming out of Camp.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens face several question marks on offense

Posted on 26 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

In exactly two weeks, the Baltimore Ravens will play their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Until then, we have training camp to diagnose the Ravens. Training camp will not be without intense competitions as the team has a few holes to fill.

Let’s start with the wide receiver position.

Anquan Boldin’s departure from Baltimore to San Francisco was well documented. Boldin was a stud in the postseason. Even if he wasn’t open, he found ways to make catches in clutch moments. But, the Ravens decided to move on and traded Boldin to the 49ers for a late round draft pick.

As of now, Jacoby Jones is projected to play across from Torrey Smith, the team’s unquestioned number one receiver. Behind Jones, the Ravens don’t have many options. Tandon Doss hasn’t proven anything and Tommy Streeter and Deonte Thompson are project players. True, Deonte Thompson has great physical abilities but those will only take him so far. In addition, Jones’s impact on the offense is a question mark in itself. When faced with a larger role in Houston, Jones struggled. If Jones struggled with Andre Johnson, how productive can he be with Torrey Smith?

Replacing Boldin’s production will fall on the shoulders of Dennis Pitta. Pitta is a versatile tight end that has played out wide at times throughout his short career. I expect to see Pitta play a hybrid role this season, switching between a slot receiver and tight end. Playing in the slot will allow Ed Dickson to make more of an impact in the passing game. Don’t forget, before Pitta broke out last season, Dickson had 54 receptions for 528 yards and five touchdowns in 2011.

If that weren’t enough, the Ravens can throw rookie Kyle Juszczyk into the picture. Juszczyk won’t play the role of a traditional full in Jim Caldwell’s offense. Therefore, Caldwell could use him as a third tight end in certain packages.

Matt Birk was an unheralded piece to the Ravens postseason run. With the offensive line struggling, the Ravens made some changes. Bryant McKinnie was plugged in at left take. This forced Michael Oher to the right side and Kelechi Osemele to left guard. Matt Birk held the offensive line together and redeemed himself after a putrid performance against the Patriots and Vince Wilfork in the 2011 AFC Championship.

Replacing Birk will be just as important as replacing Boldin. Gino Gradkowski is the favorite thus far but veteran AQ Shipley could take the job.

When the Ravens line up against the Broncos, expect Gradkowski to be the starter. Gradkowski was drafted to be the eventual replacement to Birk and played well in spot duty last season.

As for Joe Flacco, many are projecting a regression. Well, I don’t buy that for a second. An average completion percentage is a common argument against Joe Flacco. Flacco’s completion percentage last season ranked 19th in the league at 59.7 percent. But, that must be taken in context. Joe’s strength is down field passing which doesn’t bode well for any quarterback’s completion percentage.

Plus, did you see Joe Flacco in Jim Caldwell’s offense? Caldwell took over in week 15 against the Broncos. While Flacco struggled against the Broncos, he heated up against the Giants and didn’t look back. Flacco only threw one interception to 15 touchdowns with Caldwell calling plays.

The Ravens offense has a lot of potential this season. Although Boldin and Birk are gone, their replacements have the ability to step in and produce. Flacco has the opportunity to make his first Pro Bowl and with him at the helm, the Ravens will always have a chance to win another Super Bowl.

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Baltimore Ravens 2013 Season Preview Part One

Posted on 05 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

Baltimore’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII was bittersweet. The Ravens had a reason to celebrate but it must also be put into perspective. Ray Lewis will never play for the Baltimore Ravens again. Neither will Ed Reed.

Many fan favorites are gone from Baltimore. Guys like Bernard Pollard, Carry Williams, and Anquan Boldin weren’t just great players. They were tempo setters. They brought intangibles to the team that personified the Ravens playing style and can’t be replaced.

Even with all the departures, the Ravens still stand a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Don’t forget, they still have number five and 27 in the backfield. The Ravens offense will live and die by Flacco and Rice this season. Both are highly regarded by their peers and are a dangerous duo when Rice is involved in the passing game.

Even though Rice remains, the heart and soul of the offense is gone. Anquan Boldin will be wearing a 49ers jersey this season and will be greatly missed. In my opinion, the Ravens received too little for Boldin who is worth much more than a sixth round draft pick. Experts say he was getting old and could not separate but what does it matter if he still catches everything thrown his way?

In the coming season, the Ravens will replace Boldin’s production with Dennis Pitta. Pitta should play a hybrid position in 2013 between tight end and wide receiver. He will line up in the slot more often, which will allow more opportunities for Ed Dickson to be a pass catching threat. Don’t forget that Dickson can be a dangerous weapon when utilized. Before Pitta broke out in the 2012 season, Dickson had nearly 60 catches and 528 receiving yards.

Having Pitta in a hybrid role would also allow the Ravens to utilize versatile rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell could have a lot of fun with Juszczyk who played fullback, running back, and tight end at Harvard last season. His versatility will cause matchup, spelling, and pronunciation nightmares.

Speaking of nightmares, the Ravens defense will cause many of them this season. This defense has the ability to be one of the best in franchise history. Possibly the best Baltimore has seen since 2006. If you have followed the team closely, that must be music to your ears.

The main point behind my argument is this. The Ravens are younger, faster, more athletic, and extremely versatile.

The trio of Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata will be a lethal combination. All three players are elite at their respective positions and can take over games by themselves. Just think of all the fun they will have!

Ngata is so dominant that he will occupy blockers on the inside. In turn, other defensive lineman like Arthur Jones and Chris Canty will have an easier path to the quarterback. Suggs and Dumervil will then face less blockers on the outside but will also open things up for Ngata, Canty, and others when offenses are forced to put more attention on them. So in a way, offenses will have to pick their poison when facing the Ravens defense.

Despite the promise I see for the Ravens, a tough season still lies ahead. Thanks to the Orioles, the Ravens are forced to open on the road against Denver. Unless Jacoby Jones and Joe Flacco have another miracle up their selves, I don’t see this game ending well.

Following a tough opening game, the Ravens return home to face the Browns and Texans in consecutive weeks. If the Ravens do not perform well, the season could easily start with two losses to the Broncos and Texans. Following the Texans, the schedule gets progressively tougher. There are weaker teams on the schedule but the Packers, Steelers, Bears, Vikings, and Patriots will test Baltimore to their limits.

The Ravens have many factors in their favor for the 2013 season. Their recent dominance over the AFC North indicates they should win the division yet again. In addition, Joe Flacco is better than most of the quarterbacks the Ravens will face this year. The only quarterbacks better than Flacco on the Ravens schedule are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning. Flacco is also very good in clutch situations so the Ravens will have an advantage over 13 teams they will face at the most important position on the field.

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Ravens tight end Dickson sidelined with minor groin strain

Posted on 13 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens concluded their final day of mandatory minicamp, tight end Ed Dickson was absent from the field for a second straight day.

“Ed had a groin strain,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We are resting him. He wasn’t able to practice.”

Several others were absent from the field including Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder surgery), offensive lineman Antoine McClain (foot surgery), safety Omar Brown (undisclosed), and running back Damien Berry (undisclosed). Harbaugh said Tuesday that Yanda should be ready to go for training camp on at least a limited basis to start.

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, nose tackle Terrence Cody (hip surgery), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (ACL surgery), and wide receiver Marlon Brown (knee) were all present but not participating. Ngata appeared to be receiving the day off as he continues to work on his conditioning after rehabbing his injured knee for a large portion of the offseason.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebackers Jameel McClain and Albert McClellan continued to work on a limited basis while rookie linebacker Arthur Brown (sports hernia surgery) appeared to be close to 100 percent as he took part in most individual and team drills.

The Ravens received another health scare during Friday’s midday practice as outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton went down with a lower back injury during an 11-on-11 session. However, all signs point to it only being a minor issue despite the second-year linebacker being in noticeable pain for a few minutes before walking off the indoor field gingerly.

“[We] got a quick report,” Harbaugh said. “It doesn’t seem serious. It was all muscular, so he should be fine. That’s early.”

Players dealing with injuries will now received a lengthy break as the Ravens will have the next several weeks off before reconvening in Owings Mills for the start of training camp in the final week of July.

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