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Ravens place six players on active PUP list to begin training camp

Posted on 23 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Set to open their 2016 training camp this coming week, the Ravens announced Saturday that six players would begin the summer on the active physically unable to perform list.

Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) and Elvis Dumervil (foot surgery), running back Trent Richardson (knee), and cornerback Jumal Rolle (Achilles tendon) were placed on the PUP list ahead of Wednesday’s report day for veterans. Rolle is expected to miss the 2016 season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during a spring workout.

Head coach John Harbaugh indicated during last month’s mandatory minicamp that the Ravens would be careful with the workload for Smith, Suggs, and Dumervil during training camp and even in preseason games as they work their way back to full strength. After suffering a left knee injury originally feared to be a season-ending ACL tear in June, Perriman is expected to return at some point during training camp, according to Harbaugh.

Signed to compete for a roster spot with a deep group of running backs, Richardson was hampered by a hamstring issue during organized team activities and underwent knee surgery last month.

Often confused with the reserve list that requires a player to miss the first six weeks of the regular season, active PUP is used for any player who isn’t ready to begin practicing at the start of training camp. Players on active PUP may return to the field at any point, but that activation makes them ineligible for the reserve list that doesn’t count against the 53-man roster limit to begin the regular season.

It’s worth noting that quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot surgery), cornerback Will Davis (knee), and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (calf) were not placed on PUP, meaning they should be ready to begin practicing immediately. Flacco said during last month’s minicamp and reiterated this past week that he would be back on the field for the first day less than eight months after undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee.

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More questions than answers for Ravens entering training camp

Posted on 20 July 2016 by Luke Jones

We’re finally a week away from the curtain rising on the 2016 Ravens.

Sure, we caught a brief glimpse during last month’s mandatory minicamp, but how much could we really learn from non-contact practices that didn’t even include the starting quarterback, their No. 1 receiver, the starting outside linebackers, the top cornerback, and their 2015 first-round pick?

Trying to rebound from the worst season of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are hoping for better health after a team-record 21 players finished 2015 on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list. They believe the free-agent additions of safety Eric Weddle, tight end Benjamin Watson, and wide receiver Mike Wallace and the continuing development of young players will provide the upside to return to the playoffs after failing to qualify in two of the last three years.

With a pedigree that includes two Super Bowl championships, four division titles, and 10 playoff appearances in the last 16 years, the Ravens bouncing back from a 5-11 campaign to once again become an AFC contender in 2016 would hardly be shocking. But there are more questions to ask than answers to offer as players report to Owings Mills over the next week.

What about this roster truly makes the Ravens brass rest easy at night?

Coming back from the first significant injury of his career, Joe Flacco is a franchise quarterback capable of playing at a championship level, even if his regular-season numbers don’t always reflect that. Coaches will need to be smart with him less than eight months removed from major knee surgery, but it’s comforting to know that the 31-year-old will be back on the field for the first day of training camp.

The Ravens offense has the best guard in football in Marshal Yanda and veteran starters at center and right tackle as well as arguably the deepest collection of tight ends in the NFL. The defense has one of the NFL’s best nose tackles, a 2015 Pro Bowl outside linebacker, a young inside linebacker who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, and a three-time Pro Bowl safety in Weddle, who should bring more leadership and order to a volatile secondary.

Baltimore has an elite trio of specialists in kicker Justin Tucker, punter Sam Koch, and long snapper Morgan Cox, who have all been to Pro Bowls and have signed long-term contracts over the last 12 months.

The talent and potential strengths don’t end there, but the serious questions begin at this point.

What can we reasonably expect from Steve Smith and Terrell Suggs coming back from Achilles tendon injuries?

It’s been a difficult recovery for the veteran receiver, who originally intended to make 2015 his last season. Doubting Smith’s heart and determination is foolish, but we know Father Time is undefeated, making it fair to question whether the 37-year-old can play close to the level he did prior to last year’s injury when he was still a No.1 option.

The little we’ve seen from Suggs since his injury last September includes a traffic-related arrest in Arizona in March and a guest appearance on HBO’s Ballers in which he played himself getting into a scrap with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character. Set to turn 34 in October, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has been working out at the team’s facility in Owings Mills, but his conditioning and explosiveness will be scrutinized after his second Achilles injury in a four-year period. A substantially-diminished Suggs puts even more pressure on fellow veteran Elvis Dumervil as well as unproven options such as Za’Darius Smith and Kamalei Correa as pass rushers.

Will a second foot procedure allow Jimmy Smith to recapture his No. 1 cornerback form?

The 28-year-old had the screws removed from his surgically-repaired right foot this spring after he was still experiencing soreness from the 2014 Lisfranc procedure. The Ravens paid him handsomely last spring to be a difference-making presence in the secondary and need him to be the player he was in 2013 and 2014 if this defense is going to take a significant step forward this season.

What’s the reality with the Breshad Perriman injury?

It was great news that Dr. James Andrews didn’t recommend full ACL reconstruction surgery for Perriman in June, but the fact that he still prescribed a stem-cell injection makes you wonder about the healing process and stability of his left knee. The young receiver missed his entire rookie year with a right knee injury originally considered to be minor, so you hope this isn’t a cruel repeat of 2015.

For a team in desperate need of dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball, Perriman may possess more upside than anyone on the roster if he can just stay on the field.

The questions go beyond players coming off injuries.

Even if 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley proves to be more like Jonathan Ogden and less like the many who have tried to replace the Hall of Fame left tackle over the last decade, how confident can the organization honestly feel about a rookie and a new starter at left guard — projected to be John Urschel — protecting the blindside of a quarterback coming off a serious knee injury?

Baltimore has a collection of talented running backs, but is there truly a No. 1 guy in the bunch?

Who is going to play inside linebacker next to Mosley?

Is the rest of the defensive backfield ready to build on its second-half improvement from last year to be more of a force under new secondary coach Leslie Frazier?

Who might step forward to make a difference in the return game?

Finally and perhaps most importantly, are there at least a couple of young players ready to step forward to become special?

The Ravens have solid-to-good football players; they need more great ones.

All teams face questions this time of year, but there are more than usual for Baltimore entering 2016. It’s understandable after a 5-11 season that fell apart even before the injuries piled up at a record level.

We’ll soon get to see what’s behind the curtain.

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Ravens attempting to trade veteran tackle Monroe

Posted on 14 June 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are poised to move on from veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe.

Despite being cleared to return to the field from last December’s season-ending shoulder surgery last week, Monroe was not on the field for the start of Baltimore’s three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that general manager Ozzie Newsome was engaged in discussions to trade Monroe, who is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary this season.

Monroe said via his official Twitter account on Friday that the Ravens had distanced themselves from him and his strong position in favor of medical marijuana, but the organization had been noncommittal about his future throughout the offseason. After unsuccessfully trying to re-sign Kelechi Osemele with the intention of permanently moving him to left tackle, Newsome selected Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in April’s draft.

“My understanding right now is that teams are inquiring about Eugene,” Harbaugh said. “When you’re in that kind of a situation, when there’s a possibility of those kinds of things happening, you’re pretty much obligated to pull back and not practice a guy. That where it’s at right now. It’s in Ozzie’s hands, and we’ll just see where it goes.”

Entering the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed, Monroe, 29, has started just 17 games since the start of 2014 while missing action with a variety of injuries. He was sidelined last November when backup left tackle James Hurst was pushed into Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

Trading or cutting Monroe now would clear $6.5 million in salary cap space — leaving $2.2 million in dead money on this year’s salary cap — and would push $4.4 million in dead money to the 2017 cap.

The only other surprise absence from the field on Tuesday was outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who is scheduled to speak with reporters on Wednesday. Like a few other veterans, Dumervil hadn’t taken part in any voluntary organized team activities open to the media.

“I think Elvis is going to be up here tomorrow, so he can give you the details,” Harbaugh said. “But he had what has been termed a ‘preventative procedure.’ He’s not ready to go in minicamp. He’ll be ready to go in training camp, but he can explain that to you [Wednesday].”

Other players missing from Tuesday’s practice were quarterback Joe Flacco (knee), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), defensive linemen Bronson Kaufusi (back) and Michael Pierce (undisclosed), cornerback Jumal Rolle (Achilles tendon), and wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles tendon), Breshad Perriman (knee), and Michael Campanaro (calf).

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was on the field and wearing a helmet, but the veteran defensive back was limited to playing catch as he continues to recover from foot surgery earlier this spring.

Kaufusi signed his four-year rookie deal on Tuesday, meaning the Ravens’ entire 2016 draft class is now under contract.

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Pro Bowl just not worth effort for anyone

Posted on 27 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Against my better judgment, I watched some of the Pro Bowl draft.

Because I had nothing better to do on a Wednesday night was excited to know whether Ravens specialists Sam Koch and Morgan Cox would be drafted to opposing teams, I attempted to watch ESPN’s coverage and expected clever trash talk and over-caffeinated enthusiasm for a fake football game. What I witnessed was something different entirely.

It was dull — painfully dull.

No fun.

The highlight was New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning reminding his top receiver and Pro Bowl captain Odell Beckham Jr. why it was wise to draft him, quipping that he could have 100 catches or no catches next season. But everything else reeked of just going through the motions and running out the clock for the two-hour special.

Hoping to at least come away with some sarcastic fodder for Twitter, I instead tapped out after 32 minutes that felt much longer than that. Credit ESPN for producing a nice little segment recognizing a surviving veteran from the attack on Pearl Harbor with the 75th anniversary coming later this year, but the rest of the coverage from Hawaii felt as pointless as the upcoming game itself.

With no disrespect intended to the Ravens’ four selections — we learned that Cox and Elvis Dumervil are on Jerry Rice’s team and Koch and Marshal Yanda were chosen for Michael Irvin’s team — the Pro Bowl just isn’t worth anyone’s time or effort. More players than ever are declining the invitation and now even one of the Pro Bowl head coaches — Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy — is missing the game due to an illness.

Why again should fans bother watching on Sunday night if so many players don’t even care to show up?

Since the NFL scrapped the traditional AFC-NFC format — which at least provided some semblance of a rooting interest — the TV ratings for the game have declined sharply over the last two years, but enough are still watching. To each his own, I suppose, and the league will probably continue to hold the event if it’s profitable.

Still, it feels so pointless holding an exhibition game with players — the ones who actually bother to show up — competing at less than full speed while still putting themselves at risk for injury. It’s bad enough when a star player suffers a serious injury in the preseason when he’s at least preparing for a new year, but how would a team and its fans like to lose a standout performer to a torn ACL now with a recovery timetable that would bleed into the start of next season?

The idea of the Pro Bowl is far superior to the real thing. The Ravens have had at least four players selected for the game in each of the last 10 years — an impressive run that reflects their overall team success — but the honor itself isn’t worth putting players in harm’s way.

The league can continue on with the annual all-star game and probably still fool enough people into watching — because it’s the almighty NFL — but it just isn’t worth the effort for anyone involved.

And Wednesday’s draft sure made it feel like no one really wanted to be there.

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Dumervil named to fifth Pro Bowl of his career

Posted on 25 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The list of Ravens players going to Honolulu continues to grow as outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil was named to the Pro Bowl on Monday morning.

With Denver linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and Carolina outside linebacker Thomas Davis now playing in Super Bowl 50, the 32-year-old Dumervil will take part in his second straight Pro Bowl, the fifth of his 10-year career. Dumervil will join right guard Marshal Yanda, punter Sam Koch, and long snapper Morgan Cox as the Ravens’ representatives in Hawaii.

“Whenever you are recognized by your peers, it is an honor,” Dumervil said in a statement released by the Ravens. “To be able to play with the best the NFL has to offer is a blessing.”

After setting a franchise record with 17 sacks in the 2014 season, Dumervil collected only six quarterback takedowns in 2015, his lowest total since 2008. The season-ending loss of Terrell Suggs in Week 1 led to a bigger-than-expected role for Dumervil, who played 792 defensive snaps — 189 more than he saw a year earlier, according to snap counts compiled by Football Outsiders.

Spending his first two seasons with Baltimore as more of a situational rush specialist, Dumervil collected 26 1/2 sacks while playing less than 56 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. The Louisville product played in almost 75 percent of the defensive snaps this past season with Suggs injured and free-agent departure Pernell McPhee in Chicago.

“I think Dumervil has still got a year or two left, but we certainly didn’t expect to run him as many snaps, and he wore down,” owner Steve Bisciotti said earlier this month. “That’s not what we expected Dumervil to do this year was [to] have to go and play 800 snaps or whatever it was. That’s kind of the big difference.”

In 16 games, Dumervil accumulated 48 tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup in addition to his six sacks.

In addition to Dumervil, former Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor was named to the Pro Bowl as the replacement for Carolina’s Cam Newton. Taylor threw for 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his first year as the starter for the Buffalo Bills.

The game takes place at Aloha Stadium at 7 p.m. on Sunday and will be televised on ESPN.

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Ranking the Ravens’ defensive needs for 2016

Posted on 22 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense needs some work.

Yes, the unit finished eighth in total defense and surrendered the fewest passing yards in the NFL over the second half of the season, but five of the Ravens’ final eight games came against passing attacks ranked 19th or worse and another came against an AJ McCarron-led Cincinnati attack in the season finale.

The improvement was encouraging, but it wasn’t enough to just assume everything is fine, especially after the defense finished with just 14 takeaways, shattering the worst mark in team history. The hiring of former NFL head coach Leslie Frazier to coach the secondary highlights the Ravens’ desire to improve against the pass.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the second of a three-part series — we’ve already looked at the offense and special teams will follow — I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need.

1. Cornerback

Some will argue that improving the pass rush is a bigger need than cornerback, but with Shareece Wright scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and Lardarius Webb moving to safety, who will start opposite top cornerback Jimmy Smith?

Even if they’re able to re-sign Wright — who shook off a nightmare debut against San Francisco to play quite well the rest of the way — the Ravens would benefit from having another high-end cornerback. In addition to hoping that Smith is finally over the effects of his 2014 foot surgery, they need another playmaker in the secondary.

That’s the biggest reason why the Ravens have been linked to top cornerback prospects such as Jalen Ramsey from Florida State or Vernon Hargreaves from Florida with the sixth overall pick in this spring’s draft.

Baltimore has some internal options such as Will Davis who carry intrigue, but none have a body of work suggesting you could pencil them into the starting lineup with any great level of confidence.

2. Outside linebacker

Owner Steve Bisciotti spoke at length at the season-ending press conference about how much the Ravens missed Terrell Suggs after he was lost for the year in the 2015 opener, but the six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker will be 34 in October and coming off his second Achilles injury in four years.

Further complicating matters is the pending free agency of Courtney Upshaw, who lacks pass-rushing skills but is effective setting the edge against the run. The Ravens saw promising development from 2015 fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith late in the year, but they’d love to add another outside linebacker to ease the workload of the 32-year-old Elvis Dumervil, who wore down late in the year as a three-down player.

The defense needs a young outside linebacker who can get after the quarterback, but the top options in the draft beyond Ohio State’s Joey Bosa — Myles Jack of UCLA and Leonard Floyd of Georgia — would likely be considered a reach where the Ravens are picking in the first round.

There’s a lot of uncertainty at this position for 2016 and beyond when your top two options are both well over 30.

3. Safety

Since the departure of Ed Reed, the Ravens have pumped so many resources into improving this position with very underwhelming results.

Though not quite as consistent as you’d probably like, Will Hill has emerged as a solid starter at strong safety, but the free safety position remains a different story. Kendrick Lewis just doesn’t show enough ability to make high-impact plays, and Lardarius Webb’s $9.5 million salary cap figure for 2016 will need to be addressed if he’s even to remain on the team.

Terrence Brooks has flashed his athleticism when given opportunities, but the 2014 third-round pick has battled injuries and has yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff from a mental standpoint.

Unless you draft Ramsey and move him to safety, there doesn’t appear to be a safety in this year’s draft who can bring the type of impact the Ravens are seeking. This could mean another year of hoping an internal option such as Brooks finally emerges as more of a ball-hawking threat.

4. Inside linebacker

Daryl Smith will be 34 and is no guarantee to return, meaning the Ravens should be looking for the inside linebacker of the future next to 2014 Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley.

Former undrafted free agent Zach Orr showed solid coverage skills while replacing Smith in the nickel package late last season, but it remains to be seen whether he can be a viable three-down linebacker. And 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown is more likely to be cut then to suddenly become a starter after three disappointing seasons in Baltimore.

Considering Mosley has struggled in pass coverage, the Ravens would benefit greatly from having another inside linebacker who can stick with running backs or tight ends in routes.

Whether it’s for 2016 or beyond, general manager Ozzie Newsome would probably be wise to be on the lookout for an inside backer with upside in the middle rounds of the draft.

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Ravens have taken holiday spirit too literally in 2015

Posted on 23 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s better to give than to receive, right?

Perhaps the Ravens have taken the spirit of the holiday season too literally in 2015 as they enter Sunday’s meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers holding the second-worst turnover ratio in the NFL at minus-15. It’s a major reason why Baltimore has long been out of the playoff race and needs one win in the final two weeks of the season just to avoid tying the worst record in franchise history.

“You don’t win football games when you turn the ball over,” head coach John Harbaugh said after Sunday’s loss to Kansas City in which his team committed three turnovers. “If any team this year should understand that, it’s the Baltimore Ravens. Until we learn that lesson, we can play as hard as we want, we can be as physical as we want, we can be as tough as we want, we can play some pretty darn good football. But if you turn the ball over, you’re not going to win.”

The Ravens have committed 26 turnovers, the second-highest total of the Harbaugh era with only their 2013 total (29) being higher. It’s no coincidence that those are the Ravens’ only non-playoff seasons under their eighth-year coach.

But the inability to create turnovers from the opposition has been a much greater problem for the Ravens in 2015. With just 11 takeaways in 14 games, they’re on pace to shatter the franchise-worst mark of 22 set in 1996 and matched last season.

The current Ravens can only dream of forcing 49 turnovers like the 2000 team that won Super Bowl XXXV or the 2006 squad that forced 40 on the way to the best regular-season mark (13-3) in franchise history. The Baltimore defense of old feels light years away as its old rival comes to M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

“To be able to play like [that], you’ve got to get the lead,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We just shoot ourselves in the foot when we don’t get [the lead] early. It’s always harder to play behind versus with the lead. I think that’s a valuable lesson we’re all learning this year.”

Though the Ravens have held a lead in 10 of their 14 games this season, those advantages have often been brief as they’ve led at the conclusion of just 14 of 58 quarters of play (counting two overtime periods) all season. The game-winning points in all four of their victories have come on the final play of the game.

We know that the Ravens lack dynamic, game-changing talent on the defensive side of the ball, but it isn’t easy to set the tempo and attack opposing offenses when they’re always on their heels and taking the punches.

“It’s being in the right place consistently, creating a little momentum [and] probably creating pressure on quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “Getting the lead has a lot to do with turnovers, especially interceptions. I think you’ll find – if you look at the analytics – that when you have the lead and you force quarterbacks to be a little more desperate in some of their decision-making, they’ll throw you the ball quite a bit more. We have been behind most of the season, so I think that factors into it.”

Yanda in exclusive company

After being named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl on Tuesday, right guard Marshal Yanda became the sixth Ravens player in franchise history to be named to at least five Pro Bowls, joining Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata.

Having played with all five of those individuals in his nine-year career, Yanda realizes he’s entered special company as he quietly carves out his place as one of the best players in Ravens history.

“It’s awesome. It’s a great honor, obviously, to be mentioned with those guys,” Yanda said. “Those guys are Hall of Famers, and it’s just awesome, and I feel fortunate to be able to stay healthy at the right time and be able to play on a good team, good organization.

“I understand a lot of that stuff sometimes has to help, too, [with Pro Bowl selections]. Obviously, you see that other teams are having a really good year [and] more guys get voted in. When you’re having a tough year, less guys get voted in.”

The Ravens have made the playoffs in six of Yanda’s nine seasons.

New England reunion

The Ravens are trying to get quarterback Ryan Mallett up to speed with their offense as quickly as possible, but one of his new teammates was already familiar with him.

Before spending the last two seasons with the Houston Texans, Mallett spent three years backing up Tom Brady in New England where he practiced with a current Ravens wide receiver on the scout team.

“I know Mallett pretty well,” said Kamar Aiken, who spent time with the Patriots in 2012 and 2013. “I’ve been catching balls with him when I was in New England, so I’m pretty comfortable with him and everybody else. He’s a really talented guy. He has to get the offense.”

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The questions run rampant for the Ravens’ Week 15 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Who’s starting at quarterback?

What will the secondary look like?

Does Sunday represent the Ravens’ last best chance to win another game before the most disappointing season in franchise history mercifully comes to an end?

Meanwhile, Kansas City comes to town having won seven in a row to erase a 1-5 start and enter Sunday holding the first of two wild-card spots in the AFC. Simply put, the Chiefs are exactly what the Ravens wanted to be after the worst start in franchise history, but it simply hasn’t happened for the latter.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Kansas City for the seventh time in their regular-season history with the series tied 3-3. Baltimore has lost three of the four meetings between the teams at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens won the last of those home contests back in 2009. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have won their last four meetings with the Chiefs.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid the first five-loss home schedule in the 20-year history of the franchise …

1. The Chiefs will hold a plus-two turnover advantage in a microcosm of the season for both teams. Though their list of injuries isn’t quite as extensive, the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in October and has been without All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston since late November. Andy Reid’s team has kept ticking by forcing turnovers on defense and committing few with an efficient offense. Meanwhile, the Ravens rank 30th in takeaways (11) and 24th in giveaways (23). Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith won’t wow you with ability, but he’s thrown just four interceptions all year. Baltimore will be turning to Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen, who both struggle to protect the football. If both teams follow their 2015 scripts, the Chiefs will capitalize on the Ravens’ mistakes.

2. Elvis Dumervil will exploit former teammate Jah Reid for two quarterback sacks. As bizarre as it was to read that Reid received a three-year contract extension earlier this week, Pro Football Focus has graded the former Raven 73rd of 77 offensive tackles in the NFL this season. On top of that, the first overall pick of the 2013 draft, left tackle Eric Fisher, has graded only 37th overall, according to PFF. This should help Dumervil, who has been limited to just six sacks without a viable edge rusher playing on the opposite side. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to run some stunts to take advantage of an offensive line that’s allowed 41 sacks, fourth worst in the NFL. The Ravens defense ranks 20th in the league with only 28 sacks, but Dumervil will turn in a 2014-like performance on Sunday.

3. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will catch a touchdown pass and collect over 80 receiving yards. Kansas City sports the league’s 27th-ranked passing game, but Smith has effectively used his tight end to the tune of 59 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season. Whether trying to use linebackers or safeties, Baltimore has struggled to cover tight ends and Kelce will effectively move the chains to continue drives for the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens try to cover Kelce as inside linebacker Daryl Smith has been replaced more and more by Zach Orr in the nickel in recent weeks. And with Lardarius Webb now factoring into the rotation at safety, you wonder if even more communication issues are inevitable. Kelce will be ready to take advantage on Sunday.

4. The Baltimore secondary will offer new looks, but Alex Smith will throw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that it was time for young defensive backs such as 2015 fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker, second-year safety Terrence Brooks, and former Houston Texans cornerback Jumal Rolle to receive more opportunities. While it will be important to evaluate the aforementioned players in the final three weeks of the season, the results probably won’t be pretty for a defense that has repeatedly failed to be on the same page even with veterans on the field. Smith carries the dreaded “game manager” label, but he will take advantage of Baltimore mistakes to find Kelce and top receiver Jeremy Maclin for several big plays on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will rebound cosmetically from the Week 14 blowout loss, but Kansas City won’t provide enough help in a 23-14 defeat. Even while carrying a louder tone of resignation this week following an embarrassing loss to Seattle, Baltimore will return to its pattern of competing more like it did in the first 12 games of the season that were all decided by one possession. However, the injury-ravaged Ravens aren’t talented enough to beat a quality team without substantial help from the opposition. The Chiefs won’t figure to provide that assistance as they’ve committed just 12 turnovers all season, third fewest in the NFL. Either Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub will facilitate a couple scoring drives against the NFL’s 15th-ranked pass defense, but a couple Ravens mistakes will be the difference.

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Schaub returns to practice, Clausen takes most reps

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — An ever-changing quarterback situation is likely to remain a mystery all week as the Ravens continue preparations for their Week 15 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Veteran Matt Schaub (chest) returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday while Week 14 starter Jimmy Clausen continued to take most of the first-team reps, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the newly-signed Ryan Mallett will spend the week working with the scout team while he’s brought up to speed in learning the Baltimore offense.

“He was in meetings pretty much all day yesterday with [quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg] and then studying on his own trying to learn our offense and learn this game plan to be ready in case he’s needed,” said Harbaugh, who added that there was “absolutely a chance” that Mallett could play before the 2015 season is over. “I think that’s where we’re at for the rest of the year. Obviously, he’s a guy that has had a certain amount of success in the NFL, has a lot of talent.”

The Ravens were missing a number of players from Wednesday’s practice including guard Marshal Yanda (knee), linebackers Elvis Dumervil (non-injury) and Albert McClellan (ankle), cornerback Kyle Arrington (back), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (back). Harbaugh has already ruled out Gillmore for Sunday’s game.

Dumervil and McClellan were both shaken up at different points during Sunday’s loss to Seattle before returning to action.

Promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday, running back Terrence Magee and cornerback Jumal Rolle were also present and working as official members of the 53-man roster. With return specialist Raheem Mostert no longer on the roster, Magee as well as punt returner Kaelin Clay could receive opportunities to return kickoffs against the Chiefs.

“Both those guys work back there. You see it in practice,” Harbaugh said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “Those are both possibilities, and the way the roster goes, Raheem is going to be back here [on the practice squad] practicing unless something happens unexpected. He could be out there Sunday as well.”

The “unexpected” did happen with Mostert, however, as the Cleveland Browns claimed the rookie running back and returner off waivers on Wednesday afternoon. This came just two days after Cleveland was awarded former Ravens offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson off waivers.

Meanwhile, Kansas City’s impact push rushers were missing from Wednesday’s workout as outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston both sat out with knee injuries. The pair have combined to collect 14 sacks this season.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), Albert McClellan (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Tamba Hali (knee), S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jeff Allen (ankle), DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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Dumervil believes Ravens “taken advantage of” by officiating

Posted on 09 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One of the stand-up leaders of the Ravens locker room, Elvis Dumervil has faced the music throughout the most disappointing season in franchise history.

When his facemask penalty allowed Jacksonville to kick the game-winning 53-yard field goal with no time remaining in Week 10, the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker took full responsibility for his gaffe. Dumervil continued to take the high road even after the NFL admitted a day later that a dead-ball penalty should have been called that would have ended the game before his foul ever occurred.

But after witnessing several critical calls go against the struggling Ravens this season, the mild-mannered veteran spoke his mind on Wednesday. Asked a question about the high number of injuries his team has experienced in 2015, Dumervil stated that every team has players who get hurt before he abruptly changed the subject to the quality of officiating.

“It’s been one of the most bizarre seasons I’ve ever seen,” said Dumervil, finishing his 10th year in the NFL. “For us to not get [any] holding calls, there’s a lot of things that I feel like we’re being taken advantage of, for sure.”

It was clear that Dumervil wanted to get his feelings off his chest as he was referencing the fact that Ravens opponents have been called for offensive holding on passing plays — all 454 of them — just once all season and that occurred in Week 2.

With Terrell Suggs suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in the season opener, Dumervil has been the Ravens’ only reliable pass rusher from the edge, allowing teams to focus most of their attention on slowing him. That development and a heavier workload have factored into the 31-year-old collecting just six sacks after he registered a franchise-record 17 last season.

With that in mind, you can understand Dumervil being miffed over the lack of holding calls as John Madden used to famously say you could call the infraction on nearly every play.

Though the end of the Jacksonville game headlines the list, the Ravens have also been on the short end of controversial calls in close losses to Oakland (a defensive holding call that negated what could have been the game-saving interception), Arizona (Chris Johnson’s 62-yard run after his forward progress appeared to be stopped), and, most recently, Miami (Daniel Brown’s 52-yard touchdown pass wiped away due to a phantom offensive pass interference call).

Many have debated the merits of NFL officials becoming full-time employees — some players in the Baltimore locker room weren’t even aware that they only work part time — and being more accountable in the public eye, but Dumervil didn’t offer any theories why it’s been such a problem this season.

“I don’t have [any] reasons,” Dumervil said. “It’s just not going our way this year.”

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