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Pressuring Tannehill hidden key for Ravens against Miami

Posted on 01 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The matchup isn’t as imposing, but it’s a familiar one for the Ravens.

Two weeks after facing the best rushing attack in the NFL in a road loss to Dallas, Baltimore welcomes upstart running back Jay Ajayi and Miami to town on Sunday. The Dolphins have won six in a row behind the league’s sixth-ranked run offense and Ajayi’s 5.3 yards per carry, but the Ravens have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL this season.

The Cowboys were the better team in that 27-17 final on Nov. 20, but they needed 30 carries to finish with 118 rushing yards, their third-lowest ground total of the season and fewest since Week 2. In other words, there’s little reason to think Ajayi is going to find a ton of running room against a defense that’s surrendered just 3.4 yards per carry, its best mark since 2009.

“That is Raven football,” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You do not want teams to run the ball on you. We take a lot of pride in that. We take a lot of pride in playing defense.”

The biggest key for the Ravens in Sunday’s tilt will likely be their ability to pressure Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is in the midst of arguably his best season and one of the best stretches of his career over the last six weeks. Averaging a career-high 7.82 yards per attempt, Tannehill is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception over the last six contests.

The decision by first-year head coach Adam Gase to employ more of a power running attack since Miami’s 1-4 start has led to the emergence of Ajayi as well as a renaissance for Tannehill. Attempting a career-low 29.9 passing attempts per game this season, the 6-foot-4 Texas A&M product has been more efficient and productive than previous seasons.

Tannehill has received Pro Football Focus’ top quarterback grade in two of the last three weeks and has graded as the website’s 10th-best quarterback this season. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees credits Gase for taking pressure off the fifth-year signal-caller and making a more “quarterback-friendly” offense.

“When you’re running the football, you’re setting up the play-action, the quick game, all those kinds of things,” Pees said. “The other thing is you’re not in as many third-and-longs a lot of times as you are if your team is just throwing the ball all the time.

“The guy is a very, very accurate thrower. When he gets out of the pocket and runs with the ball and scrambles with the ball or even on a roll-out or [bootleg], he’s one of the most accurate quarterbacks I’ve seen throwing on the run. He is really, really good.”

Tannehill has especially thrived when working in a clean pocket this season, posting a 115.5 passer rating when not facing pressure. That’s good for fourth in the NFL and just a spot below rookie sensation Dak Prescott of the Cowboys.

Of course, it was Baltimore’s inability to pressure Prescott that led to him throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdown passes in Week 11. The Ravens are tied for 11th in the league with 26 sacks, but their pass rush has been more timely than consistent this season with long stretches of games in which opposing quarterbacks have gone largely untouched.

The Dolphins are hoping to welcome back left tackle Branden Albert and left guard Laremy Tunsil to their starting lineup after missing last week’s game, but Tannehill isn’t afraid to move out of the pocket. And that’s where the Ravens know he can become even more dangerous with the respectable trio of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills catching passes.

“Tannehill’s not making mistakes and is throwing the ball all over the place off the play-action,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s getting his feet out and extends plays, which kills the defense. And he’s extending [plays] to throw.”

The expected return of top cornerback Jimmy Smith should help a secondary that’s played remarkably well despite the lack of a consistent pass rush for much of the year. Five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil will also be playing in his second straight game after coming up with the game-saving strip-sack against Cincinnati last week in his first action since early October.

The Ravens figure to be able to contain Ajayi and force the Dolphins into more throws than they’d prefer, but Pees and the defense need to be aggressive against Tannehill and cannot allow him to get comfortable behind his offensive line on Sunday. And that’s where Dumervil and Suggs have spoken openly this week about needing a raucous crowd at M&T Bank Stadium to make life even more difficult for the Miami quarterback.

The Ravens believe the loud closing minutes of Sunday’s game against Cincinnati helped lead to four batted passes and the strip-sack to preserve the victory. They want more noise against the Dolphins.

“It limits the checks. It eliminates a lot of the things the quarterback can do at the line of scrimmage,” Dumervil said. “That’s what happened toward the last series. They had to go with the plays. Once the guys on defense are locked and ready, we’re all moving at the same ball. That’s when we feel the crowd advantage. We need that 12th man stronger than ever this week.”

The Ravens need their pass rush to be right there with the fans in a game they need to win.

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tucker

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Ravens take care of business using same flawed formula

Posted on 28 November 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens did what they needed to do to snap their five-game losing streak against Cincinnati.

No matter how depleted the current Bengals might be, you don’t take a victory for granted when you haven’t beaten the division rival in over three years and you need to win. The 19-14 final drew Baltimore even with Pittsburgh for first place with the calendar turning to December this week.

The Ravens couldn’t ask to be in better position, especially when you recall where they were a month ago.

But several offensive starters lamented the inability to build off a fast start that included a Joe Flacco 14-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman and a field goal on their first two drives of the game. Leading 16-3 at halftime, the Ravens went 0-for-6 on third down and managed only one field goal the rest of the way, which gave the Bengals a chance to tie the game before Elvis Dumervil’s strip-sack and Lawrence Guy’s recovery with just over a minute remaining.

Yet again, a good defensive performance and a perfect Justin Tucker played the leading roles in the win while the offense spun its wheels after some early success.

“I’m confident in my ability to play games like this and win down the stretch and do the right thing with the football,” said Flacco, who was a relatively efficient 25 of 36 for 234 yards and an interception to go with the opening-drive score. “But in order for us to take that next step and be the kind of team that we want to be and be a championship football team, we’re not going to survive week in and week out doing things like this. We’ve got to keep the foot on the gas and learn how to put teams away.”

The ninth-year quarterback offered the same sentiment after the Week 3 win in Jacksonville two months ago. Fortunately, the offense has recovered from its miserable — and injury-plagued — October, but Flacco’s words reflect the lack of overall improvement from the opening month of the season until now.

The Ravens have scored just 19 touchdowns this season, ranking 31st of 32 teams in the NFL. The offense certainly deserves credit for the work required to put Justin Tucker in position to go a league-best 27-for-27 on field goal tries, but 18 were from 40 yards or longer, meaning the Ravens haven’t exactly been all that close to the end zone on most of those drives.

Baltimore has managed more than one offensive touchdown in just five of 11 games and has scored fewer than 20 points six times. The Ravens have scored 25 or more in just three games with two coming against winless Cleveland.

It’s scary to think where they might be without Tucker, who is rapidly cementing himself as the league’s best kicker and is an impressive 7-for-7 from 50 yards and beyond after converting three from that range in the first half on Sunday. He’s been to the Ravens what All-Star closer Zach Britton was to the Orioles this past season, the difference in making them a playoff contender despite other flaws.

For now, the offense can only continue working to improve, pointing to the recent stabilization of the offensive line and the steady emergence of rookie running back Kenneth Dixon as reasons for optimism.

“I know that we’re getting better on offense,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I think we’re doing a good job, but we’re striving for more than that. Our guys are going to tell you, we want to put a lot more points up than that. That’s what we’re working towards.”

The most encouraging development from Sunday’s game may have come on the opposite side of the ball with the return of Dumervil, who was rusty in his first action in seven weeks until the final defensive play when he blew past Bengals right tackle Eric Winston to strip quarterback Andy Dalton of the football inside the red zone. The turnover sealed the victory for the Ravens defense, who buckled but didn’t break against a Cincinnati offense lacking its best player in wide receiver A.J. Green.

The Ravens need top cornerback Jimmy Smith to return from a back injury that’s sidelined him for the last two games, but a healthy Dumervil could work wonders for an edge pass rush that’s relied heavily on fellow veteran Terrell Suggs, who collected two strip-sacks of his own on Sunday. It was just the third game of the season for Dumervil, who’s dealt with a frustrating rehab from offseason foot surgery.

“You get a guy and add that to the defense that we already have, it just opens up the possibilities of being even better than what we are right now,” safety Eric Weddle said. “It was huge. He practiced outstanding the last two weeks. We knew it was going to give us a boost, and adding him across from [Suggs] and our other rushers and [to] our game plans, we’re going to be a tough team to stop.”

The Ravens keep hoping for their offense to improve, but maybe the current formula can be enough. After all, it’s earned them a 6-5 mark to this point, which is good enough for a first-place tie with a Steelers team sporting a very good offense but a below-average defense.

Baltimore plays two of the next three at home against Miami and Philadelphia, who are formidable teams but hardly juggernauts. The surprising Dolphins have won six straight, but the last five have been by a single possession and they rely heavily on their running game, a favorable matchup for the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Whether the Ravens will find enough wins over the final five games to make the playoffs remains to be seen, but Sunday was another reminder that it will probably look the way it has all season — a good defense, a frustrating and below-average offense, and the best kicker in football.

“If it ain’t tough, it ain’t the Raven way,” Suggs said. “I really wish we could have got off the field instead of scaring everybody and having Elvis make a fantastic play. But that’s the Raven way. It ain’t pretty, but we’ll take it.”

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jimmy

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 27 November 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Though never regarded as their biggest rival, the Cincinnati Bengals have given the Ravens more trouble than anyone since Super Bowl XLVII.

While sporting an 11-4 regular-season record against Cleveland and Pittsburgh since the start of the 2013 season, Baltimore owns just one victory against the Bengals over that time, a snapshot of the frustration accompanying a 28-30 record since raising the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans almost four years ago.

Of course, Sunday’s meeting sets up well for the Ravens to beat the Bengals, who have won just one game since the end of September and lost offensive standouts A.J. Green (hamstring) and Giovani Bernard (knee) in last week’s loss to Buffalo. Green’s absence is fortunate news for a secondary that will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) for the second straight week.

Shareece Wright is expected to start in place of Smith as he did against Dallas.

The Ravens will welcome back five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), who is active for the first time since Week 5. Frustrated by a slower-than-expected recovery from offseason surgery, a healthy Dumervil could provide a major lift to an edge pass rush that’s lacked consistency in 2016.

This will be the 32-year-old’s third game of the 2016 season.

In a surprising move likely related to Dumervil’s return, the Ravens deactivated outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith, who wasn’t on the injury report this week. Appearing in all 10 games and making four starts to this point, the 2015 fourth-round pick has struggled to consistently set the edge and has collected just one sack this season.

Rookie second-round linebacker Kamalei Correa was also a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.

With Marshal Yanda (shoulder) active and once again starting at left guard, the Ravens are using the same starting offensive line combination in consecutive weeks for the first time since the first three games of the season. Veteran Vlad Ducasse is making his third straight start at right guard.

As expected, tight end Nick Boyle is active and will make his 2016 season debut after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. His return gives the Ravens a viable blocking tight end to complement Dennis Pitta and Darren Waller while Crockett Gillmore (thigh) continues to be out.

In addition to Green and Bernard — the latter was placed on injured reserve this week — Cincinnati will be without starting safety Shawn Williams (hamstring), which won’t help a defense that’s underperformed this season.

Sunday’s referee is Clete Blakeman.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low 50s and winds up to 13 miles per hour.

For the first time this season, the Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with black pants while the Bengals don white tops with black pants. Baltimore owns an all-time 14-6 mark when wearing the popular alternate jerseys that were introduced in 2004.

Sunday marks the 41st meeting between these AFC North foes with each side owning 20 victories. The Ravens are 13-7 at home against the Bengals, but Cincinnati has won the last five games dating back to the 2013 season.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Kamalei Correa
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore
LB Za’Darius Smith

CINCINNATI
WR A.J. Green
QB Jeff Driskel
S Derron Smith
S Shawn Williams
LS Clark Harris
G Christian Westerman
TE C.J. Uzomah

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 26 November 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s been more than three calendar years since the Ravens defeated Cincinnati.

They own just one win over the Bengals since Super Bowl XLVII, but Baltimore has a chance on Sunday to all but crush what slim hopes remain for Marvin Lewis and his struggling team that has only one win since the end of September. Meanwhile, the Ravens remain in the thick of a mediocre AFC North and need a victory to pull even with Pittsburgh for first place.

With the Bengals offense decimated by injuries and the defense not playing at the level it had in recent seasons, the Ravens couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to finally break through against one of their top rivals.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Cincinnati for the 41st time in franchise history with the teams owning 20 victories apiece. Baltimore has lost five straight and six of the last seven to the Bengals, but the Ravens are 13-7 in home games against Cincinnati.

Below are five predictions for Sunday afternoon:

1. The Ravens will rush for a season-high 135 yards against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. The running game has been mostly a mess all season, but the Bengals rank 28th in rush defense and are allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Starter Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon have developed into a solid platoon since the bye, and starting the same offensive line in consecutive weeks should reap some benefits for the Ravens. With Cincinnati’s own offense depleted by injuries and not performing at a high level anyway, Marty Mornhinweg should try to keep it simple with the run game.

2. Rookie Tyler Boyd will catch a touchdown and be Cincinnati’s leading receiver. No receiver has hurt the Ravens more than A.J. Green in recent years, making his absence a crushing blow for the Bengals. However, the 6-foot-2 Boyd has played respectably in the slot this year and could challenge nickel back Jerraud Powers, who struggled against Cole Beasley last week. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looked Boyd’s way quite a bit last week as the rookie caught his first touchdown. With Ravens safeties focused on trying to slow tight end Tyler Eifert, Boyd will see plenty of targets.

3. A returning Elvis Dumervil will collect his first sack of 2016 as one of Baltimore’s four for the game. While cornerback Jimmy Smith is doubtful to play as he continues nursing a back issue, Dumervil appears on track to play for the first time since Week 5. The Ravens need more production from their edge rushers, and a healthy Dumervil could be a major development for an already-good defense. Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and center Russell Bodine have had major issues in pass protection, and Dean Pees should bring lots of pressure against an undermanned Bengals passing game.

4. The Ravens defense will come away with two interceptions after stifling the Bengals’ running game. Green and shifty running back Giovani Bernard have accounted for 47 percent of Dalton’s passing yards this year, making it obvious that the Bengals would like to run the ball with Jeremy Hill if they can. However, a stingy Baltimore run defense will be in a bad mood after Dallas ran for 118 yards and is only giving up 3.4 yards per carry. The Ravens will dare Dalton to beat them, which will lead to a couple critical turnovers to set up the Baltimore offense on a short field.

5. Joe Flacco and the offense will mostly play it safe in a 23-13 win over Cincinnati. The Ravens are better than the current Bengals and have little excuse not to end their five-game losing streak against them, but this team — more specifically, this offense — has made life difficult on itself all season. Flacco has thrown more interceptions against Cincinnati than any team in his nine-year career and shouldn’t be allowed to come close to the 41.4 pass attempts per game he’s averaged this season unless the Bengals prove they can totally shut down the run. Playing good defense, running the football, and limiting mistakes are basic ideas, but the Ravens should keep it simple in a game they need to win.

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Dumervil questionable, J. Smith doubtful to play against Cincinnati

Posted on 25 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens may welcome back a key member of their defense against Cincinnati, but another is expected to be absent for the second straight game.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is listed as questionable to play against the Bengals on Sunday while cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) is doubtful after missing practices all week. Dumervil was a full participant all week after returning to the practice field last week and could see his first live-game action since Oct. 9 against Washington.

Dealing with a frustrating recovery from offseason foot surgery, Dumervil has appeared in just two games all season, failing to register a statistic in 45 total snaps. The 32-year-old collected a total of 32 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons with the Ravens, who have struggled to mount a consistent pass rush this season.

“I think he looked good in practice. Again, it’s going to be up to the medical people to determine [if he plays],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s always been a medical issue. It’s good to see him out there at practice taking a good number of reps. He didn’t take every rep, but took a good number of reps in the rotation. We’ll just have to see when the time comes whether he’ll get cleared to go.”

With Smith not expected to play, the Ravens are fortunate that five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green will not suit up for the Bengals. Green injured his hamstring in last Sunday’s loss to Buffalo and was officially declared out on Friday afternoon.

The Baltimore defense has struggled without Smith on the field, but the Bengals’ lack of a high-impact receiver without Green should lessen that concern. The Ravens started rookie Tavon Young and returning veteran Shareece Wright at the starting cornerback spots against the Cowboys last week as Smith continued to nurse his back issue.

“I think they have a better handle on exactly what it is right now specifically,” Harbaugh said. “They have a good handle on it. It’s more muscular, so that’s good news. If it clears up and he can go, he’ll play. If it doesn’t and he can’t be close to 100 percent, we’ll just have to wait until next week. But we’re confident in the guys we have as well.”

The Ravens officially ruled out guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh). Tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) sat out Friday’s workout and is doubtful, meaning he will likely miss his fourth consecutive game.

Baltimore listed guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) and Brandon Williams (back/hand) as questionable, but all three are expected to play on Sunday.

In addition to ruling out Green, the Bengals listed starting strong safety Shawn Williams (hamstring) as doubtful to play in Week 12.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Clete Blakeman.

The Ravens will wear its black jerseys on Sunday, the first time this year the alternate top has been worn.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching 53 degrees and winds up to 12 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), DT Brandon Williams (back/hand), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

CINCINNATI
OUT: WR A.J. Green (hamstring)
DOUBTFUL: TE C.J. Uzomah (calf), S Shawn Williams (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LS Clark Harris (groin), S Derron Smith (thigh)

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J. Smith, B. Williams absent as Ravens prepare for Cincinnati

Posted on 23 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were without two key defensive starters for Wednesday’s practice as they turn their attention toward the struggling Cincinnati Bengals.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and nose tackle Brandon Williams were absent from the portion of practice open to reporters. Smith missed his first game of the season with a back injury in Week 11, leading Dallas receiver Dez Bryant to catch two touchdowns against an undermanned Baltimore secondary.

“Jimmy is still working on his back issue,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Hopefully he’ll be out there tomorrow. We’ll see.”

Harbaugh said Williams was receiving the day off before he was officially listed with back and hand issues on Wednesday’s injury report. He played a season-high 49 defensive snaps against the Cowboys.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were present and working. Sunday marked the eighth missed game of the season for Dumervil while Gillmore missed his third straight contest since sustaining an injury during a bye-week practice.

Guards Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Alex Lewis (ankle) and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh) were not present on Wednesday. After saying Monday that Yanda made it out of the Dallas game in OK shape, Harbaugh gave the five-time Pro Bowl selection an extra day to rest his left shoulder.

Coming off a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, second-year tight end Nick Boyle was back on the practice field. It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will activate him for Sunday’s game, but he brings blocking ability that the tight end position has lacked in recent weeks.

“I think Nick really feels like he missed out,” Harbaugh said. “He says, ‘What do I do? I work out, and I think about football, then I go work out again, and I think about football.’ He’s got a football head. That’s who he is [and] what he thinks about. That 10 weeks — 11 weeks actually — was very painful for him.

“I’m hoping he makes somebody pay for his pain on that by playing well whenever we’re able to get him out there.”

Meanwhile, the Bengals were without five starters on Wednesday, a list including cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (knee), and safety Shawn Williams (hamstring). Five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 11 loss to Buffalo.

Bengals running back Giovani Bernard suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday and was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Lewis (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (back/hand), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR A.J. Green (hamstring), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), WR Brandon LaFell (knee), TE C.J. Uzomah (calf), OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury), S Shawn Williams (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Clint Boling (shoulder), QB Andy Dalton (right shoulder), LS Clark Harris (groin), CB Josh Shaw (hip)

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yanda

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After suggesting change, Yanda excels at new position for Ravens

Posted on 21 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A week ago, the Ravens weren’t sure if five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda would play again this season.

Instead, he made his first career start at left guard on Sunday, performing very well in the 27-17 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys. After suggesting the change to coaches to better protect his injured left shoulder, Yanda earned the highest grade of any Ravens player in Pro Football Focus’ Week 11 grades.

Though the position change isn’t quite as drastic as a right-handed hitter trying to swing from the left side, head coach John Harbaugh noted the challenges of switching to the opposite side of the offensive line. From dropping his opposite hand and leg in the three-point stance to his play responsibilities being flipped, the transition isn’t easy to make on the fly, especially when you’re less than 100 percent physically.

“I was weary of it early in the week,” Harbaugh said. “I was just watching him in individual [portions of practice] and seeing how he moved, but he did look natural doing it. I think he’s been on the left side at times during college and things like that. It just shows you what a phenomenal athlete he is and how determined he is and really what a good football player he is.”

In addition to starting at right tackle in the past — including the entire 2010 season and in the 2014 postseason — Yanda has occasionally practiced at center in the past to be prepared in the event of an emergency situation on game day. Former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak once quipped that Yanda was so versatile that he could probably handle the quarterback position in a pinch.

After missing three of his previous four games, Yanda appeared to make it through the game without suffering any further damage to his left shoulder. He is wearing a harness to protect it during practices and games after initially injuring it in the Oct. 9 loss to Washington.

“He got out of [the game] well. I talked to him this morning, and he felt really good, felt strong,” Harbaugh said. “He got a lift in this morning, so that was a good sign. He got out of it 100 percent.”

J. Smith, Dumervil status up to medical staff

Harbaugh was noncommittal regarding the Week 12 status of cornerback Jimmy Smith (back) and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), who both sat out Sunday’s loss to Dallas.

While it was the first missed game of the season for Smith, Dumervil has appeared in just two of Baltimore’s 10 games this season in a slower-than-expected recovery from offseason foot surgery. Cincinnati is dealing with its own injury issues, but the Ravens would certainly like to have two key defensive cogs back in action.

“We will see. I don’t really know,” Harbaugh said. “It is up to the doctors.”

Dumervil was shut down after two nondescript performances against Oakland and Washington early last month. He returned to practice as a full participant last Wednesday and Thursday, but the medical staff elected to hold the 32-year-old out after a five-week absence from the practice field.

Harbaugh said Dumervil looked good in those practices and did not suffer a setback, making it possible that he could play against the Bengals. The Ravens could certainly use a healthy version of the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher coming off the edge, but it remains to be seen what he will offer after such a lengthy and frustrating rehab process.

“I have no expectations. I am hoping he gets out there and plays, and I hope he has 10 sacks,” Harbaugh said. “That is what I am hoping for. I am hoping he just lights it up and dominates. I am hoping he is the difference. I just don’t have the answer for it. If he is out there, I expect him to play great.”

Boyle back

Second-year tight end Nick Boyle will return to practice this week after serving a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the second ban of his brief career.

“He will be back practicing this week. We will see how he looks,” said Harbaugh about the 2015 fifth-round pick from Delaware. “He has not been here for 10 weeks, so it has been quite a while.”

The Ravens could use the depth with veteran Dennis Pitta and converted wide receiver Darren Waller being the only healthy tight ends on the active roster since the bye week. Crockett Gillmore has missed the last three games with a thigh injury, which has prompted offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to use reserve tackle James Hurst as a blocking tight end in certain situations.

It’s quite a change from the start of training camp when the Ravens had an abundance of talent at the position, but they lost Benjamin Watson (Achilles tendon) and Maxx Williams (knee) to season-ending injuries and Daniel Brown was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears in October. Gillmore’s absence has left Baltimore without a quality blocking tight end, which hasn’t helped an inconsistent running game.

“It has not been ideal,” Harbaugh said. “We had a number of tight ends to start the season, and we ended up being thin there the last four or five weeks. I feel like Darren has done a good job; he has actually blocked pretty darn well. We just play the guys we have and go win games with the guys we have.”

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Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 November 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated 12:40 p.m.)

The irresistible force against the immovable object.

The NFL’s top-ranked run defense takes on the No. 1 rush offense as the Ravens travel to Arlington, Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys, owners of the best record in the NFL.

Despite that being the marquee matchup of the afternoon, the Ravens were dealt a major blow to their pass defense with cornerback Jimmy Smith being deactivated for Sunday’s game. Smith is dealing with a back injury and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

His absence means defensive coordinator Dean Pees will lean on the likes of Tavon Young, Jerraud Powers, and Shareece Wright to try to slow two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant and the Dallas passing game. Keeping seven defenders in the box to slow rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott won’t be easy without that clear option in Smith to lock down Bryant.

Wright is making his return from a three-game absence with a hamstring injury and was working as a starter opposing Young during warmups. However, it wouldn’t surprising to see the Ravens use defensive back Anthony Levine as a hybrid defender against the run and pass in certain sub packages.

As expected, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is also inactive despite returning to the practice field this week. He was a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday, but the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher hadn’t been on the field in over five weeks as he continues to work his way back to full strength from offseason too surgery. Dumervil has appeared in only two games all season.

Starting left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were already ruled out on Friday.

The good news for the Ravens on Sunday morning was the activation of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Both were listed as questionable to play with shoulder injuries this week.

In an interesting wrinkle, Yanda was working as the starting left guard during pre-game warmups with Vlad Ducasse again working at right guard where he started last week. It would Yanda’s first NFL start at that position as the Ravens will now use their seventh different starting combination of the season on the offensive line.

There were no surprises among the Dallas inactives as cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) were officially ruled out on Friday. Veteran quarterback Tony Romo (back) is active and will serve in his new role as rookie Dak Prescott’s backup.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

The roof will be closed at AT&T Stadium, making this the first indoor game for the Ravens this season.

Baltimore will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Cowboys sport white jerseys with silver pants.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding a 4-0 advantage. Dallas is the only team not to have beaten the Ravens in the 21-year history of the latter franchise.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
CB Asa Jackson
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Elvis Dumervil
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore

DALLAS
QB Mark Sanchez
CB Morris Claiborne
RB Darius Jackson
S Barry Church
LB Mark Nzeocha
OT Chaz Green
DE Benson Mayowa

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J. Smith, Dumervil doubtful to play against Dallas on Sunday

Posted on 18 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite optimism about their status earlier in the week, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil were designated as doubtful to play against Dallas.

Earlier in the week, head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Smith’s back ailment and had said he expected the sixth-year defensive back to play against the Cowboys on Sunday. Smith was a limited participant on Friday after missing the previous two practices, but Harbaugh offered a different tone when asked again about his status for Week 11.

“He was out here today. Obviously, it’s a walk-through, so it’s not as physical, but he was out here today,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just wait and see what the doctors tell us. His back tightened up a little bit. We’ll just have to see how it [responds] — whatever the doctors say. He wants to play, and we’ll know. The fact that he was out here today I think is a good sign.”

It’s worth noting that the Ravens haven’t listed a single player as doubtful who ended up being active for that week’s game all season, but the revamped injury report designations for 2016 provide more wiggle room than in the past. The “doubtful” label used to mean a player had no more than a 25 percent chance of playing, but it now means only that an individual is “unlikely to play” in that week’s game.

Smith’s absence would spell bad news for the Ravens’ efforts to slow down two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant. Under normal circumstances, Baltimore would likely ask Smith to shadow the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant in pass coverage.

Dumervil being listed as doubtful was less surprising considering he had missed more than five weeks of action since last playing on Oct. 9. The 32-year-old has appeared in only two games this year after a slow recovery from offseason foot surgery, but he participated fully in workouts on Wednesday and Thursday before being listed as limited in Friday’s walk-through.

The work pattern appears similar to what he did in Week 3 when he practiced on a limited basis for two days before being listed as questionable and ultimately sitting out the Jacksonville game. He made his season debut the following week.

Dumervil told reporters after Thursday’s practice that he felt “really close” to being his old self after a frustrating rehabilitation filled with two setbacks since the start of training camp.

“He responded well. I don’t think he had any problems after the two workouts,” Harbaugh said. “He looked good. He looked quick and explosive, which is what I was looking for. I know Elvis wants to play, and I know I want him to play. It will be up to the doctors whether they allow him to play or not, but he sure looked good in practice.”

The Ravens listed right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring), and linebackers C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and Kamalei Correa (thigh) as questionable for Sunday’s game. Despite serious doubts about Yanda’s status for the rest of the season only a few days ago, the five-time Pro Bowl lineman was a full participant all week, putting him on track to play against Dallas.

Jernigan is the only other real concern among the remaining names as he missed the final two practices of the week. He was a full participant on Wednesday, making one wonder if he suffered an injury in practice.

Baltimore officially ruled out left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) on Friday.

As expected, the Cowboys officially ruled out cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) for Sunday’s game. Though he is still expected to play, Bryant was added to the injury report on Friday with a back issue and is listed as questionable.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Arlington, Texas calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to 12 miles per hour. Of course, AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof should the forecast change over the weekend.

Below is the final injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

DALLAS
OUT: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Dez Bryant (back), OT Chaz Green (foot/back), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), QB Tony Romo (back), OT Tyron Smith (back/hip)

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J. Smith, Jernigan absent from Thursday’s Ravens practice

Posted on 17 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to their big Week 11 encounter with the Dallas Cowboys, the Ravens were without seven players during Thursday’s practice session.

Headlining the list was No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed his second straight workout with a back issue. Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the ailment on Wednesday and expressed confidence that Smith would be able to play on Sunday.

Harbaugh also said that he expected Smith to practice this week, making his status for Friday’s workout worth monitoring. Assuming he is able to play, the sixth-year defensive back will likely be trusted to match up with two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) was a new absences on Thursday after not being listed on the injury report a day earlier.

Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh), and left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were also missing from Thursday’s practice. Taliaferro was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, making it likely that he suffered the injury during practice.

The Ravens also gave linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah the day off. Zuttah played through a mild ankle sprain in last week’s win over Cleveland while it’s no secret that Suggs is playing with a torn left biceps.

For the second straight day, right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) were present and working as full participants. Dumervil wouldn’t confirm Thursday whether he would play against Dallas, but he believes he’s “really close” to being his old self from a physical standpoint after being shut down just over five weeks ago.

“Just the strength [is better],” said Dumervil, who has appeared in only two games this year after undergoing offseason foot surgery. “I think last time, as a competitor, as a winner, you just want to go out [and play]. Sometimes it is good to listen, and I learned that.”

Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (back/hip) returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), G Alex Lewis (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

DALLAS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Chaz Green (foot/back), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), OT Tyron Smith (back/hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Tony Romo (back)

 

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