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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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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 05 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Identical records, but two teams seemingly going in opposite directions.

Standing at 4-7, the Ravens only have a microscopic chance of making the playoffs, but they’ve continued to fight under eighth-year head coach John Harbaugh, winning three of their last four games with a roster that’s been completely ravaged by injuries. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have already fired their head coach and both coordinators this season and have lost four of their last five with all coming by multiple scores.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Miami meet for the 11th time in the all-time regular-season series with the teams currently tied 5-5. The Ravens are 3-4 at Sun Life Stadium — 5-4 counting the postseason — but they will try to win in Miami for the third straight year.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their third consecutive game …

1. Miami will attempt to commit to the run, but the Ravens won’t allow that to happen. After running the ball just nine times against the New York Jets last week, interim head coach Dan Campbell fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and new play-caller Zac Taylor vowed to get the ground game going. That will be easier said than done against a Ravens defense that ranks eighth against the run and has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry this season. Lamar Miller is a solid back, but Brandon Williams and his defensive line mates will swallow up the Dolphins’ ground attack, forcing them to throw the ball more that they would would like as the game progresses. Miami will only rush for 70 yards on the day.

2. Buck Allen and Terrance West will combine to rush for 130 yards. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has drawn criticism for his lack of commitment to running the ball, but there is no reason not to stay on the ground against the league’s 32nd-ranked rush defense. Matt Schaub showed against Cleveland that he can make some plays with his arm here and there, but you want to limit his opportunities to make game-changing mistakes, something the Ravens will do on Sunday. Allen and West combined to carry 19 times for 92 yards against the Browns, but they’ll receive more extensive opportunities in an effort to wear down the Miami front in the heat and potential rain.

3. Jarvis Landry will shine for the Dolphins, but DeVante Parker and Jordan Cameron will catch touchdown passes. In his second year out of LSU, Landry is Miami’s best offensive player and will give the Ravens fits with his ability to gain yards after the catch on his way to a 100-yard day. However, the Dolphins will be without starting receiver Rishard Matthews and will need more from Parker, who has just eight catches in nine games after being selected 14th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. The rookie will shake free for a score. Though Cameron has disappointed with his new team, the Ravens have struggled against tight ends this season and he’ll catch a touchdown inside the red zone.

4. Elvis Dumervil will collect two sacks to once again torment Ryan Tannehill. The Baltimore defense has collected a combined 12 sacks in the last two trips to Miami, and the Dolphins will be without right tackle Ja’Wuan James on Sunday. Dumervil’s six sacks in 2015 don’t tell the story of how well he’s played needing to step into a full-time role with Terrell Suggs suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in the opener. Instead of matching Dumervil against left tackle Branden Albert all day, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will pick his spots to line up the 31-year-old pass rusher on the opposite side against Jason Fox. He’ll take advantage by picking up two sacks and pressuring Tannehill all day.

5. The Ravens will show they have more under the hood than Miami in a 26-17 win. The Dolphins have more talent than this current version of Harbaugh’s team, but they have mailed it in too many times in a disappointing season, something you can’t say about the Ravens with all 11 of their games decided by one score. One factor to remember is that Baltimore is on the road again after a Monday night road game, making a slow start a distinct possibility. For the first time all season, the Ravens will play a game decided by more than one score and will come out on the winning end, which will say even more about the Dolphins’ ineptitude than Baltimore’s intestinal fortitude.

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Ravens couldn’t be further from “paradise” right now

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Upon being inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime on Sunday, former Ravens safety Ed Reed ended his brief speech by belting out the refrain from “Two Tickets to Paradise,” conjuring memories from the franchise’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens couldn’t be further from that paradise almost 34 months later after losing Joe Flacco — the MVP 0n that memorable night in New Orleans — to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the final drive of the 16-13 win over St. Louis. Of course, Baltimore’s 2015 playoff hopes were all but officially gone long before Flacco and 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett suffered season-ending injuries on Sunday, but losing your franchise quarterback to a serious injury rocks an organization from top to bottom.

The season from hell continues.

“I’m probably still in shock a little bit,” said Flacco, who started the Ravens’ last 137 games counting the playoffs and will now miss the first action of his eight-year career. “You play football and you play as long as I have and you play as hard as we do out there, then stuff like this happens. You have to just stand tall and be tough about it.

“That’s all you can do.”

At 3-7 and now preparing for the final six games with veteran backup Matt Schaub at the helm, the Ravens will play out the string with eyes pointing squarely toward the future and an unsettling offseason. In addition to improving a roster lacking game-changing talent on both sides of the ball, general manager Ozzie Newsome will need to renegotiate Flacco’s contract that carries a $28.55 million salary cap figure in 2016 while not knowing for sure if the veteran signal-caller will be ready for the start of next season.

Until Flacco is healthy and back under center, the Ravens won’t be able to help but feel there’s a black cloud hanging over their heads.

In the meantime, the Ravens and their fans will receive a glimpse of life without their franchise quarterback. Troy Smith was the last quarterback not named Flacco to start a regular-season game for the Ravens when Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was playing in his final game and Brian Billick was coaching his last contest on Dec. 30, 2007.

Jettisoned by Houston and Oakland in the last two years, Schaub will now be asked to compete without the Ravens’ top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) entering training camp. Frankly, it’s a near-impossible situation for a 34-year-old many feared had already reached the end of the road as an NFL quarterback before signing a one-year deal to back up the durable Flacco.

The Ravens may be fortunate to win another game the rest of the way, which would at least help their position in the 2016 draft after the most disappointing season in franchise history. From that perspective, the ugly win over the Rams on Sunday felt more like a loss, especially after learning of Flacco’s injury minutes after Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.

Anyone watching the Ravens play in 2015 knows the problems run deeper than a slew of injuries to impact players such as six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, tight end Dennis Pitta, Smith, and now Flacco and Forsett, but it’s difficult to recall too many NFL teams suffering such a number of injuries to high-impact players in recent memory. At least an already-poor record numbs the disappointment of losing Flacco compared to if the Ravens had been 7-3 and just seen their Super Bowl aspirations crushed on Sunday like Arizona experienced losing Carson Palmer to a torn ACL last November.

But you still can’t help but feel like the Ravens are snakebitten.

“I guess when it rains it pours,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We’ve been dealing with it all year, from Suggs to Steve. It’s tough. … Nobody feels sorry for us. We’ve got to make sure we come out and prepare hard.”

What’s next?

Many wondered how the Ravens would respond to last week’s gut-wrenching loss to Jacksonville and if they would continue to compete in the way they have all season with one-possession outcomes in every game. Baltimore flirted with the wheels completely falling off the cart for much of Sunday’s game with more than 100 yards in penalties in the first half and scoring just three points through three quarters.

Receiving plenty of help from the sloppy Rams, the Ravens managed to pull out their third victory of the season by making fewer mistakes than their opponent in the end. But without Flacco — or Forsett — for the rest of the season on top of their many other injuries, when will enough finally become enough physically, mentally, and emotionally?

“It’s tremendously disappointing for those [injured] guys,” said John Harbaugh, who will coach his first game without Flacco under center next Monday night in Cleveland. “We’ll be fine as a football team. We’ll bounce back — that’s what you do. Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he’s going to come in [and] he’s going to play very well.”

If only it were that simple, but what else can the Ravens coach really say at this point?

The Ravens were reminded on Sunday that it wasn’t that long ago that they reached paradise in raising the second Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

But less than three years later, that memory feels a universe away.

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Osemele listed as questionable with knee injury

Posted on 20 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Facing one of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL, the Ravens officially listed starting left guard Kelechi Osemele as questionable to play against St. Louis on Sunday.

Battling through a knee injury that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice, Osemele was a full participant on Thursday — leading most to believe his game status was not in jeopardy — before once again failing to participate in the final workout of the week. The fourth-year guard played every offensive snap of the Week 10 loss to Jacksonville, but he would likely be replaced by 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen if he would not be able to go against the Rams.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle was listed as doubtful as he continues to wear a walking boot on his left foot. The recently-signed Chase Ford could serve as the Ravens’ third tight end on game day behind starter Crockett Gillmore and rookie Maxx Williams.

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (knee) is probable to play after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.

Second-year defensive end Brent Urban completed his second full week of practice, but head coach John Harbaugh did not make it clear whether he was a candidate to be activated from injured reserve with the designation to return ahead of Sunday’s game with the Rams. Urban began a 21-day practice window on Nov. 9 and would need to be moved to the 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Saturday in order to play in Week 11.

“He has practiced well. We haven’t seen any ill effects from the biceps [injury] at all,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see where that goes next week. I think next week is when we have to determine it, but I’m pretty optimistic that he can help us right now. Ozzie [Newsome] and I haven’t talked about it in any kind of detail yet, but I feel very positive about Brent’s progress.”

Meanwhile, St. Louis listed starting right tackle and Linganore High product Rob Haventstein as doubtful to play with a calf injury. Standout defensive ends Chris Long (knee) and Robert Quinn (hip) were designated as questionable.

Baltimore made two practice squad additions on Friday, signing cornerback Jumal Rolle and offensive lineman Blaine Clausell and cutting safety Nick Perry and offensive lineman Marcel Jones. Harbaugh said the Ravens still “have plans” for Perry in the future.

Second-year offensive lineman John Urschel is set to make his first career start at center on Sunday after Jeremy Zuttah (pectoral) was placed on IR earlier this week. The former fifth-round pick will face a challenging interior front that includes 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald.

“John looked fine,” Harbaugh said. “He has been practicing there from Day 1, so it’s not new for us to have him in there. It’ll be fun to watch him play and see how he does. We believe he’s ready. He has a good task in there against the two good defensive tackles that they play with, and we’re expecting him to play well.”

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Tony Corrente.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for Sunday’s game calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures only reaching the high 40s. Wind could also be a factor with potential gusts exceeding 20 miles per hour, which could presumably pose a challenge to an opponent accustomed to playing in a dome.

“They’re probably happy; they’re running the ball,” said Harbaugh, referring to the Rams’ fifth-ranked rush offense. “I don’t think it’s going to make a bit of difference — the weather — or anything like that.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: TE Nick Boyle (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
PROBABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (knee), DE Chris Canty (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

ST. LOUIS
DOUBTFUL: T Rob Havenstein (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Justice Cunningham (finger), DE Chris Long (knee), DE Robert Quinn (hip)
PROBABLE: C Tim Barnes (concussion)

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Rookie tight end Boyle only real injury concern for Ravens

Posted on 19 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Rookie tight end Nick Boyle was the only player missing from Thursday’s practice due to health reasons as the Ravens moved closer to their Week 11 meeting with St. Louis.

The fifth-round pick continues to wear a walking boot on his left foot after missing his second straight practice. Baltimore signed tight end Chase Ford off the Minnesota practice squad earlier this week, which would appear to indicate that Boyle is in danger of missing his first game of the season.

Baltimore welcomed left guard Kelechi Osemele and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil back to practice after both sat out with knee ailments on Wednesday. Osemele and Dumervil were both listed as full participants, leaving little doubt about their availability for Sunday’s game.

Linebacker Daryl Smith and defensive end Chris Canty both received veteran days off as they regularly do on Thursdays.

For St. Louis, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn was again listed as a non-participant with a hip issue while starting right tackle Rob Havenstein continues to deal with a calf injury. The Rams did not practice on Thursday, meaning their injury report was only an estimation if they had.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Nick Boyle (foot), DE Chris Canty (non-injury), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

ST. LOUIS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Rob Havenstein (calf), DE Robert Quinn (hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: C Tim Barnes (concussion), DE Chris Long (knee)

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