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Rookie running back Dixon returns to practice for Ravens

Posted on 28 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Struggling to get their ground attack going despite a 3-0 start, the Ravens are moving closer to welcoming back a talented rookie who could provide a lift.

Running back Kenneth Dixon practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday for the first time since tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Aug. 27. Wearing a knee brace, the fourth-round pick was working off to the side during the portion of practice open to media, but Dixon turned heads in the preseason by averaging 4.9 yards per carry, leading many to believe he might be Baltimore’s best back.

The Ravens enter Week 4 ranked 26th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 30th in yards per carry at just 3.3, but head coach John Harbaugh is trying not to place unreasonable expectations on Dixon.

“He’s a rookie, so I think a lot of what he can provide is yet to be determined,” Harbaugh said. “He showed flashes in the preseason, which was exciting. I think we’re all excited about what he might do. We’ll just have to see. That will be fun to see.”

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) was a full participant in practice after missing his third straight game on Sunday. The 32-year-old was a limited participant in workouts last Wednesday and Thursday  before ultimately sitting out against Jacksonville.

A good week of practice would put him in position to make his return against Oakland in Week 4.

Seven players were missing from Wednesday’s practice: wide receivers Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken (thigh), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee), and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah, Alex Lewis (concussion), and Ronnie Stanley (foot).

The organization confirmed that Smith, Yanda, and Zuttah were attending the funeral of longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Assistant coaches Don Martindale, Chris Hewitt, and Drew Wilkins were also at the funeral. A team spokesman said a number of other coaches and players went to the viewing for Brooks on Tuesday as Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti chartered a plane for members of the organization to attend the services.

“It was just really a great moment in terms of seeing the family that ‘C.B.’ had around him and the family that he built in so many ways,” Harbaugh said. “We see how he affected us every single day here and the lives that he impacted — guys who are here and guys over the years — but it was cool to see the impact he had in his own town and with his own family.”

Brooks died on Sept. 17 at the age of 65 from esophageal and stomach cancer.

Oakland was without two starting members of its offensive line on Wednesday as center Rodney Hudson (knee) and right tackle Menelik Watson (calf) were both absent from practice.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), G Alex Lewis (concussion), WR Steve Smith (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), RS Devin Hester (thigh), CB Sheldon Price (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), G John Urschel (shoulder)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Austin Howard (ankle), C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), OT Menelik Watson (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Nate Allen (quadriceps), OT Matt McCants (knee)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 3 win in Jacksonville

Posted on 27 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 with a 19-17 victory at Jacksonville on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Much praise has already been offered to the fourth-quarter performance of the Ravens defense, but the numbers were just sensational. Jacksonville ran 17 plays for four net yards while Baltimore collected four sacks, two interceptions, and two batted passes. That’s how you finish games.

2. Mentioning last week how methodical the Jacksonville defense has forced the Ravens to be, Joe Flacco threw 40 times with only completions of 20 or more yards. The Jaguars used deep safeties and an underwhelming running game didn’t help matters, but the Ravens must take more vertical shots.

3. Speaking of the running game, many want Terrance West to receive the bulk of the carries, but the Ravens don’t trust him as much in pass protection, which can’t be overlooked in a pass-happy offense. Still, you hope rookie Kenneth Dixon can eventually give a sputtering ground attack a spark.

4. John Harbaugh quipped that rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa needs extra work on the JUGS machine after dropping an interception that could have been a touchdown, but it was good to see the second-rounder make on impact with his first defensive action. Now he needs to build on that.

5. I had concerns after his Week 1 performance in which he had only 19 receiving yards on eight targets, but Steve Smith looked like his old self against Jacksonville, gaining yards after the catch and making four receptions in the fourth quarter. Maybe Jalen Ramsey did him a favor?

6. Many have criticized Shareece Wright after two rough games in a row, but shouldn’t Jimmy Smith be traveling with a receiver as talented as Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson? Wright does need to be better in coverage, but the Ravens gave Smith a big contract for those types of matchups.

7. Just 8-for-19 on tries from at least 50 yards in the previous two seasons, Justin Tucker is living up to a fat contract by nailing all three tries from that range so far, including the game-winning 54-yarder in Jacksonville. He’s easy to take for granted, but he shouldn’t be.

8. It’s ironic that Flacco’s franchise record of 21 consecutive completions ended on his best throw of the day that was dropped in the end zone by Mike Wallace. It wasn’t the best day for the veteran receiver or Breshad Perriman, who also dropped a couple of passes.

9. One of the big differences in the defense has been the improved pass coverage from the inside linebackers. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr are getting better depth in their drops, and both came away with interceptions on Sunday.

10. Brent Urban gave the Ravens’ their 10th blocked kick since 2014, which proved to be the difference in the game. Special teams can be a great equalizer in overcoming deficiencies on offense or defense, and blocks have swung momentum two weeks in a row.

11. Alex Lewis did leave Sunday’s game with a concussion, but the Ravens listing the same seven inactives for the third straight week illustrates how healthy they’ve remained since the start of the regular season. They need Elvis Dumervil and Dixon to return, but they should feel fortunate otherwise.

12. Harbaugh says he isn’t superstitious, but his gray T-shirt worn on the sideline two weeks in a row will apparently be donned again against Oakland. It’s a more relaxed look for the ninth-year coach than we’re used to seeing, and it reminds a bit of Bill Belichick with the hoodie.

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No matter how it’s looked, Ravens in great position early in 2016

Posted on 25 September 2016 by Luke Jones

You don’t have to buy into the 3-0 Ravens after a sloppy 19-17 win over Jacksonville on Sunday.

They’ve defeated three teams that are a combined 1-8 so far this season. Baltimore has won each of those games by a single possession and trailed in the fourth quarter of the last two.

Quarterback Joe Flacco spoke the truth after the game despite the Ravens being off to their best start since 2009 and standing alone in first place in the AFC North.

“You don’t want to have to be winning these games the way we are,” said Flacco, who threw two fourth-quarter interceptions after a whopping 21 straight completions earlier in the game. “I think it makes us tougher as a football team. At the same time, you’re not going to be able to get away with this when you’re playing really, really good teams in January.”

The mere fact that Flacco could mention January says it all, however. That possibility was already looking bleak after an 0-3 start last year.

The Ravens may not be a great team, but they’re in a great position with a perfect record through the first three weeks. Since 1990, teams starting 3-0 have made the playoffs 75.6 percent of the time.

The odds look even better with the Ravens now playing consecutive home games against Oakland and Washington. A 5-0 start hardly appears out of the question, and that would be welcomed when you consider what the rest of the schedule looks like after that.

The offense has managed only four touchdowns in three games. The running game has largely been a non-factor at a meager 3.3 yards per carry. The passing game has impressed at times, but then there are moments such as Mike Wallace’s drop in the end zone on the opening drive of the third quarter on Sunday that throw the rhythm out of whack for an extended period of time.

Still, you see plenty of reason for optimism with Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta looking more and more like their old selves, Wallace providing a needed vertical presence, and young receivers such as Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore flashing potential. The offensive line has been an obvious concern, but there were always going to be growing pains with two rookies starting on the left side.

In other words, there’s reason to think the group can improve markedly. That’s why a 3-0 record feels that much better, regardless of the quality of opponents.

“I think we’re a team that’s kind of growing as we’re moving along here,” Flacco said. “We have a lot of moving parts and a lot of guys who haven’t played with us before. At some point, we might see that we’re building up, building up, building up and all of a sudden it turns over very quickly. That’s kind of what I’m looking for — for it to turn over very quickly and for us to explode as an offense and really take off.”

The most impressive part of the Ravens through the first three weeks, however, has been a defense that’s allowed only 14.7 points per game. That’s including a 20-point nightmare of a first quarter in Cleveland, meaning the defense has been even stingier in its other 11 quarters of action.

The pass rush hasn’t been as consistent as defensive coordinator Dean Pees would like, but it has stepped up when needed, sacking Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles four times in the fourth quarter after failing to register one in the first three quarters on Sunday. You’d like to see more pressure off the edge, but veteran Terrell Suggs came alive with two quarterback takedowns in the final period and the Ravens will hope to welcome back Elvis Dumervil in Week 4. The interior rush has been more consistently disruptive with Timmy Jernigan leading the way with three sacks in the first three games.

But the biggest difference from last year’s defense has been the ability to force turnovers. The Ravens intercepted three passes against the Jaguars to give them five for the season, just one shy of their franchise-worst 2015 total.

On Sunday, Baltimore picked off Bortles twice in the final five minutes. Last week, it was a C.J. Mosley interception in the final minute that preserved a 25-20 victory. These were the game-changing plays that were largely absent against both good teams and bad teams a year ago.

Despite their imperfections on Sunday, the Ravens had two distinct advantages over the Jaguars that Suggs identified after the game. And they’re huge reasons why Baltimore should feel even more optimistic about a 3-0 start.

“You want a quarterback with ice in his veins,” Suggs said, “and you damn sure want a kicker with ice in his veins as well.”

Justin Tucker proved the latter with a 54-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining to complete a 4-for-4 day. He has now connected on all three of his tries from at least 50 yards, an area where he struggled last season.

The Ravens may not be the best 3-0 team in the NFL, but they’ll take that over being called the best 2-1 team like Pittsburgh or a good 1-2 squad like Cincinnati. Sure, you can argue that the Ravens haven’t beaten anybody, but they haven’t lost to anybody, either.

A 3-0 start leaves less work to do later and more leeway to figure things out in the coming weeks as the Ravens will hope to be ready to step up their play against the better teams looming later in the year.

Maybe even in January.

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Dumervil inactive for third straight game

Posted on 25 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens must wait another week to welcome back their Pro Bowl pash rusher.

Despite returning to practice on a limited basis this week, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is inactive for Sunday’s meeting with Jacksonville. The 32-year-old had expressed hope that he would return against the Jaguars, but he did not participate in Friday’s walk-through, a discouraging sign for his Week 3 availability.

Dumervil has logged only a handful of practices in his return from offseason foot surgery and suffered a setback in late August that had sidelined him until this week. His absence will again open the door for younger options such as Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon to receive increased pass-rushing opportunities.

As expected, rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active and will start after missing Wednesday’s practice with a foot ailment. The first-round pick was a full participant in practices for the remainder of the week.

Interestingly enough, Baltimore turned in the same list of inactives for the third consecutive week. Cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Will Davis and running back Buck Allen were among the healthy scratches. Offensive lineman John Urschel (shoulder) was inactive for the third straight week despite being a full participant in practices since the start of the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars listed four starters as inactive for Sunday’s game. Jacksonville will be without left tackle Kelvin Beachum (concussion), center Brandon Linder (knee), defensive end Jared Odrick (triceps), and cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) against the Ravens.

The absence of Beachum and Linder should create an advantage for the Baltimore defensive line that’s already had a strong start to the season.

The referee for Sunday’s game is Gene Steratore.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, temperatures reaching 87 degrees, a 15 percent chance of rain, and winds up to 11 miles per hour.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Jaguars don white tops with white pants.

Sunday marks the 20th meeting between these old AFC Central rivals with Jacksonville holding the 11-8 advantage. The Ravens are 2-6 in their trips to EverBank Field and haven’t won there since the 2001 season.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
LB Elvis Dumervil
CB Jerraud Powers
RB Kenneth Dixon
CB Will Davis
RB Buck Allen
OL John Urschel
DT Willie Henry

JACKSONVILLE
DE Jared Odrick
LT Kelvin Beachum
CB Prince Amukamara
C Brandon Linder
QB Brandon Allen
TE Ben Koyack
DE Chris Smith

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Dumervil questionable to play after sitting out Friday’s practice

Posted on 23 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh celebrated his 54th birthday on Friday and would welcome the present of a returning Elvis Dumervil for Sunday’s game in Jacksonville.

Despite not participating in Friday’s walk-through practice, the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher was listed as questionable to play after working on a limited basis in previous workouts this week. Dumervil told reporters on Thursday that he hoped to play, but he’s not yet 100 percent physically after undergoing offseason foot surgery and suffering a setback a few days into his initial return to practice in late August.

Harbaugh indicated that Dumervil’s availability against the Jaguars would be a game-time decision after he practiced for the first time in nearly a month.

“I thought he looked good. He’s worked really hard, and he’s put a lot of time in,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just a matter of you get to that point and decide whether it’s going to give you the best chance to win or not based on where he’s at physically. We know what kind of player he is and what he’s capable of, and that’s the decision that will just have to be made.”

As expected, the Ravens officially ruled out running back Kenneth Dixon for the third straight game as he continues to work his way back from a left knee injury. However, the rookie was doing some running on the side field during the open portion of practice and was moving pretty well despite wearing a brace.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and interior offensive lineman John Urschel (shoulder) were both listed as questionable to play against the Jaguars. After missing Wednesday’s practice, Stanley was a full participant on Thursday and Friday and is fully expected to start. Urschel has now been a full participant in practices for three straight weeks, but he was inactive for Baltimore’s first two games.

Center Jeremy Zuttah was not listed on the final game status injury report of the week, but he was absent from Friday’s walk-through for a non-injury reason. This typically indicates a player is either receiving a day off to rest or to deal with a personal matter, but Harbaugh did not give an explanation for Zuttah’s absence.

“That’d be a good question for Jeremy, but there’s no injury there,” Harbaugh said. “Jeremy’s fine.”

Zuttah was not available for comment during Friday’s open locker room period for reporters. The 30-year-old has struggled over the first two games of the season, leading some outsiders to speculate whether the Ravens should turn to another option such as Urschel or Ryan Jensen.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars will be without their starting left tackle as Kelvin Beachum was ruled out for Sunday’s game after suffering a concussion in Week 2. Former first-round pick Luke Joeckel is listed as his primary backup.

Jacksonville listed five other starters as questionable with two of them — cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and defensive end Jared Odrick (triceps) — not practicing all week.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with temperatures reaching the high 80s, winds up to 10 miles per hours, and a 60 percent chance of precipitation.

The Ravens announced Friday that they will wear “CB” decals on their helmets for the remainder of the 2016 season in memory of longtime defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who died of esophageal cancer last Saturday.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), G John Urschel (shoulder)

JACKSONVILLE
OUT: OT Kelvin Beachum (concussion), TE Ben Koyack (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), S Tashaun Gipson (hamstring), RB Chris Ivory (general medical), C Brandon Linder (knee), DE Jared Odrick (triceps)

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Dumervil shooting to play in Jacksonville after return to practice

Posted on 22 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil is hoping to make his return against Jacksonville on Sunday after practicing two straight days on a limited basis.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection hadn’t practiced since late August when he suffered a setback from offseason surgery. However, the 32-year-old said his foot has responded well to practices this week, making it possible that he will play against the Jaguars.

“I’m shooting to try and go out as soon as I can,” Dumervil said after Thursday’s workout. “I just have to continue to keep building that endurance, building that strength, and get that explosiveness where I feel like I’m me. I’m excited.”

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees wouldn’t commit to Dumervil’s availability for Week 3, but the Ravens would surely welcome his presence coming off the edge where they have yet to consistently generate pressure in the pocket. He accumulated 32 1/2 sacks over his first three seasons with Baltimore and broke the franchise’s single-season record with 17 in 2014

With fellow veteran Terrell Suggs suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in last year’s opener, the pass-rushing duo hasn’t played a full game together since the Ravens’ postseason loss at New England on Jan. 10, 2015.

“It is good when you get one of your best players back on the field,” Suggs said. “We slowly, but surely, are getting our guys back. Whenever he is out there, we are going to rejoice, but until then, we are going to continue to work and get better.”

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) was a full participant in Thursday’s workout, reinforcing his expectation that he would not miss Sunday’s game despite being sidelined on Wednesday.

Running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was the only player on the Ravens’ active roster to miss Thursday’s practice because of injury. Suggs and veteran right guard Marshal Yanda received a day off as they did last week.

The Jaguars were missing five starters during Thursday’s workout, which has to be a concern for a team off to an 0-2 start despite plenty of optimism entering 2016.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), G John Urschel (shoulder)

JACKSONVILLE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring), OT Kelvin Beachum (concussion), CB Davon House (hamstring), TE Ben Koyack (knee), C Brandon Linder (knee), S DE Jared Odrick (triceps)
FULL PARTICIPATION: Johnathan Cyprien (knee/triceps), RB Chris Ivory (general medical issue), OT Jeremy Parnell (groin), WR Allen Robinson (illness)

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Ravens hoping this could be the week for Dumervil’s return

Posted on 21 September 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated 11:30 a.m.)

The Ravens are off to their first 2-0 start in seven years despite being without their best pass rusher, but that could change against Jacksonville as Elvis Dumervil returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not refute a recent ESPN report saying that the Pro Bowl outside linebacker was aiming to make his return in Week 3 from offseason foot surgery last month. Activated from the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 22, the 32-year-old only practiced on a limited basis for a few days before suffering a setback and once again being sidelined.

“You’ll know [he has a chance to play] if he practices, in all honesty,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “He has to practice. It’s really in Elvis’ hands. It’s going to be kind of a feel thing for him. There’s soundness there from what I’m told. He feels it. It’s just a matter of whether he feels the strength is there, and the explosion, and everything he needs to go out there and compete.”

With Dumervil out, Albert McClellan has served as the starting strong-side outside linebacker in the base defense opposite veteran rush linebacker Terrell Suggs. Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon have received more opportunities in pass-rushing situations, especially with Suggs not yet playing at his pre-injury level in returning from last season’s Achilles injury.

The Ravens have mostly relied on their interior pass rush and blitzing to create pressure, but their edge rushers have yet to make a dynamic impact in disrupting the pocket. A healthy Dumervil would figure to change that after accumulating 32 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons with the Ravens.

“I feel like I’m getting close, but I don’t know what close means yet,” Dumervil said last week. “We’re working hard, working with the guys here. I’m really getting better, so looking forward to really soon.”

Baltimore is also hoping to welcome back rookie running back Kenneth Dixon sooner rather than later. The fourth-round pick suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Aug. 27 and was still wearing a brace as of last week. He was expected to miss around four weeks at the time of the injury.

Beyond those preexisting conditions entering the start of the season, the Ravens have remained healthy through their first two games. It’s quite a contrast from this time last year when they’d already lost Suggs for the season and two other starters — Eugene Monroe and Chris Canty — to multi-week injuries.

“We just have to keep work on getting healthy,” Harbaugh said. “We have a few guys that are trying to get back right now.  I’m very hopeful, very hopeful to get those guys back soon. We didn’t have anything serious — it doesn’t look like — coming out of that [Cleveland] game. We are very grateful for that.”

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 September 2016 by Luke Jones

It’s a new week, but the same list of inactives for the Ravens as they face Cleveland in their second game of the 2016 regular season.

Despite missing practices all week with a lingering ankle issue, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was indeed active for Sunday’s game against the Browns. With five-time Pro Bowl selection Elvis Dumervil out for the second straight week, the Ravens will need Smith to serve in a pass-rushing capacity opposite veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

It will be interesting to see how many snaps Smith will play after he led all Baltimore outside linebackers in that department against Buffalo.

Third-year offensive lineman John Urschel was inactive for the second straight game after head coach John Harbaugh declared him ready to play earlier in the week. Rookie Alex Lewis will start again at left guard and appears to have secured the job until he proves incapable of handling it.

Urschel has been a full participant in practices over the last two weeks after dealing with a shoulder injury during training camp. His deactivation meant the Ravens had only two reserve offensive linemen available against Cleveland.

Running back Buck Allen was also a healthy scratch for the second straight week, creating more questions about his status once rookie Kenneth Dixon returns from a knee injury. In the last meeting with the Browns last November, Allen ran for 55 yards and caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown in a 33-27 win.

Despite missing Wednesday’s practice with a calf injury, wide receiver Breshad Perriman was among the actives for Sunday’s game. He participated fully in workouts the rest of the week.

Cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday, but he remained inactive after being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week.

There were no surprises among the Cleveland inactives as the Browns prepared for their home opener.

Sunday’s referee is John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Cleveland calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s with winds up to nine miler per hour. However, the previous threat of scattered thunderstorms has disappeared.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Browns don white tops with brown pants.

Sunday marks the 35th meeting between these AFC North foes with Baltimore enjoying an overwhelming 25-9 advantage. The Ravens are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jerraud Powers
RB Kenneth Dixon
CB Will Davis
RB Buck Allen
OLB Elvis Dumervil
OL John Urschel
DT Willie Henry

CLEVELAND
DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
DB Marcus Burley
LB Scooby Wright
OL Shon Coleman
WR Jordan Payton
DL John Hughes
DL Gabe Wright

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 17 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Winning on the road isn’t easy in the NFL.

Even in John Harbaugh’s first five seasons that included a Super Bowl title, three AFC championship game appearances, and at least one playoff victory each year, a 21-19 road mark in the regular season was solid but hardly sensational. However, an 8-16 record away from M&T Bank Stadium over the last three seasons is a clear reflection of a team having only made the playoffs once over that stretch.

After their Week 1 victory against Buffalo, the Ravens take their show on the road for the first time in 2016 against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its eighth win in the last nine trips to Cleveland. The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series with a 25-9 mark and are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium dating back to the year it opened in 1999. The teams split a pair of games in 2015, but the Ravens have won 14 of the 16 games played in the series during the Harbaugh era.

1. The defensive line will pay tribute to the late Clarence Brooks by holding Cleveland to under 3.0 yards per carry. Coming off a 2015 season in which they rushed for an average 4.0 yards per attempt, Cleveland averaged 5.7 yards per rush against Philadelphia, snapping off four runs of 16 yards or more. That said, Brandon Williams and the Ravens front were stout against Buffalo in giving up only 2.7 yards per carry and will surely want to honor the memory of their longtime defensive line coach, who died Saturday. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will find little room throughout the afternoon.

2. An ineffective pass rush will lead to a long touchdown pass to Browns receiver Corey Coleman. The defense will be without Elvis Dumervil and possibly Za’Darius Smith, once again leaving defensive coordinator Dean Pees little choice but to blitz to generate pressure. It won’t be easy for a rusty Terrell Suggs going up against nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, either. The Ravens know they must disrupt Josh McCown in the pocket after he threw for over 450 yards in a game against them last year, but he’ll get too much time at some point and the speedy Coleman will shake free for a big score.

3. The Baltimore running game still won’t click fully, but Terrance West will lead in rushing against his old team. West received more carries than veteran starter Justin Forsett in the opener, but the former found little running room, averaging only 2.7 yards per pop. With a one-possession lead in the second half, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will lean on West to wear down an inexperienced Cleveland front. The average still won’t be where the Ravens want it, but West will run for 65 yards to help protect the lead with Forsett chipping in 50 of his own against the Browns.

4. Dennis Pitta will catch his first touchdown in 33 months. The veteran tight end downplayed his return to the place where he sustained his second hip fracture and dislocation two years ago, but there wouldn’t be a more appropriate place for him to make his first touchdown reception since Dec. 8, 2013. After surprisingly playing 82 percent of the offensive snaps against Buffalo while making a key 27-yard reception, Pitta will build on that solid performance with a red-zone score. Concern about his health will remain in observers’ minds, but you have to be happy for the 31-year-old in his comeback.

5. Joe Flacco will play how he usually does against the Browns in a 23-13 victory. In 15 career games against Cleveland, the 31-year-old has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions while averaging roughly 215 passing yards per game. Trestman won’t ask Flacco to take many chances in this road game, but the quarterback will be efficient while, most importantly, protecting the football. Some will complain about another grind-it-out performance lacking style points, but the Ravens will happily leave Cleveland holding their first 2-0 start since 2009.

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Ravens list Z. Smith as questionable, rule out Dumervil again

Posted on 16 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Having already ruled out Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil for the second straight week, the Ravens could be without another outside linebacker in Cleveland on Sunday.

After missing his third straight practice with an ankle injury, Za’Darius Smith was listed as questionable to play in Week 2. Despite not starting in the opener against Buffalo, the 2015 fourth-round pick played 36 snaps in the Week 1 win, the most of any active outside linebacker.

Smith was not listed on the injury report last week after missing the final two preseason games with an ankle sprain. It remains unclear whether he aggravated the previous injury or hurt the opposite ankle against the Bills.

“I really don’t know,” head coach John Harbaugh said early Friday afternoon. “I don’t remember. The injury report will be out later.”

Dumervil hasn’t practiced since suffering a setback in his return from offseason foot surgery last month. The 32-year-old said Thursday that he’s improving and getting closer to a return, but he still offered no timetable for when he might be ready to play.

With Dumervil out and Smith in danger of missing Sunday’s game, the Ravens may need to lean more heavily on rookie linebackers Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa. Judon saw only 13 defensive snaps against Buffalo while Correa, the team’s second-round pick, only played on special teams in the season opener.

“They’ve both done a tremendous job and have demonstrated that they can play in this league,” Harbaugh said. “That’s an ongoing process, and whatever opportunities they get, we’ll be expecting them to make the most of it. We’re going out there as a team to go win the football game.”

The Ravens also listed wide receiver Breshad Perriman (calf), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (thigh), cornerback Jerraud Powers (ankle), and guard John Urschel (shoulder) as questionable. All four were full participants in practice on Thursday and Friday, leading you to believe they should all be healthy enough to play against the Browns.

Perriman missed Wednesday’s practice, but he returned the following day and told reporters that he was feeling good and expecting to play in Week 2.

As expected, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon was ruled out as he continues to recover from a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee sustained in the third preseason game on Aug. 27. At the time of the injury, he was expected to miss roughly four weeks of action.

Meanwhile, the Browns did not have a single player absent from practice on Thursday or Friday and didn’t list anyone on their final game status injury report. Defensive backs Marcus Burley (groin) and Derrick Kindred (ankle) were limited in practices early in the week, but the NFL eliminated the “probable” label on the injury report, likely explaining why they weren’t listed in the game status report.

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

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast in Cleveland is calling for a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, temperatures reaching the mid-70s, and winds up to 10 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Breshad Perriman (calf), CB Jerraud Powers (ankle), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), G John Urschel (shoulder)

CLEVELAND
No one listed

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