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Ravens-Texans: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Texans: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 21 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

The memory of last year’s 43-13 thrashing is still on the Ravens’ minds as they welcome the Houston Texans to Baltimore for an important early-season showdown in the AFC and an opportunity to exact revenge.

The Ravens are still trying to find their identity on each side of the football while Houston feels fortunate to be 2-0 after earning victories on the final play of each game, including an overtime win over the Tennessee Titans last week.

Sunday will be an emotional day at M&T Bank Stadium as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor while longtime safety Ed Reed returns to Baltimore as a member of the Houston Texans after departing via free agency in the offseason.

It’s time to go on record as Baltimore and Houston meet for the seventh time in the regular-season series with the Ravens holding a 5-1 edge. These teams met in the 2011 postseason with the Ravens winning a 20-13 final as the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens play the Texans for the fourth straight year in the regular season …

1. Bernard Pierce will grind out 75 tough yards on the ground against a physical Texans front seven and find the end zone once. The expected absence of running back Ray Rice hurts the Ravens offense with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield not at their disposal, but Pierce’s physical running style is better suited against a physical Houston defense that surprisingly ranks 18th against the run (99.5 yards allowed per game) through two games. However, the Ravens’ ability to run the ball will be much more about their offensive line as Baltimore is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry so far this season. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell saw the need to stick with the run in the second half against Cleveland and will use a similar approach against the Texans, but Pierce’s yards per carry average won’t be much better than last week’s 3.0 on 19 carries.

2. The Ravens defense will struggle to cover tight ends for the third straight week as Owen Daniels catches a touchdown from Matt Schaub. Houston wide receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will keep cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith busy on the outside, but Texans tight ends have caught five touchdown passes in two games this season. It’s no secret that Ravens linebackers and safeties have struggled immensely to cover the middle of the field and Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Schaub will be aware of the deficiency. The expected absence of rookie linebacker Arthur Brown — who played in the nickel last week before suffering a pectoral strain — only hurts the Ravens’ ability in that department as Daniels finds the end zone. Backup tight end Garrett Graham is questionable with a groin injury, but he will need to be watched carefully as well if he plays.

3. With Texans left tackle Duane Brown unlikely to play and the right side of the Houston offensive line suspect, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will each collect a sack. Brown is listed as questionable, but all indications from Houston indicate he will not be able to play on Sunday, giving the Ravens an opportunity to put significant heat on Schaub. The Baltimore pass rush and front seven overall will compete nicely against the Texans upfront, keeping the Ravens in the game throughout the day against a unit that will try to run the football with Arian Foster and Ben Tate and move the chains with the intermediate passing game. Suggs matching up against backup left tackle Ryan Harris and Dumervil going against right tackle Derek Newton will add up to another big day for the pass-rushing duo and the third straight game in which they’ve each collected a sack.

4. Reed won’t make a significant impact, but the Houston defense will be in Joe Flacco’s face too much on Sunday. I’d be surprised if Reed didn’t play on Sunday, but a 35-year-old safety coming off his second major hip surgery in four years and acknowledging that he’s not 100 percent shouldn’t create much fear in Flacco’s mind as long as the quarterback doesn’t sleep on Reed’s cerebral presence in the secondary. However, the Ravens need their offensive line to begin playing like it did in last year’s postseason with the shortage of offensive weapons at Flacco’s disposal. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie and left guard Kelechi Osemele both struggled in Week 2, and the challenge is only greater for the line this week against the likes of left defensive end and 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt — who will also move around on the defensive line — as well as other pass rushers all over the place in Wade Phillips’ defense. The Texans were just too fast for Flacco and the Ravens offense in last year’s blowout and the offensive line will have a major challenge once again on Sunday. Pressure upfront will only help a Houston pass defense that’s thrived early this season against underwhelming offenses.

5. With Rice and Jacoby Jones sidelined, the Ravens will simply lack enough offensive firepower to overcome a balanced Texans team in a 21-16 loss. As difficult as it is to bet against the Ravens in Baltimore, nothing about their offense through two weeks suggests they’re ready to beat one of the big boys in the conference and the absence of Rice and Jones significantly hurts their speed on offense. A strength last season, the vertical passing game has been nonexistent with Torrey Smith facing bracketed coverage, and rookie Marlon Brown won’t find life as easy against the cornerback duo of Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. The defense is certainly good enough to make some stops and limit the Texans’ scoring opportunities to keep the Ravens in the game, but the offense just won’t produce enough big plays with Flacco facing pressure and unable to rely on enough targets in the passing game.

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Ravens’ depth, versatility paying off at outside linebacker

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Ravens’ depth, versatility paying off at outside linebacker

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Though the Ravens’ 1-1 start has been anything but seamless, the hype surrounding the pass-rushing combination of Terrell Suggs and free-agent acquisition Elvis Dumervil has been justified for the Baltimore defense.

Entering the 2013 season with eight Pro Bowl selections and 148 quarterback sacks between them, Suggs and Dumervil have collected a combined four sacks and 10 quarterback hits in their first two weeks together. Considering the money and resources invested by general manager Ozzie Newsome at the outside linebacker position, you expect that kind of production, but another reason to feel optimistic about Suggs, who will turn 31 next month, and the 29-year-old Dumervil being productive over the entire 16-game regular season is the depth and versatility behind them in the Baltimore defense.

With younger players such as Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee spelling the veterans in certain situations, it decreases their total number of opportunities to rack up sacks and pressures but provides an ability to maximize their production when they are on the field. Both Suggs and Dumervil have welcomed younger players receiving opportunities defensively.

“That’s a good thing. You want guys getting after it,” Suggs said following Sunday’s win. “Everybody’s fighting for it.”

With Cleveland expected to establish the running game as opposed to Denver’s wide-open passing attack from Week 1, it was no surprise to see Upshaw start the game at the strong-side linebacker position with Dumervil on the sideline. Ideally, Dumervil is better suited for Suggs’ rush linebacker position than the Sam linebacker spot responsible for setting the edge and focusing more on stopping the run.

Upshaw played 42 of the Ravens’ 63 defensive snaps against the Browns while Dumervil was on the field for 39 plays. This didn’t prevent Dumervil from being a major thorn in the side of Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden as he collected a sack, three quarterback hits, and two hurries in 28 pass-rush situations, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Upshaw was a major part of a run defense that limited the Browns to just 3.3 yards per carry and 65 yards on the ground.

“Upshaw is a hell of a player, and he’s only [in] year two, so the sky is the limit for him,” Dumervil said prior to the start of the season. “I think the staff does a great job of putting guys where it’s suited best for them, and as a player, you have to be respectful towards what is trying to be accomplished.”

Dumervil wasn’t the only standout linebacker to receive some rest over the course of the game as Suggs took 49 defensive snaps and third-year pass-rush specialist Pernell McPhee participated in 20, often spelling Suggs at his rush linebacker spot. McPhee was converted to outside linebacker in the offseason and while he lacks the skill set of Suggs against the run and in pass coverage, the position change allowed him to shed some weight to take some pressure off his problematic knees and to help keep the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year fresh over the course of games when possible.

Of course, there will be occasions against tougher competition in which the Ravens will lean more heavily on Suggs and Dumervil, but the ability for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to lighten the workload of his veteran outside linebackers will keep them more productive down the stretch when the Ravens will need them at their best.

Dead end with tight ends

The tight end position has been a hot topic for discussion ever since starter Dennis Pitta went down with a serious hip injury in the first week of training camp, and there are no indications that the problem is being fixed until his potential return late this season.

The Ravens showed their level of concern by working out free-agent tight ends Jake Ballard and Matt Mulligan after the season opener, but it’s difficult to expect any addition off the street to make a significant impact. Ed Dickson has struggled mightily to catch the football while 34-year-old Dallas Clark has looked slow running routes and dropped a sure touchdown right before halftime in the Week 1 loss at Denver.

“Those guys need to be a big part of what we are doing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They are fully capable of making catches. Ed should be a big-play guy up the seam, over routes, and all those kinds of things. We need to get Ed going.”

On paper and in practices, Dickson looks like the prototypical tight end with size, good speed, and strong blocking ability, but trying to cure the mental issue of having a case of the drops isn’t easy. After Dickson dropped a Joe Flacco pass that would have been a nice gain over the middle of the field on the first play of the game on Sunday, the quarterback didn’t target him again.

It spoke volumes for both Dickson and Clark that No. 3 tight end Billy Bajema — known mostly for his blocking — turned in the best performance of the day by making an 18-yard reception. Whether we see more of him, versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk, or the eventual promotion of Matt Furstenburg from the practice squad, the Ravens need to see improvement from the tight end spot considering the similar questions facing the wide receiver position.

In two games this season, Ravens tight ends have combined for 10 catches and 126 yards. In comparison, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham had eight catches for 156 yards and a touchdown in the first half of the Saints’ win against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

That type of production from their tight ends in two games just simply isn’t enough in the modern NFL.

Running game concerns

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Arthur Jones

4. Elvis Dumervil

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Daryl Smith

1. Torrey Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

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Ravens defense aiming to make expectations reality in post-Lewis era

Posted on 03 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens heard the questions, the concerns, and the doubts about their once-proud defense in the weeks and months that followed their win in Super Bowl XLVII.

How would they survive without the retiring Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history and unquestionably the leader and face of the franchise for their entire 17-year existence? What would they do to replace future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed’s presence in the defensive backfield as well as in the locker room? And how could they afford to lose younger talents such as Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard, and Cary Williams in a quest to rebuild an aging and frequently-ineffective defense?

Those who downplayed Lewis’ departure because of his declining play over the final seasons of his career couldn’t overlook the colossal void in leadership and identity that needed to be addressed for an organization that both empowered and depended upon his presence. And after years of watching former Baltimore defensive players escape Lewis’ shadow before finding that the grass wasn’t greener elsewhere, the Ravens themselves will now see how they fare without him.

“In the spring, everybody was hitting the panic button on us because of the guys we lost,” Pro Bowl linebacker and 2011 Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs said. “Even though we were very sad to see those guys go, the show must go on.”

The time for change was right as general manager Ozzie Newsome remembered what some had seemingly forgotten while basking in the image of confetti dropping in New Orleans in a storybook ending for the 2012 Ravens. Though praised for a “bend but don’t break” style that was good enough to complement quarterback Joe Flacco’s incredible postseason performance, the Baltimore defense finished 17th in total defense, tied for 12th in points allowed, 20th against the run, 17th against the pass, and tied for 15th in sacks.

Frankly, the defensive numbers and overall performance were un-Raven-like as Baltimore was weak along the defensive line as well as at safety, prompting Newsome to trade wide receiver Anquan Boldin and his $6 million base salary in 2013 to clear just enough salary cap space to rebuild the defense in terms of both talent and leadership. Defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears would provide improved depth upfront while free safety Michael Huff seemed like a good bet to, at worst, match the declining play of Reed for a fraction of the cost that the Houston Texans paid for the longtime Raven’s services in free agency.

The prize of the group, however, was Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who was released due to a contract-restructuring snafu made by his former agent and joined the Ravens after signing a five-year deal worth a maximum value of $35 million. It appeared to be a bargain for a three-time Pro Bowl selection whose work ethic and leadership have been praised by everyone in the organization from the moment he stepped foot in Owings Mills in the spring.

“I think [it comes with] the way you play on the field and how you lead by example,” Dumervil said. “Leadership doesn’t come with talking or speech — it’s just how you carry yourself. I’ve always been a leader. That’s just natural for me, and I think I’ve learned how to follow before I can lead.”

After drafting four defensive players in the first four rounds of April’s draft, Newsome had one more trick up his sleeve in signing longtime Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith to a one-year deal on the same day the Super Bowl champs visited President Barack Obama at the White House. The 31-year-old has stepped in to play Lewis’ Mike linebacker position while looking like the team’s best player in the preseason, recording 14 tackles and a sack while showing steady ability in pass coverage.

Initially perceived as little more than an insurance policy for injured inside linebacker Jameel McClain, Smith has been praised by everyone in the organization, ranging from his new defensive teammates to quarterback Joe Flacco. Smith’s personality couldn’t be more different from Lewis, which might be a positive while handling such an unenviable task of replacing a legend.

“He doesn’t say a lot, because he’s just about business, and then you sit down and talk to him and realize the depth of his character and personality,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s a great family man, he’s a mature guy, he’s a man. And he’s also – I really believe – one of the most underrated defensive players in football over the last eight [or] nine years. We feel pretty fortunate that he’s here right now.”

The common threads among the five veteran newcomers were the leadership qualities they displayed with their former teams. It was clear the Ravens weren’t simply placing the defensive leadership crown on the heads of Suggs and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata alone.

There was no replacing Lewis or Reed, but the Ravens appear to be pleased with their by-committee approach as they enter Thursday night’s opener against the Denver Broncos. On paper and in the controlled environment of spring and summer practices, the transition has appeared organic and seamless.

Suggs will be viewed as the new figurehead, but the 30-year-old has acknowledged repeatedly that he’s not looking to be the next Lewis and has appeared more subdued than in past seasons. Overall, it’s a Baltimore defense that lacks the bravado of past units without the camera-friendly Lewis out in front, but the quiet confidence veteran newcomers and young players alike have expressed seems appropriate in a new era.

“It’s different like in any organization when you lose guys that have been there for so long that they kind of assume those roles,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think everybody else kind of sat back and just said, ‘Well, that’s really kind of not my role. That’s kind of Ed [Reed] and Ray’s [Lewis] role.’ Now those guys are stepping up, and I don’t think it’s any one particular guy who’s saying, ‘OK, I’m going to be the new Ray Lewis.’ It’s just a bunch of guys collectively stepping up and showing some leadership.”

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

Posted on 01 September 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It wasn’t long ago that Joe Flacco joked about not knowing the names of most new teammates on the Ravens roster after an offseason filled with changes.

However, the Ravens quarterback isn’t saying that any longer about a pair of rookie receivers who could factor heavily into the Baltimore passing attack as early as Thursday’s opener against the Denver Broncos. Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown and seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette began the summer in relative anonymity in Flacco’s eyes but grabbed his attention after the pair combined to make 19 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns in four preseason games.

“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re physical,” Flacco said. “They obviously have some talent. I think they are going to be guys that help us out a lot — in the short term [and] long term. We still have to go out there and play and feed them the ball and see what they can do.”

Mellette entered training camp as the bigger household name among Ravens fans after being taken with a seventh-round pick back in April. Playing for FCS school Elon, the 6-foot-2 receiver made an astonishing 304 catches for 4,254 yards and 44 touchdowns in his college career and grabbed 97 passes for 1,398 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior year alone.

The 6-foot-5 Brown didn’t live up to expectations as a prized recruit at the University of Georgia but could be an attractive option in the red zone with his statuesque frame. The Ravens have lacked a wide receiver of his height during Flacco’s career after 2012 sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter failed to pan out.

Brown finally appeared to be realizing his potential in his senior season with the Bulldogs when he caught 27 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns before tearing the ACL in his left knee in a game against Ole Miss on Nov. 3, 2012. The 22-year-old is still working his way back to full strength — missing spring organized team activities and even a handful this summer — but his ability began to shine as he became more comfortable physically and mentally in the Ravens offense.

“I have a mindset where I wanted to make the team and ultimately make a difference on the team, whether it’s on special teams or offense,” said Brown, who was in the weight room when coach John Harbaugh personally informed him that he’d made the team. “That’s what I’m trying to do. They haven’t really told me my primary role or anything. I’m going to go out there and work hard and if they tell me to go in, I’m going to go in.”

The biggest compliment paid to both Brown and Mellette is the amount of polish they showed in practices and preseason games despite their lack of experience. Unlike an array of other young receivers that failed to show marked improvement over the course of the summer, Brown and Mellette climbed from the third-string offense and working with third quarterback Caleb Hanie to eventually receive opportunities with Flacco and the starters over the final two weeks of the summer.

It was this climb that contributed to the likes of Tandon Doss, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams being let go.

“They don’t feel like rookies out there,” Harbaugh said. “Marlon has had the advantage of playing at a big program in the Southeastern Conference, and I think that shows. Aaron has had the advantage of having caught hundreds of balls in his college career.”

With Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Brandon Stokley ahead of the rookies on the depth chart, it remains to be seen how big of a role each will play in the early stages of the season. During Sunday’s practice, Brown and Mellette were wearing No. 87 and 88 jerseys, which appeared to be a product of the pair playing the scout-team roles of Denver wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in preparation for Thursday’s opener.

The Ravens only hope that Mellette and Brown will one day make their mark in a way similar to that talented pair with the Broncos, forcing opponents’ scout-team receivers to wear their No. 13 and 14 jerseys in preparation.

But a simple continuation of the improvement they showed over the course of the preseason would be an encouraging start for the Ravens.

“I would anticipate that those two guys will be a factor here going forward,” Harbaugh said. “How much they’ll play early, or how much they’ll be a part of the game plan and those kinds of things are really, really hard to say.”

Webb ready to go

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Bovada sets Flacco’s 2013 touchdown number at 22.5

Posted on 28 August 2013 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco – Total Passing Yards in the 2013 Regular Season 

Over/Under                               3750

 

Joe Flacco – Total Passing Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season  

Over/Under                               22½

 

Joe Flacco – Total Interceptions thrown in the 2013 Regular Season   

Over/Under                               12½

 

Will Joe Flacco win a playoff game for the 6th consecutive year?   

Yes                  +250     (5/2)

No                    -400     (1/4)

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing Yards in the 2013 Regular Season    

Over/Under                               1100½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receiving Yards in the 2013 Regular Season

Over/Under                               500½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receptions in the 2013 Regular Season         

Over/Under                               62½

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing & Receiving Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season         

Over/Under                               12

 

Jacoby Jones – Total Receiving Yards in the 2013 Regular Season      

Over/Under                               650½

 

Jacoby Jones – Total Receiving Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season       

Over/Under                               4

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Yards in the 2013 Regular Season       

Over/Under                               1000½

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season        

Over/Under                               8

 

Elvis Dumervil – Total Sacks in the 2013 Regular Season        

Over/Under                               9

 

Haloti Ngata – Total Sacks in the 2013 Regular Season

Over/Under                               4½

 

Terrell Suggs – Total Sacks in the 2013 Regular Season          

Over/Under                               8½

 

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McClain likely to start season on reserve PUP list

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McClain likely to start season on reserve PUP list

Posted on 20 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attendance steady

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extensive time for starters Thursday night

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

Posted on 19 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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T. Smith rests Sunday; Webb, Yanda possible for Thursday’s game

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T. Smith rests Sunday; Webb, Yanda possible for Thursday’s game

Posted on 18 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Traveling by bus just a few minutes to Stevenson University for the final public practice of the summer, the Ravens saw another significant member of their 2013 roster missing as wide receiver Torrey Smith did not participate.

Coach John Harbaugh said after practice that Smith was simply given a day to rest, but reports indicated the third-year wide receiver had his calf wrapped during Saturday’s practice, which suggested he might be dealing with a minor injury. Running back Anthony Allen joined Smith as a new absence from the practice field on Sunday as he dealt with “a little nick” in Harbaugh’s words.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil wasn’t practicing for the second straight day despite coach John Harbaugh once again downplaying the significance of the groin injury the three-time Pro Bowl selection suffered in the second preseason game. His absence means even more reps for second-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw at the strongside outside position.

Other players absent from Sunday’s practice were wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Marcus Spears (hamstring), tight ends Ed Dickson (hamstring) and Dennis Pitta (hip), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee).

Though Harbaugh said last week that Thompson would have a chance to play in the third preseason game, it now appears the second-year receiver has all but been ruled out as he continues to recover from a sprained foot suffered in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. The speedy slot receiver has missed valuable practice time in trying to establish himself as a viable option in the passing game.

“Deonte will be further evaluated after this week,” Harbaugh said, “but his was a couple-week injury.”

Approximately 3,100 fans were in attendance for the practice at Mustang Stadium after winning a lottery similar to the one that awarded select fans a rare opportunity to take in training camp practices at the team’s Owings Mills facility this summer.

Yanda, Webb still possible for Thursday

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was a full participant in his second straight practice on Sunday as he continues to work his way back to full strength from offseason shoulder surgery and cornerback Lardarius Webb delivered a big hit to wide receiver Aaron Mellette in 11-on-11 team work in what amounted to his most physical play of the summer.

Harbaugh remains undecided whether either veteran will take part in the all-important third preseason game but acknowledged that he’d like to get each at least a few reps against the Carolina Panthers. The Ravens generally don’t play most of their starters in the preseason finale and certainly wouldn’t put Webb or Yanda in harm’s way with most other starters sitting out.

Webb has practiced on a limited basis since the beginning of training camp as he works his way back to full strength following an ACL injury suffered last October.

“We’ll have to make that decision probably the day before the game,” said Harbaugh, who added that there’s a good chance that both Webb and Yanda could play. “He looks pretty good out there right now, so we might leave a little bit of that up to him and the doctors obviously. It would be nice to get him the work before we tee it up for real.”

Coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons, Yanda acknowledged that he still has plenty of work to do to get himself ready for the start of the regular season on Sept. 5 against the Denver Broncos.

Yanda returned to the practice field last week on a limited basis and has finally taken part in live-contact drills over the last two practices.

“I just need the timing of the game and my footwork and my punch and stuff like that,” Yanda said. “The shoulder’s feeling good. It’s coming along. I’m a little rusty, but it’s going to be. I haven’t had the pads on since February.”

All hands on deck

With Smith absent from Sunday’s practice, the Ravens used a plethora of receivers in his place including rookies Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown, who received extensive action with the first-team offense.

The primary alignment for three-wide sets appeared to be Jacoby Jones, Brandon Stokley, and Brown, but Mellette provided one of the highlights of the evening practice by catching a long touchdown from quarterback Joe Flacco, beating veteran cornerback Chris Johnson. Stokley also provided several good catches while working in the slot position, and it appears he and Flacco are building an improved comfort level with a week of work under their belts.

“What you saw today is [that] we’re going to give those young guys an opportunity,” Harbaugh said. “Some of the young receivers have done an excellent job, and I think we owe it to our team and owe it to them to see what they can do in there with the first group. We’ll practice those guys and probably play them a little more with the ones this week.”

Perhaps the most intriguing formation involved veteran tight end Dallas Clark and fullback Kyle Juszczyk working in a two-tight set as Juszczyk worked from a flexed position in the slot. The Harvard product made a really nice catch on a seam route, beating Christian Thompson and Brynden Trawick in coverage for a 32-yard touchdown.

Though it’s never wise to read too much into any given practice, third-year wide receiver Tandon Doss primarily ran with the second-team offense as the Ravens seized the opportunity to evaluate their rookie wideouts with the starting unit minus Smith.

Rare struggles for Tucker

Second-year kicker Justin Tucker experienced rare struggles during Sunday’s practice as he missed field goals from 46, 57, and 64 yards. He missed the 46-yarder wide to the right, which was an extremely rare miss from that distance this summer.

His 57-yard attempt hit the crossbar while his 64-yarder was well short before rookie cornerback Marc Anthony fielded it in the back of the end zone.

Tucker connected on other kicks from 36, 48, and 51 yards.

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Live from Owings Mills: Dumervil misses Saturday with groin injury

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Live from Owings Mills: Dumervil misses Saturday with groin injury

Posted on 17 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens returned to practice Saturday after Thursday night’s 27-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game of 2013.

Head Coach John Harbaugh announced Thursday night that LB Elvis Dumervil had suffered a “slight” groin injury in the victory, an injury that kept Dumervil out of Saturday’s practice session. Harbaugh reiterated Saturday that Dumervil’s injury “was not a serious deal” but could not commit to when the three time Pro Bowler would return to practice.

The former Broncos pass rusher had declared “I’m fine” after the game when asked about the injury.

WR Deonte Thompson (foot), TE Ed Dickson (hamstring) and DL Marcus Spears (hamstring) all remained out of practice Saturday. TE Dennis Pitta (hip), LB Jameel McClain (back), OL Ryan Jensen (foot) and DL Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee) all remained out and are not expected to return soon.

CB Chris Johnson (undisclosed) returned to practice Saturday after missing Thursday night’s game.

OFFENSE STRUGGLES: The day’s offense/defense 11 on 11 competition ended in a tie 50-50 score, but the offense needed to be picked up by their second team unit.

The first team offense struggled throughout the day, including multiple interceptions thrown by QB Joe Flacco. CB Lardarius Webb got a pick when new TE Dallas Clark cut in and Flacco’s pass went outside near the goal line. This was only Clark’s second practice since joining the team.

LB Josh Bynes and S Michael Huff also collected interceptions of the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

ROOKIE RECEIVERS GET CHANCE: Some younger receivers received snaps with the first team offense Saturday.

Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown received steady snaps with the first team during the day, while fellow rookie Aaron Mellette received some snaps with the first team as well after catching his second touchdown of the preseason Thursday night. Harbaugh was happy with Mellette’s performance, saying after practice “that’s how you make it, that’s how you earn your stripes, you make plays.”

Third year receiver Tandon Doss was active Saturday, making a number of catches in the middle of the field.

CAMP OVER: Saturday’s practiced marked the first after the end of the “Training Camp” portion of the Summer. For the first time since the team reported in July, there were no fans at the Owings Mills facility to watch practice.

The Ravens will practice Sunday afternoon at Stevenson University’s Mustang Stadium, marking the final “open” practice of 2013. Fans were able to enter a lottery for the chance to win tickets to Sunday’s practice. The Ravens will practice in Owings Mills Monday and Tuesday before Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers at M&T Bank Stadium.

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