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Jaguars castoffs have found greener pastures in Baltimore

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Jaguars castoffs have found greener pastures in Baltimore

Posted on 10 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A year ago at this time, Justin Forsett had just been placed on injured reserve and knew his NFL career was at a crossroads after carrying the ball just six times in an injury-plagued season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No one could have predicted how dramatically his career would change as the Ravens running back enters Sunday’s game against his old team ranked third in the NFL in rushing and leading all running backs with a 5.6 yards per carry average. His 14 runs of 20 or more yards lead the league and are more than the Jaguars have — along with 28 other teams — this season.

But the 29-year-old can’t help but think about how far he’s come from being an afterthought on one of the NFL’s worst franchises to becoming a standout performer for an 8-5 Ravens team targeting a playoff spot.

“The writing was kind of on the wall when I was at the bottom of the depth chart and on injured reserve,” said Forsett about his lone season in Jacksonville. “I wasn’t really surprised, but it was still a hard pill to swallow knowing that you’ve been cut and [you] didn’t know what the future was going to hold. But I just kept the faith, kept working, and this opportunity came up.”

Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley doesn’t express regret — to be fair, not even the Ravens expected a 1,000-yard season from the journeyman back — but shared his admiration for a player who’s always been respected as a hard worker and good teammate. Those traits have drawn the Ravens to three Jacksonville castoffs in the last two years as Forsett only followed the 2013 additions of linebacker Daryl Smith, the Jaguars’ all-time leading tackler, and left tackle Eugene Monroe.

All three now start for the Ravens, who have a 2014 win total (eight) that matches the number of games the Jaguars have won in the last three seasons combined.

“Just because I know him so well, it’s more excitement for him,” said Bradley, who also spent time with Forsett when he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. “He’s so deserving of it — what he brings to the locker room, what he brings to the team. I am just excited for what he’s brought to Baltimore.”

Bradley also spoke highly of Smith and Monroe as the former never played for the current Jaguars coach while Monroe was dealt to the Ravens last October, several months after Jacksonville had drafted offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick. The Jaguars received fourth- and fifth-round draft picks from Baltimore, which were then parlayed into three players this past May. The Jaguars decided to part ways with Smith as a result of desiring more youth at the linebacker position while Monroe was entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Smith and Monroe both received long-term deals from the Ravens this past offseason, showing how much general manager Ozzie Newsome thought of their play in their first season in Baltimore.

Though slowed by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery earlier this season, Monroe has stabilized the left tackle spot and has acknowledged feeling revitalized with the Ravens after winning only 22 games in five seasons with Jacksonville. The winning atmosphere was a reason why he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract to remain in Baltimore.

“I don’t know if [being in the playoff hunt] makes you a better player, but it certainly forces you to zero in on everything your job requires,” said Monroe, who downplayed the significance of facing his former team because of so much roster turnover in the last year or two. “It’s going to be crucial at this point of the year being fundamentally sound and being physical. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”

Forsett, Smith, and Monroe escaped what many would describe as football purgatory to find greener pastures in Baltimore. The veteran running back’s emergence has received the national headlines while making Ray Rice’s on-field presence a distant memory. Smith has helped bridge the gap at the inside linebacker from the Ray Lewis era and has mentored rookie standout C.J. Mosley, and Monroe has effectively protected quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside to end unrest at his position that had existed for years.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars continue to try to find their way as an organization that hasn’t produced a winning season since 2007.

None of the three have offered any ill will over the Jaguars’ decision to move on, but their arrival has paid major dividends for the Ravens as they pursue their sixth postseason appearance in seven years.

“No resentment, because all of the pain and the hurt I may have felt during that time, it made me a better man,” Forsett said. “Those dark moments, those times of frustration — they happen for a reason. I’m definitely a better man today because of it. Those times really molded me.”

The Ravens have also been better for it.

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 26 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will have their entire starting offensive line together for the first time since Week 3 in facing the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

In a key AFC North showdown that could go a long way in determining who wins the division, left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are both healthy and active after practicing fully all week in preparations for Sunday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium. Monroe missed the last four games while Osemele was sidelined in each of the last two contests.

The most surprising player to be included in the inactive list was running back Bernard Pierce, who entered the season as the starter and now finds himself as a healthy scratch against the Bengals. Though he’s scored two touchdowns in the last two games, Pierce has only gained 53 yards on 23 carries — a 2.3 yards per carry average — against Atlanta and Tampa Bay and continues to look indecisive in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking schemes.

Backup interior offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski was also a healthy scratch for the first time this season, which reflects his stock dropping after rookie John Urschel was chosen to fill in for Osemele at left guard in the last two games. Fourth-year tackle Jah Reid joined Gradkowski as a healthy inactive.

With tight end Owen Daniels out after undergoing a cleanup procedure in his knee, rookie Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw will be trusted to handle the tight end duties against the Bengals. The Ravens elected to keep all six of their wide receivers active with Daniels out, and the 6-foot-5 Marlon Brown — who was inactive the last two weeks — could be viewed as an attractive red-zone option.

Meanwhile, the Bengals will be without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green as he continues to recover from a toe injury. He was listed as doubtful on Friday, so the decision to deactivate him wasn’t at all surprising.

Sunday marks the 38th all-time regular-season meeting between the Ravens and the Bengals with Baltimore holding a 20-17 edge. However, Cincinnati has won three of the last four, including the last two played at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals will be wearing black jerseys and black pants while the Ravens don white tops with black pants.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Cincinnati Sunday afternoon calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s with minimal winds up to four miles per hour.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Chyke Brown
RB Bernard Pierce
LB Arthur Brown
OL Gino Gradkowski
OL Jah Reid
TE Owen Daniels
DE Chris Canty

CINCINNATI
WR A.J. Green
LB Rey Maualuga
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
RB Rex Burkhead
DE Will Clarke
G Tanner Hawkinson
DT Brandon Thompson

 

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Osemele, Monroe practice fully for second straight day

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Osemele, Monroe practice fully for second straight day

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear primed to get the starting left side of their offensive line back in time for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals as tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele both practiced fully for the second straight day.

Monroe has missed the last four games since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last month and Osemele has been sidelined for the last two games, but both have practiced without incident this week and are on track to play against the Bengals barring a setback. Baltimore has used rookies James Hurst and John Urschel in their place but has managed to go 3-1 without Monroe and 2-0 without Osemele.

“It’s very important to get them back,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I think we still work through [Friday]. They’ve had a good week. They took a full practice today, but we’ll continue to get James and John ready to play.”

Tight end Owen Daniels was absent for the second straight day as he continues to nurse a sore knee, but Kubiak downplayed any concern about the veteran’s availability for the key AFC North meeting with Cincinnati. Head coach John Harbaugh managed Daniels’ reps during training camp as he rested a hamstring issue for more than two weeks in August.

Rookie Crockett Gillmore is the primary backup behind Daniels.

“Owen is fine. John has a plan for these veteran guys,” Kubiak said. “I know he has had a plan for [Daniels] and how he keeps him fresh and keeps him ready to go. But as far as what we’re doing [with the] game plan, those types of things, O.D. will be fine.”

Wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith did not practice on Thursday after receiving the day off to rest.

The Bengals continued to be without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who hasn’t played since Week 5 and has yet to practice this week. Green had expressed optimism a few days ago that he might be able to return to play against the Ravens, but progress with his injured toe has been slow.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (neck) practiced fully on Thursday as it appears there is little doubt that he’ll be able to play after hurting his neck in last Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis.

Below is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

CINCINNATI
OUT: LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
DID NOT PARTICIPATION: WR A.J. Green (toe), OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), G Clint Boling (non-injury), CB Leon Hall (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Kevin Brock (neck), LB Vontaze Burfict (neck), DE Robert Geathers (toe), DE Wallace Gilberry (eye), LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder), T Marshall Newhouse (back), G/C Mike Pollak (knee), T Andre Smith (shoulder), DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

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Monroe, Osemele practice fully as Ravens prepare for AFC North showdown

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Monroe, Osemele practice fully as Ravens prepare for AFC North showdown

Posted on 22 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens hope to have their starting offensive line back for their key AFC North showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals as left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both practicing on Wednesday.

The offensive line practiced without helmets and pads during the special-teams portion of practice open to reporters, but both Monroe and Osemele suited up to work as media were escorted away from the indoor practice field at the Ravens’ Owings Mills training facility. Monroe missed his fourth straight game in last Sunday’s 29-7 win over Atlanta while Osemele was out for his second straight game, leaving rookies James Hurst and John Urschel to start in their place.

Both linemen saw limited practice work last week, which was considered a good sign for their potential returns against Cincinnati on Sunday. They were both listed as full participants on Wednesday’s injury report.

The only players absent from Wednesday’s workout were defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) and tight end Owen Daniels (knee). Though he’s periodically received a day off from practice during certain game weeks, Thursday has typically been the day on which Daniels has rested.

Newly-signed long snapper Kevin McDermott was present for Wednesday’s workout and will wear No. 47 as he replaces the injured Morgan Cox.

The Bengals have been dealing with a slew of key injuries of their own as wide receiver A.J. Green was not practicing Wednesday as he continues to recover from a toe injury. The Pro Bowl wide receiver hasn’t played since Week 5.

However, linebacker Vontaze Burfict (neck) practiced on a limited basis, which was a good sign for his availability against the Ravens on Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

CINCINNATI
OUT: LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
DID NOT PARTICIPATION: DE Robert Geathers (toe), WR A.J. Green (toe), CB Leon Hall (back), G/C Mike Pollak (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), TE Kevin Brock (neck), LB Vontaze Burfict (neck), DE Wallace Gilberry (eye), LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder), T Marshall Newhouse (back), T Andre Smith (shoulder), DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

 

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Ravens-Falcons: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Falcons: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 19 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Appearing at M&T Bank Stadium for the only time in the month of October, the Ravens hope to improve to 5-2 as they take on the struggling Atlanta Falcons, who have lost three straight games.

Winners in four of their last five games, the Ravens will again be without the starting left side of their offensive line as rookies James Hurst and John Urschel will start in place of the injured Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele. Baltimore is hopeful to have Monroe and Osemele back for next week’s key road game in Cincinnati after both practiced on a limited basis this past week.

The Ravens also deactivated cornerback Chykie Brown and wide receiver Marlon Brown, which doesn’t speak well for either player’s current standing on the depth chart. Chykie Brown is inactive for the first time this season, meaning veteran Dominique Franks is the only backup cornerback behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. Marlon Brown was listed as probable on the final injury report, but rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro is instead active after catching a touchdown in his NFL debut last week.

After being moved to the 53-man roster on Saturday, safety Will Hill is active and will make his 2014 season debut.

Second-year linebacker Arthur Brown was a healthy scratch for the seventh straight game and is the only player on the 53-man roster all season who has yet to be active for a game.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have embarked on a brutal stretch of their schedule as they were scheduled to fly straight to London from Baltimore following Sunday’s game. Atlanta will not play another true home game at the Georgia Dome until Nov. 23 after having lost three straight entering Sunday’s tilt against the Ravens.

Sunday marks the fifth all-time meeting between these teams in the regular season as both the Ravens and the Falcons have won two apiece. The Ravens won the only meeting between these teams in Baltimore in 2006 and will try to improve to 3-0 against the NFC South with a win over the 2-4 Falcons.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Carl Cheffers.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-50s with sunny skies and winds up to 15 miles per hour.

The Ravens will be wearing black jerseys and black pants — with pink accessories mixed in for Breast Cancer Awareness month — while Atlanta dons white tops and white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Marlon Brown
CB Chykie Brown
LB Arthur Brown
LT Eugene Monroe
G Kelechi Osemele
TE Ryan Taylor
DE Chris Canty

ATLANTA
QB Sean Renfree
CB Javier Arenas
LB Tyler Starr
OT Cameron Bradfield
G Harland Gunn
WR Harry Douglas
DT Cliff Matthews

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Ravens unlikely to have starting left side of line against Atlanta

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Ravens unlikely to have starting left side of line against Atlanta

Posted on 17 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are likely to be without the starting left side of their offensive line for the second straight week after tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele were both listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Neither lineman participated in Friday’s practice after both worked on a limited basis Thursday, meaning the Ravens are likely to go with the rookie combination of James Hurst and John Urschel for the second consecutive game. There had appeared to be some optimism that Osemele would return after missing last Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay since he had been a limited participant on Wednesday and Thursday, but he will need at least another week to recover from the hyper extended knee he suffered against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 5.

Ideally, head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens would like to have Monroe and Osemele back in the lineup for a key road game against the Cincinnati Bengals next week, so the fact that both were able to get on the practice field this week bodes well for their status.

To no surprise, defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) and defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (ankle) were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens listed five players as probable to play against Atlanta, including rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus surgery), who could be playing for the first time since injuring his knee on Sept. 11.

In remains unclear whether the Ravens will elect to activate safety Will Hill from the reserve-suspended list or defensive tackle Terrence Cody from the reserve-physically unable to perform list after both players practiced fully all week. Harbaugh would not tip his hand whether either would be moved to the 53-man roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to make them eligible to play against the Falcons.

“It depends on some other things. There’s a domino effect to some of that,” Harbaugh said. “But they’re both capable of playing, physically. They’re both ready. They had a good week of practice, and they showed that they’re ready to play.”

Atlanta officially ruled out wide receiver Harry Douglas (foot) and listed six other players as probable for Sunday’s game.

Carl Cheffers will be the referee for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the low 50s and winds up to 15 miles per hour.

Baltimore will don its black alternate jerseys for the second time this season and the 18th time in franchise history. The Ravens hold a 12-5 record when wearing the black jerseys and are 9-2 under Harbaugh. Earlier this season, the Ravens won 38-10 when they sported their all-black uniforms against the Carolina Panthers.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle), DE Chris Canty (wrist)
DOUBTFUL: T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (concussion), WR Marlon Brown (pelvis), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

ATLANTA
OUT: WR Harry Douglas (foot)
PROBABLE: DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee), G Justin Blalock (back), WR Devin Hester (hamstring), WR Julio Jones (ankle), LB Prince Shembo (knee), LB Nate Stupar (knee)

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Monroe returns to practice as Ravens continue to get healthier

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Monroe returns to practice as Ravens continue to get healthier

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It remains unclear whether Eugene Monroe will play in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, but the Ravens left tackle took a significant step in his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery by returning to practice on Thursday.

The 27-year-old worked on a limited basis for the first time since undergoing surgery on Sept. 24. In his absence, the Ravens have turned to rookie free agent James Hurst to handle a starting role with Baltimore going 2-1 over that stretch.

It would be ambitious to assume Monroe will be ready to play against Atlanta after a three-week layoff, but his return to the practice field bodes well for his status in next week’s key AFC North road meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Four players on the 53-man roster did not participate Thursday as defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (ankle), defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery), tight end Owen Daniels, and linebacker Daryl Smith were listed on the official injury report. Daniels and Smith each received a veteran day off after practicing without incident on Wednesday.

Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day, an encouraging sign for his availability against the Falcons. The third-year lineman missed last Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay after hyperextending his knee in the Week 5 loss to Indianapolis.

The Ravens used Hurst and fifth-round rookie John Urschel on the left side of their line in the 48-17 win over the Buccaneers. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak couldn’t recall every playing a game in which two rookies were starting and entrusted to protect the quarterback’s blindside.

“Never been around that. That was something else,” Kubiak said. “But, boy, you have to be proud of them. They worked really hard, and I think the guys around them played hard. Usually when you have a young guy step in, it’s about everybody else playing a little bit better, so you have to give the whole group credit for the way they stepped up.”

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus surgery) practiced fully for the second straight day and could make his return to game action since injuring his knee in the win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Safety Will Hill and defensive tackle Terrence Cody continued practicing after making their respective returns to the field Wednesday. The Ravens have a one-week exemption to decide Hill’s status after his six-game suspension expired this past Sunday, and many have pondered whether he’ll eventually emerge as the starting free safety in the secondary.

“We expect him to be a very, very good player back there,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think he’s very smart. He’s really kept up on everything. I think he’s done a good job the few days he’s been back practicing. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses, but we think he’s the real deal.”

Meanwhile, the Falcons continue to be banged up at the wide receiver position as Harry Douglas remains sidelined with a foot injury and wideouts Julio Jones (ankle) and Devin Hester (hamstring) were limited participants for the second consecutive practice. Douglas has missed Atlanta’s last three games with a deep bruise.

Here is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle), DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (concussion), T Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (pelvis), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)

ATLANTA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Harry Douglas (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Devin Hester (hamstring), WR Julio Jones (ankle), LB Prince Shembo (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Jonathan Babineaux (knee), G Justin Blalock (back), LB Nate Stupar (knee)

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Ravens-Buccaneers: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Buccaneers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 12 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will attempt to improve to 4-2 on Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they’ll need to do it without the starting left side of the offensive line.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) was ruled inactive after going through a pre-game workout at Raymond James Stadium a couple hours before kickoff. The third-year lineman missed practice all week and joins starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (arthroscopic knee surgery) on the sideline for Week 6 after he hyperextended his right knee in the loss to Indianapolis last Sunday.

Gino Gradkowski is expected to start in place of Osemele and rookie free agent James Hurst will make his third straight start at left tackle in place of the injured Monroe, which will make for an uncertain blind side for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Baltimore will also be without defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus), and wide receiver Marlon Brown (pelvis). Canty and Jernigan were officially ruled out on Friday while Brown had been listed as doubtful after only working on a limited basis in the final practice of the week.

With so many players inactive due to injury, rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro and rookie guard John Urschel are active for the first time in their NFL careers. Linebacker Arthur Brown is the only player on the 53-man roster to be inactive in each of the first six weeks of the season.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers received good news with wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans both being active after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. The 6-foot-5 receivers will pose a significant challenge to a Ravens secondary that lost Asa Jackson to a long-term toe injury last week in Indianapolis. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is expected to make his first start of the season after receiving his most extensive playing time of the year against the Colts in Week 5.

Tampa Bay will be without starting free safety Dashon Goldson (ankle) and starting cornerback Johnthan Banks (neck), which could spell trouble for the league’s 30th-ranked pass defense.

Jerome Boger will be the referee for Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Tampa Bay.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys and white pants in Tampa where temperatures are expected to be around 90 degrees.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between Baltimore and Tampa Bay with the teams tied 2-2. The Ravens have won each of the last two meetings with the Buccaneers and are 1-1 in Tampa.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
LG Kelechi Osemele
LT Eugene Monroe
WR Marlon Brown
DE Chris Canty
DT Timmy Jernigan
LB Arthur Brown
TE Ryan Taylor

TAMPA BAY
QB Josh McCown
CB Johnthan Banks
S Dashon Goldson
LB Jonathan Casillas
DE Larry English
T Kevin Pamphile
G Kadeem Edwards

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Osemele questionable, M. Brown doubtful to play against Tampa Bay

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Osemele questionable, M. Brown doubtful to play against Tampa Bay

Posted on 10 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are facing the prospects of playing without the entire starting left side of their offensive line against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

It was no surprise that left tackle Eugene Monroe was ruled out while he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery, but left guard Kelechi Osemele was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after not practicing all week. The third-year lineman hyperextended his knee in last Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis, but he was able to return to action and downplayed the injury after the game.

Given his experience, Osemele would still have a chance of playing against Tampa Bay despite missing three straight days of practice. Gino Gradkowski is listed as Osemele’s backup on the depth chart released by the Ravens’ public relations staff.

“[Osemele] can play on Sunday not having practiced all week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play on Sunday.”

In addition to Monroe, defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus injury) were declared out for Sunday’s game. Wide receiver Marlon Brown (pelvis) practiced on a limited basis Friday before being designated as doubtful to play.

Safety Matt Elam (shoulder), linebacker Daryl Smith (knee), and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) were all upgraded to full participation in Friday’s practice and listed as probable to play against the Buccaneers.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay ruled out starting safety Dashon Goldson (ankle) while designating starting wide receivers Vincent Jackson (rib) and Mike Evans (groin) as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee)
DOUBTFUL: WR Marlon Brown (pelvis)
QUESTIONABLE: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)
PROBABLE: S Matt Elam (shoulder), LB Daryl Smith (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)

TAMPA BAY
OUT: LB Jonathan Casillas (hamstring), S Dashon Goldson (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: QB Josh McCown (right thumb)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Johnthan Banks (neck), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (illness), DE Larry English (hamstring), WR Mike Evans (groin), WR Vincent Jackson (rib)
PROBABLE: LB Mason Foster (shoulder)

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Ravens-Panthers: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Panthers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 27 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens hope to hit the quarter pole of the season on a winning note when they welcome the Carolina Panthers to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.

Most focus has understandably centered around wide receiver Steve Smith playing against his former team this week, but the Ravens will be playing their first game since losing tight end Dennis Pitta for the season and left tackle Eugene Monroe for at least the next few weeks. And they face an imposing stretch of four of their next five games on the road following Sunday’s contest at M&T Bank Stadium, making this a game the Ravens would desperately like to win.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are trying to recover from an embarrassing home loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday night while overcoming a number of injuries in their offensive backfield. Expected to have one of the more potent rushing attacks in the NFL this season, the Panthers currently rank 29th in run offense with just 72.3 rushing yards per contest.

Sunday marks the fifth meeting between these teams as Carolina holds a 3-1 edge. However, the Ravens won the only game against the Panthers of the John Harbaugh era, a 37-13 final in Charlotte in 2010.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their first ever home game against the Panthers …

1. Steve Smith will catch a touchdown pass and be flagged for a 15-yard penalty against his old team. The 35-year-old has tried to downplay the significance of playing the Panthers after spending the first 13 years of his career in Charlotte, but there’s no escaping the prediction of “blood and guts” he made shortly after signing a three-year contract with the Ravens in March. To say Smith will be fired up is an understatement considering how fiery he is on game days anyway, but he’ll bring a little extra passion that will draw a 15-yard penalty for either unnecessary roughness or taunting at some point. He’ll make up for it, however, with a touchdown catch to beat Panthers cornerback Antoine Cason.

2. James Hurst will struggle as a run blocker, but his pass blocking, with help from tight end Crockett Gillmore and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, will keep Joe Flacco clean. If you’re looking for the silver lining with the left tackle situation, Monroe wasn’t playing well before undergoing knee surgery this week, meaning there may not be much of a drop-off with the undrafted rookie. The overall impression of his play in the preseason was that Hurst was a capable pass blocker with good technique, but his blocking ability in the running game left much to be desired. Baltimore will use help on his side to help contain the pass rush from the likes of Charles Johnson, Mario Addison, and Wes Horton and keep Flacco safe. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will also call more running plays inside and to the right to stay away from Hurst’s struggles whenever possible.

3. With Jimmy Smith locked on rookie Kelvin Benjamin, veteran Jerricho Cotchery catches a touchdown from Cam Newton against the Baltimore secondary. The 6-foot-5 Benjamin will pose a problem for any Ravens cornerback other than Smith, so defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have his top defensive back mirror him as much as possible. Veteran Lardarius Webb wasn’t listed on this week’s injury report, so he’s expected to have a bigger workload than the four defensive snaps he took in Cleveland, but it’s still difficult projecting what to expect from him in terms of performance. Carolina’s weapons in the passing game aren’t imposing beyond Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, but the savvy Cotchery is familiar with the Ravens defense from his days with Pittsburgh and will shake free against zone coverage for a red-zone touchdown.

4. Bernard Pierce will start in the backfield, but rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro will lead the Ravens in rushing for the second straight week. A national audience watched the Steelers gash the Panthers defense for 264 rushing yards in a 37-19 final in Charlotte last Sunday night, which continued the early-season trend of Carolina struggling to stop the run. Kubiak will look to run early and often to control the tempo of the game and will defer to the returning Pierce at the start of this one. However, the jury is still out whether the 2012 third-round pick is a great fit in the Ravens’ zone-blocking scheme as he’s often looked indecisive in hitting running lanes. The Ravens will lean heavily on Taliaferro in the second half to wear down the Panthers’ front and the rookie will make another emphatic statement that the starting job belongs to him.

5. The injuries to Pitta and Monroe are concerning, but the Ravens will still have enough to handle Carolina in a 26-17 final. The Panthers are still trying to find their bearings on the offensive side of the ball with Newton still not 100 percent and the backfield in disarray with the long-term injury to fullback Mike Tolbert and the uncertain status of Jonathan Stewart. On top of that, the Carolina defense hasn’t been the imposing unit it was last year without defensive end Greg Hardy in the picture. The Ravens will use an effective running game and an improved defensive effort to win in relatively comfortable fashion to begin the season 3-1 before starting what looks to be the most difficult stretch of their regular-season schedule with only one home game over the next five weeks of action.

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