Tag Archive | "eugene monroe"

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Saturday night

Posted on 02 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Here we go again.

Regarded by many as the best rivalry in the NFL, the Ravens and Steelers meet for the third time this season and the fourth time ever in the postseason at Heinz Field on Saturday night. Baltimore and Pittsburgh split a pair of 20-point finals during the regular season with each team winning on its home field.

The weather figures to be a significant storyline as the forecast continues to call for a 90 to 100 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds that could reach 20 miles per hour.

Both teams will be dealing with significant injuries as the Steelers will be without Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell while the Ravens are missing left tackle Eugene Monroe for the second straight game, meaning rookie free agent James Hurst will start in his place. Pittsburgh will rely on rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer as well as newly-signed veteran Ben Tate to pick up the slack in Bell’s absence.

In more positive news, the Ravens will welcome back five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from suspension, which will more than offset the loss of rookie Timmy Jernigan (foot) in Week 17.

Of course, both team will lean heavily on Super Bowl winning quarterbacks to lead the way as Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger both know what it takes to make a meaningful run in January. Roethlisberger owns a 10-4 postseason record while Flacco owns a 9-4 mark in the playoffs.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Steelers meet for the fourth time in postseason history with Pittsburgh holding a 3-0 mark with all previous playoff games being played at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh also leads the all-time regular-season series 21-17, but 13 of the 16 games — including the postseason — played between the Ravens and Steelers in the John Harbaugh era have been decided by one possession.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to beat Pittsburgh for the first time ever in the postseason …

1. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will each collect a sack, but a sloppy field will neutralize some of their ability to wreak havoc. Bell’s absence will put plenty of attention on the Pittsburgh passing game, which will have the Ravens’ rush licking its chops over the possibility of being able to tee off on Roethlisberger. However, the Steelers offensive line is much better than it’s been in several years and the wet surface at Heinz Field will slow the rush for both teams. Suggs and Dumervil often try to jump snap counts to utilize their speed off the edge, but hard counts and a chewed-up field will make things easier for tackles Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert.

2. With the Ravens focused on slowing Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown, rookie Martavis Bryant will beat Rashaan Melvin for a long touchdown. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows Brown is the Steelers’ most dangerous weapon, which will make it even more important to focus on him in coverage with Bell unavailable. The Ravens will shade safety help to where Brown lines up as much as possible, but that could leave Melvin matched up against the 6-foot-4 Bryant. Melvin has played well since being thrown into the mix last month, but this will be his first NFL game against an elite quarterback and he’ll bite on a double move by Bryant for a score.

3. Justin Forsett will be the only running back from either team to find modest success on Saturday night with 70 yards and a touchdown. Considering few have run with any success against the Ravens this season, the Steelers won’t be able to do much without Bell, who will also be missed as a receiver and in pass protection. However, Baltimore has struggled to run consistently in recent weeks and will face the league’s sixth-ranked run defense. The Ravens will run wide and use counters to get the Steelers’ front seven moving laterally — something they also want to do with play-action plays to neutralize the pass rush — and Forsett will do enough to keep the Pittsburgh defense on its toes with the rain falling.

4. Both Flacco and Roethlisberger will throw more than 35 times despite a forecast conducive to running the ball. In the old days of this rivalry, Saturday’s forecast would have meant both sides grinding it out with the rushing attack, but the run defenses are too stout and the secondaries too vulnerable for the game not to be put in the hands of these franchise quarterbacks. The Ravens will mix in more runs than the Steelers, but Roethlisberger has better weapons to throw to in the passing game. As Harbaugh pointed out earlier in the week, both Flacco and Roethlisberger are used to playing in poor weather and the rain won’t prevent them from making some plays through the air.

5. The weather will contribute to another low-scoring tight one, but the Steelers will find a way to prevail in a 20-17 final. The loss of Bell is a major blow to Pittsburgh and could be enough to tip the scale in Baltimore’s favor, but the Ravens haven’t risen to the occasion against good teams, sporting only one win all season against a team that finished with a winning record. Many are pointing to 2012 as enough reason for the Ravens to be able to make a run, but even in the midst of losing four of their last five to close that regular season, there was the Week 16 demolition of the New York Giants that flashed what the offense would be able to do in the postseason. Despite a strong fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in Week 17, the Ravens have failed to inspire on offense for almost a month now, making it too difficult to believe the unit suddenly clicks in January with a banged-up offensive line. And after an admirable run against pedestrian passing games in December, a patchwork secondary isn’t going to hold up as well against the NFL’s second-ranked passing attack. Harbaugh’s group will give a one-dimensional Pittsburgh offense everything it can handle, but Roethlisberger has played the best football of his career this season and will do just enough at home to get by the Ravens yet again in the postseason.

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Ravens rule out Monroe, Jernigan for Saturday’s game

Posted on 02 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Despite being labeled earlier in the week as having a “50-50″ chance to return for Saturday’s wild-card game against Pittsburgh, Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe was officially ruled out against the Steelers.

Monroe hasn’t practiced since injuring his ankle in the Week 16 loss at Houston on Dec. 21 and will once again be replaced by rookie free agent James Hurst at the left tackle position. With starting right tackle Rick Wagner already on injured reserve, the Ravens will once again slide Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda out to right tackle with rookie John Urschel playing right guard.

Head coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism at the beginning of the week that Monroe might be able to return for the first round of the playoffs, but he has been in a walking boot since suffering the ankle injury in the penultimate game of the regular season.

Though some have downplayed the loss of Monroe after an injury-plagued season in which he struggled, Hurst has struggled immensely in pass protection and earned a cumulative minus-16.9 grade in pass blocking from Pro Football Focus compared to Monroe’s minus-1.0. Hurst has started five games in Monroe’s place this season.

The Ravens also officially ruled out defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot) and inside linebacker Arthur Brown (hamstring). The latter was placed on season-ending IR to make room for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who was officially activated from the reserve-suspended list on Friday afternoon after serving a four-game ban in December.

That transaction brings the total count of Ravens players on IR to 19, matching a high in the Harbaugh era set in 2008.

Veteran defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) was designated as probable to play on Saturday after participating fully in practices this week. The 32-year-old missed the Ravens’ regular-season finale against Cleveland last week.

Meanwhile, the Steelers officially ruled out Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell after he suffered a hyperextended knee against Cincinnati last week. Even though a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed no structural damage to his knee, Bell’s status had been in doubt all week as he didn’t take part in any practices.

Nine other Steelers players were listed as probable for Saturday’s game, including nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder), rush specialist James Harris (illness), cornerback Ike Taylor (shoulder/forearm), and safety Troy Polamalu (knee).

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Arthur Brown (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle), T Eugene Monroe (ankle)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (thigh/ankle), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: RB Le’Veon Bell (knee)
PROBABLE: T Mike Adams (illness), LB James Harrison (illness), QB Landry Jones (illness), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), TE Michael Palmer (groin), S Troy Polamalu (knee), QB Ben Roethlisberger (non-injury), CB Ike Taylor (shoulder/forearm)

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Monroe’s status remains in doubt for playoff trip to Pittsburgh

Posted on 31 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite head coach John Harbaugh offering optimism about Eugene Monroe’s potential availability for Saturday’s playoff game in Pittsburgh, the Ravens left tackle was once again missing from practice on Wednesday.

Monroe hasn’t practiced since injuring his ankle in the Week 16 loss in Houston as rookie free agent James Hurst filled in at left tackle in the regular-season finale against Cleveland. Harbaugh described Monroe’s chances of playing against the Steelers as “50-50″ on Monday, but he has been in a walking boot since suffering the injury on Dec. 21.

Rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot) and second-year linebacker Arthur Brown (hamstring) were also missing from practice as neither is expected to play. Brown could be placed on injured reserve to make room for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who has yet to be activated from the reserve-suspended list.

Tight end Owen Daniels was not present during the portion of Wednesday’s practice open for media viewing, but he was not listed on the injury report. The veteran often receives a day off from practice during game weeks.

In Pittsburgh, optimism appears to be growing somewhat about the availability of Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell (hyperextended knee) after he said he was feeling “great” and was seen walking without any noticeable limp on Wednesday. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been noncommittal about his status for Saturday’s game after confirming Bell sustained no structural damage to his knee in the regular-season finale against Cincinnati.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Tomlin said in his conference call with Baltimore media. “I know that he can’t go today, and we’re just kind of taking it day by day. We’ll see what it looks like [Thursday].”

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Arthur Brown (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle), T Eugene Monroe (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (thigh/ankle)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: T Mike Adams (illness), RB Le’Veon Bell (knee), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), QB Ben Roethlisberger (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), TE Michael Palmer (groin)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Troy Polamalu (knee), CB Ike Taylor (shoulder/forearm)

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Monroe, Jernigan, two other Ravens missing from Tuesday’s practice

Posted on 30 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returned to the practice field, the Ravens were missing four others as they prepared for Saturday’s playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Working inside their field house for a late Tuesday afternoon practice, the Ravens were without starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), and linebackers Arthur Brown (hamstring) and Daryl Smith during the portion of practice open to reporters. It remained unclear whether Smith was receiving a day off or dealing with an ailment as the first injury report of the week won’t be released until Wednesday.

Head coach John Harbaugh left the door open for both Monroe and Jernigan to play against the Steelers, but their status will remain unclear throughout the week. Brown is considered a prime candidate to be placed on injured reserve to make room for the returning Ngata on the 53-man roster.

Defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) returned to practice after missing the regular-season finale against Cleveland. Linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) was also present and working despite missing three practices last week and being listed as questionable to play against the Browns before ultimately playing.

Of course, Pittsburgh is dealing with a significant injury of its own as Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell is recovering from a hyperextended knee suffered in the regular-season finale. There is plenty of doubt surrounding his availability for Saturday, which seemed to be confirmed by the Steelers signing veteran running back Ben Tate on Tuesday.

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Ravens hoping for best with Jernigan, Monroe for Saturday

Posted on 29 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will prepare for their sixth postseason appearance in seven years this week knowing the status of defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and left tackle Eugene Monroe will remain in question.

The rookie Jernigan left Sunday’s game with a left foot injury and didn’t return after being carted to the locker room. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer a great deal of optimism for him playing in Saturday’s wild-card matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Jernigan will not be placed on injured reserve and would appear to have a good chance to return for the divisional round if the Ravens advance.

In 12 games, Jernigan has collected 23 tackles and four sacks after being selected in the second round of May’s draft.

“I haven’t heard anything yet from our trainer other than it’s not a season-ending injury,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “It’s not a Lisfranc, so there is an opportunity possibly for him to get back Saturday night. It will be close, it will be tough, but if he responds really well in the next two days, he actually could get back and play.”

The loss of Jernigan is certainly eased by the return of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Harbaugh said Monday that the 30-year-old appeared to be in good shape upon reporting back to the Ravens’ Owings Mills training facility.

Ngata hasn’t played since the Week 13 home loss to San Diego and was banned four games for testing positive for Adderall.

The potential for the return of left tackle Eugene Monroe sounds more promising after he missed Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. Monroe was in a walking boot last week after injuring his ankle in the Week 16 loss to Houston, but his chances appear better to play against the Steelers, which would be an important development in trying to slow the Pittsburgh pass rush.

Rookie free agent James Hurst made his fifth start of the year at left tackle on Sunday after filling in earlier in the year when Monroe underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.

“It’s at least 50-50. We’ll be pulling for that, but we’ll see how it goes,” said Harbaugh of Monroe’s chances of playing Saturday night. “I thought James played well. I really don’t feel a problem with James playing in there at all, either. It’s a real plus for us.”

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 28 December 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will play their final game of the season at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.

They’ll hope the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns won’t be their last time playing football until next season.

Needing a win as well as a San Diego loss to Kansas City to make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, the 2014 Ravens are facing the prospects of becoming the first team in franchise history with double-digit wins to miss the postseason. Of course, they have no one to blame but themselves after a disappointing last-second home loss to the Chargers in Week 13 and after last week’s humbling 25-13 defeat to Houston that ripped away control of their path to the playoffs.

While the Ravens have no control over what happens between the Chargers and Chiefs, they will be facing a Cleveland Browns team that’s lost four straight and will be starting rookie quarterback Connor Shaw, who was just promoted from the practice squad. On top of the inexperience under center, the Browns suspended enigmatic wide receiver Josh Gordon for Sunday’s game due to a team violation, further hurting their chances of pulling off an upset.

Baltimore will be without starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is inactive while continuing to recover from an ankle injury suffered in Week 16. The Ravens are also without right tackle Rick Wagner (foot) after he was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week, meaning they will start rookie free agent James Hurst at left tackle and Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda at right tackle. Rookie fifth-rounder John Urschel will play Yanda’s regular position.

Despite missing practices all week, linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) is active and will start against Cleveland. However, veteran defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) will not play against the Browns after missing practice all week. Canty went through a pre-game workout two hours before kickoff and appeared to be favoring the ankle injury that’s limited him for a couple weeks.

Lawrence Guy and DeAngelo Tyson will likely see time in place of Canty at the 5-technique defensive end spot.

The Ravens will depend on Gino Gradkowski and Ryan Jensen as their only reserve offensive linemen in the regular-season finale. Gradkowski is active for the first time since Week 7 while Jensen is active for his first NFL game after spending the first 15 weeks of the regular season on the practice squad. Jensen was a 2013 sixth-round pick and was inactive for all 16 games of his rookie season.

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro is active for the first time since injuring his hamstring on Oct. 26. The seventh-round selection has been a healthy scratch for a few weeks

Second-year linebacker Arthur Brown is active for just the fourth time all season.

The Ravens are meeting the Browns for the 32nd time in the regular season with Baltimore owning a 23-8 edge. Cleveland is just 3-12 playing at M&T Bank Stadium and hasn’t won in Baltimore since 2007. Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have won 12 of the last 13 games against the Browns.

Sunday’s referee will be Gene Steratore.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday’s game calls for temperatures reaching the mid-50s with calm winds and a 25 percent chance of rain late in the second half.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys and white pants while Cleveland is donning white jerseys with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
OT Eugene Monroe
DE Chris Canty
S Brynden Trawick
CB Chris Greenwood
DE Steven Means
DT Terrence Cody
TE Phillip Supernaw

CLEVELAND
QB Brian Hoyer
CB Justin Gilbert
LS Charley Hughlett
C Ryan Seymour
DL Ahtyba Rubin
OL Andrew McDonald
WR Phil Bates

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Monroe doubtful to play against Browns on Sunday

Posted on 26 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s appearing extremely likely that the Ravens will take the field against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 without either of their starting offensive tackles as Eugene Monroe was designated as doubtful to play.

Monroe hasn’t practiced all week after suffering an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the Week 16 loss to Houston. He has been wearing a protective boot on his foot this week, and there hadn’t been much optimism that he’d improve enough to play against Cleveland.

Rookie James Hurst would start at left tackle in place of Monroe after the undrafted free agent started four games at left tackle earlier this season after Monroe underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda would then slide to right tackle with rookie John Urschel assuming Yanda’s normal position.

Defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) are both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after missing practice all week, but both veterans are still considered likely to play in Week 17.

Rookie running back Fitz Toussaint was also listed as questionable after being added to Friday’s injury report as a limited participant with a rib injury.

Meanwhile, Browns head coach Mike Pettine confirmed that rookie quarterback Connor Shaw will start against the Ravens. Veteran Brian Hoyer (right shoulder) is doubtful to play and rookie Johnny Manziel was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Cornerback Joe Haden (shoulder) was designated as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Another piece of injury-related news announced Friday wasn’t a good sign for the Ravens’ postseason hopes as the Kansas City Chiefs announced quarterback Alex Smith has a lacerated spleen and won’t play against San Diego on Sunday. Backup Chase Daniel will make his second NFL start in Smith’s place.

Of course, Baltimore needs a win over the Browns as well as the Chargers to lose to the Chiefs in order to make the playoffs as the final AFC wild card.

“I mean, we’ve still got a job to do,” said linebacker Daryl Smith when asked about the Chiefs-Chargers game. “That’s [beating] the Cleveland Browns Sunday. Regardless of what happens, we’ve got to do our job and try to win this game.”

The referee for Sunday’s game between Baltimore and Cleveland will be Gene Steratore.

According to Weather.com, the forecast for Sunday’s game in Baltimore calls for temperatures in the low 50s with a 40 percent chance of rain.

Below is Friday’s final injury report:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: T Eugene Monroe (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Chris Canty (ankle/thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (back/thigh), RB Fitzgerald Touissant (ribs)

CLEVELAND
OUT: DL Ahtyba Rubin (ankle), C Ryan Seymour (hamstring)
DOUBTFUL: QB Brian Hoyer (right shoulder/bicep)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Gary Barnidge (rib), DL Desmond Bryant (thumb), CB Joe Haden (shoulder), WR Andrew Hawkins (thumb), LB Jabaal Sheard (foot), TE Ryan Taylor (elbow) , CB K’Waun Williams (hamstring)
PROBABLE: WR Marlon Moore (knee)

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Monroe remains sidelined as Ravens practice on Christmas Eve

Posted on 24 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After losing right tackle Rick Wagner to a season-ending foot injury in Week 16, the Ravens face the prospects of being without left tackle Eugene Monroe for the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns.

Monroe (ankle) was absent from practice for the second consecutive day as the Ravens worked out inside their field house on Christmas Eve. The 27-year-old left in the fourth quarter of the 25-13 loss in Houston and was seen in a walking boot following the game.

Should Monroe be unable to play, the Ravens would play rookie free agent James Hurst at left tackle, a position where he started four games when Monroe underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the season. Baltimore would then likely move Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to right tackle with rookie John Urschel filling in at right guard against the Browns.

“The good news is we have something to go pull back from,” said offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak about Hurst and Urschel. “We went through, what, four, five weeks with the same issue as a team, and those two kids came in and played well. They’re going to have to play well for us to continue playing this year. We believe in them.”

It’s been a difficult year for Monroe after he agreed to a five-year, $37.5 million contract in the offseason to remain with the Ravens. The 2009 first-round pick began his career in Jacksonville before being traded to Baltimore in the middle of the 2013 season for fourth- and fifth-round draft choices.

Monroe played very well last season for the Ravens, but injuries have affected his performance this year as Pro Football Focus has graded him as the team’s worst starting offensive lineman and 40th in the league among tackles who’ve played at least 60 percent of their team’s offensive snaps. His pass blocking has been solid, but Monroe’s been vulnerable as a run blocker, which indicates the knee issue has hampered his lateral movement needed in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system.

The Ravens were also without defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) during Wednesday’s workout. Neither player was present during Tuesday’s viewing period, and Canty missed practice all last week with an ankle injury before ultimately playing against the Texans.

Players will be off on Thursday to celebrate Christmas Day with their families before returning to the practice facility on Friday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (ankle/thigh), OT Eugene Monroe (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (back/thigh)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Andrew Hawkins (thumb), QB Brian Hoyer (right shoulder/bicep), DL Ahtyba Rubin (ankle), C Ryan Seymour (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Gary Barnidge (rib), DL Desmond Bryant (thumb), CB Joe Haden (shoulder), WR Marlon Moore (knee), LB Jabaal Sheard (foot), CB K’Waun Williams (hamstring)

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Ravens lose both offensive tackles to injury in Sunday’s loss

Posted on 21 December 2014 by Luke Jones

As if the embarrassment of their worst offensive performance of the year wasn’t enough, the Ravens lost both starting offensive tackles to injury in the 25-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Right tackle Rick Wagner was carted to the locker room with a foot injury sustained in the third quarter and didn’t return. The state of the offensive line turned even worse in the fourth quarter when veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe left the game and didn’t return.

It remained unclear what the extent of each player’s injury was immediately following the game, but reports from Houston indicated Wagner was wearing a protective boot on his foot and using crutches while Monroe was also wearing a protective boot on his foot.

“There’s nothing I want to share right now,” said head coach John Harbaugh about their status after the game. “We’ll just see how those guys come out of it and see where we’re at.”

Their departures caused plenty of shuffling on the starting line as the Ravens finished the game with rookie free agent James Hurst playing left tackle and Pro Bowl right guard moving out to right tackle, a position he hadn’t played since the 2010 season. Rookie John Urschel then entered the game to occupy Yanda’s normal position.

Hurst was previously filling in for Wagner at the right tackle spot before Monroe got hurt.

The Ravens were held to just 64 yards through the first three quarters of action and rushed for just 33 yards on 16 carries against the Houston defense.

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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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