Tag Archive | "eugene monroe"

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Making sense of Ravens’ running game in 2015

Posted on 11 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Plenty of factors interfered with the Ravens’ ability to run the football in 2015.

The departure of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, injuries along the offensive line and to 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett, more eight-man boxes due to limited weapons in the passing game, and a questionable commitment from new coordinator Marc Trestman all contributed to the Baltimore rushing game dropping from eighth in 2014 all the way to 26th this past season. The Ravens averaged 4.5 yards per attempt in Kubiak’s lone season in Baltimore and averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in 2015 (24th in the NFL).

“To the extent that we didn’t run the ball well, yes, we lost our identity a little bit and we have to be able to do that,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re going to find our way back that way, and we’re going to work on that right now.”

Media and fans frequently speak about the commitment — or lack thereof — to the running game, citing overused stats about a team’s record when they rush a certain number of times in a game. For this reason, some have pointed to the Ravens’ 383 rushing attempts — fewest in franchise history and tied for 25th in the NFL — as the biggest culprit in the struggles.

That simply isn’t the case.

Research has shown over and over that running the ball more often doesn’t cause a team to win more games just like simply trying to bench-press the most weight doesn’t magically make you stronger. Being strong to begin with (having leads) puts you in position to lift that heavier weight (carrying the ball more frequently). Otherwise, a team would mindlessly run the ball for the first 20 or 25 plays of a game to hit those statistical landmarks and have a big lead in the first half, right?

There are always exceptions, but teams that run the most generally do so because they have the lead with Carolina being a perfect example with a league-high 526 rushing attempts despite a 4.3 average that ranked only 10th in the NFL. It’s no coincidence that the 15-1 Panthers led for a league-best average of 39:47 per game and trailed an average of just 8:57 — also best in the NFL — according to Football Outsiders. They also averaged fewer runs in the first quarter than in any of the final three quarters, reflecting again that it’s more about running when you have the lead than “establishing the run” early.

In contrast, the 5-11 Ravens led an average of just 14:37 per game (27th in the NFL) and trailed for 32:13 per contest (26th in the league), easily their worst marks since Football Outsiders began keeping track in 1997. Of the 66 periods (counting two overtimes) in which they played during the 2015 season, the Ravens led at the conclusion of just 19 of them.

Of the five teams that led less frequently than the Ravens in 2015 — Miami, Chicago, Jacksonville, San Francisco, and Cleveland — only the Bears finished outside the bottom 10 in rushing attempts. All five of those teams also averaged better than Baltimore’s 3.9 yards per carry clip.

Whether they take it too far or not, teams pass more frequently when they’re behind as even the worst passing teams in the NFL average more yards per throwing attempt than the most efficient rushing teams average yards per carry. It’s common sense that you can catch up more quickly by going through the air, even if that leaves you prone to more turnovers.

The 2010 Ravens averaged 3.8 yards per carry — a mark slightly worse than this year’s team — but carried the ball 104 more times in a 12-4 season. Yes, you can argue that Cam Cameron had a stronger affinity for the running game than Trestman, but Baltimore also enjoyed the lead an average of 38:26 per contest, the best in the NFL that season.

It’s easy to run the ball when you’re protecting a lead.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the running game wasn’t problematic or one of many reasons leading to the first losing season of the Harbaugh era. The issues with the running game just didn’t have as much to do with the number of attempts as it did the lack of efficiency and how regularly the Ravens trailed in games.

In looking at the breakdown of rushes by quarter, however, there’s little excusing Trestman for the Ravens only having 91 rushing attempts in the first quarter compared to the league average of 106.3. Strangely, the Ravens collected more rushing attempts (105) in the fourth quarter than in any other period — a trend usually indicative of a winning team — but that number was skewed by a combined 25 fourth-quarter carries against Pittsburgh and Cleveland in Weeks 4 and 5, their best rushing performances of the season by a significant margin.

At times, there was certainly a questionable commitment to the running game — a knock on Trestman before he was hired by Harbaugh last January — but the Ravens’ frequent deficits magnified the problem.

“Part of that is scheme, part of that is how many times we call it and when we call it,” said Harbaugh about the problems with the running game. “There’s play-action that goes with it [and] passes behind runs that keep the linebackers off your run game — all of those things that we need to build into our run game to be as good as we can be.”

The healthy returns of Forsett and starting center Jeremy Zuttah, finding stability at left tackle, and the continued development of Buck Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West should help to improve the running game. Gaining more leads by playing better on both sides of the ball will create more opportunities that weren’t there for a ground game that struggled to find its groove throughout the season.

But it will ultimately be about running the ball better — not just more often — in 2016.

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What’s going on with Terrell Suggs?

Posted on 05 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Among the many interesting topics expected to be covered when the Ravens’ brass gathers for Thursday’s season-ending press conference will be the status of Terrell Suggs.

Lost for the year after tearing his left Achilles tendon in the Sept. 13 opener, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker spent very little time at the team’s Owings Mills training facility this season and was still wearing a walking boot as he watched the Week 16 upset victory over Pittsburgh from the sideline. In contrast, Suggs was out of a boot a little over two months after tearing his right Achilles tendon in the spring of 2012 — he amazingly returned to action in less than six months to play that season — and 36-year-old wide receiver Steve Smith shed his walking boot on Monday and suffered his Achilles injury seven weeks after the 33-year-old linebacker did.

Asked on Monday if he sought advice from his teammate who has been through a similar rehabilitation process twice, Smith made a cryptic remark that could be taken any number of ways.

“Suggs is a little vulnerable right now, so I’m not going to talk to Suggs about it,” said Smith, who announced last week that he would return for another season after previously planning to retire. “He’s not a ray of sunshine like he usually is.”

It’s worth noting that Smith’s comments were made as he smiled, but the veteran receiver can occasionally be sly with the media, making one wonder if there was more to it than Suggs simply having a bad day.

Suggs hasn’t spoken with reporters since suffering the injury in Denver.

Head coach John Harbaugh said in early November that the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year told him at the time of the injury that he intended to return in 2016, but Suggs was more reflective than usual about his career this past spring and struggled to cope with the departure of his longtime teammate and friend Haloti Ngata, who was traded to the Detroit Lions last March. Suggs wore a hat with No. 92 on it — Ngata’s jersey number for nine years in Baltimore that isn’t currently worn by a Ravens player — as he cheered on his teammates during the Steelers game on Dec. 27.

General manager Ozzie Newsome holds a unique relationship with the 2003 first-round pick, so it will be interesting to hear where the veteran stands in terms of his health and status for next season.

Suggs is under contract through 2018 and is scheduled to carry a $7.45 million salary cap figure for next season.

Hindsight with Osemele

With much discussion centering around the left tackle position, it’s fair to wonder why the Ravens didn’t try Kelechi Osemele at left tackle before the acquisition of Eugene Monroe a few years ago.

Following the win in Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore considered the possibility of moving Osemele to left tackle as Bryant McKinnie hit the free-agent market, but Newsome ultimately re-signed the veteran later that spring. Of course, McKinnie did not perform well and the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville in exchange for Monroe in early October of 2013.

Had Osemele not been dealing with a chronic back issue at the time that eventually required season-ending surgery, he could have been a real option to move outside, but it’s difficult to fault the Ravens for not wanting to try it when he was already struggling just to perform at his regular left guard position. Instead, Monroe arrived and played so well over the remainder of the season that the Ravens rewarded him with a five-year, $37.5 million contract.

If the 2012 second-round pick had been healthy, perhaps he would have gotten his chance then and become Baltimore’s long-term left tackle a few years ago.

Complicated Webb

Following the season-ending loss to Cincinnati, veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb told reporters he viewed himself as a safety moving forward, but how the Ravens elect to handle that remains to be seen.

Webb and the Ravens already reworked his contract last offseason, but he is still scheduled to carry a $9.5 million salary cap number for 2016, which would put him among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Of course, that would come with a very limited sample of Webb playing the position.

The 30-year-old may very well be an upgrade from recent options such as Kendrick Lewis and Darian Stewart, but the Ravens would need Pro Bowl-quality play to justify that price tag. There’s just no way of knowing he can do that, making it likely that Webb will be cut if he isn’t willing to further adjust his contract that expires after the 2017 season.

Need for speed

Asked whether the passing game needs more speed next season, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t answer with a definitive yes, but he was quick to point out how much it helps an AFC North rival.

“It does a lot for football teams,” said Flacco, who discussed the need to be able to push the ball down the field more at different times this past season. “You see what the Steelers are doing with the speed that they’ve added over the last couple years. It definitely makes a difference out there. I’m not saying that it’s something that we need, but when we’ve had it here, it’s definitely made a little bit of a difference.”

Should the Ravens re-sign restricted free-agent receiver Kamar Aiken, they would have the trio of Aiken, Smith, and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but the latter two have questions about their health and only Perriman brings impact speed. The roster would benefit greatly from another speed option with upside.

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Ravens come out of Pittsburgh win in good health

Posted on 28 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after the Ravens’ surprising win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach John Harbaugh received a surprising revelation from head athletic trainer Mark Smith.

“Mark gave me the good news,” said Harbaugh on Monday. “‘There’s good news and good news: We won the game, and nobody is getting an MRI [the day after a game] for the first time all year.'”

In the final stretch of an injury-plagued 2015 season, the Ravens came out of Sunday’s game without any substantial injury concerns, a rarity in what is typically a physical game with their biggest rival. Wide receiver Kamar Aiken was the only player noticeably shaken up during the 20-17 win, but his hand injury was not deemed serious before he returned to the game.

On Monday, Harbaugh did offer clarity on the status of wide receiver Marlon Brown, who missed his fifth consecutive game with a back injury and will not play against Cincinnati in the season finale.

“His back has just not responded,” said Harbaugh, who wasn’t sure why general manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t put Brown on injured reserve a couple weeks ago. “He’s had back spasms, then they found — I don’t know what it was exactly, whether it was a little bit of a disc issue or something in there.

“They kept trying to get him back. And then about two weeks ago, I could just tell he wasn’t going to get back, so I kind of gave up hope, and I think he did, too. He just knew it wasn’t responding.”

Brown is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, making it possible that he’s played his final game with the Ravens. After catching 49 passes for 524 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie, Brown has caught just 38 passes for 367 yards and no touchdowns in his last two seasons combined.

Harbaugh also confirmed left tackle Eugene Monroe underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. Monroe was placed on season-ending IR earlier this month and played in only six games this season.

“I think it’s a pretty quick recovery,” Harbaugh said. “It shouldn’t be an issue from what I understand.”

TV CHANGE: Originally scheduled to be televised on CBS, Sunday’s Baltimore-Cincinnati game will instead be shown on FOX at 1 p.m. after it was cross-flexed by the NFL on Monday.

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Ravens continue chasing ghost at left tackle position

Posted on 15 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has used high draft picks, made trades, and even handed out long-term contracts, but the same pursuit continues beyond a stopgap or two.

He’s still chasing the on-field ghost of Jonathan Ogden, the Hall of Fame left tackle and the first player selected in the history of the franchise with the fourth pick of the 1996 draft. With every passing year, appreciation grows deeper for what Ogden did for more than a decade as they complete their eighth season since his retirement at the end of the 2007 campaign.

Finding a future Hall of Famer at the position is one thing, but Newsome and the Ravens would settle for a guy who they can pencil into the lineup for the next four or five years and be able to sleep well at night.

Not counting backups filling in due to injuries, there’s been Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Eugene Monroe, none holding down the position for more than a season or two before concerns resurface. Fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele has become the latest man to receive a shot as he started his first NFL game at left tackle in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Osemele will remain at left tackle for the final three games of 2015, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

“I thought he looked good. There are some things that he can do better,” Harbaugh said. “Sometimes the sets and the angles and the timing the movement, sometimes it’s something that he’ll get a feel for more and more as he plays. But he had lots of good blocks [in] pass protection and the run game. I thought he was a bright spot.”

A left tackle at Iowa State before being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Osemele expressed his enjoyment for the position after Sunday’s 35-6 loss, but the Ravens may only be enhancing the lineman’s value on the open market instead of finding a long-term solution for themselves. With a less-than-enviable salary cap situation going into the offseason, Newsome signed four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a four-year extension earlier this fall, leading many to believe that Osemele will receive a big payday elsewhere.

Even if the above-average guard looks the part of a long-term left tackle over these final three games, there’s still the matter of what the Ravens will do with Monroe, who is only in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that clearly hasn’t worked out. Placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury over the weekend, Monroe has started just 17 games over the last two seasons and finished only three of the six contests he started this season.

Though he’s generally been solid when he’s played over the last two years, his performance still hasn’t been as strong as it was in 2013 when the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville to acquire him in early October of that season. After concluding that Oher, their 2009 first-round pick, wasn’t suited for the blind side and having concerns about McKinnie’s commitment to the game, the Ravens felt Monroe would finally be the long-term answer they had sought from the time that Ogden retired.

After missing only four games in his first five seasons in the NFL, Monroe has missed 17 starts in the last two years, including two playoff games last season. After he left the Nov. 22 game against St. Louis with a shoulder injury, backup James Hurt rolled into quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

In addition to Monroe reportedly refusing a simple contract restructuring that would have provided some salary-cap relief this past offseason, his inability to stay on the field at such an important position has frustrated the organization.

“It’s just disappointing, because here’s a guy that you’re counting on, we trade two picks for him, and he has played well,” Harbaugh said. “As he said, he was playing the best football of his career this year when he came back for two or three weeks or whenever he was back. I think that was the most crushing thing for him, because he felt like he was really playing really good football.

“It’s not what we hoped for. We hoped that he’d be in the lineup and playing, and that’s not what he hoped for [either]. Nobody works harder. This guy trains like you can’t believe, so it’s a tough deal.”

Many fans are clamoring for Monroe to be released in the offseason as he is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and carry an $8.7 million figure for 2016. Cutting him with a pre-June 1 designation would save $2.1 million in cap space while leaving $6.6 million in dead money, a sizable chunk considering the many weaknesses Baltimore will need to address on both sides of the ball before next season. A post June-1 designation would push most of that dead money to 2017, but the Ravens would not be able to take advantage of that cap space until most free-agent activity would long be over.

Even if Newsome and the Ravens elect to move on from Monroe, it remains unclear whether Osemele would be within their price range, making it possible that they could turn to the draft to find their answer. Currently set to pick in the top five of April’s draft, the Ravens may find Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley as attractive — and more affordable — options at left tackle with their first pick.

Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the Ravens find themselves back in an all-too-familiar position.

They’re still trying to replace No. 75.

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Ravens-Seahawks: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It’s 65 degrees in mid-December and Jimmy Clausen is the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.

Thanks a lot, climate change.

Yes, Clausen will start against the two-time defending champion Seattle Seahawks, becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start twice against the same opponent in the same season while playing for two different teams. Playing for an injured Jay Cutler in Week 3, Clausen and the Chicago Bears were shut out in a 26-0 defeat on Sept. 27.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report and missing practices all week, Matt Schaub is inactive with what was listed as a chest injury. The 34-year-old veteran was banged up significantly in last week’s loss to Miami, slamming his head against the ground and finishing the game with knee and shoulder soreness.

Promoted to the practice squad on Saturday, Bryn Renner will serve as the backup quarterback to Clausen. Renner spent the entire offseason and summer with the Ravens before being released from the practice squad in mid-December.

Perhaps an even more intriguing development than the quarterback situation is the Baltimore offensive line where Kelechi Osemele lined up at left tackle during pre-game warm-ups. Eugene Monroe was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder ailment on Saturday, but it appears that the Ravens have seen enough from second-year lineman James Hurst at the position.

Osemele is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, so it appears that the Ravens want to at least explore the possibility of him playing left tackle, the position he played at Iowa State before he was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. This would be his first NFL start at left tackle.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) is inactive, meaning rookie Maxx Williams moves to the top of the depth chart. Despite sitting out last Sunday’s game with a concussion, Williams is active and will start with Gillmore out and fellow rookie Nick Boyle suspended for the rest of the season. Former practice-squad member Konrad Reuland will serve as the No. 2 tight end.

Former Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews is active for the Ravens after being promoted from the practice squad on Saturday. Third-year receiver Marlon Brown will miss his third straight game with a back injury.

The Ravens and Seahawks will be meeting for the fifth time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first four contests. Seattle is visiting M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but the Seahawks have won the last two games played between these teams.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to four miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Coleman.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Seattle dons its white tops with blue pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Matt Schaub
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

SEATTLE
WR B.J. Daniels
CB Tye Smith
FS Steven Terrell
RB Marshawn Lynch
OL Kristjan Sokoli
DE Demarcus Dobbs
DT Jordan Hill

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Ravens place Monroe on IR, promote Renner to 53-man roster

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Veteran left tackle Eugene Monroe officially saw his 2015 season come to an end on Saturday.

The decision to place him on injured reserve could also represent the end of his time with the Ravens. Having already been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Seattle, Monroe hadn’t played since re-aggravating a previous shoulder ailment on Nov. 22 and started just six games this season, finishing three.

The shoulder was just the latest injury to plague the 28-year-old left tackle, who is in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed. After signing that deal in March 2014, Monroe will have started just 17 of 34 games (counting the postseason) through the 2015 season, often leaving the Ravens no choice but to turn to former undrafted free agent James Hurst at left tackle. Pro Football Focus has graded Hurst 75th out of 76 qualifying offensive tackles in the NFL while Monroe was 23rd, a disappointment considering his level of compensation.

Monroe’s early exit against St. Louis in Week 11 preceded Hurst falling into Joe Flacco’s left knee on the final drive of the game, causing two torn ligaments that required season-ending surgery for the franchise quarterback. After missing only four games in his first five seasons, the 2009 first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars hasn’t been able to stay on the field at a crucial position after the Ravens made him one of the better-paid left tackles in the NFL.

Scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and to carry an $8.7 million cap figure for the 2016 season, Monroe is a candidate to be released with a pre-June 1 designation, which would clear $2.1 million in cap space. However, his release would leave $6.6 million in dead money on the 2016 salary cap and require general manager Ozzie Newsome to address the left tackle position via the draft, free agency, or the trade market.

With veteran Matt Schaub questionable for Sunday’s game with a chest injury and the recently-signed Jimmy Clausen likely to start against the Seahawks, the Ravens promoted quarterback Bryn Renner from the practice squad on Saturday, a clear sign pointing toward Schaub not playing. Renner spent the entire offseason with the Ravens before being cut in early September. He was signed to the practice squad earlier in the week.

Baltimore also promoted former Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews to the 53-man roster and waived guard Kaleb Johnson. Matthews was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 23 and was a standout performer in Super Bowl XLIX, catching four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 28-24 loss to New England.

Having been on the practice squad since the start of the season, Johnson was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 30 and appeared in one game. The Rutgers product would figure to be a strong candidate to be re-signed to the practice squad should he clear waivers.

Rookie safety Nick Perry was also re-signed to the practice squad on Saturday.

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Pondering Ravens left tackle, 2015 draft class, quarterback, more

Posted on 08 December 2015 by Luke Jones

It wasn’t long ago that left tackle Eugene Monroe was emerging as one of the Ravens’ best players.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the organization certainly thought so after they acquired the former Jacksonville Jaguar for fourth- and fifth-round picks just over two years ago. His strong play in 11 games in 2013 prompted the Ravens to sign Monroe to a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million in guaranteed money.

Since then, Monroe has started just 17 of 30 games (including the postseason) as knee, foot, and shoulder injuries as well as a concussion at the start of the 2015 season have cost him extensive time. The 28-year-old missed only four games over his first five NFL seasons, but he’s started and finished just three games this year, leaving the overmatched James Hurst to fill in at left tackle. Even when Monroe has played, it’s been at an underwhelming level in comparison to his $7.7 million cap figure this year.

Many fans have questioned Monroe’s toughness, and it was interesting to hear John Harbaugh mention the left tackle’s agent on Monday when discussing the status of his injured shoulder that’s cost him three games and parts of two others this season. To be clear, the head coach did not speak with any hint of animosity, but you simply don’t hear an agent being cited very often in such discussions, leading one to wonder if the Ravens and Monroe have differing opinions on his health.

Regardless of whether Monroe returns to play in 2015, the Ravens will need to take a long look at the left tackle position this offseason as he simply hasn’t been dependable enough at a critical position. Hurst is a hard worker, but Pro Football Focus has graded him 74th out of 76 offensive tackles this season and he was the one who rolled into Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing the season-ending injury last month. The second-year tackle is just not starting material.

Monroe is scheduled to make $6.5 million and to carry an $8.7 million cap figure in 2016, but cutting him would still leave $6.6 million in dead money unless the Ravens were to use a post-June 1 designation. However, that strategy wouldn’t free up that cap space until after most free-agent activity was long finished.

With the Ravens now 4-8 and potentially picking in the top five of April’s draft, Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil will be one of many intriguing prospects to watch over the next few months.

Awful year for rookie class

The four-game suspension of rookie tight end Nick Boyle was the rotten cherry on top of a lousy first season for the 2015 draft class aside from fourth-round running back Buck Allen.

Facing so many offseason departures, the Ravens used their draft class to fill an assortment of needs, but that meant a cast of rookies needed to contribute immediately if they were to reach their lofty goals for the 2015 season. Needless to say, that hasn’t come close to happening.

Selected to replace speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith, first-round pick Breshad Perriman hurt his knee on the first day of training camp and didn’t play as much as a preseason snap in his rookie season. Tight end Maxx Williams has flashed potential here and there, but 19 catches and one touchdown are nothing to write home about for a second-round pick.

Drafted to essentially take the spots of free-agent departures Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee, third-round defensive tackle Carl Davis and fourth-round Za’Darius Smith have largely been non-factors with the former not even being active for the last two games. And though fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker was considered a bit of a project out of Texas Southern, it’s become clear that the Ravens drafted him way too early — even if he does eventually develop into a useful player.

Fifth-round guard Robert Myers didn’t even make the team — he’s now on the practice squad — and sixth-round receiver Darren Waller caught only two passes before a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve.

Yes, it’s only the first season, so this isn’t a final condemnation on the 2015 draft class by any means. But the group couldn’t have been much more disappointing in its rookie campaign.

And now that Boyle’s better-than-expected play has been superseded by the disappointment of a four-game ban, Allen’s development into a starting-caliber back is the only saving grace of the group in 2015.

Running back debate

Allen is the most intriguing reason to watch the Ravens these days, but his performance is creating an interesting debate for the offseason.

Though he is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry, his ability as a receiver out of the backfield — an impressive 29 catches on 32 targets — is making quite a statement for the USC product to be the Ravens’ No. 1 back in 2016. And Terrance West has provided good depth in averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his two games with Baltimore thus far.

For those reasons, might the Ravens consider moving on from veteran Justin Forsett this offseason?

The 30-year-old will carry a $3.7 million cap figure next year and releasing him would save $2.3 million in salary cap space, no small amount for a team that will be looking for room even after renegotiating Flacco’s massive contract. And it’s not as though the Ravens wouldn’t have an impressive collection of young talent with Allen, West, and a returning Lorenzo Taliaferro in the backfield.

That trio would certainly benefit from Forsett’s experience and leadership, but how much is that worth? Would the Ravens feel comfortable handing the reins to an inexperienced threesome?

If Allen and West continue to play well over the final quarter of the season, Newsome may be faced with a difficult decision on Forsett, who is a popular player in the locker room and has been one of the feel-good stories of the last couple seasons.

Depressing quarterback situation

I can’t bring myself to care about a quarterback controversy for a 4-8 football team, but some fans are already clamoring for Jimmy Clausen to play with Matt Schaub having thrown two interceptions returned for touchdowns in two starts.

Given the current state of the offensive line and how sore Schaub was after the Miami game, it would not be surprising to see Clausen get a look sooner rather than later. It’s also worth remembering that the Ravens worked out former Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett last week, and he could still be summoned at some point over the final month.

The organization would like to identify someone who can handle the backup job, especially with Flacco unlikely to be ready until training camp at the earliest next season. But is it really all that interesting to watch such a competition play out for a team that’s going nowhere in December?

I’d rather watch Flacco rehab his surgically-repaired left knee.

NFC Least

Over the years, some Baltimore fans have suggested how interesting it would be if the Ravens were to move to the NFC East to compete against geographic neighbors Washington and Philadelphia.

Imagine if the 4-8 Ravens could be just one game out in a hapless division currently sporting three 5-7 teams tied for first place.

My pick to win that awful division?

Just give it to the Arizona Cardinals for old times’ sake after they languished in the NFC East for years.

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 06 December 2015 by Luke Jones

In search of a win in Miami for the third consecutive season, the Ravens are trying to keep their microscopic postseason hopes alive in taking on the Dolphins in Week 13.

As expected, Baltimore will be without left tackle Eugene Monroe, who was officially declared out after being listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury on the final injury report. Counting the playoffs, Monroe has now missed 12 games in the last two seasons and has started and finished just three games all season.

Second-year tackle James Hurst will start in Monroe’s place, but the Ravens will welcome back starting left guard Kelechi Osemele after a two-game absence because of a knee injury.

The Ravens will be without tight end Maxx Williams (concussion) and wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) for Sunday’s game.

Veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn will make his Ravens debut after being inactive in each of the last two games.

Meanwhile, Miami has activated both center Mike Pouncey (foot) and wide receiver Kenny Stills (ankle) after they were listed as questionable on the final injury report. The Dolphins will be without starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), starting receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), and starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf) after all three were declared out on Friday.

The Ravens and Dolphins will be meeting for the 11th time in the regular season with the teams tied 5-5 but Baltimore owning a 2-0 postseason edge. In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 5-0 against the Dolphins, which includes a postseason win in Miami in 2008 and a 28-13 victory at Sun Life Stadium last season.

The forecast for Sunday’s game calls for temperatures in the high 70s, a 15 percent chance of precipitation, and winds up to 17 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

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

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Miami dons its white tops with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
OT Eugene Monroe
G Kaleb Johnson
TE Maxx Williams
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

MIAMI
WR Rishard Matthews
CB Jamar Taylor
LB Chris McCain
C Jacques McClendon
OL Ulrick John
OT Ja’Wuan James
DT Earl Mitchell

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Ravens left tackle Monroe doubtful to play against Miami

Posted on 04 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A season of disappointment continues for Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is listed as doubtful to play against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

After re-aggravating a shoulder injury in the second half of the Week 11 win over St. Louis on Nov. 22, Monroe has yet to return to practice and missed Monday’s game in Cleveland. Second-year lineman James Hurst is expected to make his sixth start of the season at left tackle, which would equal Monroe’s number of starts in 2015.

After missing just four games in his first five seasons in the NFL, Monroe is likely to miss his 12th game of the last two seasons (counting the playoffs). The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman has finished just three games in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed.

In better news for the Baltimore offensive line, left guard Kelechi Osemele practiced fully all week and is probable to make his return against the Dolphins. Osemele missed the last two games with a lingering knee issue while Ryan Jensen made the first starts of his NFL career at left guard.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams was officially ruled out after sustaining a concussion against the Browns and missing practice all week. Third-year wide receiver Marlon Brown was listed as doubtful with a lingering back injury that kept him sidelined against the Browns.

Right tackle Rick Wagner was absent from the final practice of the week due to a non-injury issue, but the third-year lineman is not in danger of missing Sunday’s game. He was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week.

“Not a concern,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s fine.”

Meanwhile, the Dolphins officially ruled out starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), starting receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), and starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf). Starting center Mike Pouncey (foot) and starting wideout Kenny Stills (ankle) are questionable to play against the Ravens.

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

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast for Miami calls for temperatures in the low 80s with a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms and winds up to 12 miles per hour.

On Friday, the Ravens re-signed safety Nick Perry to their practice squad and cut offensive lineman Marcel Jones.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Maxx Williams (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: WR Marlon Brown (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), OT Rick Wagner (non-injury)

MIAMI
OUT: OT JA’Wuan James (toe), WR Rishard Matthews (ribs), DT Earl Mitchell (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: C Mike Pouncey (foot), WR Kenny Stills (ankle)
PROBABLE: RB Jay Ajayi (shoulder), OT Brandon Albert (non-injury), S Shamiel Gray (foot), LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle), WR Jarvis Landry (knee), LB Chris McCain (hip), LB Koa Misi (abdomen), DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring), TE Dion Sims (neck)

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Osemele back at practice as Ravens prepare for Miami

Posted on 02 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Coming off a thrilling win over Cleveland on Monday night, the Ravens began making preparations for Sunday’s trip to Miami with a key member of the offensive line back at practice.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) was present and working during a light practice on Wednesday that appeared to be little more than a walk-through. The fourth-year lineman has missed Baltimore’s last two games, but his presence was a good sign as the Ravens look to win a road game against the Dolphins for the third straight year.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and tight end Maxx Williams (concussion) were not present on Wednesday. Monroe missed his fifth game of the season while the rookie Williams sustained a concussion against the Browns.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) observed practice, but he did not participate after missing his first game of the season in Week 12.

Preparing his team for temperatures that could reach 80 degrees in Miami on Sunday, head coach John Harbaugh turned the heat up in the Ravens’ Owings Mills field house as the Ravens practiced inside on Wednesday. Baltimore will be playing in Miami for the third consecutive year after winning road games the previous two seasons.

“We started cranking it last night, so it works its way up. But you noticed?” said Harbaugh as he laughed when asked how players reacted to the temperature. “Everybody seems comfortable. They mentioned it. Muggy, stuffy, hard to breathe — those are all the words that were used. I don’t know if there’s any science behind it, but it makes sense to me.”

The Ravens re-signed running back Terrence Magee and wide receiver Chuck Jacobs to the practice squad. Harbaugh also confirmed that the Ravens worked out former Texans quarterback Ryan Mallet, but he would not comment on how it went.

Mallet wore out his welcome with the Texans after missing a team flight in October and previously showing up late for a training camp practice, which he blamed on an alarm clock issue. The Arkansas product has a strong throwing arm, but he has never been able to put it together on the field to go along with the immaturity.

“It’s something I don’t think I’m allowed to comment on, but he was here working out,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see where those things go as we move forward.”

The Dolphins released a crowded injury report on Wednesday as right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), wide receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (foot), and center Mike Pouncey (foot) all missed practice.

Below is the full injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder), TE Maxx Williams (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Branden Albert (non-injury), OT Ja’Wuan James (toe), WR Rishard Matthews (ribs), DT Earl Mitchell (calf), C Mike Pouncey (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle), WR Jarvis Landry (knee), LB Koa Misi (abdomen), DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Jay Ajayi (shoulder), S Shamiel Gray (foot), LB Chris McCain (hip), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring), TE Dion Sims (neck)

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