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Ravens trade veteran tackle McKinnie to Miami

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Ravens trade veteran tackle McKinnie to Miami

Posted on 21 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

After trading for new starting left tackle Eugene Monroe earlier in the month, the Ravens have dealt veteran Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins.

Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens would receive a conditional late-round pick on Monday afternoon prior to the trade being officially finalized.

McKinnie’s future with Baltimore appeared to be in grave doubt after Monroe was acquired for fourth- and fifth-round selections in next year’s draft to replace the 34-year-old along a struggling offensive line. McKinnie made five starts for the Ravens after signing a two-year deal this offseason to remain in Baltimore.

“It’s a good move for us. I think it’s a good move for Bryant,” Harbaugh said. “I’m happy for Bryant. I think it’s a good opportunity for him. More than anything, that’s the most important thing. It’s just an opportunity for Bryant to go down there and play and do well.”

With Monroe making his first start against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6, McKinnie was listed as inactive in each of the last two games and was open to a trade elsewhere. McKinnie’s departure leaves rookie Rick Wagner as the Ravens’ primary backup tackle behind Monroe and right tackle Michael Oher as the fifth-round lineman from Wisconsin has served as an extra blocker in the jumbo package in recent weeks.

The trade is a homecoming of sorts for McKinnie, who played at the University of Miami before becoming a first-round pick in the 2002 draft and spending the first nine years of his career with the Minnesota Vikings.

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Changes coming to Ravens’ struggling offensive line

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Changes coming to Ravens’ struggling offensive line

Posted on 14 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer a specific list of adjustments to be made to an anemic running game, but the head coach isn’t shying away from the biggest problem that plagues his 3-3 team, either.

Addressing the media a day after a disappointing 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers in which the Ravens gained just 47 yards on 22 carries to continue a season-long inability to run the football, Harbaugh acknowledged that he and his coaching staff aren’t standing pat with a struggling offensive line. While most fingers are pointed in the direction of new run-game coordinator Juan Castillo and second-year center Gino Gradkowski, the head coach repeatedly said all individuals invested in the running game — coaches, offensive linemen, and running backs — need to make improvements as the Ravens rank 31st in the league with their 2.7 yards per carry average.

“We’re definitely making changes. We’re not going to sit there and just stand pat with what we’re doing,” Harbaugh said. “It may not be visible from the outside looking in, but they’re visible to the people we play against, and they’re definitely visible to us. We know what changes we’re making, whether it’s personnel changes or, more likely, scheme changes. Not major things, just things that will give our guys a better chance to be on the same page. That’s what we need to do.

“We’ve got too many situations where we don’t have a hat on a hat. When you don’t have a hat on a hat, that’s a problem. That’s just not acceptable.”

Harbaugh mentioning the inability to simply find one-on-one matchups suggests the Ravens could be moving away from Castillo’s zone blocking scheme that relies on lateral movement, timing, and finding the proper positioning and angles and moving toward a man-power approach that involves more physicality and simply identifying a defender to block based on how the defense is lined up before the snap.

The Ravens have repeatedly been dominated at the line of scrimmage this season, with many observers seeing too much hesitation and a lack of proper communication in identifying blitzes and stunts. Harbaugh has repeatedly downplayed the changes made by Castillo this season, but the acknowledgement of scheme adjustments being made suggests what the former Eagles offensive line coach has tried to implement hasn’t worked well with the personnel up front.

“We’re not stuck on any particular scheme or any particular technique or any particular way of doing something,” Harbaugh said. “We want to find the best way to do it, and we work hard at that, and we’ll continue to do that. We’re going to find our way into our run game.”

It remains to be seen whether there are any noticeable changes such as the possibility of A.Q. Shipley taking Gradkowski’s place in the starting lineup, but an attempt to simplify their overall strategy could at least provide short-term relief for a running game struggling to simply get back to the line of scrimmage far too often.

Of the Ravens’ 22 rushing attempts in Sunday’s loss to the Packers, five went for negative yardage and six netted no gain as quarterback Joe Flacco and the passing game were constantly faced with third-and-long situations because of such little success on first and second down. There were a few occasions where a delayed blitzer came untouched to blow up ballcarriers in the backfield.

“We had some mental mistakes, some errors that just cost us,” Harbaugh said. “You need no runs for negative yards. There has got to be at least a gain of some kind moving forward. We’ve got to get a lot better at that.”

Even if a simplified man-power approach doesn’t provide as high of a ceiling in terms of explosive plays, increasing the yards-per-carry average to a respectable level — say even an underwhelming 3.5 yards per carry — would alleviate pressure on a passing game still evolving in its own right.

Whether the results improve this Sunday in Pittsburgh or we see much of the same from a running game that’s yet to get in gear as the bye week approaches, the Ravens need to change things up. All parties involved with the running game continue to say the right things, but it’s now clear that what was once thought as an early-season aberration is threatening to become a year-altering crisis with each week of ineffective rushing.

“Frustration can be a great motivator,” Harbaugh said. “I like that. Let’s be frustrated, and let’s go to work and see if we can get better.”

Jensen’s role moving forward

With Gradkowski not performing well and Shipley not drawing an opportunity at the center position to this point, many have turned their attention to sixth-round rookie Ryan Jensen and what role he might serve along the offensive line.

The Colorado State-Pueblo product finally returned to the practice field last week after breaking his foot in the first week of training camp in late July, but it’s unlikely the 6-foot-4, 318-pound lineman will be a factor on game days until after the bye. It’s clear the Ravens wanted to keep Jensen around as an option for 2013 since they refrained from placing him on season-ending injured reserve, but Harbaugh’s vision for Jensen — at least publicly — doesn’t suggest a move to the starting lineup anytime soon.

“He’ll be a backup to start with, and then we’ll see what he does from there,” Harbaugh said. “We haven’t seen much of him yet. Developmental backup — that will be his role.”

Truthfully, the Ravens are unsure what they really have with Jensen who only played at the Div. II level, but they like his upside as an interior lineman.

Harbaugh defends Elam

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Our Ravens/Packers “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Packers “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 13 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Green Bay Packers 19-17 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. James Ihedigbo

4. Lardarius Webb

3. Gino Gradkowski

2. Juan Castillo

1. Ray Rice (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens-Packers: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Packers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 12 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Appearing to be healthier than they’ve been at any point since the start of the 2013 season, the Ravens welcome arguably their toughest opponent at home as the Green Bay Packers visit M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2005.

Eleven Ravens players are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, but most are expected to play while the Packers have already ruled out five players for Week 6, including starting linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones and No. 3 cornerback Casey Hayward. Other than injured tight end Dennis Pitta, the Ravens could have their full collection of offensive players available, which would be a welcome development for quarterback Joe Flacco.

It’s time to go on the record as the Packers seek their first road victory of the season in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ first start ever in Baltimore while the Ravens haven’t topped Green Bay since the 2005 season in what was a lopsided 48-3 victory over Brett Favre in a Monday night affair. The Packers lead the all-time series with a 3-1 record and will play in Baltimore for only the second time in the 18-year history of the Ravens.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens look to improve to 11-0 at home against NFC opponents in the John Harbaugh era …

1. Eugene Monroe and Jacoby Jones will flash upside for the Ravens offense, but inconsistency will again plague that side of the ball. Few would dispute that Monroe provides a clear upgrade over veteran Bryant McKinnie, but expecting him to step into the starting lineup without any growing pains for an offensive line that’s already struggled this season seems like wishful thinking. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell uses Jones and a full allotment of wide receivers, but the Ravens could fall into the trap of trying to get too many wideouts involved instead of identifying what’s working best. Aside from the Buffalo game, Flacco has done an admirable job of holding up behind a porous offensive line and trying to make plays with few weapons, but the Ravens haven’t been able to put their offensive together for a full 60 minutes against anyone this season and that will continue at least another week.

2. Torrey Smith will become the first Ravens receiver since Qadry Ismail to go over 100 receiving yards for a third straight game. With running back Ray Rice working his way back to 100 percent and not showing the same explosiveness of past years, the third-year wide receiver Smith has become the Ravens’ most dynamic offensive player as he’s recorded at least 85 receiving yards in every game this season. Smith provides matchup problems for the Packers secondary as the Ravens will try to feature speedy options such as Jones or Deonte Thompson on the opposite side of the formation to keep safeties M.D. Jennings and Morgan Burnett honest. As much as experts and fans have pointed to giving the ball to Rice to keep the Packers offense off the field, aggression will be the key if the Ravens offense hopes to score enough points to be in position to win late in the second half and support a defense that will have its hands full.

3. Packers slot receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley will go over 150 yards combined as the Ravens struggle to defend the middle of the field. The Ravens had no answers for defending Denver slot receiver Wes Welker in Week 1 and Cobb presents a more explosive threat that will be a challenge for nickel cornerback Corey Graham. Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith will try to hold their own against Jordy Nelson and James Jones, but the Ravens have often struggled against tight ends this season and Finley is a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties, especially inside the red zone. The Ravens defense has largely been effective this season, but the secondary has given up too many big plays and there are too many weapons in the Green Bay offense to prevent at least a few more from happening on Sunday.

4. Terrell Suggs will set a franchise record with a sack in a sixth consecutive game, but Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will escape enough pressure to go over the 300-yard passing mark. The rush linebacker has been a one-man wrecking crew this season and will have an opportunity to wreak havoc on Rodgers with rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari protecting the blindside. The Packers allowed 10 sacks in their first three games but protected Rodgers well last week with only one sack given up against the Lions. The Ravens will provide pressure, but Rodgers’ mobility allows him to escape and extend plays as his talented receivers break off routes and lose defenders in coverage. Green Bay ranks fifth in the league in rush offense but likes to run the ball out of spread-out formations, which won’t work consistently against a talented front seven. As a result, the Packers will throw plenty and the Ravens will apply a respectable amount of pressure, but Rodgers will get away just enough to make some big plays against a vulnerable secondary.

5. The Packers win the battle inside the red zone as Baltimore’s 13-game home winning streak against NFC opponents comes to an end in a 27-23 final. The winner of this game will be more efficient inside the 20 on both sides of the ball as the Ravens need to try to hold Green Bay to field goals while converting their trips inside the red zone into touchdowns. Flacco and the offense have a favorable matchup against a banged-up Packers defense, but they haven’t shown consistency all season and that will have to wait at least another week as they adjust to Monroe at left tackle and a full group of wideouts still trying to establish roles in the passing game. Facing the toughest offense since the season-opening debacle in Denver, the Ravens defense will have a respectable showing but isn’t good enough to shut down the Packers entirely. Judging on their entire body of work this season, I just don’t have enough faith in the Ravens offense to score the necessary points and don’t see enough stops from the Baltimore defense, giving a slight edge to the Packers in a close game.

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Monroe officially set to make Ravens debut against Packers

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Monroe officially set to make Ravens debut against Packers

Posted on 12 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed what had been considered all but a certainty throughout the week as newly-acquired left tackle Eugene Monroe will not only make his Ravens debut against the Green Bay Packers but will also start.

With more than a week of preparation under his belt after being acquired in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Monroe will replace veteran Bryant McKinnie as the starting left tackle on Sunday. The 26-year-old Monroe has put in long hours at the team’s Owings Mills facility getting caught up to speed with run-game coordinator Juan Castillo and offensive line coach Andy Moeller about the Ravens’ blocking schemes.

“He did a heck of a job this week. He looks good,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I would anticipate that he’ll play quite a bit — possibly start. You might even say probably start at this point — that would be my anticipation right now. Unless something changes between now and then, he’ll be the starter at left tackle.”

Selected with the eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft, Monroe had spent his entire career with the Jaguars before he was traded the Baltimore in exchange for two third-day picks in next year’s draft. He won a total of 22 games in five years with Jacksonville, making it understandable for the University of Virginia product to feel energized in joining the defending Super Bowl champions.

However, Monroe tempered that excitement over his debut on Friday in explaining his need to be on the same page with his new offensive line mates.

“I approach game day the same way I do every week regardless of the situation,” Monroe said. “Excitement’s not an emotion that necessarily helps you perform as far as precision. I’ll need to be precise this week and be on top of my game since everything is brand-new. I am excited, but I’ll be focused.”

Meanwhile, McKinnie revealed to reporters he has been dealing with swelling in his knee and even had it drained recently to ease some of the discomfort.

Harbaugh acknowledged giving McKinnie some rest this week while Monroe received more extensive work with the offensive line, but the veteran took the high road in saying he’ll continue to do his part despite speculation that he could be traded after losing his starting position. It remains unclear whether the Ravens would be willing to weaken their new-found offensive line depth by trading McKinnie.

“Bryant has had a very good week as well,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t practice him Wednesday just for soreness from the game and things like that, but he’s practiced the rest of the time and he looks good.”

Reports on McClain favorable

Though Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain isn’t eligible to begin practicing until next week as he is currently on the reserve physically unable to perform list, Harbaugh confirmed reports earlier in the week painting an improved medical outlook for the sixth-year defensive player.

McClain sustained a spinal cord contusion last December and hasn’t played since then in waiting for magnetic resonance imaging to show improvement to the point that he can return to football. The Ravens have expressed confidence all along that the inside linebacker would eventually be cleared.

“I think it was reported that he was cleared, and there is some truth to that,” Harbaugh said. “The back specialists have looked at his most recent MRIs, and it’s very favorable. I’m not in position to sit here and say completely 100 percent — I don’t know that. There is a process still involved, but it’s encouraging to say the least. It’s all positive that way.”

Upon McClain’s expected return to the practice field — no starting date has yet been determined — the Ravens would have a 21-day window before they must return him to the 53-man roster, waive him, or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Harbaugh proud of chest bump fail

Harbaugh gained notoriety earlier in the week for his attempted chest bump that was inadvertently denied by safety James Ihedigbo in last Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins.

The 51-year-old coach presented the clip to his players and showed a strong sense of humor when asked about it on Friday.

“I was kind of proud of the video,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from reporters in Owings Mills. “There was some good air between my feet and the ground there, absolutely. Then I played it off a little bit. I kind of turned and gave a little fist pump.”

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Incomplete product still keeping Ravens firmly in AFC picture

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Incomplete product still keeping Ravens firmly in AFC picture

Posted on 06 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

A 26-23 bounce-back win on the road against the Miami Dolphins can’t mask a plethora of concerns for the Ravens through the first five weeks of the season.

A better effort in the second half doesn’t change the reality that the Baltimore offensive line had its behind kicked in the first 30 minutes of football. The soon-to-be-replaced Bryant McKinnie will receive the bulk of the criticism, but the Ravens’ problems up front won’t be solved by newcomer Eugene Monroe unless he has the ability to play all five positions along the line because no one played well in the first half.

The protection was so bad in the first 30 minutes that you feared for the safety of quarterback Joe Flacco and the run blocking managed just 33 yards on 15 carries at the intermission. To the unit’s credit, the Ravens were able to wear down the Dolphins’ front seven in the Miami heat in the second half by running 25 times for 100 yards and giving Flacco time to make several key connections at critical junctures to Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss.

Their second-half effort is something on which to build, but run-game coordinator Juan Castillo and offensive line coach Andy Moeller have a colossal amount of work to do in the coming weeks to find consistency up front to give the Ravens a better chance to win on a weekly basis.

Running back Ray Rice had his best game of the season, gaining 102 total yards on 33 touches, but more than a few observers have noticed a lack of explosiveness from the sixth-year back. It’s certainly fair to remember his recent hip flexor injury and the line’s shoddy play, but Rice hasn’t looked like the home-run hitter of past years and coughed up his second fumble of the year.

The defensive effort was strong overall, but the secondary was guilty of giving up five passing plays of 20 or more yards, including an inexplicable 46-yard completion to Brandon Gibson on fourth down that gave the Dolphins a last-ditch field goal attempt to tie the game. The secondary has been vulnerable at best this season and depends on great pressure from the front seven to be successful, which they received more often than not on Sunday.

But even with all those concerns that don’t appear to be going away anytime soon, the Ravens are tied for first place in the AFC North and don’t appear to be going away in the AFC playoff picture. In fact, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland are each 3-2 with a plus-7 point differential through five weeks, evidence that nothing has come easy in the division.

The truth is no team beyond the Denver Broncos — with a forced nod to the 5-0 Chiefs since no one has beaten them yet, either — looks like a clear juggernaut in the conference. The Ravens may not pass the eyeball test, but neither have the likes of other perceived playoff contenders like the Texans and Dolphins, two teams Baltimore has disposed of already this season.

There’s plenty not to like about the Ravens, but there’s enough there to argue they’ll be in perfect position to make their sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs this January.

The wide receiver and tight end positions have been albatrosses thus far, but Torrey Smith is blossoming into one of the best receivers in the AFC after he recorded six catches for 121 yards against the Dolphins on Sunday. Smith has recorded no fewer than 85 receiving yards in any game this season and that’s while often facing bracketed coverage limiting his ability to go vertical like he would in his first two seasons. His 556 receiving yards puts him on pace to not only shatter his career high but to also record the best receiving season in franchise history.

Smith got some help from Doss and second-year wideout Deonte Thompson on Sunday, and Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown should be back in the picture as early as next week. It would be foolish to jump to conclusions based on a couple nice catches against the Dolphins, but even tight end Ed Dickson reined in a 43-yard reception in the first half at Sun Life Stadium.

Despite its vulnerability in the secondary, the Ravens defense was monstrous up front against quarterback Ryan Tannehill with six sacks. Linebacker Terrell Suggs recorded the fifth three-sack game of his 11-year career and has dispelled any concerns that he couldn’t be the same player that he was before last year’s Achilles tendon injury. He’s now on pace for 22 sacks this season and has been everything the Ravens could have asked for defensively.

After a poor decision by offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to call for a pass on third-and-22 deep in Ravens’ territory led to a game-tying interception return for a touchdown to tie the game with 8:03 remaining, Suggs responded with two sacks on the next defensive series when Miami had a chance to march down the field to take the lead. And after the excruciating deep completion to Gibson on the Dolphins’ final series of the game, fellow outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil — who’s been quiet after the first two games of the season — collected a sack that turned a potential 52-yard try into a long 57-yarder that harmless wobbled wide left with 33 seconds remaining.

Even if there is some hope for offensive improvement in the coming weeks, it’s becoming obvious that the Ravens will live and die with their defense as both losses this season included poor showings from that side of the football.

Kicker Justin Tucker was huge on Sunday — dismissing any hint of concern when he missed two field goals in the home opener last month — in connecting from three field goals 42 yards or more, including the game-winning 44-yard try with 1:42 remaining. An offense with little margin for error can take some consolation in knowing they’re virtually guaranteed a minimum of three points when they manage to move inside the opponent’s 35-yard line based on Tucker’s overall body of work since last season.

But perhaps the biggest reason to have hope over the final 11 games of the season is the steady hand of Flacco, who bounced back from last week’s five-interception debacle with a courageous effort in which he was battered for most of the second half. His interception returned for a touchdown came after McKinnie allowed rookie Dion Jordan to blow by him to hit the quarterback’s arm as he threw, but Flacco’s final statistics don’t explain how well he was able to hold up.

Flacco had only three healthy receivers and stood behind a porous offensive line without injured left guard Kelechi Osemele for a gritty 60-minute performance. Much like the Ravens on Sunday, his performance wasn’t pretty, but it was good enough.

As was the case last year when they ultimately won their second championship in franchise history, the Ravens aren’t easy on the eyes and have much about them not to like. Only time will tell if they’re able to overcome their potentially-fatal flaws, but they’re finding ways to win early in the year.

And that’s not a different story from most of the AFC, leaving them right in the mix with a 3-2 record at the start of October.

 

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Monroe trying to overcome learning curve as quickly as possible

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Monroe trying to overcome learning curve as quickly as possible

Posted on 03 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even with all the concerns surrounding the Ravens as they take a 2-2 record to Miami on Sunday, they’ve still matched the total number of wins new left tackle Eugene Monroe experienced in Jacksonville over the last two seasons combined.

To nobody’s surprise, the fifth-year lineman and eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft feels like a new man in joining the defending Super Bowl champions after five years in football purgatory. Monroe said all the right things about his former team on Thursday, but he couldn’t hide his excitement over receiving a fresh start.

“To come into a situation like this with a culture of winning is unique,” Monroe said. “It’s something that I really haven’t been around, so it’s exciting to experience this.”

The Ravens made the trade for Monroe official on Thursday, releasing veteran tight end Billy Bajema to clear a spot on their 53-man roster. To ease concerns about the tackle’s 2013 base salary, the Jaguars agreed to pay all but $547,000 of his remaining salary, leaving the Ravens with enough room to fit Monroe underneath the salary cap.

With all the business details out of the way, the Ravens were noncommittal about Monroe’s status for Sunday’s game with only a couple days of practice time to get him up to speed on the Baltimore playbook, but offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell knows how much potential the lineman holds. As the former head coach of Indianapolis, Caldwell saw Monroe twice a year in AFC South meetings and claimed that Colts pass rushers Dwight Freeney — now with San Diego — and Robert Mathis often had difficulty against the University of Virginia product.

“The two pass rushers we had down there certainly respected him quite a bit because of the fact that he did such a tremendous job against them,” said Caldwell, who acknowledged it would be conceivable for Monroe to at least play a limited role on Sunday. “We’re happy to have him. He’s a great young man with an abundance of talent.”

It’s simply a matter of when, not if, Monroe will take veteran Bryant McKinnie’s place with the starting offensive line, but the newcomer appeared to be in a strict learning and observing mode during the portion of practice open to media on Thursday. Monroe told reporters he feels great physically after playing in Jacksonville’s first four games of the season, but the mental challenge of absorbing the Ravens’ playbook so quickly won’t be easy.

The Ravens find themselves in a difficult spot in deciding between an understandably-disgruntled McKinnie and an underprepared Monroe facing a talented Miami front that could include a returning Cameron Wake, who is regarded as one of the league’s best pass rushers after collecting 15 sacks last season.

“When you’re speaking a different language, you have to be on page with the other guys or it’s not going to be a good outcome,” said Monroe, who acknowledged that some of the Ravens’ techniques and assignments share similarities with what he used in Jacksonville. “Overcoming the learning curve and getting acclimated with how things are done around here is going to be the big challenge.”

Once Monroe grasps the playbook, the Ravens are not only hoping to have a clear upgrade at left tackle in the present but also a long-term option at the position that they’ve lacked since the retirement of Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden following the 2007 season.

Monroe is scheduled to become a free agent after this season, but even he acknowledged the Ravens’ willingness to surrender fourth- and fifth-round picks is a good indication that he could fit into their future plans.

“It doesn’t look like they brought me here the way they did to not have me here for a long time,” Monroe said. “But again, I have to do my thing on the field, prove that I deserve this opportunity, which I’m fully confident that I will.”

Caldwell’s take on running game

Coach John Harbaugh stood by the Ravens rushing a franchise-low nine times during their 23-20 loss to Buffalo in Week 4, but Caldwell didn’t echo that exact sentiment with a few more days to think about the offensive attack.

The Ravens dropped back to pass on 31 straight plays at one point and did not record a rushing attempt in the third quarter against the Bills. Harbaugh said it was his call to abandon the run game because he didn’t feel the rushing attack was working well enough to help them win the game.

“If you had a chance to do it all over again, perhaps we’d have to consider and look at running that ball a little bit more,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think we ran it quite enough [against Buffalo]. Oftentimes, you just try to look at how the game is going, how you are faring in terms of blocking them up front, and then make a determination on how you’re going to go win it.”

The Ravens are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry, which ranks 30th in the league.

First-down woes defensively

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees clearly wasn’t played with his unit’s performance against the run in Week 4 after the Ravens surrendered 203 yards on 55 carries to the Bills.

After crediting Buffalo’s game plan that caught Baltimore coaches and players off guard, Pees offered an explanation of what exactly led to the Ravens nearly giving up as many yards on the ground against the Bills as they had in their first three games combined (224 on 66 carries).

“We’re doing OK on third down. We’re doing well on third-and-short, which we didn’t do well a year ago,” Pees said. “We’re doing well in the red area. And up until this game, we were doing well on the run. But the run was primarily first-down run. That’s where we got in trouble. It’s hard when it’s second down-and-four and second down-and-three. All of a sudden, now you’ve got to really try to tighten it down to get to third.”

Not counting Bills quarterback EJ Manuel’s kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Ravens gave up 143 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries on first-down plays. For the season, Baltimore has surrendered 253 rushing yards on 64 first-down attempts.

Jones back in return mix

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones was practicing for the second straight day Thursday and could provide a much-needed boost to the passing game should his knee be deemed ready to go against the Dolphins.

Fellow wide receiver Tandon Doss has down an admirable job as a punt returner, but the Ravens would love to have Jones’ explosiveness back in the return game as soon as possible. Ideally, they’d like to take it slow with Jones, but the current injury situations for rookie Marlon Brown (hamstring) and Deonte Thompson (knee) could make Jones’ availability a necessity in Miami.

“He’s catching balls, he’s doing what he can in practice,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “We look forward to having him back.”

Jones injured the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the season opener on Sept. 5 and has been sidelined ever since.

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Ravens hope Monroe trade provides wake-up call as well as long-term dividend

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Ravens hope Monroe trade provides wake-up call as well as long-term dividend

Posted on 02 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Much like the decision to fire offensive coordinator Cam Cameron less than 10 months ago, the Ravens’ move to trade for Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe seemingly came out of nowhere Tuesday despite massive concerns on the offensive side of the football.

As was the case last December, making such a bold move in the middle of a season goes against what we’ve come to recognize as the Ravens’ methodical DNA over the 18-year history of the franchise, but it’s difficult to argue against the effort to improve an offense ranked 28th in total yards, 28th in rushing yards, and tied for 15th in points per game through the first quarter of the season. The trade essentially signals the end of the Bryant McKinnie era in Baltimore — whether the 34-year-old remains as a backup or is moved to another team remains to be seen — but general manager Ozzie Newsome doesn’t act swiftly without the big picture in mind.

The decision to add the fifth-year tackle Monroe serves as a wake-up call to the entire offense more so than a simple indictment of McKinnie’s disappointing play through the first four weeks of the season as the veteran tackle was far from the only — or biggest — problem plaguing the Ravens. Monroe represents an opportunity to upgrade one area while sending a message that no one is beyond reproach.

“Everybody will take the message however they take it,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I don’t know a message is so much intended. We always want to improve, we want to be the best team we can be every single way across the board, and whatever that message is, it is.”

The response to Monday’s trade in the Ravens locker room wasn’t bubbling over with optimism — left tackles that play outside your division don’t exactly receive a ton of attention — but a common theme expressed by members of the offensive line as well as other teammates was the need to keep working to improve. Considered no more than an above-average tackle by the most-generous talent evaluators, Monroe won’t fix the Ravens’ other offensive issues at center, wide receiver, and tight end, but he could be a part of the solution the offense still seeks to fix a running game averaging just 2.6 yards per carry so far this season and to pump life into a passing game with few dependable weapons.

The outside addition of Monroe brings youth to the left tackle position, but substantial improvements offensively will need to come from within. The Ravens were still maneuvering as of Tuesday afternoon to fit Monroe’s $3.8 million base salary under the $123 million salary cap before it was reported later in the evening that Jacksonville would handle most of the bill in the form of a bonus. Baltimore will only be on the hook for $547,000 of his salary while the Jaguars will pay about $2.4 million of his salary, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

With such little cap space remaining, there are no easy fixes at this point.

“We just put our heads down every day and go to work,” right tackle Michael Oher said. “I don’t know what kind of message [the trade] can send. We just go to work and are trying to get things corrected.”

The Ravens will send fourth and fifth-round draft choices to Jacksonville in exchange for Monroe, which isn’t a light price knowing how Newsome and the front office value those choices every year. However, the Ravens will receive four compensatory picks in next April’s draft, easing the loss of those choices.

Even so, Newsome and the Ravens couldn’t pass on the opportunity of acquiring a 26-year-old tackle with the quickness to succeed in run-game coordinator Juan Castillo’s zone blocking schemes. Since the retirement of Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden following the 2007 season, the Ravens have searched for a long-term solution at left tackle with Jared Gaither, Oher, and the veteran McKinnie not fitting the part. And Newsome saw how difficult it was to find one this offseason with limited cap space for the open market and the 32nd overall pick of the first round, eventually settling on a two-year deal with McKinnie.

Hapless Jacksonville provided a unique opportunity for the Ravens to nab a left tackle before he hits free agency and the possibility of the kind of bidding war in which Newsome rarely engages. Only time will tell if the Ravens will sign Monroe to a long-term deal as Oher’s rookie contract will also expire after the season.

Playing for the woeful Jaguars his entire career, Monroe hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft, but his age and athleticism could be attractive in providing the Ravens with long-term stability at a position that’s been in flux for franchise quarterback Joe Flacco’s entire career. Furthermore, the Ravens generally aren’t in the business of trading multiple draft picks for a short-term fix.

The possibility of Monroe being an answer at left tackle for the next few years would be much more valuable than the short-term wake-up call to help a flawed Ravens offense for the remainder of the 2013 season.

“Tackle is a hot commodity in the league,” running back Ray Rice said. “Anytime you find a young tackle that’s as athletic as him, have a chance to get him, and take him out of a situation where he can get a fresh start — it usually works out in the guy’s favor. I’m looking forward to getting him here and catching him up to speed.”

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Ravens acquire Jaguars left tackle Monroe for third-day picks

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Ravens acquire Jaguars left tackle Monroe for third-day picks

Posted on 01 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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With plenty of concerning surrounding their offensive line, the Ravens have reportedly made a significant move to address the situation with the acquisition of Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe.

According to multiple reports, general manager Ozzie Newsome is sending fourth- and fifth-round picks in the 2014 draft to Jacksonville in exchange for Monroe, a fifth-year tackle who has started 62 games in his NFL career after being selected with the eighth overall pick of the 2009 draft. He is under contract through this season with a base salary of $3.8 million after voiding the 2014 year of his original rookie deal.

Monroe is regarded as an above-average left tackle by most in the league, but his days in Jacksonville appeared numbered when the Jaguars selected offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick in this past April’s draft.

“It was shocking news,” Monroe told The Associated Press. “It came out of nowhere for me. I’m just preparing to make the move. It’s a fresh start.”

The move creates a gloomy picture for veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who has struggled through the first four games of the season. McKinnie signed a two-year, $6.3 million deal that included a $2 million signing bonus in May to remain in Baltimore after fielding other free-agent offers from Miami and San Diego.

McKinnie told WNST.net he was aware of the trade and that the coaching staff had informed him of the move before the news broke late Tuesday night. Though McKinnie hasn’t been the biggest problem along the offensive line, the Ravens rank 28th in rushing offense and are averaging an anemic 2.6 yards per carry this season after setting a franchise record for fewest rushing attempts (nine) in their Week 4 loss to Buffalo.

The 6-foot-5, 306-pound Monroe went to the University of Virginia and is expected to arrive in Baltimore to take his physical on Wednesday.

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