Tag Archive | "Jameel McClain"

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McClain out for rest of season with spinal cord contusion

Posted on 17 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens defense suffered another crippling hit on Monday with the announcement that linebacker Jameel McClain has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a spinal cord contusion.

The fifth-year inside linebacker suffered the injury in Baltimore’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Dec. 9 and was ruled out for the Denver game early last week. McClain saw two specialists, including one in Los Angeles over the weekend.

“He’ll be done for the season,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He will not have time to heal before the end of the season.”

With McClain and fellow inside linebackers Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe sidelined for Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Ravens were forced to use the combination of Josh Bynes, Albert McClellan, and Brendon Ayanbadejo at the inside backer positions. Ellerbe tested out his injured ankle prior to being ruled inactive against the Broncos while Lewis remains on injured reserve with the designation to return after suffering a torn right triceps on Oct. 14.

Both Lewis and Ellerbe could return this week to play against the New York Giants, which would provide a major shot in the arm to a struggling defense that allowed 163 rushing yards in their third consecutive loss.

Signed to a new three-year contract last offseason, McClain ranked second on the team with 79 tackles and had three pass breakups in 13 starts this season. The former undrafted free agent from Syracuse was filling in for Lewis at the Mike linebacker position and relaying the defensive calls in the 17-year-linebacker’s absence.

Harbaugh didn’t rule out the possibility of signing another linebacker to take McClain’s place on the roster, but the Ravens are hopeful that Lewis and Ellerbe are close to their respective returns. Baltimore would need to make a roster move to activate Lewis from the IR-designated to return list. Practice squad member Nigel Carr would be the other logical in-house candidate to take McClain’s place on the 53-man roster.

“We might need to [sign somebody],” Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see how that goes [and] who’s available.”

McClain becomes the third defensive starter from Week 1 to land on IR, joining Lewis and top cornerback Lardarius Webb.

 

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McClain out for Sunday’s game against Broncos

Posted on 12 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Entering the week with optimism over the chance of linebacker Ray Lewis possibly returning to play against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens will be without fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain for Sunday’s game.

McClain suffered a neck injury in the third quarter of the 31-28 loss to the Washington Redskins and didn’t return. Coach John Harbaugh said McClain would be OK during his Monday press conference but said the fifth-year linebacker would not be ready in time to play this Sunday. He was officially ruled out for Sunday’s game on Wednesday’s injury report.

“Jameel McClain will not make it to the game,” Harbaugh said. “We’re talking a look at the neck [and] back. There’s nothing major there, but he will not make it to this game. We’re going to do some more tests and things like that just to see down the road where he’ll be.”

With McClain out and Dannell Ellerbe’s status in question against the Broncos, the possibility of Lewis returning becomes more of a necessity, but the 37-year-old linebacker was absent from the portion of practice open to media on Wednesday, joining Ellerbe (ankle) and McClain as non-participants. Lewis is eligible to come off the injured reserve list this week, and it has been reported by several outlets over the last few weeks that he was targeting a Week 15 return against Peyton Manning and Denver. He wasn’t listed on Wednesday’s injury report, because the team is not required to include him since he isn’t part of the active roster.

Lewis hasn’t played since suffering a right torn triceps against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 14 and has spent the last eight weeks on IR with the designation to return. Should the Ravens be without Lewis and Ellerbe for Sunday’s game, they would be faced with the combination of Brendon Ayanbadejo, Albert McClellan, and Josh Bynes playing the inside linebacker spots.

In addition to the trio of linebackers, the Ravens were also without right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), fullback Vonta Leach (ankle), safety Bernard Pollard (ribs), and defensive linemen Pernell McPhee (groin) and Arthur Jones (right shoulder bruise) during Wednesday’s workout.

Of those players, Yanda’s status is the most concerning after he suffered a “somewhat serious” ankle sprain in overtime against Washington that left him in a walking boot and on crutches following the game. He was noncommittal when asked about his status against the Broncos.

“There’s nothing to announce on any other guys today,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll know more by the end of the week in terms of how much they are going to be able to practice and stuff like that. I’d say that they all have a chance to get there. Some have a higher chance than others, but I’m not going to get into those percentages today.”

On a positive note, tight end Ed Dickson (knee) returned to the practice field on a limited basis for the first time since being injured against the San Diego Chargers in Week 12. Linebacker Terrell Suggs (torn right biceps) was also practicing on Wednesday after missing Sunday’s game against the Redskins.

Dickson described himself as “day to day” after missing the last two games with a hyperextended knee.

“I’m living in the treatment center getting it ready,” Dickson said. “I don’t want to be out there at 50 percent. That’s not going to help the team. They need a 100-percent me.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith practiced full for the first time since undergoing sports hernia surgery last month. He practiced on a limited basis all last week before sitting out against Washington.

To replace suspended rookie cornerback Asa Jackson on the 53-man roster, the Ravens promoted safety Omar Brown from the practice squad and signed outside linebacker D.J. Bryant to take Brown’s place on the developmental unit.

Bryant played his college football at James Madison and graduated from Randallstown High School.

Here is Wednesday’s full injury report, which doesn’t include Lewis since he has yet to be placed back on the 53-man roster …

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Jameel McClain (neck)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle), DT Arthur Jones (shoulder), FB Vonta Leach (ankle), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh), S Bernard Pollard (chest), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Ed Dickson (knee), RB Bernard Pierce (back), RB Ray Rice (hip), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Jacoby Jones (ankle), S Ed Reed (shoulder), CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen), WR Deonte Thompson (thigh), WR LaQuan Williams (thigh)

DENVER
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Chris Kuper (ankle), LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Trindon Holliday (knee), WR Demaryius Thomas (shoulder), WR Matthew Willis (knee)

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Yanda headlines extensive list of injury concerns heading into Week 15

Posted on 10 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Turning a new page with the dismissal of Cam Cameron and the promotion of Jim Caldwell to the offensive coordinator position, the Ravens now redirect their attention to an extensive list of health concerns heading into a Week 15 meeting with the red-hot Denver Broncos.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs’ status continues to be a major question mark, but the Ravens added another marquee name to the list of walking wounded after Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda suffered a sprained ankle in the opening series of overtime in Baltimore’s 31-28 loss to the Redskins. The sixth-year lineman left the locker room on crutches but was able to put weight on the injured ankle before he was fitted with a walking boot.

Coach John Harbaugh expressed concern over Yanda’s status moving forward as the offensive lineman will undergo further testing this week. Veteran Bobbie Williams would presumably take over at the right guard position should Yanda miss any game action.

“We’ll continue to have [his ankle] evaluated, and we’ll let you know later in the week — once he gets an MRI on that — exactly how serious that is,” Harbaugh said. “But, it seems like a somewhat serious ankle sprain, but it is not an ankle break in any way.”

Suggs missed his first game since suffering a torn right biceps in the Ravens’ Week 13 loss to Pittsburgh as he was deemed unready to play against Washington. The 30-year-old linebacker has vowed to play again this season and avoid injured reserve, but he has also acknowledged his need to be effective in addition to questions over how much pain he can tolerate.

The rainy conditions at FedEx Field also contributed to the decision for Suggs to sit out, according to the head coach. Harbaugh said the Pro Bowl linebacker has a “good chance” to play against the Broncos after missing his seventh game of the season on Sunday.

“He was close. That was a decision right before the game that was made between he and I,” Harbaugh said. “We just decided the conditions and those kinds of things, it was better for him safety-wise to not play in that game.”

The Ravens could also see the return of inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who began practicing last week and is now eligible to be activated from injured reserve after making a remarkable recovery from right triceps surgery. Lewis suffered the tear in the Ravens’ win over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 14 and was placed on IR with the designation to return later that week.

Should Lewis play against the Broncos, it would be just over eight weeks after he underwent surgery to repair the tear. The typical recovery time for that type of injury is a minimum of four months.

“He’s making good progress, and we’ll just have to see how he practices this week,” Harbaugh said. “Going into Wednesday, we’ll know a lot more, I think, because he’s going to push it a little bit over the next two days. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.”

Harbaugh offered good news on inside linebacker Jameel McClain, who suffered an injured neck in the second half of Sunday’s game and didn’t return. McClain’s loss forced the Ravens to use Albert McClellan, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and former practice squad member Josh Bynes at inside linebacker since Dannell Ellerbe missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.

McClain tied for the team lead with eight tackles despite missing a significant portion of the game.

“He’s got to get some testing done, but he should be OK,” Harbaugh said. “That’s standard procedure.”

Tight end Ed Dickson and cornerback Jimmy Smith may also return to game action this week, depending on how well they progress in practices. The third-year tight end has missed the last two games after suffering a hyperextended knee in the Ravens’ win at San Diego on Nov. 25.

Smith has missed the Ravens’ last five road games and underwent sports hernia surgery on Nov. 15. The 2011 first-round pick returned to practice on a limited basis last week before he was listed as doubtful for the Washington game.

“Ed Dickson looks better. He ran a little bit today, so he’ll have a chance to go on Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see. And Jimmy Smith, the same thing. We’ll take a look on Sunday and see how he looks in the week leading up to Sunday.”

Harbaugh also mentioned a number of players dealing with minor injuries including running backs Ray Rice (left hip contusion), Bernard Pierce (lower back strain), and Vonta Leach (ankle), defensive linemen Arthur Jones (right shoulder bruise) and Pernell McPhee (groin), and safety Bernard Pollard (ribs). None of those players are believed to be in danger of missing Sunday’s game.

The Ravens coach went out of his way to compliment Pollard for pushing through the rib injury he initially sustained against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. The strong safety hasn’t missed any game action despite dealing with the injury and regularly receiving treatment after practices and games.

“Bernard continues to work with the ribs,” Harbaugh said. “He’s doing a great job fighting through that. There’s no tougher guy — football player — than Bernard Pollard.”

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Yanda, McClain exit Sunday’s loss with injuries

Posted on 09 December 2012 by Luke Jones

LANDOVER, Md. — The Ravens added injury to the insult of a disappointing 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins with the loss of two more starters on Sunday.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda exited in the fourth quarter with a right ankle injury and didn’t return while starting inside linebacker Jameel McClain left Sunday’s game in the third quarter with a neck injury and was sidelined for the remainder of the afternoon. Coach John Harbaugh confirmed X-rays were negative on McClain’s neck.

“That’s good news,” Harbaugh said of the preliminary results.

The immediate status of Yanda remains a mystery as there was much concern over his injured ankle following the game. The sixth-year lineman was helped to the sideline as he put no weight on his right leg before being carted to the locker room. Following the loss, Yanda left the Ravens locker room using crutches but was able to put some weight on the ankle as he moved to the team bus.

Veteran Bobbie Williams filled in at right guard in Yanda’s absence while McClain was replaced by former practice squad member Josh Bynes in the second half. The Ravens were already without starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury.

The Ravens also reported minor injuries to running back Ray Rice and fullback Vonta Leach. Rice suffered a hip pointer and Leach sustained an ankle injury, but neither is considered to be serious considering both players finished the game.

Rice ran for 120 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and did not appear to be favoring the injury in the locker room.

Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs didn’t play in Sunday’s game as his status remains uncertain moving forward after he suffered a torn right biceps in last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On the plus side, the Ravens hope to see the returns of inside linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Jimmy Smith this week as they turn their attention to the red-hot Denver Broncos for Week 15.

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Ravens hoping to avoid being held up by “pistol” attack

Posted on 06 December 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A pair of rookies in Washington has given NFL defenses fits all season long as the Ravens will become the latest team to encounter Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris on Sunday afternoon.

As if their talents alone weren’t challenging enough, the use of the pistol formation and the option attack have made it even more difficult to contain Washington’s top-ranked rushing attack. The alignment involves Griffin lining up in an abbreviated shotgun look — four yards behind the center — with Morris lining up behind him. This allows the quarterback to get a better look at the defensive alignment and often dupes defensive fronts into focusing on motion in the backfield instead of playing assignments and maintaining gap control.

On what do you key to slow the unique offensive scheme? Is it the zone stretch plays or occasional inside handoffs to Morris, who enters Week 14 tied for third in the NFL with 1,106 rushing yards? Is the focus on Griffin’s speed and athleticism that have led to 714 rushing yards and six touchdowns? Or on his impressive passing skills in play-action that have led to the league’s third-best quarterback rating at 104.4?

What’s the most crucial factor?

“Discipline,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “Discipline, because you must count on the next man. You must because everybody is going to have a certain assignment and if one person falls off his assignment, everything collapses. It’s definitely the understanding that we are all on a chain.”

Facing an offense with so many moving parts and possibilities — including fullback Darrel Young and tight end Logan Paulsen who will occasionally flank Griffin in the pistol — it’s important for each defender to focus less on the movement in the backfield and more on his specific job on a given play. Unlike most passing-challenged quarterbacks who run the option in college, however, Griffin’s rare blend of physical tools makes stopping the novelty offense much more of a headache.

The Ravens can only hope practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon can provide the type of look needed to prepare the defense for Griffin’s play-making ability.

“Have your eyes on what your responsibility is,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “If it’s a dive, if it’s the quarterback, if it’s the pitch in the option, whatever it is, having your eyes on what you have. You have a responsibility, you have a technique, and you have to perform that thing.”

The Redskins have relied on the running game for most of the season — with Griffin’s legs heavily involved as well — but the return of top wide receiver Pierre Garcon has allowed the Washington passing attack to take off in recent weeks.

In his last three games, Griffin has tossed nine touchdown passes compared to one interception, including back-to-back four-touchdown games against Philadelphia and Dallas. Meanwhile, Garcon — limited all season with a foot injury — has caught 12 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games.

Garcon’s return from injury has transformed an ordinary group of wide receivers that includes Santana Moss and Josh Morgan into a dangerous unit Baltimore defensive backs must stay with in coverage despite the temptation of keeping their eyes in the backfield at the Redskins’ rushing attack.

All other factors aside, Washington’s offensive success begins and ends with Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick of April’s draft. A threat to run or pass while rolling out or standing in the pocket, there’s no simple way to stop him as few defenses have been successful in slowing him down despite the Redskins’ underwhelming 6-6 record.

“He’s the perfect quarterback for that [offense],” said McClain, who hasn’t played against an option attack since his days at Syracuse facing Pat White and West Virginia. “He has the arm to get all of the passes done out of that, and he definitely goes through with all the actions. Everybody knows he has the speed, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

Sunday might be the rare instance in which the Ravens’ inconsistent pass rush — which could be without linebacker Terrell Suggs — might be a blessing in disguise with Griffin a threat to leave the pocket at any moment.

Pees’ defense will still try to make Griffin uncomfortable when he drops back, but out-of-control spins and moves in which pass rushers crash inside will defer to proper positioning at the line of scrimmage to collapse the pocket while keeping the rookie quarterback surrounded. Unlike the manner in which teams dealt with athletic quarterback Michael Vick early in his career, however, teams have a greater fear of this rookie quarterback burning them with his throwing arm if they simply allow him to stand tall in the pocket.

A defense can play its assignment, but there’s only so much you can do after that from a schematic standpoint against a rare talent like his.

“You need to still rush the passer,” Pees said. “You can’t go in there thinking this guy is going to scramble. You have to come in with the right leverage, the right spot. He may still get out of it because he is such a great athlete. I can’t coach [against] athleticism — you really can’t.”

If all else breaks down for the Baltimore defense in trying to attack the many layers of Washington’s pistol formation, the Ravens won’t hesitate in simplifying their approach against Griffin and the entire offense.

“We’ve got to hit him,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “Every chance we get. Just hit him, hit whoever has the ball.”

 

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Ravens preparing to face returning foe Polamalu

Posted on 29 November 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will enter Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers having not lost a contest at M&T Bank Stadium in 727 days, possessing the longest active home winning streak in the NFL with 15 straight regular-season victories.

But ask anyone with ties to the organization and they’ll tell you the streak should be even longer, as it was the Steelers who last beat the Ravens in Baltimore on Dec. 5, 2010. A run of 23 wins in 24 tries at home is still an incredible feat in the parity-driven NFL, but the efforts of Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu helped prevent the Ravens from holding a flawless home record for well over three years.

As the 31-year-old defensive back prepares to make his long-awaited return from a calf injury on Sunday, the image of his sack-and-strip of quarterback Joe Flacco with just over three minutes remaining to set up the game-winning touchdown for the Steelers two years ago will undoubtedly be on the Ravens’ minds. Instead of collecting a couple first downs to run out the clock and collect a 10-6 victory, Baltimore fell victim once again to a big play by Polamalu and lost hold of the 2010 AFC North title and a first-round bye in the process.

“Everybody watching TV at home, everybody in the stadium, you all know you see 43 at the line, four-minute offense, he’s coming,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs in the moments following that 13-10 loss. “It was just like, I hope we have a plan. It just didn’t feel good when I saw that hair at the line.”

Two years later, the circumstances are dramatically different as the Ravens enjoy a three-game lead in the division and can eliminate the Steelers from AFC North contention and put their playoff hopes in serious peril with a win. Polamalu hasn’t played since Oct. 7 and has appeared in only two games this season while the Pittsburgh defense has still managed to remain first in the league in yards allowed.

But with a healthy Polamalu on the field, the Ravens know they face a unique challenge in addition to the already-stout defense that held them to no offensive touchdowns and just 200 total yards despite a 13-10 win at Heinz Field two weeks ago. Dropping into coverage or lining up to blitz at the line of scrimmage, Polamalu must be identified by Flacco and the Baltimore offense on every play.

“With Troy, you have to be aware of him at all times,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve done a great job of playing defense back there without Troy. So, you add a guy like that in the mix, obviously, what a factor that can be.”

With it looking more unlikely that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play on Sunday, it’s difficult to imagine many scenarios in which the Pittsburgh offense can provide enough punch with third-string quarterback Charlie Batch in line to receive the start. The Ravens offense must be smart with the football despite their preference for playing aggressively at home, and that’s where Polamalu’s return could be a factor.

Much like Ravens safety Ed Reed, health concerns have taken a toll on Polamalu’s play-making ability, but his presence on the field alone gives Flacco a significant headache he didn’t face two weeks ago when he struggled to make plays against Pittsburgh’s top-ranked secondary. Protecting the football will be paramount, and it was a failure to identify Polamalu late in the game two years ago that netted the Ravens their only loss at M&T Bank Stadium since Nov. 22, 2009.

“He just has a good knack for the game of football,” Flacco said. “He usually can figure out where the ball is going. He just has a feel for the game. While you try to combat that and account for him, there is always a certain amount that you really can’t account for what he is going to do. You just have to go out there, play your game, and take care of him by playing sound, fundamental football.”

Pees with good problem on hands

With linebacker Ray Lewis’ anticipated return before the end of the regular season, the questions have already been raised over how the Ravens should handle his workload with fourth-year player Dannell Ellerbe playing so well in the starting lineup.

A few have taken the extreme position that the Baltimore defense is better off without the 37-year-old, but most would at least agree it’s worth discussing the possibility of Lewis not playing every snap with the thought of keeping him fresh and hiding his suspect coverage in obvious passing situations. It’s not an easy discussion to have should coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome decide on that course of action, but now might be the time to do it with Lewis making a quicker-than-expected recovery from a torn triceps.

It’s too early to speculate how the Ravens will act with Lewis not yet practicing, but it’s a good dilemma to have with Ellerbe and fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain doing an admirable job filling in for the middle of the defense. The reality is they’d like to have all three on the field as much as possible to enhance their strengths and compensate for potential shortcomings.

“I’d rather have that problem than to try to figure out who the heck is going to be playing because we have a bunch of injuries, which we’ve had to do,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “It’s always a good thing for a coach. It may not be a good thing for the players, but it’s always a good thing for the coaches.”

The better question might be whether the Ravens elect to keep Ellerbe at the “Will” linebacker spot over McClain, who has filled in at Lewis’ “Mike” backer position in the veteran’s absence. Ellerbe is stronger in pass coverage and has had the better overall season, but McClain has raised his level of play in recent weeks as well.

In the mean time, Pees appreciates having Lewis back at the team’s Owings Mills facility this week as he continues to rehab his right arm before returning to the practice field in the not-too-distant future.

“I’ve told you guys before that going in and coaching him and watching him in the meetings sit back there and take notes like a rookie, that’s why he is who he is,” Pees sad. “Really for the younger guys, but really for us older guys — to me — he’s a perfect pro.”

Jones continues to receive accolades

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Healthier Ravens make final preparations for New England

Posted on 21 September 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 3:15 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens conducted their final full practice of the week in preparation for their Sunday night showdown with the New England Patriots and appeared to be working with their full 53-man squad.

Though they performed their traditional “jersey swap” for Friday’s practice, all players listed on Thursday’s injury report were present and working, including offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf).

Safety Bernard Pollard (chest), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Jameel McClain (knee), and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) were all practicing during the portion of practice open to the media. All four defensive starters were listed as limited participants for Thursday’s practice after sitting out Wednesday.

Listed as full participants on Thursday, linebacker Paul Kruger (back) and left tackle Michael Oher (ankle) were both working and no longer appear to be a concern for Sunday’s game.

Reid was practicing — likely on a limited basis — for the first time since suffering a setback during training camp. The second-year offensive lineman injured his calf during the team’s mandatory minicamp in June and experience two different setbacks that kept him sidelined for nearly the entire preseason.

“As a coach-doctor — that we are as head coaches in the National Football League — you start learning about all these little injuries. I’ve learned that calves take a long time to heal. I was not aware of that. But he is getting back, he is getting closer. So, it will be good to have him back in the mix.”

The Ravens will wear their purple jerseys with white pants on Sunday night as the forecast calls for temperatures to be in the high 50s for the prime-time affair.

The referee will be Bruce Hermansen, who carries 37 years of experience officiating Div. II and III college football games as well as high school and semipro. However, he was responsible for awarding the Seattle Seahawks an extra timeout in the second half of their Week 1 loss at Arizona.

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Pees entrusted with slowing former team’s offense

Posted on 20 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Dean Pees spent 25 years in coaching before Bill Belichick gave him his first opportunity in the NFL.

So, you’ll forgive the new Ravens defensive coordinator if this Sunday’s meeting with the New England Patriots means a lot more than just a rematch of last January’s AFC Championship game. After spending six years working under Belichick, it’s always special for Pees to go up against his old team.

“It’s always an emotional day,” Pees said. “I’m not going to lie about that and act like it’s just another game. It’s a big game for me. It’s kind of like when you go out and you play golf against somebody and you want to win, but when you play your brothers, you really want to win. There’s a lot of friends over there on the other sideline, a lot of old colleagues, a lot of players that I coached.”

Sunday night’s game marks the first time that Pees faces the Patriots as a defensive coordinator, which is the post he held with New England from 2006 through 2009. His defenses ranked in the top 11 in total yards allowed in all four of those seasons and ranked no worse than eighth in points surrendered.

His departure from the Patriots still remains a mystery as Pees cited “personal reasons” for electing not to return upon having his contract expire after the 2009 season. It was widely speculated that Pees chose to leave the organization for health reasons as he experienced shortness of breath and was taken to the hospital in the regular-season finale of that season.

Others believe the Patriots weren’t completely enamored with his work as the defensive coordinator and privately didn’t want him to return. Regardless of what caused his departure, Pees immediately joined the Baltimore staff to coach the linebackers and became the defensive coordinator this offseason when Chuck Pagano was hired as the new coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

“Dean’s a very experienced coach,” Belichick said. “He’s done very well at a lot of different levels. [He] did a good job for us here — coached the linebackers, coached the secondary, was the defensive coordinator — and had a great experience on that side of the ball.”

Now Pees will be asked to slow one of the best offenses in the NFL over the last decade. Having already employed extensive use of the nickel package in the team’s first two games, Pees will likely copy the formula used by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 — they played the nickel for nearly the entire game — to slow quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game.

Unfortunately for the 63-year-old coordinator, he won’t have one of his sounding boards to offer ideas for this week. Pees remains close with his former boss in New England, who is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in NFL history.

“We still speak on occasion when we’re playing a team that’s a common opponent and we aren’t playing each other,” Pees said. “In certain years, we’ll discuss things. It’s a great relationship.”

Special teams improvement

After being ranked 30th in the league in special teams efficiency by FootballOutsiders.com last season, the Ravens have shown much improvement through the first two weeks of the regular season.

In addition to rookie kicker Justin Tucker going 6-for-6 on field goals — with 2 beyond 50 yards — and Sam Koch punting effectively, the coverage units have shown marked improvement after allowing three return touchdowns last season. After finishing 31st in kickoff coverage last season, the Ravens are sixth in the league with opponents averaging only 18.8 yards per return. Baltimore is tied for 15th in punt return coverage as opponents have gained 10.4 yards per return attempt.

Improving the special teams units was an offseason priority as the Ravens added a few veterans with special teams experience and re-signed three-time Pro Bowl special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo.

“Our players that we look to make plays on special teams and coverage aspect – and in blocking – really played well,” Rosburg said. “Brendon had an excellent game; he had three tackles. Sean Considine had a couple of tackles. Corey Graham had a couple tackles. Sam [Koch] punted the ball very well. So, our players were making plays, and that was encouraging.”

Ayanbadejo has been honest in his assessment of the Ravens’ special teams units last season, citing a lack of commitment from younger players more interested in improving their standing on offense or defense and the lack of an offseason to fine-tune the coverage units.

“We took turns making mistakes,” Ayanbadejo said. “This year, the main thing is just consistency, not making those mistakes. And if we do, just make it one time and don’t have everybody rotate making mistakes because one breakdown can lead to a touchdown. That’s kind of what you saw last year.”

On Sunday, the Ravens even attempted to run a fake punt on a fourth-and-4 play from their own 43 in the first series of the second quarter. Considine appeared to have daylight in front of him after taking the snap but tripped over teammate James Ihedigbo, stopping him short of the first down. Rosburg took the blame Wednesday when asked what went wrong with the trick play.

The special teams coach went as far as to suggest it could have gone for a touchdown.

“I didn’t coach the timing of that play well enough,” Rosburg said. “If we had the timing down, it wouldn’t have mattered what happened. He probably would have stopped somewhere out there by General Washington’s encampment.”

McClain on outside looking in

The Ravens spent plenty of time in the nickel package against the Eagles in Week 2, meaning inside linebacker Jameel McClain was often replaced by fourth-year linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who is regarded to be stronger in pass coverage.

This left the Ravens with more flexibility to experiment with McClain at outside linebacker since Paul Kruger missed Sunday’s game with a back injury. A former defensive end at Syracuse, the fifth-year linebacker hadn’t played on the outside since his rookie season in which he mostly played special teams and saw limited action in passing situations.

Pees has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush without the use of blitzes, so it was an interesting choice to see McClain line up at rush linebacker on a few occasions.

“It’s something that I did in college. It’s a learning curve,” McClain said. “It’s something I’ve got to get back used to if I ever get the opportunity again. But, I got the chance and I hope the coaches believe I made the best out of it. With more opportunity, [there are] a lot more things I can do.”

 

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Pollard, three others return to practice on Thursday

Posted on 20 September 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after four defensive starters sat out practice, the Ravens looked much better from a health standpoint on Thursday as all four returned to the practice field.

Safety Bernard Pollard (ribs), cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Jameel McClain (knee), and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) were all present during the portion of practice open to the media. They were listed as non-participants on Wednesday’s injury report.

Pollard reiterated he would play on Sunday after declaring himself ready to go on Wednesday. He spent time hitting a blocking sled during the opening portion of practice and appeared ready to go.

“I’m ready to go,” Pollard said prior to Thursday’s workout. “When my mind is made up that I’m going, I’m not going to hold anything back and I will not. Nobody really cares. Once I’m in uniform, everybody expects plays to be made and they expect you to win. I’m playing; it’s going to be all good.”

McClain said before practice that his knee felt good and wasn’t concerned. He briefly left Sunday’s game with the injury before returning to action against the Eagles.

Linebacker Paul Kruger (back) and left tackle Michael Oher (ankle) were present and working after being classified as limited participants on Wednesday.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) was present for practice but was not working.

Here’s a look at Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: T Jah Reid (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Paul Kruger (back), T Michael Oher (ankle)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Justin Francis (ankle), TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Dan Connolly (concussion), DE Brandon Deaderick (ankle), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), TE Daniel Fells (shin), WR Brandon Lloyd (thigh), G Logan Mankins (hip), C Nick McDonald (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (foot), T Sebastian Vollmer (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Patrick Chung (shoulder)

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Four defensive starters absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 19 September 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:05 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Turning their full attention to the New England Patriots with their first official practice of the week, the Ravens were missing four defensive starters on Wednesday.

After missing the final three quarters of Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, strong safety Bernard Pollard (rib contusion) was absent during the portion of practice open to the media. This came as a mild surprise after Pollard had spoken to the media less than two hours earlier and implied that he would be on the practice field.

“I’m ready to go,” Pollard said before Wednesday’s practice. “I know my dogs are going to be ready. We’ve got to be animals out there.”

Pollard’s conviction when talking to reporters Wednesday still bodes well for his status against New England, and coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Pollard’s availability would depend on his tolerance for pain. The veteran safety is regarded as one of the toughest players in the entire NFL.

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee) were also missing from the the open portion of the workokut. McClain briefly left Sunday’s game with what looked like a leg injury, but the fifth-year linebacker soon returned to action.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report for the Philadelphia game, McPhee played against the Eagles after testing out his surgically-repaired right knee prior to the game. He finished with three tackles in Week 2, but the second-year defensive lineman has dealt with knee soreness since undergoing arthroscopic surgery in the spring.

“It held up pretty good,” said McPhee when asked how the knee held up against the Eagles. “I mean, after the first half, it was kind of stiff. But after that, I started rolling.”

A surprise appearance on the injury report was made by cornerback Lardarius Webb, who was listed as a non-participant despite being present and dressed out to practice during the opening portion of the workout. If Webb had been injured during practice, he would have been listed as a limited participant, making it likely that the Ravens planned to hold him out all along.

Linebacker Paul Kruger practiced on Wednesday after he was held out of Sunday’s game with a back injury. The fourth-year defensive player missed two days of practice last week before working on a limited basis on Friday.

He expressed optimism that he would be able to play, but rookie Courtney Upshaw started in his place at the strongside linebacker position.

“It’s feeling good,” Kruger said prior to Wednesday’s workout. “I’m going to be out there today running around. I’m just excited to get out there this week. Big game for us. I’m doing everything I can to get healthy. It’s killing me not to be out there every day.”

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) was observing practicing but was not participating.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (ribs) told the media he was feeling much better after admitting he had his ribs rolled under early in the second half of Sunday’s game.

Here is Wednesday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), T Jah Reid (calf), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Paul Kruger (back), T Michael Oher (ankle)

NEW ENGLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Dan Connolly (concussion), CB Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring), TE Daniel Fells (shin), DT Justin Francis (ankle), WR Brandon Lloyd (thigh), C Nick McDonald (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), RB Shane Vereen (foot), T Sebastian Vollmer (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Patrick Chung (shoulder)

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