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Elam thankful to have another opportunity with Ravens

Posted on 25 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWING MILLS, Md. — Matt Elam’s return to the practice field on Tuesday might have gone unnoticed by observers if not for a copy of the Ravens roster being handy.

Sporting a new jersey — No. 33 — and suiting up for his first full-team workout since undergoing knee surgery in August, the 2013 first-round pick knows there are no guarantees in the final season of his rookie contract. Drafted just three months after Super Bowl XLVII and several weeks after the departure of future Hall of Famer Ed Reed, Elam was supposed to take the torch as the next great Baltimore safety.

Instead, he’s come to symbolize frustration with recent drafts and the scarcity of young impact players on the Baltimore roster since that championship. Needing more depth at the safety position and with no other logical candidates, the Ravens have designated Elam to return from injured reserve, meaning he can now practice for up to 21 days and is eligible to play as soon as the Nov. 10 game against Cleveland.

“That means they believe in me a little bit and it means a lot for me, giving me a little confidence and things like that,” said Elam, who missed the entire 2015 season with a torn biceps. “It’s a great feeling. I’m happy to have the opportunity and I’m thankful for it. I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity I have.”

Expectations won’t be that high for a player who failed to prove himself as a starter over his first two seasons and was eventually demoted to a nickel role in 2014. In 32 career games (26 starts), the 25-year-old Elam has collected 127 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble, and seven pass breakups.

Often lost in coverage and guilty of missing too many tackles despite a reputation for being a hard hitter at the University of Florida, Elam earned praise for being in better shape and practicing well in the spring and summer. Of course, similar sentiments were shared by coaches in previous years, but Elam made a strong impression with new secondary coach Leslie Frazier, who had no previous investment in his development as a player.

“He was really having a good camp for us. He did a good job in OTAs and everything we had done in the offseason,” Frazier said. “As a coaching staff, we were really looking forward to watching him progress over the course of the preseason. Then, the injury occurred. Now, we will have to wait and see how he progresses over these next few weeks as we are trying to make a determination whether to get him back up again. But his ball skills, his toughness, his athletic ability — it was showing up.”

The Ravens can only hope it’s better late than never for one of the most disappointing first-round picks in franchise history.

Still confident in Hester

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester hasn’t made near the impact the Ravens envisioned when they signed the 33-year-old to a one-year contract in early September.

With Hester having already fumbled four times in six games — twice in Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets — and not looking explosive returning kicks, many have wondered how many more opportunities the Ravens will give the future Hall of Famer. For now, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg remains confident in the man with the most kick and punt return touchdowns in NFL history, citing a lingering thigh injury as the biggest challenge.

“It’s affecting him in two ways: one is just his ability to move and the other is his ability to practice,” said Rosburg, who added that Hester’s technique trying to catch the ball hasn’t been the issue. “It’s a tough skill, and he needs to practice. The practice he’s been getting is in pre-game warm-ups, and that’s not enough. I’m hopeful these next two weeks he’ll be able to get healthy and be able to be out there next time and do better in the ball-security areas.”

Hester also underwent offseason toe surgery, which prompted Atlanta to release him over the summer. Head coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence in Hester on Monday before acknowledging the possibility of his age preventing him from getting and staying healthy.

Under the radar

After a frustrating 2015 season coming back from Lisfranc surgery on his left foot, cornerback Jimmy Smith is coming on for an improved Ravens defense in a major way.

Smith held Odell Beckham Jr. to just one catch for six yards before exiting the Week 6 contest with a concussion, which allowed the Giants wide receiver to go nuts against the rest of the Baltimore secondary in the second half. Against the Jets, the 2011 first-round pick primarily traveled with No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught only three passes for 39 yards in the game.

“Jimmy is an underrated guy in a lot of ways,” said Frazier, who first met Smith before the 2011 draft when he was the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. “He can tackle. He can match up on top receivers. He is having an under-the-radar outstanding season, and hopefully he can stay healthy and it continues. He allows us to do a lot of things.

“One of the reasons we were leading the league through five games with the least amount of big plays had a lot to do with the play of Jimmy Smith. As soon as he goes out for a period of time, we [gave up] some explosive plays. Getting him back was a big plus, and hopefully, he will stay healthy.”

The 28-year-old Smith has 18 tackles and one pass breakup this season.

Missing the man in the middle

It’s no secret that the Ravens have struggled in pass coverage in the middle of the field over the last two weeks, which coincides with the absence of inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Mosley not only leads the team with three interceptions, but he has made a smooth transition to the “Mike” linebacker spot after veteran Daryl Smith was released in the offseason. Zach Orr and Albert McClellan have handled the inside linebacker spots with Mosley out.

“Anytime you have your leader in the middle of the defense and he’s missing — not a knock to any second-string quarterbacks in the league — it’s like having a second-string quarterback out there,” linebackers coach Don Martindale said. “It is different. Sure, you would like to have C.J. out there all of the time.”

Mosley did not practice on Tuesday as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 5 loss to Washington.

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For Ravens left tackle Stanley, not being noticed is good thing

Posted on 24 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Most teams would have trepidation starting a rookie at left tackle to block for a franchise quarterback coming back from a major knee injury.

But that fear doesn’t seem to resonate with the Ravens as Ronnie Stanley continues to go about his business in his first summer protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside. In fact, the 2016 first-round pick is hardly being discussed when coaches are grading the tape from daily practices.

The Ravens hope that continues with Flacco making his preseason debut against Detroit on Saturday night, his first start since tearing two ligaments in his left knee on Nov. 22, 2015. The organization wouldn’t have made Stanley their earliest draft pick in 16 years — or released veteran Eugene Monroe this summer — if they didn’t think he was up to the challenge.

“He has just really quietly gone about his business each and every day at practice,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who quipped that the only help he’s given Stanley was to suggest buying bonds. “He is very focused. There is not a lot of stuff going on outside of him just trying to do his job, and it is a really good sign. He has a good, quiet demeanor. He is working extremely hard.”

Questions remain as to who will ultimately replace free-agent departure Kelechi Osemele at left guard — with veteran John Urschel and rookie Alex Lewis being the top candidates — but Stanley has silenced any lingering questions about his readiness with a strong preseason. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman has graded as the best rookie tackle in the NFL and has yet to allow a pressure in the preseason.

Trestman gives much credit to offensive line coach Juan Castillo for getting Stanley to this point, but the Ravens made it clear early on that they felt the polished young tackle was a perfect fit for their outside zone scheme after he played in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame.

“There is nothing that tells you he can’t do this, and the game is not going to be too big for him and the spot is not going to be too big for him,” Trestman said. “That is an important spot, obviously. That is what we are seeing each and every day. We have to assess it and grade it each day and each game. We think he is going to grow into being an outstanding football player.”

Tougher test for Judon

Much of Saturday’s focus will be on veteran players seeing their most extensive action of the preseason, but the coaching staff wants to take a closer look at rookie outside linebacker Matt Judon.

Leading the Ravens in tackles (nine) and sacks (two) in the preseason, Judon has mostly faced second- and third-team offensive players, but head coach John Harbaugh said after Saturday’s win in Indianapolis that they want to put him against some starting-caliber competition. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Judon plays with a style that reminds at least one member of the coaching staff a little bit of Terrell Suggs.

“He’s got pretty good burst coming off the edge for being big and physical,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who also praised Judon’s mental preparation. “I think he’s going to grow into a big guy, kind of like ‘Sizz’ is. I wouldn’t compare him to [Suggs] in any way, shape, or form right now, but I think he’s that style of guy.”

Roster preview on Saturday

With final roster cuts less than two weeks away, the third preseason game often provides good insight into which fringe players are on the right side of the bubble.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg mixes and matches quite a bit on coverage and return units to evaluate young players in the first two preseason games, but we’ll see the real groups — or close to them — in the first half on Saturday. Bubble players appearing on those units figure to have a better chance than those who are absent early on.

“What you will see is the player rotation will be different,” Rosburg said. “We will have guys like Albert McClellan, [who] hasn’t played a rep on special teams so far, and he is one of our best players. He is one of the best in the league. Zach Orr has not played a rep on special teams this preseason. Kyle Juszczyk [hasn’t played a special-teams rep. I could go on and on. The first two preseason games, we are trying to develop players. The third preseason game starts out more like a real game.”

Injury report

Twelve players remained absent from Wednesday’s practice, a group including nose tackle Brandon Williams, left guard John Urschel (contusion), tight ends Dennis Pitta (broken finger), Maxx Williams, and Darren Waller, safeties Kendrick Lewis and Matt Elam (knee), cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion), Jerraud Powers, and Maurice Canady (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle).

Brandon Williams hasn’t practiced since playing in Saturday’s preseason game, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed his unspecified ailment on Tuesday.

“He has a nick or a bruise,” Harbaugh said. “All of the guys that were out today — with the exception of Matt Elam — have non-season-threatening-type issues they’re dealing with. Brandon has one of those, so he’s out because he couldn’t practice.”

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Uncertainty persists at return specialist spot for Ravens

Posted on 15 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — An uncertain return specialist competition became cloudier for the Ravens on Monday with Kaelin Clay being waived.

Despite muffing a punt in the preseason opener, the wide receiver who returned a punt for a touchdown in Cleveland last year had still looked like one of the leading candidates to win the job before injuring his foot during Saturday’s practice. The Ravens replaced Clay on the 90-man roster with wide receiver Darius White, a rookie free agent out of Missouri with virtually no return experience in college.

In seven games for the Ravens last year, Clay averaged 10.6 yards per punt return and 24.5 yards per kick return. He did not have any fumbles.

What this means for the ongoing returner competition is anyone’s guess as the latest depth chart released by the team Monday listed the oft-injured Michael Campanaro as the primary kickoff and punt returner. Former Navy quarterback and 2016 sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds is listed as the backup at both spots.

“For training camp from this point forward, one of the big missions we have is to find out who that player is and how he fits into our roster,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “Just having a returner is the start of it. You have to have a guy that’s able to catch the ball and secure the catch and hang on to it afterwards, but he also needs to fit into your team. That’s the challenge.”

Campanaro might make the most sense on paper, but the Ravens counting on a receiver limited to just eight games in two years because of injuries is a dangerous proposition. Reynolds was interfered with while attempting to catch a punt against Carolina last week, but he was not in good position to field it cleanly before the penalty occurred and head coach John Harbaugh echoed after the game that he remains a work in progress.

The Ravens have made it clear that they want a returner who can also make meaningful contributions at an offensive or defensive position. Rosburg acknowledged that an established veteran such as safety Lardarius Webb could ultimately handle the return duties, but that is clearly not the preference at this time.

“We’ll find out what happens this week in the game,” said Rosburg, who reconfirmed his belief that the right man for the job is on the current roster. “The game reps are so valuable for us. That’s why this last weekend’s game was so disappointing, because we had our first game reps and we put the ball on the ground twice.”

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Ravens ink Pro Bowl long snapper to five-year extension

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens retained another key member of their special teams Monday by announcing a five-year agreement with long snapper Morgan Cox.

The 2015 Pro Bowl selection was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday, but Baltimore has instead locked up the veteran snapper after placing the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker and re-signing special-teams standout Albert McClellan earlier this offseason. Cox has served as the Ravens long snapper since signing as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2010.

“People who study the game know how good Morgan is, and he was certainly deserving of a Pro Bowl honor last year,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said in a team statement. “His consistency is what makes him a great player, and his role in working with both Sam [Koch] and Justin is instrumental to the reliability of the trio.”

Cox has remained one of the most consistent long snappers in the NFL despite suffering torn anterior cruciate ligaments to both knees over the course of his career. The first came in 2010 when Cox tore his left ACL early in the second quarter of a game in Cleveland and managed to finish the rest of the game, a feat that earned him the Ed Block Courage Award.

The 29-year-old injured his right ACL midway through the 2014 season, but he made a full recovery in time for training camp last year.

“I’m looking forward to spending the next five years in Baltimore surrounded by the greatest teammates, coaching staff, and fans in football,” Cox stated. “The Lord has blessed me beyond measure during the last six years, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.”

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Special teams elite once again for Ravens in 2015

Posted on 20 January 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens lacked the playmakers to win consistently in a 5-11 season that included 14 games decided by a single possession, but how did they remain competitive despite having 20 players on injured reserve?

The special teams were once again huge for Baltimore in 2015.

So huge in fact that longtime NFL writer Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News named special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s group first overall in his annual rankings, which consist of the league’s 32 teams being ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing in each. According to Gosselin, the Ravens finished in the top 10 in 14 of the 22 categories to win in convincing fashion while the New York Giants, Jacksonville, Dallas, and Philadelphia rounded out the top five.

The Ravens have now finished in the top five in Gosselin’s rankings in four straight seasons. And if you’re skeptical of only one grading system’s results, Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus also graded Baltimore’s special teams as the finest in the NFL this season.

With punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox each going to their first Pro Bowl, the Ravens were especially proficient in the punting categories. They finished second in the NFL in net punting average and allowed only 5.0 yards per punt return, which was best in the league.

The Ravens also became the first team since Atlanta in 1983 to block a kick — a punt, extra point, or field goal — in five straight games from Oct. 26 through Nov. 30, a streak that culminated with Will Hill’s game-winning 64-yard return for a touchdown off a blocked field goal on the final play in Cleveland.

Special teams rarely grab headlines, but the Ravens earned four of their five victories on the final play of the game with three Justin Tucker field goals and Hill’s return, making you wonder where they might have been with lesser contributions in that area. Rosburg and his special teams deserve plenty of credit in an otherwise-lost season, so it’s fitting that two of his key players will make the trip to Honolulu.

 

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Perriman “frustrated” not to be on field, position coach says

Posted on 03 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman hasn’t spoken publicly since the eve of his first NFL training camp, only adding to the mystery of his knee injury suffered on July 30.

Three months later, the 2015 first-round pick still isn’t playing as Baltimore suffered its worst start in franchise history. After suffering a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp, Perriman aggravated the injury on Sept. 27 and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery a few days later.

Head coach John Harbaugh said last week that Perriman still had a “chance” to play this season, a stark contrast from the initial diagnosis that the 6-foot-2 wideout had merely fallen on his knee and would only miss a day or two of practice.

“He has been a little frustrated,” wide receivers coach Bobby Engram said on Tuesday. “I think he wants to be out there. He wants to compete. He wants to play. But at the same time, he realizes he has to go through this process and get himself healthy.”

Harbaugh called Perriman’s injury “one of the all-time slowesthealing sprained PCLs ever” last month, a description that might be accurate but didn’t do much to help the Central Florida product’s perception with some fans questioning his toughness.

With Steve Smith suffering a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Sunday’s win over San Diego, the Ravens would surely like to see how Perriman would perform as Joe Flacco’s No. 1 receiver, especially if Smith follows through with his previous plan to retire. He’s not the only 2015 first-round receiver not to play this season — Chicago’s first-round pick Kevin White is on the physically unable to perform list with a stress fracture in his lower leg — but Perriman has been frustrated not to be able to prove the Ravens right for selecting him with the 26th overall pick this spring.

“I’ve been disappointed for Breshad, because he put in so much work and preparation to give himself that opportunity,” said Engram, who played 14 years in the NFL. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s a part of this business that we take part in. Football, it’s a physical sport, and sometimes these things happen.

“But he has been around [the facility]. He has been in the meetings. His spirits have been good, and we look forward to getting him healthy and getting him back.”

Upshaw, Z. Smith not filling sacks void

A season ago, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, and Pernell McPhee combined for a whopping 36 1/2 sacks.

But with McPhee now in Chicago and Suggs lost for the season in Week 1, the Ravens haven’t been able to fill the void with fourth-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw and rookie Za’Darius Smith, who have combined for just two sacks despite extensive opportunities to rush the quarterback. Serving almost exclusively as a run-stopping strong-side linebacker in his first three seasons, Upshaw hasn’t collected a sack since the 2013 season even though he’s received more playing time in 2015.

“You’ll see that Courtney is dominant on the edge of the run game,” linebackers coach Ted Monachino said. “He would love to have more production as a pass rusher. We would all love for him to have more production as a pass rusher. We’ve got combination of rush and coverage. We’ve got to find a way to tie those two things together better than what we have.”

The lack of an established threat on the opposite edge has allowed offensive lines to focus more on Dumervil, limiting the Pro Bowl linebacker to just 2 1/2 sacks in eight games. Assuming Suggs’ role as the every-down rush linebacker, Dumervil has still been able to generate pressure — even if not finishing plays with as many quarterback takedowns — and has graded as the ninth-best edge defender in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

A fair question for the second half will be how well Dumervil holds up after seeing his most extensive action of his three years in Baltimore.

“I think that Elvis, as a run defender, is improving,” said Monachino, who added that Dumervil had previously served as a full-time player in Denver. “I think Elvis as a first- and second-down guy with some opportunity in the pass rush, I think that helps.

“We all recognize the fact that 55 [snaps in a game] is different than 35 reps for a guy that’s a pass rusher, especially a high-effort pass rusher. We’ve got to continue to find ways to get Elvis singled, and when we can, he has to take advantage of those opportunities.”

J. Smith still “dominating” despite inconsistency

After Jimmy Smith’s play was recently described as “tentative” by defensive coordinator Dean Pees, defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt took a more positive stance in assessing the No. 1 cornerback’s play in 2015.

Smith is returning from last year’s Lisfranc injury, which has led many to wonder whether he’s been fully healthy all season. The 2011 first-round pick’s play is low on Hewitt’s list of concerns for the league’s 30th-ranked pass defense, however.

“He’s giving up a couple of plays, but the guy — if you watch the entire film — the guy has been dominating people,” Hewitt said. “He has had some dominating plays. Has he had dominating games? No, but he has had dominating plays.

“I think he’s continuing to keep on getting better as a player. He’ll be the first to tell you that he wants to be better, and he has put a lot of weight on his shoulders and a lot of stress on himself to become that leader or that big-time playmaker that we need. He’s doing a great job. I’m not pressing too much on Jimmy.”

Rosburg not impressed with Tucker’s dance moves

Kicker Justin Tucker drew plenty of attention for his celebratory dance that followed his game-winning 39-yard field goal against San Diego, but his nod to Drake was lost on his special teams coordinator.

“I have no reaction whatsoever.” said Jerry Rosburg as he smiled when asked about Tucker’s “Hotline Bling” dance. “I’m not sure what it was, so I’m really not sure if I’ve seen it before.”

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Arizona possesses what Ravens lack in 2015

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will look across the field on Monday night and see exactly what they’re lacking in 2015.

Playmakers on both sides of the ball have led the Arizona Cardinals to a 4-2 record atop the NFC West as well as the best point differential (plus-88) in the NFL. Baltimore’s shortage of playmakers has contributed to the worst start in franchise history and five defeats all decided by six points or fewer.

Offensively, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has a trio of talented receivers — future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, second-year speedster John Brown, and former first-round pick Michael Floyd — on which to rely. That combination of experience, speed, and height has helped Arizona produce the league’s seventh-ranked passing game and 33.8 points per game.

In contrast, Joe Flacco has a 36-year-old Steve Smith playing at a high level and a group of unheralded receivers behind him who have struggled to make a meaningful impact. Making matters worse, the Ravens offense will be facing the league’s ninth-ranked pass defense than includes Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and hybrid safety Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary.

The Cardinals often-explosive offense has lacked consistency — evident by a Week 4 home loss to St. Louis and last week’s 25-13 defeat in Pittsburgh — but it’s not easy envisioning Baltimore’s 27th-ranked pass defense being able to keep up with Arizona’s speed. Even pedestrian offenses have picked apart the Ravens secondary this season, so what will a top 10 unit be able to do?

And given how slowly the Ravens offense has started most games this season, Monday night could get ugly if we see a similar opening act.

Return game progress

One of the few bright spots from the Week 6 loss to San Francisco was another good performance by returner Jeremy Ross, who broke a 41-yard kick return late in the first quarter.

A second look at the return, however, indicated that Ross could have made it even better had he cut behind a block from rookie Nick Boyle toward the right sideline instead of shifting inside where three tacklers were waiting. His special teams coordinator agreed with that sentiment on Thursday.

“We honestly should’ve gotten more out of it than we did,” Jerry Rosburg said. “We didn’t finish it very well, but at least we got it set up. So, we’re making progress. I like what he has done. He has been working really hard on the reads and ball security. He has gotten a lot better.”

In addition to averaging 29.5 yards per kick return and 10.0 yards per punt return, Ross has caught five passes for 58 yards in limited action as a receiver in two games. Given the lack of big-play ability the Ravens have shown on either side of the ball, would Rosburg encourage the speedy Ross to be more aggressive taking kicks out of the end zone like Jacoby Jones was in his three years in Baltimore?

“It depends on what kind of deep kick it is,” Rosburg said. “There are different kinds of deep kicks — high-hanging deep kicks. Even Jacoby didn’t have a green light. Sometimes, he ran the red light.”

Wright bouncing back?

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t mince words in criticizing the newly-acquired Shareece Wright after he was burned for two touchdowns in the 25-20 loss to the 49ers, but the Ravens will likely be counting on him again this week.

Starter Lardarius Webb is expected to return from a hamstring injury, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees prefers using Webb inside in the nickel package. This leaves the Ravens with Wright or Kyle Arrington to play on the outside opposite Jimmy Smith, and Arrington has also struggled when asked to play on the outside this season

“I really liked the way he responded this week,” said Pees of Wright. “It was going to be interesting to come out here and go through the film with him and come back out here and watch and see how he responded this week. So far, he has responded great. Now, I’ll tell you again Monday night after we get done [playing].

“Sometimes it takes [failure]. We all learn by mistakes, and hopefully that will be his case.”

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Baltimore Ravens linebackers coach Dean Pees watches warmups before the NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, won by the Patriots 23-20. (AP Photo/Robert E. Klein)

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Pees about Ravens defense: “We are our own worst enemy”

Posted on 15 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Four days after Cleveland accumulated more than 500 yards in its first road win over the Ravens since 2007, Dean Pees was in no mood to tip his cap to Josh McCown and the Browns offense.

In a monologue lasting nearly four minutes when responding to a simple question about the play of his safeties, the fourth-year coordinator cited the mistakes that continue to plague his entire 24th-ranked unit that’s allowing 27.4 points per game, on pace to be the second-worst mark in franchise history. It’s clear that Pees doesn’t think the opposition is causing Baltimore’s defensive woes.

“We are our own worst enemy,” Pees said. “It really, right now, is not about San Francisco, and it wasn’t about Cleveland. It’s about us. We just have to be consistent in what we do.”

Pees cited an example on Sunday in which the Ravens forced McCown to throw away a third-down pass on a specific blitz early in the game before the same player failed to run the same blitz correctly later in the game as the Browns once again failed to account for it. Such inconsistency has made it difficult for Pees to know which play calls to come back to later in games when the biggest stops need to be made.

At several points during his rant, Pees made it clear that it was the coaches’ responsibility to do a better job of making sure players are prepared, but he wasn’t absolving his defenders, either.

“We just have to keep harping on it and building on it,” Pees said. “It’s not a secret. It’s not a panic. It’s not, ‘OK, we have to change the scheme.’ It’s not [that] we have to do anything. We just have to learn to do the same things all the time.

“It’s all of our faults. It’s not just that guy’s fault. Somehow, as coaches, we just have to make it right. I know you guys can sense my frustration with it. It’s the same thing in coverage. We aren’t consistent [in the secondary]. They work well together. They’ll work well together. And then from one play [to the next] — even though they got the right call — they don’t work well together. It’s not only them, it’s everybody. It’s across the board.”

Players have repeatedly said — sometimes unprovoked — that the issues don’t stem from the overall schemes or Pees’ calls on game day, but they’ve repeatedly self-destructed at critical times, losing fourth-quarter leads in three of their four defeats this season. The Ravens are also tied for 26th in the NFL with 8.4 penalties per game while only four teams have racked up more penalty yardage.

Despite a slew of injuries and inexperienced players being asked to fill key roles, Pees doesn’t want to hear the excuses, particularly when it comes to drawing flags at the worst times. The lack of discipline has contributed to the Ravens ranking 31st in third-down defense with opponents converting 49.4 percent of the time.

“I’m tired [of] ‘young.’ We can also say, ‘This guy is out. That guy is out,'” Pees said. “I don’t care. It wasn’t that. If I thought it was that, then I’d say, ‘OK, it’s different.’ But we had so many opportunities in that game. We’re terrible on third down — because of us. If we [don’t] have a hands-to-the-face [penalty], we’re off the field in the red zone and they don’t have a touchdown [late in the third quarter], right? On third down-and-9, we get an interception [in the second quarter], and we’re setting the offense up on the 48-yard line. What do we get? Roughing the quarterback. It’s those things. We have to eliminate those things.”

Allen starting?

With starter Justin Forsett missing his second straight practice with an ankle injury on Thursday and No. 2 running back Lorenzo Taliaferro being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury, rookie Buck Allen could make his first NFL start against San Francisco on Sunday.

The fourth-round selection picked up the longest run of his career last Sunday with a 44-yard gain, an achievement on which he hopes to build if thrown into a starting role.

“It’s opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Allen said. “I feel like my coaches did a great job preparing me for this moment. [Running backs coach Thomas Hammock] just preached being ready when your time is called.”

Allen is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but that mark is somewhat deceiving as he has gained only 3.2 yards per carry on his 25 other attempts beyond his 44-yard scamper against the Browns.

With the only other healthy options being the newly-claimed rookie Raheem Mostert and practice-squad member Terrence Magee, the Ravens will have no choice but to give Allen the ball if Forsett can’t play in Week 6.

“He’s running the ball better in terms of how he’s finishing and seeing the holes,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Allen. “He’s taking the opportunities to make plays when he gets a chance to do that. We’ve seen his pass protection improve, and his entire focus. He is taking the opportunity to seize the moment with the opportunities that he has had.”

“Special” prediction

Asked if there’s an extra challenge getting accustomed to the kicking conditions at Levi’s Stadium since the Ravens haven’t played a game there, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg answered with a bold proclamation — or good sense of humor? — despite Baltimore’s disappointing 1-4 start.

“We’ll take notes, and next time we go back there in February, we’ll be ready,” said Rosburg, smiling in reference to Super Bowl 50 being played there. “I said it!”

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Ravens receivers continue shuffling in and out of practice

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Health at the receiver position continues to be one of the Ravens’ biggest concerns of the summer with players shuffling in and out of workouts.

Monday brought the return of Kamar Aiken (foot) and Marlon Brown (back) to the practice field while second-year wideout Michael Campanaro (undisclosed) joined rookie Breshad Perriman as an absentee. Of course, the most pressing issue has been with Baltimore’s first-round pick, who hasn’t practiced since sustaining a knee injury on July 30.

Head coach John Harbaugh said over the weekend that he still expects Perriman to return during the preseason, but he has missed extensive practice time, making you wonder how prepared he’ll be to play a meaningful role by Week 1. Projected to be the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, Brown has also missed extensive practice time during training camp and only worked on a limited basis on Monday.

Those absences have led to more prominent looks for Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller, but the Ravens know Perriman is the only wideout on the roster likely to be a high-ceiling threat in the vertical passing game.

“We’re disappointed for him, No. 1, that he can’t be out there to work,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Perriman’s extended absence. “There’s nothing we can do [about] it. We have to turn it into a positive, and the guys do so by understanding they have a great opportunity here to have another rep, another opportunity. We’ve got to continue to work to develop the guys we’re with, and that’s the positive side of it.

“That’s all we can control in this moment. We can’t control Breshad being out there. We’ll just go from there, and we’re very, very hopeful that he’ll be with us soon.”

Monday also brought the return of defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, who primarily worked on an individual basis after missing a week with what Harbaugh described only as a strain.

In addition to Perriman and Campanaro, the Ravens were missing several other key players on Monday including left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker Steven Means (knee), and reserve offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Jah Reid (undisclosed). Jackson injured his knee in the preseason opener after he was given the first opportunity to return punts and kickoffs against New Orleans.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was pleased with the performance of both Jackson and Campanaro returning punts as the former returned two for 17 yards and the latter registered a 10-yard return. However, both players have dealt with injuries too often in their young careers.

“It’s a long way to go; we have a lot of practice [to go],” Rosburg said. “We get good opportunities again this week against Philadelphia in practice. Then, hopefully, we’ll make them punt a lot and get some more opportunities in the game. We can’t control the injuries; they are what they are. Hopefully, we get them back soon.”

Several players dealt with heat-related challenges throughout Monday’s practice as rookie wide receiver Darren Waller and tight end Maxx Williams both left the field early and did not return. Wideout Jeremy Butler left the field during practice but later returned.

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Released “Deflategate” document says Ravens tipped off Indianapolis

Posted on 05 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have repeatedly denied tipping off the Indianapolis Colts about problems with footballs in their divisional round loss to the New England Patriots, but a “Deflategate” document released on Tuesday suggests otherwise.

Included with a 457-page transcript of Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” appeal hearing released by the NFL Players Association on Tuesday, an email from Indianapolis equipment manager Sean Sullivan sent to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson indicated that Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg called Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano to alert him of problems Baltimore had with the kicking balls in the 35-31 loss to the Patriots in the divisional round.

Of course, many have speculated throughout the offseason that the Ravens communicated their concerns with Indianapolis, but the organization has repeatedly denied doing such a thing.

“We did not notice anything. We never had a ball that they were using on offense, so we don’t know anything about that in our game,” head coach John Harbaugh said in January. “We didn’t have a chance to handle any of their offensive footballs. As far as the kicking balls, it was 20 degrees outside. The balls were softer. Our guys told us during the game, and I just chalked that up to the fact that it was cold. Both teams were kicking the same kicking balls, so I didn’t really think anything of it during the game. Other than that, it’s not something that I’ve really given any thought to at all.”

In an interview before Super Bowl XLIX, Harbaugh also denied anyone in the organization tipping off Indianapolis before the AFC championship game.

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