Tag Archive | "Jimmy Smith"

Ravens pass defense on pace to be worst in franchise history

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Ravens pass defense on pace to be worst in franchise history

Posted on 30 November 2014 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens entering the final quarter of the regular season following Sunday’s disappointing 34-33 loss to the San Diego Chargers, the pass defense will need to raise its level of play substantially to avoid a dubious distinction.

Giving up 376 yards in the air as San Diego’s Philip Rivers picked them apart, the 7-5 Ravens are now on pace to surrender 4,383 yards through the air in 2014, which would shatter the franchise-worst mark of 3,969 set in the inaugural 1996 season. That year, Baltimore finished 4-12 with a pass defense that finished last in the NFL.

The Ravens woke up Monday morning ranked 31st in the league in pass defense with only the Atlanta Falcons surrendering more yards through the air.

Where are Isaac Booth, Donny Brady, and Antonio Langham when you need them?

Of course, we’re in the midst of a pass-happy era in which offense reigns supreme — making the numbers difficult to compare to those of 18 years ago — but the Ravens haven’t had any answers in a secondary that was already facing questions long before significant injuries suffered by starting cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb. Smith is done for the year with a Lisfranc injury, and Webb continues to look like a shell of his former self after a back injury that took away his entire training camp and forced him out of three of the first four games of the regular season.

The Ravens have been unfortunate, but they were also poorly prepared to handle any injuries on the back end of the defense.

After former No. 3 cornerback Corey Graham departed via free agency, general manager Ozzie Newsome did not add any quality depth behind his starters in the offseason, instead counting on Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown to pick up the slack. Instead Jackson suffered a serious turf toe injury in Week 5 — he could return as soon as next Sunday’s game in Miami — and Brown struggled so mightily that Baltimore waived him in early November.

As a result, defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been forced to turn to journeyman Danny Gorrer and former safety Anthony Levine to go along with a struggling Webb. Many are inclined to blame coaching whenever a unit struggles, but you can only be so creative with schemes — the Ravens tried just about everything on Sunday — to overcome such personnel deficiencies.

The safety position has been just as problematic with 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam being a major disappointment in his second season. Pees has used a carousel of names — Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, Brynden Trawick, and rookie Terrence Brooks at various times — with only Will Hill looking to be a solid option at this stage of the season.

As for the record books, the Ravens will receive a respite from playing Pro Bowl quarterbacks as they’re slated to face Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles, Houston’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, and either Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel — maybe both? — in the season finale against Cleveland. That said, Tannehill is in the midst of a good third season with the Dolphins and Fitzpatrick is coming off a six-touchdown performance in Week 13, so it won’t be a total cakewalk of opposing quarterbacks.

You can only hope Sunday was rock bottom for the pass defense as the Ravens will need an excellent final month to catch the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North or at least advance to the playoffs after last year’s absence.

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Timetable six months for Jimmy Smith’s recovery from Lisfranc injury

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Timetable six months for Jimmy Smith’s recovery from Lisfranc injury

Posted on 20 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Breaking his silence for the first time since undergoing season-ending foot surgery two weeks ago, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith revealed he’ll need six months to recover from what was diagnosed as a Lisfranc injury.

The injury suffered against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 26 cut short what was shaping up to be a Pro Bowl season for the 2011 first-round pick as he collected 28 tackles, eight pass breakups, and an interception in eight games this year. Despite the initial disappointment of discovering the injury was worse than initially feared, Smith is confident he will bounce back strong in 2015.

Smith’s injury was originally diagnosed as a mid-foot sprain that would keep him out for a few weeks, but a followup visit determined ligaments in the middle of the foot were damaged to the point of needing surgery to repair them. He was officially placed on injured reserve on Nov. 8.

“It just makes it difficult, period, just the fact that I can’t be out here with my teammates and help contribute,” said Smith, who is currently moving around with the assistance of a small scooter. “Like I said, it’s an injury. Everybody deals with [it] in the league. I’m not too stressed. No matter how great this season was, I was happy that I got to play as along as I did this season. I’m happy that it didn’t happen the first three games or something. Like I said, you live with it; you get over it. I’ll be back.”

The 26-year-old is under contract for the 2015 season after the Ravens elected to use a fifth-year option worth $6.898 million in base salary. Considering he has a sixth-month recovery ahead of him, Smith figures to be ready to go well ahead of the start of training camp next summer.

With their top cornerback lost for the year, the Ravens have turned to former reserve safety Anthony Levine and veteran cornerback Danny Gorrer to pick up the slack opposite starter Lardarius Webb in the base defense.

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Levine works way up Ravens’ ladder to starting defensive role

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Levine works way up Ravens’ ladder to starting defensive role

Posted on 11 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You’d be hard pressed to find too many Ravens fans who knew Anthony Levine’s name prior to Sunday’s 21-7 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Making his first career start for a revamped and injury-riddled secondary that was still licking its wounds from an embarrassing performance in Pittsburgh, the former safety seized the opportunity after previously playing just five defensive snaps in his entire NFL career. Levine finished with four tackles and two pass breakups while also earning Pro Football Focus’ highest single-game grade in pass coverage for any Ravens cornerback not named Jimmy Smith this season.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Levine said after Sunday’s win. “To call myself a starting something in the NFL — whether it was safety, corner — I was happy to say that I was a starting corner today for the Baltimore Ravens.”

Of course, Levine’s success came against a rookie quarterback and a Tennessee passing game lacking bite and it remains to be seen if he’ll survive against more potent aerial attacks, but it’s difficult not to feel good for a third-year player who spent parts of three seasons on practice squads — originally with Green Bay and then Baltimore — before even getting a chance as a special-teams contributor. The Tennessee State product played all 16 games for the Ravens last season without receiving a single defensive snap, finishing second on the team in special-teams tackles and serving as the protector on the punt team.

After watching Levine serve as a core member of his units for the last two years, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg takes pride in seeing him become the latest special-teams player to make the transition to starter. Several former Ravens have made similar jumps in recent years, including linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe as well as cornerback Corey Graham.

“We hope that our players that are just playing special teams develop into players on their sides of the ball as well,” Rosburg said. “It’s my belief — perhaps it’s a slanted belief — that if you can be a good special-teams player, you should be a good player on offense and defense because it takes a lot of skill to play on special teams. It’s not a surprise to me that he’s developed skills that he can go out there and play for the Ravens in the secondary.”

To be fair, Levine’s opportunity to start wasn’t as much about improvement as it was about the Ravens’ injuries and attrition as the coaching staff didn’t anticipate throwing him into the fire this quickly until the Smith injury made the secondary’s issues even worse. After Levine practiced at safety in his first two years with the Ravens, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo had moved him to cornerback in training camp when injuries to Lardarius Webb, Smith, and Asa Jackson left the secondary shorthanded.

It was a position at which Levine had worked some before, and he’s downplayed the change because of how comfortable he’s always felt backpedaling, a skill needed at both safety and corner. The 27-year-old really began turning heads a couple weeks ago while practicing with the scout team against the starting offense as Pees and Spagnuolo noticed how effectively he was competing against the likes of Steve Smith and Torrey Smith in coverage.

Meanwhile, cornerbacks higher on the depth chart such as Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown continued to struggle, culminating with Ben Roethlisberger’s six-touchdown performance in Pittsburgh on Nov. 2. Two days later, those two were cut and Levine received a text message from Spagnuolo saying to be ready to practice leading up to the Tennessee game.

“He just has run with it. He’s a confident guy that competes,” said Spagnuolo, who told Levine he was starting the morning of the Titans game. “He loves to practice and is passionate about the game. There’s not a guy out there he doesn’t think he can cover. That’s a good quality for a corner.”

Sharing time with newly-acquired veteran Danny Gorrer, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound Levine was strong in run support and did a fine job keeping receivers in front of him, allowing only one reception for 13 yards on three passes thrown his way in coverage. Despite the first-quarter struggles of the defense, Levine made his presence felt on the opening drive when he dropped running back Bishop Sankey on a stretch play for only a 1-yard gain.

The post-game locker room featured several teammates praising Levine as a hard worker who had done everything he could for the opportunity. While most media and fans expected Gorrer to be the one to start at cornerback in the buildup to the Tennessee game, Webb complimented Levine’s performance in practice without being prompted last week, a hint that the special-teams player just might be the next man up.

“We all know that Levine can make plays in practice against the top receivers, Steve and Torrey,” Webb said following the game. “That’s how he is in practice, he’s always going 110 percent on special teams — all phases of special teams — and playing defense. You have to look up to that. He did a great job doing everything. He’s a corner, he’s a playmaker.”

Those labels are different than what Levine’s used to hearing after years as a practice-squad member, special-teams contributor, and scout-team player who remained anonymous with most of the outside football world.

Though the Ravens will continue to face questions in their secondary week after week, Levine was able to provide an answer for at least one Sunday. And he earned another shot after the bye against a more imposing opponent in the New Orleans Saints to prove that he’s not just a special-teams player playing out of position.

“Sometimes you have to be careful of pigeonholing guys like that,” Pees said. “Give them an opportunity, [and] then it’s up to them to run with it. I just think that’s a credit to them when they get the opportunity to seize it.”

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Ravens-Titans: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Titans: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 08 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Renewing what was once a fierce rivalry in the days of the AFC Central, the Ravens welcome the Tennessee Titans to Baltimore for their first meeting since the 2011 season.

In recent years, the Ravens and Titans have gone in opposite directions with Baltimore consistently being one of the better teams in the AFC and Tennessee not having made the playoffs since 2008. This season has been no different as the 5-4 Ravens are still in the playoff hunt despite losing two straight while the Titans have struggled to a 2-6 record under new head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Coming off their bye, the Titans have lost six of seven and have handed the reins of their offense to a sixth-round rookie quarterback. In contrast, the Ravens hope to regain some momentum going into their bye as they try to find answers in the secondary following the season-ending loss of cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Sunday marks the 18th regular-season meeting between Baltimore and Tennessee with the Titans holding a 9-8 advantage. The series in Baltimore is tied 4-4 with Tennessee coming to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since the 2008 season.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 6-4 and keep pace in the AFC North …

1. Lardarius Webb will record his first interception of the 2014 season. The Ravens surviving in the secondary would be easier if Webb begins playing more like he did a couple years ago when he was emerging as one of the best cornerbacks in the AFC before his second ACL injury. He acknowledged this week that he needs to step up his performance after moving back into a full-time role over the last month. The Ravens’ only interception in the secondary this year was made by Smith against Tampa Bay, but more opportunities will come against Zach Mettenberger and the rookie will be pressured into making a bad throw that Webb will take advantage of.

2. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey will pick up a sack, but the Baltimore offensive line will bounce back from last week’s showing in Pittsburgh. The Ravens were poor in pass protection last week with Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, and Kelechi Osemele all struggling against the Steelers’ rush, and Casey is one of the best 3-technique defensive linemen in the NFL. Slowing him will be a challenge, but Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and Osemele will be ready as the Ravens will do a better job protecting Joe Flacco. The defensive front is one of the Titans’ biggest strengths, but the Ravens won’t be caught by surprise like they were with a turn-back-the-clock performance by James Harrison last week.

3. Justin Forsett will go over the century mark for the second time this year as the Ravens rush for a season-high 175 yards. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak spoke earlier this week about the inability to run the ball as effectively against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, so expect the Ravens to try to exploit the league’s 28th-ranked run defense. Baltimore will be aggressive to establish a lead before turning it over to the running game with Forsett being the most trustworthy of the backs. In the first half of their last two games, the Ravens carried 30 times for 103 yards before needing to essentially abandon the run in the second half, but they’ll be effective running between the tackles throughout Sunday’s game.

4. Zach Mettenberger will throw two touchdowns, but the damage won’t come until the second half. Much like they did against Tampa Bay a few weeks ago, the Ravens will bring pressure and play strong defense in the first half to hold a sizable lead before loosening the reins in the final 30 minutes, which will lead to some opportunities for Mettenberger. The rookie has some decent weapons in tight end Delanie Walker and young receivers Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, so Sunday will offer a low-pressure tuneup for the likes of Danny Gorrer and Tramain Jacobs in the secondary. A porous offensive line will make it a long first half for Mettenberger before the Ravens call off the dogs and sit back in coverage with a big lead.

5. The Ravens will feel better about themselves going into the bye week with a 31-16 win over Tennessee. This game might make you nervous if it were being played in Nashville, but the Ravens just don’t lose home games to bad football teams with rookie quarterbacks, which is what the Titans are. Playing in Baltimore will help Flacco and the offense bounce back after a couple rough weeks and the Ravens will take better care of the football. The secondary will have a respectable effort, but there won’t be much to take away from this game as the coaching staff will try to figure things out in the back end during the off-week. Their issues are obvious, but a 6-4 record still keeps the Ravens in decent position for a postseason run.

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Harbaugh expects Jimmy Smith to return “even better” next year

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Harbaugh expects Jimmy Smith to return “even better” next year

Posted on 07 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Expressing confidence that his secondary would move past the season-ending loss of Jimmy Smith, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh offered a few more details about the procedure the top cornerback underwent Thursday.

Smith visited orthopedist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. after the swelling had subsided in his left foot that was injured against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 26. Further testing revealed Smith would not be able to return in 2014 as the Ravens hoped when Harbaugh initially said he’d miss a few weeks.

“Listen, I’m not a doctor. I go by what they tell me,” Harbaugh said. “A Lisfranc [injury] is a tear, I guess, in the ligament. There’s not a tear. There’s a stretch, and when the swelling went down, they did a weight-bearing exam. There’s more of a spread between the bones than they wanted, so more of a stretch than what they were hoping for. And when they put him under anesthesia and took a look at it, Dr. Anderson decided to go ahead and do the surgery.”

The loss of Smith is a major blow for a pass defense currently ranking 24th in the NFL and giving up 263 yards per game through the air. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 94.0 passer rating against the Ravens, which is the 12th-highest in the league.

Several teammates expressed disappointment for Smith, who was blossoming into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this season after a strong, injury-free 2013 campaign. In eight games, the 26-year-old had registered 28 tackles, eight pass breakups, and an interception while opposing passers had completed just 20 of 39 passes for no touchdowns against him in coverage.

Fellow starter Lardarius Webb can relate to Smith’s misfortune after twice suffering season-ending knee injuries in his six-year career.

“I feel for him. I’ve been on the sideline before, looking in,” Webb said. “I know how much it hurts inside to want to be out there on the field. I just wish him luck and to get back healthy as soon as possible. And whenever he gets back, we’ll continue to be that great duo.”

Harbaugh was pleased with the work put in by the newly-acquired Danny Gorrer and recently-promoted Tramain Jacobs this week as they prepared to receive action in Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

But there’s no shying away from the loss of arguably the Ravens’ best defensive player this season and how big of a challenge it will be to compensate in the back end of the defense.

“I feel bad for Jimmy. We’ll be fine as a team. We’ll recover,” Harbaugh said. “We have good players at every position, and we’ll pick up the slack as a group and as a unit. We always do. That’s what you do. It’s happens all around the league. It’s just the way it is. It’s football. But I feel bad for Jimmy. He was having a great, great year. But he’ll bounce back, and he’ll be even better next year.”

Webb needs to step up

Webb expressed confidence that the secondary will bounce back from last Sunday’s 43-23 loss in which the Ravens surrendered six touchdown passes to Ben Roethlisberger, but he added that the improvement needs to start with himself.

After missing all of training camp and three of the first four games of the regular season, Webb is still working his way back to pre-injury form as he’s now the top healthy cornerback on the roster with Smith out. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 105.0 passer rating against Webb in six games this year and he was burned for a long touchdown against the Steelers in Week 9.

“It’s OK, man. I’ve got to get better myself,” said Webb of his performance in 2014. “Speaking about the group, me first. I’ve got to get myself together, which I’m feeling good. We’ve just all got to get on the same page.”

Jackson on track to return

Harbaugh expressed confidence Friday that cornerback Asa Jackson is on track to return from a turf toe injury that landed the third-year defensive back on injured reserve-designated to return in early October.

Jackson is no longer in a walking boot and is eligible to return as early as Dec. 7 when the Ravens take on the Miami Dolphins. He made four starts earlier this season in the first defensive action of his career.

“I’m just doing everything to get better for that point,” said Jackson, who hasn’t played since Oct. 5. “When it gets there, we’ll see. I’m just working to get back for Week 14.”

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Campanaro out once again with hamstring injury for Titans game

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Campanaro out once again with hamstring injury for Titans game

Posted on 07 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens made final preparations for the Tennessee Titans with few injury questions remaining for Sunday’s game.

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro was ruled out and will miss his second straight game after injuring his hamstring in the Oct. 26 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The seventh-round selection had been emerging as a legitimate option in the Baltimore passing game by making six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in his last three games before getting hurt returning a punt in Cincinnati.

The River Hill product hasn’t practiced since exiting the Bengals game.

Already ruled out after Thursday’s news that he’d undergone season-ending foot surgery, cornerback Jimmy Smith remained on the 53-man roster, but he will be placed on injured reserve in the coming days. Journeyman Danny Gorrer is expected to start opposite Lardarius Webb in the base defense with rookie free agent and former practice-squad member Tramain Jacobs serving as the No. 3 corner.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand) was absent from the portion of practice open to media on Friday and was ruled out after not being listed on the injury report all week. It remained unclear as of Friday afternoon what had happened to the fourth-year offensive lineman.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (knee) and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) were each listed as probable for Sunday’s game after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday. Wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Owen Daniels, and linebacker Daryl Smith were all present and working after receiving a day off on Thursday.

The Titans listed starting wide receiver Nate Washington as questionable as he’s been limited by a shoulder injury, but he was a full participant for practice on Friday.

The referee for Sunday’s game between Baltimore and Tennesee will be Walt Coleman.

According to Weather.com, the forecast calls for temperatures approaching the mid-50s with winds up to eight miles per hour and virtually no chance for precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), T Jah Reid (hand), CB Jimmy Smith (foot)
PROBABLE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)

TENNESSEE
OUT: TE Taylor Thompson (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Sammie Hill (hamstring), WR Nate Washington (shoulder)
PROBABLE: CB Coty Sensabaugh (knee)

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Ravens cornerback Smith out for year after undergoing foot surgery

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Ravens cornerback Smith out for year after undergoing foot surgery

Posted on 06 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens received a crushing blow to the remainder of their 2014 season with cornerback Jimmy Smith undergoing season-ending surgery on Thursday.

The fourth-year defensive back was playing at a Pro Bowl level before injuring his left foot on the opening drive of the Ravens’ Week 8 game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 26. Head coach John Harbaugh said a day later that the No. 1 corner was expected to miss a few weeks with a mid-foot sprain, but Smith had been using crutches with his left foot in a protective boot since the injury.

“The plan for Jimmy was to do more testing once the swelling subsided in his foot, and that was done this morning,” Harbaugh said through a team spokesman Thursday afternoon. “With this exam this morning, the doctors decided that he needed surgery and they repaired the injury. That means Jimmy is finished for the season, but will recover for our offseason program.”

With many regarding Smith as the player the 2014 Ravens could least afford to lose other than quarterback Joe Flacco, the news couldn’t be worse for a pass defense currently ranked 24th in the NFL. The Ravens cut cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks earlier this week, claimed veteran Danny Gorrer off waivers, and promoted rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad.

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Baltimore allowed six touchdown passes against Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in last Sunday’s 43-23 loss to the Steelers.

The hope had been that Smith might return after the Week 11 bye when the Ravens travel to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints’ potent passing game, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees will now need to figure out how to make a patchwork secondary survive without its best cornerback for the remainder of the season. Lardarius Webb — who’s still working his way back to full form following a summer back injury — and Gorrer are expected to start with Jacobs serving as the No. 3 corner against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The 28-year-old Gorrer was most recently with the Detroit Lions and previously appeared in 11 games with Baltimore during the 2011 season. Mostly a special-teams player during his career, Gorrer was cut by the Ravens at the end of the 2012 preseason as he was behind Smith, Webb, Cary Williams, and Corey Graham in a deep group of cornerbacks.

With two career starters under his belt, Gorrer will now be expected to play a far more significant role than he ever did in his first run with Baltimore.

“It takes one game to turn things around,” Gorrer said on Wednesday. “Win this weekend, [and] nobody will even talk about what’s been going on. That’s my job and that’s the team focus right now — to get back on track to winning football and playing Baltimore football. That’s everybody’s main goal, and that’s everything everybody has been talking about in meetings right now.”

Asa Jackson remains on injured reserve-designated to return, but the third-year defensive back isn’t eligible to come back until Week 14 at the earliest when the Ravens play the Miami Dolphins. He suffered a serious turf toe injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 5.

With Smith in the final year of his rookie contract, the Ravens have already exercised their fifth-year option worth $6.898 million for the 2015 season, but the 2011 first-round pick has now dealt with a substantial injury in three of his four NFL seasons. Including the remainder of the 2014 season, Smith will have missed 17 games in his pro career.

 

 

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Yanda, Zuttah back at practice for Ravens on Thursday

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Yanda, Zuttah back at practice for Ravens on Thursday

Posted on 06 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ injury picture is coming into focus for Sunday’s matchup with the Tennessee Titans as center Jeremy Zuttah and right guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice after a one-day absence.

Zuttah (ankle) and Yanda (knee) are nursing minor injuries, but both are expected to play in the Ravens’ final game before their Week 11 bye. Cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) were both missing for the second straight day and were already expected to miss Sunday’s game before news came later in the day that Smith would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery.

Wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Owen Daniels, and linebacker Daryl Smith were all absent during the portion of practice open to media as all three received veteran days off, which typically falls on Thursday. None of the three were listed on Wednesday’s injury report.

Newly-acquired cornerback Danny Gorrer continued working with secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo during the special-teams portion of practice as he’s continuing to catch up on the intricacies of the Baltimore defense. The 28-year-old is expected to start opposite Lardarius Webb with rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs serving as the No. 3 corner against the Titans.

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (foot)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Marshal Yanda (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)

TENNESSEE
OUT: TE Taylor Thompson (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DT Sammie Hill (hamstring), WR Nate Washington (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Coty Sensabaugh (knee)

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Zuttah, Yanda sitting out Wednesday’s practice

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Zuttah, Yanda sitting out Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 05 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after the Ravens made changes in their secondary, it was the offensive line missing two key pieces as center Jeremy Zuttah and right guard Marshal Yanda were missing from Wednesday’s practice as preparations continued for a Week 10 game against the Tennessee Titans.

Yanda has been dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of one practice last week, but the Pro Bowl guard played all 71 offensive snaps in the 43-23 loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday.

Despite playing well in his first season in Baltimore, Zuttah turned in his worst performance of the year against Pittsburgh as he struggled at the point of attack and was pushed into the backfield on a number of occasions. It remains unclear how early in the game Zuttah sustained the ankle injury that might have impacted his performance.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) were also absent during the portion of practice open to media. The fourth-year defensive back is expected to miss his second straight game after injuring his left foot in the Week 8 loss to Cincinnati.

Newly-acquired cornerback Danny Gorrer was present and wearing No. 37 as his second run with the Ravens has begun. The 28-year-old was working on his hands and catching passes from secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo during the portion of practice open to media.

While the Ray Rice appeal hearing was getting underway in New York on Wednesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome was watching practice in Owings Mills. Newsome and team president Dick Cass are both expected to testify during the two-day hearing as Rice seeks reinstatement from the indefinite suspension the NFL handed him on Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, the Titans provided a fairly clean injury report with wide receiver Nate Washington (shoulder) being listed as a limited participant and tight end Taylor Thompson (knee) already being ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Below is the full injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot), G Marshal Yanda (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)

TENNESSEE
OUT: TE Taylor Thompson (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Nate Washington (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Coty Sensabaugh (knee)

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Harbaugh looking for members of Ravens secondary to step up

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Harbaugh looking for members of Ravens secondary to step up

Posted on 03 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There was plenty of blame to go around on both sides of the ball in the Ravens’ forgettable 43-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Turnovers, penalties, poor pass protection, and the lack of a consistent pass rush all contributed to the humbling defeat, but it was the play in the secondary that conjured memories of the likes of Corey Ivy, David Pittman, Ronnie Prude, Derrick Martin, and the Ravens’ nightmarish Monday night defeat in Pittsburgh in 2007 in which Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes in the first half of a 38-7 final. It’s no surprise that the absence of top cornerback Jimmy Smith hurt what’s already been a vulnerable secondary in 2014, but allowing six touchdown passes to Roethlisberger and the Steelers signaled a complete collapse in the back end not seen against Pittsburgh in the John Harbaugh era.

The head coach discussed the secondary’s struggles on Monday after defensive coordinator Dean Pees used seven different players at cornerback and safety against Pittsburgh, but they’re finding no answers at the moment as they shuffle options on and off the field. Perhaps the best example of how uncertain the Ravens are with the state of the defensive backfield was the decision to deactivate rookie safety Terrence Brooks against the Steelers after he appeared to be on the verge of securing a starting job in playing 67 percent of the team’s snaps against Atlanta only two weeks ago.

“When some player expresses himself as being the best player by how he plays, he’ll be out there permanently,” said Harbaugh about the secondary rotation. “Until that happens, nobody’s given anything. I think guys have played OK at times, well at other times, and there have been a few bad plays back there.”

Though there have been far more than a few bad plays in the secondary, Harbaugh wasn’t far off in saying the secondary had held up enough when Smith was still in the fold — the Ravens had allowed only seven touchdown passes in their first eight games — even though they’d had their fair share of lapses and had surrendered plenty of yards. But the “bend, but don’t break” philosophy officially shattered at Heinz Field.

Veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb hasn’t been the same — quarterbacks have posted a 105.0 passer rating against him this season, according to Pro Football Focus — since coming back from the back injury that cost him the entire summer and the first few weeks of the regular season. Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown simply aren’t good enough to play meaningful defensive snaps, and the Ravens originally agreed as Franks was on the free-agent market a month ago and Brown was relegated to the inactive list due to his immense struggles that started in training camp.

The play at safety hasn’t been any better as the Ravens now rank 26th in the NFL in pass defense. The Baltimore defense has faced the third-most pass attempts in the league while ranking 22nd in the NFL with only five interceptions. To make matters worse, only one of those picks has been secured by a defensive back — defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker C.J. Mosley each have two — when Smith intercepted a pass from Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon in Week 6.

Many aspects of Sunday’s game were ugly, but unlike other areas in which the Ravens have players with proven track records where you can expect improvement, there doesn’t appear to be much they can do in the secondary beyond hoping that Smith is ready to return after the Week 11 bye with upcoming games against New Orleans and San Diego. And the disappearance of the pass rush following a sequence in which they sacked Roethlisberger on three straight plays in the second quarter did the pass defense no favors as the game progressed.

It’s become painfully clear that the Ravens need more from their front seven if their secondary is to survive against any formidable passing attacks over the final two months of the season.

“We’re not disciplined back there in technique like we need to be,” said Harbaugh, who spent 2007 as the Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs coach before becoming the head man in Baltimore a year later. “Our eyes aren’t in the right spot all the time like they need to be. When you’re in the back end – just like on the offensive line – your footwork’s got to be right, your eyes have to be right, your leverage has to be right, and then you’ve got to play the ball well.”

There’s only so much coaching you can do when you don’t have the proper talent.

To no surprise, Harbaugh indicated that the Ravens had several busts in coverage as well as plays in which defensive backs were beaten physically. And even when defenders were in position to make a stop, they often misplayed the ball or missed tackles. Particularly at the safety spot where the Ravens used Will Hill, Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, and Matt Elam at different times on Sunday night, one could argue the lack of continuity has hurt performance, but the head coach downplayed that being an issue.

Without throwing his secondary under the bus entirely, Harbaugh didn’t shy away from the need for someone — anyone — to start making plays in pass defense. It’s clear the Ravens have plenty of areas to improve following their humbling loss to the Steelers, but you wonder if the secondary is something that they’re going to be able to fix this year.

“We’re looking for the right combination, but I think that’s a little overrated,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s the best players. If you want to play in that secondary, step up in practice and play well and step up in the game and makes plays and be in the right spot. That’s what we’re looking for guys to do.”

The Ravens can keep looking, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that they’re not going to like what they see.

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