Tag Archive | "Jimmy Smith"


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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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Injury report not looking much better for Ravens on Thursday

Posted on 20 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Thursday brought little good news for the Ravens on the injury front as starting quarterback Joe Flacco again headlined a list of eight players absent from practice.

Flacco missed his second straight practice while nursing a right shoulder injury, creating more concern about his status for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Jets. Not counting the season-ending knee injury he sustained last November, the ninth-year quarterback hadn’t missed consecutive regular-season practices in recent memory.

Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), and cornerback Shareece Wright (thigh) were also absent for the second consecutive day.

Reserve cornerback Jerraud Powers (groin) was the only player to return on Wednesday after missing the previous day’s workout. However, wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) and safety Kendrick Lewis (thigh) were added to the reporter as limited participants on Thursday.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion) was practicing for the second straight day, but he was once again sport a red non-contact vest over his jersey, indicating he has not yet been fully cleared in the concussion protocol. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is not on the injury report, but he continues to wear a red vest as well.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner were practicing for the second straight day as they both appear poised to return to action in Week 7.

The Jets were without five players during their Thursday practice as head coach Todd Bowles ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) for Sunday’s game.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), DL Sheldon Richardson (non-injury), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Ravens open the season one and oh!

Posted on 12 September 2016 by Dennis Koulatsos


It was far from pretty and even farther from perfect, but is sure was nice.  After last season’s brutal opening road schedule and dismal 5-11 record, it was indeed downloadvery nice for the Ravens to come out of the gate with a win.

Rex Ryan’s team had a very difficult time moving the ball on the Ravens’ defense, particularly in the opening and final quarter. Shareece Wright was downright amazing, as he finished with 9 tackles, three of them behind the line of scrimmage.  He was also solid in pass coverage.

The communication seemed to be much better for the back end of the defense, in stark comparison to a  year ago.  Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Wright seemed to be on the same page for the bulk of the game.

According to our friends at Pro Football Focus, Weddle had the highest overall grade on the team, followed by Wright.  On the offensive side of the ball the standouts were QB Joe Flacco, RG Marshall Yanda (penalties aside he was lights out), and Mike Wallace.

The offense looked out of sync at times, but that was to be expected, as this was the first time a lot of the players were on the field at the same time.  Their pace and rhythm should improve as the season matures.

Standouts for the Bills were primarily on the defensive side as LB Preston Brown and rush end Jerry Hughes were generally disruptive and presented the Ravens offensive line with all kinds of problems.  It is also noteworthy that the Ravens started two rookies on the left side, tackle Ronnie Stanley and guard Alex Lewis.

The Bills’ offense struggled and their highest graded offensive player was TE Charles Clay.  Tyrod Taylor struggled to find open receivers down field, and was held in check by the Ravens’ defense. Shady McCoy got around the edge a couple of times, but he was also held under wraps without inflicting any significant damage.

The Bills’ coaching staff is getting some criticism this morning by their fan base as well as the media. The narrative is that they got schooled by the Ravens’ coaching staff, pointing out that the Ravens have been in the playoffs 6 out of the last 8 years under coach Harbaugh. Their clock management and untimely personal foul penalties are particularly coming under scrutiny. The undisciplined tag that’s been following Rex Ryan around has reared it’s ugly head once again.

As for the Ravens, for me the biggest red flag was Marc Trestman and his play calling. It was downright maddening to see the team come out time and again on third and short with Flacco in a shotgun formation. For a team that vowed to commit to the run this year, they sure did pass a lot.  The team ran the ball 45% of the time as there were 28 running plays against 34 pass plays.  When you take into account the 4 “runs” that Joe Flacco was given credit for (including game ending kneel-downs in the victory formation) the ratio drops to 41%.

For a team that has a lead blocker and thumper in Kyle Juszczyk, and a back who has displayed great heart and determination in short yardage situations in Terrance West, it defies logic to see both of them on the bench while Flacco is in the gun formation.  Given Flacco’s knee situation, it is crystal clear and understandable that the Ravens have taken the QB sneak out of their playbook.  But there are so many solid and creative things they can do on short yardage situations.  That was evident as I watched the Sunday Night scrum between the Cardinals and the Patriots.  Both offensive coordinators showed multiple looks and formations, and the Ravens would be wise to roll the tape and “borrow” a few things here and there.

For a while there I had to check to make sure that Cam Cameron was still at LSU vs. the Ravens’ sideline. Trestman was run out of Chicago and overwhelmingly the primary gripe from players and fans alike was that his offense was too pass happy. I sure hope coach John Harbaugh intervenes and makes sure that the Ravens game plan is run heavy this week as the team travels to Cleveland.

In a memorable loss to Jacksonville years ago, when Ray Rice carried the ball something like 8 times, I’ll never forget a quote by Terrell Suggs that has stuck with me through the years. After that loss he said that “when you go on the road, you pack your defense and your running game.”  I think that is great advice, and the Ravens need to pay attention here.

Turnovers are hard to overcome in the NFL, particularly on the road when you’re also facing significant crowd noise. Running the ball tends to be easier for an offense to execute.  The Ravens need to force turnovers by Cleveland QBs, whether it’s RGIII (he has a shoulder injury) or Josh McCown, run the ball, play solid defense, and let the game come to them.  Control the ball, control the clock, take the crowd out of the game, and come home two and oh.





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Ravens simply play faster than Buffalo in grind-it-out win

Posted on 12 September 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Maybe the Ravens just have Rex Ryan’s number.

The 13-7 home win over Buffalo wasn’t a performance that will propel them up the NFL power rankings in the eyes of observers, but it was the kind of game the Ravens found ways to lose time and time again a year ago. That alone was promising enough to begin the 2016 season.

A 1-0 start shouldn’t be taken for granted as Baltimore won its first season opener since 2012. Even if it came against Ryan, who is now 0-4 against the team with which he spent a decade as a defensive assistant.

“Our guys will go to work and will continue to get better,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But the point of emphasis is [that] they did what they had to do today to get the job done and make the plays that needed to be made in this game. I’m proud of them for that.”

The encouraging takeaway from Sunday’s win was the speed the Ravens displayed on defense and on the two biggest offensive plays of the game that led to 10 first-half points. More often than not, they simply looked faster than the Bills in the season opener.

The defensive personnel isn’t dramatically different from last year — Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil didn’t even play on Sunday — but Baltimore played with more confidence and urgency to post the kind of numbers we hadn’t seen since Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were leading the way. Buffalo’s 160 total yards were the fewest allowed by the Ravens since giving up 150 to Ryan’s New York Jets on Oct. 2, 2011.

The defense started and finished sensationally, giving up a total of 12 yards in the first and fourth quarters combined. Buffalo’s top-ranked rushing offense from a year ago averaged just 2.7 yards per carry while Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for only 111 yards on 22 pass attempts.

The Ravens consistently flew to the ball to register eight tackles for a loss with cornerback Shareece Wright leading the way with three of them and 11 total tackles. New starters such as safety Eric Weddle and inside linebacker Zach Orr have improved the speed of the defense, but multiple players also complimented defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ play-calling on Sunday.

“The staff simplified the defense a little bit more, so we were able to go out there and have checks and play fast,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith, who held top Buffalo receiver Sammy Watkins to just four catches for 43 yards. “I think that was evident today. Coach switched it up a lot today and he likes to play certain things sometimes, [but] I think he did a really good job of switching up the defense. It kept them on their heels and not knowing what we were going to do.”

The Ravens offense couldn’t beat its chest like the defense after a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance, but a pair of plays in the first half proved to be the difference in a low-scoring defensive struggle.

Speed was once again the difference.

Quarterback Joe Flacco’s sensational 35-yard completion to Breshad Perriman not only welcomed the 2015 first-round pick to the NFL, but it was the biggest chunk of yardage leading to a 50-yard field goal late in the first quarter for a 3-0 lead. It was the only pass that Perriman caught on Sunday, but he showed off his speed and size with the leaping sideline grab.

The home run came in the second quarter when veteran newcomer Mike Wallace reminded Ravens fans of the receiver who once tormented them as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Matched up against backup safety Duke Williams, Wallace caught a 66-yard touchdown on a post route after Flacco changed out of a third-and-1 play at the line of scrimmage.

“It was extremely big, just because I probably haven’t had a 50-yard-plus touchdown in three years,” said Wallace, whose longest reception with Minnesota last season was just 34 yards. “It felt good just to get back to that, just to let them know that we’re not dead. A lot of people wrote me off. They think I don’t have it, but I’ve got something for them.”

Those two plays aside, the offense struggled for large stretches of Sunday’s game, which wasn’t shocking after the extended absences of several skill players from the practice field this summer. It was ugly for most of the second half as the Ravens managed just 83 total yards over the final 30 minutes, but the offense did just enough and was able to run out the final 4:29 of the game with an eight-play drive.

The pass protection was subpar, the running game inconsistent, and the passing attack out of sync after a good first half, but that element of speed once again brought optimism that wasn’t there a year ago when the Ravens lacked the necessary weapons to stretch the field.

The offense remains a work in progress, but Wallace and Perriman alone provide much room for growth against vulnerable pass defenses.

“I’d like to find a couple more ways to get them involved even a little bit more,” Flacco said. “They didn’t have a ton of catches, but it was a good start. You can see what Mike can do there. They played ‘cover zero’ a handful of times and they really probably got the best of us. We didn’t really do too much damage to it except for that one play.

“That’s what happens when you have guys who can run like that.”

Sunday’s win wasn’t pretty, but improved speed on both sides of the ball is a step in the right direction from last year.

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Ravens-Bills: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 10 September 2016 by Luke Jones

A fast start is always welcomed in a new season, but it’s especially critical for the Ravens coming off a 5-11 campaign.

A win in Week 1 allows for a deep breath and thoughts that this year will be different. A home defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills will only make John Harbaugh and his players think, “Here we go again.”

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Buffalo meet for the seventh time in the all-time regular-season series with both teams previously winning three apiece. The Ravens are 3-1 against the Bills at M&T Bank Stadium and 3-0 in games against Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan, who spent a decade as an assistant in Baltimore before serving as the head coach of the New York Jets for six years.

1. A suspect Buffalo pass rush will allow Joe Flacco to go vertical to Mike Wallace for a long first-half touchdown. You can expect a Ryan defense to throw the kitchen sink at rookie offensive linemen Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis, but the Bills had just 21 sacks a season ago and are without suspended defensive tackle Marcell Dareus for the first four games. The Ravens will want to try out their revamped vertical passing game against the league’s 19th-ranked pass defense from a year ago, and Flacco will get enough time to throw a strike to Wallace, whom he praised over the summer.

2. Tyrod Taylor will run for 60 yards and a touchdown as the Baltimore front struggles to keep him in the pocket. The Ravens are fully aware of Taylor’s athleticism, but the absence of Elvis Dumervil will leave an inexperienced rusher such as Za’Darius Smith or Matt Judon opposite Terrell Suggs on the other side. Pressuring a mobile quarterback is tricky because you don’t want him to flush him from the pocket, meaning you must stay disciplined in rush lanes and not get too wide or crash inside. This will be a problem for overzealous young rushers and will lead to scrambling opportunities.

3. As Jimmy Smith tries to lock down Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Charles Clay will catch touchdowns. After Dean Pees said Watkins reminded him a bit of Randy Moss, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith mirror him with safety help whenever possible. However, Woods and Clay are capable of making plays and this pass defense didn’t play at a high level in the preseason. In trying to prevent Watkins from going off, the Ravens will give up passing yards to other targets while primarily staying in their base defense to account for the league’s top-ranked running game from a year ago.

4. Terrance West will score a touchdown in an otherwise so-so day for the running game. It will be interesting to see how many opportunities the Ravens give veteran starter Justin Forsett early before West begins to get his touches. Buffalo ranked 16th in run defense a year ago and the Ravens have made it clear that they want to be better on the ground, but it will be a work in progress with a new left side of the offensive line in place. There won’t be a ton of running room, but West looks like the best candidate to get goal-line carries and he’ll push one into the end zone.

5. Flacco will throw for 240 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Ravens to a 27-21 win over the Bills. If Baltimore wants to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, this is a game you must win playing at home. The Bills defense doesn’t pose a big threat, but Flacco will want to get rid of the ball quickly as he did in his only preseason action last month. Look for lots of underneath passing to the likes of Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, and Dennis Pitta while mixing in deep shots to Wallace and Breshad Perriman. It will be enough for a solid Week 1 win and Baltimore’s first victory in an opener since 2012.

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Ravens need youth movement for 2016 and beyond

Posted on 09 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Your outlook on the Ravens this season likely depends on how you viewed a forgettable 2015 in which they finished 5-11.

If you point to more than 20 players suffering season-ending injuries — the most in the John Harbaugh era — and nine losses decided by one possession, a dramatic turnaround feels inevitable with any reasonable shift in luck.

Or, you remember the myriad of reasons that contributed to a 1-6 start long before the losses of Steve Smith, Joe Flacco, and Justin Forsett transformed a lost season into one more conveniently excused by injuries. From that perspective, those failures were less about bad fortune and more the culmination of a series of missteps over the previous few years.

No matter where your assessment of last season lies, the 2016 Ravens are relying on a slew of older players at key positions, which is a slippery slope. According to Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.com, Baltimore had the sixth-oldest 53-man roster in the NFL on final cut-down day. That was before general manager Ozzie Newsome re-signed the 30-year-old Justin Forsett and added 33-year-old return specialist Devin Hester at the beginning of the week.

Fifteen players on the active roster are 30 or older. Of their 12 former Pro Bowl selections, only two — linebacker C.J. Mosley and kicker Justin Tucker — are currently in their 20s.

Their projected starting outside linebackers, wide receivers, safeties, and running back are all 30 or older. Experience is certainly valuable, but those are positions where you don’t want to be sparring too frequently with Father Time.

The Ravens have obvious exceptions to the rule — a few of them will eventually be in the discussion for the Hall of Fame — but this is largely a young man’s game.

And that brings us to the biggest key for the Ravens in 2016 and certainly beyond.

The youth movement needs to start now.

Seeing the likes of Smith and Terrell Suggs return from injuries to lead the Ravens back into postseason contention would be fun, but it would be in vain if several younger players don’t take significant steps forward. At 31, Flacco should have several more productive seasons ahead of him at quarterback, but this is an otherwise aging core of difference-makers, which was true even before pass rusher Elvis Dumervil suffered a setback from offseason foot surgery that will keep him sidelined for the start of the season.

It’s time for the next wave of great Ravens to emerge. In fact, it’s overdue, which is a significant reason why 2015 was such a disappointment.

Excluding players yet to take an NFL snap like rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley and wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who are the under-30 talents on this roster that other teams truly covet?

Brandon Williams might be the best run-stopping nose tackle in the league and Tucker is arguably the NFL’s top kicker, but who else?

Mosley and cornerback Jimmy Smith? Maybe in 2014, but not based on the way they performed a year ago.

Others have potential, but the Ravens thought the same about failed draft picks such as Matt Elam, Arthur Brown, and Terrence Brooks not long ago. The proof will be in the results on the field.

Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, or Kamalei Correa needs to become as a significant pass-rushing threat to complement Suggs and Dumervil. The defense will be even more dangerous if more than one can do it.

As their earliest first-round pick in 16 years, Stanley must make fans forget every left tackle the Ravens have had since Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden.

Perriman needs to stay healthy and show why he was the first receiver the organization drafted in the first round in a decade.

Jimmy Smith and Mosley have to look more like the players they were in 2014.

If others step up along the way, the Ravens will really be in business — not just for this season but for the future.

If young players fail to develop, they will once again be depending too heavily on aging talent trying to stay healthy enough to play at a high level for another year.

Baltimore can bounce back with the combination of veterans returning and young play-makers emerging.

But it’s difficult to imagine it happening to any meaningful degree without the latter.

The Ravens need their youth to take the baton and step to the forefront.

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Ravens-Colts preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 19 August 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are moving closer to looking like a complete team.

Saturday’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts probably won’t reflect that, but both Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith returned to the practice field this week and are on track to be ready for the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11.

After resting a number of healthy veterans against Carolina, head coach John Harbaugh isn’t sharing his plans for playing time on Saturday night. In the past, Harbaugh had played most of his starters into the second quarter of the second preseason game, but the Ravens are merely following a league-wide trend of trying to keep veteran players out of harm’s way as much as possible while maximizing the opportunity to evaluate unknown commodities.

“You want to see the young guys play in game situations when the tackling is live,” said Harbaugh, who acknowledged the artificial surface at Lucas Oil Stadium being one of many factors to consider in determining which veterans will play. “There’s not quite as much practice as there was before — certainly not even close to as much as it was way before. We practice really well, and we see a lot from our guys in practice. The game is a confirmation. Or, sometimes, guys that don’t practice as well play well in games. Sometimes guys practice great and don’t show up in games. That’s something you really need to know.”

Joe Flacco continues to practice every day while only experiencing mild soreness in his surgically-repaired left knee, but Harbaugh may rest his franchise quarterback for a second straight game and wait until next week’s “dress rehearsal” for his first preseason action. Such a timetable would be concerning if not for the fact that Flacco has yet to miss a single rep during training camp.

The 31-year-old hasn’t been in a live pocket since last November, but he sees no need to play extensively in the preseason ahead of his ninth NFL season.

“I’m not worried about it; I’ve played plenty of games,” Flacco said. “I think the biggest reason to get back out there is to get back in live action and see what it feels like again. But it doesn’t really take too long to do that, so whatever we do is going to be for a reason. Whatever happens, happens, and I’m going to be comfortable either way.”

Thursday marks the first time these AFC teams have met in the preseason, but Indianapolis holds an 8-3 edge in regular-season matchups and a 2-1 lead in the postseason. Baltimore has compiled a 21-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday night’s game against Indianapolis.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider any veteran players — like Flacco — who could be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: WR Steve Smith (Achilles), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), DE Bronson Kaufusi (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles), TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), WR Chris Matthews (soft tissue injury), CB Kyle Arrington (head), S Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: G John Urschel (contusion), WR Chris Moore (foot), CB Tavon Young (hamstring), TE Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), WR Michael Campanaro (unspecified strains), CB Maurice Canady (undisclosed), TE Daniel Brown (undisclosed), CB Sheldon Price (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: QB Joe Flacco (knee)

Five players to watch Thursday night

RB Justin Forsett

The performance of Terrance West, Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon this summer certainly should have the attention of Forsett, who didn’t play in the preseason opener. I’m not buying any sentiment that the 30-year-old is in danger of being pushed off the roster, but he’ll certainly want to present himself well in what game action he sees between now and the start of the season. He’s still the best pass-blocking tailback on the roster and breaks more tackles than you’d expect with a 5-foot-8, 195-pound frame. The young backs might be closing the gap, but Forsett’s experience is still invaluable to the backfield.

CB Jimmy Smith

It was clear that the No. 1 cornerback wasn’t 100 percent last year coming off foot surgery, but the Ravens need much more from the man in which they invested a huge contract. Smith got off to a quiet start in camp after having the surgical screws removed from his right foot this spring, but he’s looked much better in recent practices. If the Baltimore defense is to return to a high level, the 28-year-old needs to be a Pro Bowl-caliber kind of cornerback as he looked to be before suffering the Lisfranc injury. Seeing him stack some quality live-game reps would be encouraging going into the regular season.

OT Ronnie Stanley

The rookie left tackle played 22 snaps and graded out well against Carolina despite having suffered a minor injury less than a week earlier. The Ravens just want to see him continue that in more extensive action against the Indianapolis front. The best compliment you can pay an offensive lineman is that you don’t notice him that much, a description that fits the first-round pick in his first training camp. The Ravens were impressed with his pedigree coming out of Notre Dame, and he’s done everything so far to make you think he can handle a very demanding position in his first NFL season.

LB Albert McClellan

Not many would have predicted McClellan to be atop the depth chart at the strong-side outside linebacker position, but the Ravens need a replacement for Courtney Upshaw and McClellan is more consistent setting the edge on run plays than second-year linebacker Za’Darius Smith at this point. It’s critical that someone — McClellan, Smith, or even rookie Kamalei Correa — emerges to handle the “Sam” spot in order to allow Elvis Dumervil to return to more of a situational role in 2016. A special-teams standout for a number of years, McClellan has more trust with the coaching staff than many would think.

WR Chris Moore

With Breshad Perriman’s status for the start of the regular season looking in doubt, more attention will fall on the rookie fourth-round pick to be a decent complement to veteran Mike Wallace in the vertical passing game. Moore was arguably the biggest star over the first couple days of camp before a foot injury sidelined him until this week. The Ravens have had other receivers in and out of practice, but Moore has received plenty of second-team reps as well as some work with the first team. It’s not a guarantee that Moore will play so soon after a two-week absence, but his explosiveness is worth watching.

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Veterans rest as Ravens continue countdown to preseason opener

Posted on 05 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their first preseason game now less than a week away, the Ravens rested a number of veterans during Friday’s practice.

However, that list did not include starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who continues to ease any lingering concerns about the health of his surgically-repaired left knee. The 31-year-old has yet to miss a practice this summer despite undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery just eight months ago.

It remains to be seen whether Flacco will play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, but the Ravens are pleased with where the ninth-year quarterback is from a football standpoint despite him missing all spring workouts and their June minicamp while rehabbing.

“It is obvious he has spent time on his own getting himself ready,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “He is certainly ready mentally. Each and every day, he is just working to try and get better, and we are seeing a lot of productivity out here. It is good stuff.”

A total of 18 players were missing from the field at the start of Friday’s practice with wide receiver Kamar Aiken, running back Justin Forsett, safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Albert McCellan, tight end Benjamin Watson, and offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Marshal Yanda presumably receiving the day off as veterans with no known injury concerns.

Players absent because of injuries included tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), wide receiver Chris Moore (foot), cornerback Maurice Canady, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice this summer.

Safety Matt Elam was on the field for the start of practice before leaving the field and not returning. He appeared limited during Thursday’s practice with an unknown ailment.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was having one of his best practices of camp before he began favoring his left leg toward the end of Friday’s workout. The defensive back broke up a deep ball intended for speedy receiver Mike Wallace in a 1-on-1 drill and broke up another pass later in the day.

Camp highlights

One of the top plays of the day was an impressive connection from Flacco to second-year tight end Maxx Williams with linebacker C.J. Mosley in tight coverage down the middle of the field. The quarterback threw slightly behind Williams in order to fit the ball into a tight window and the 2015 second-round pick made a strong catch.

Williams has quietly had a solid camp despite a few veterans being ahead of him in the pecking order.

Currently atop the depth chart as the Ravens’ primary return specialist, Kaelin Clay flashed skills as a receiver with a great touchdown catch on a back-shoulder throw from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and brought in another good catch later in practice. However, he dropped an easy one during an 11-on-11 drill.

Safety Terrence Brooks has a lot to prove after an underwhelming start to his NFL career, but he had a strong day, intercepting a Mallett pass that went off the hands of tight end Darren Waller and stripping the ball from running back Terrance West as the whistle blew to conclude a non-live play.

Waller later beat coverage from linebacker Kamalei Correa to catch a touchdown pass from Flacco on a deep corner route.

Late teammate remembered

A number of Ravens players including Perriman, Forsett, Kendrick Lewis, Julian Wilson, and Anthony Levine used Twitter to remember late teammate Tray Walker, who would have celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday.

The young cornerback tragically died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in March.

The Ravens have not issued his No. 25 jersey this summer.

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Ravens cornerback Smith feeling “way better” than he did in 2015

Posted on 03 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith made it a point not to talk about his surgically-repaired right foot last season.

Despite starting all 16 games after missing the second half of 2014 with a Lisfranc injury and the subsequent surgery, Smith’s play fell off in 2015 as he ranked 77th among qualified NFL cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Not wanting to make excuses last season but acknowledging he felt discomfort throughout the campaign, the 28-year-old had the surgical screws removed from his foot this spring in hopes that he will finally get back to being the player he was two years ago.

In 2015, Smith made 54 tackles, broke up 10 passes, and grabbed three interceptions — returning one for a touchdown in the 2015 season opener — but he struggled going up against the opposition’s No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis.

“I feel way better than I did last year,” said Smith, who signed a four-year, $41 million contract extension through the 2019 season last spring. “My foot is not even close to what it was last year. Now, it’s just getting back and knocking some rust off, but I feel good.”

Trying to rebound from a 5-11 season in which they set a single-season franchise low for interceptions with only six and ranked 27th in opponent passer rating, the Ravens are counting on Smith to bounce back in a major way. With pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both on the wrong side of 30, Baltimore needs Smith as well as nose tackle Brandon Williams and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley to lead its next great defensive unit.

It’s been a quiet start to training camp for Smith, who missed spring workouts while recovering from the procedure and gave up a long touchdown to rookie Chris Moore on the second day of practice. The 2011 first-round pick has allowed some other completions here and there, but getting back to top form in time for the Sept. 11 opener is the primary goal.

Head coach John Harbaugh credited Smith’s determination in competing last season despite being at less than full strength and pointed out the unique challenge of playing the cornerback position where every mistake is magnified.

“It’s not like another position when you’re in the trenches and nobody sees it,” Harbaugh said. “For a corner not to be 100 percent — not to be as fast or as quick — is tough. That’s where we’ve got to get him to, and he’s working to get there. He’s 100 percent healthy. Now, if we can get all of the quickness, and the speed, and change of direction back to where it was, then we’ll have the Jimmy Smith that we all know.”

Harbaugh defends Richardson

The Ravens elected to move on from injured running back Trent Richardson on Tuesday, but Harbaugh went out of his way to defend the 2012 first-round pick, who has faced plenty of ridicule as his NFL career has fallen apart over the last few years.

“He’s definitely still on our radar. It’s amazing to me the vitriol and, really, the hate out there that people want to put out,” Harbaugh said. “All he’s done is come in here and work as hard as he can, and he’s got a [recovery from knee surgery], and we’re making a roster decision. He’s done nothing wrong. He’s still trying very hard. He’s just a young guy who’s trying his best to make it in this league. Because he was a top pick, I know that that definitely comes with more scrutiny.

“Certainly he understands that and he handles it really well, but he’s a good person, he wants to do well, and he’s a hard worker. There’s a possibility that sometime, someway, some fashion, he could come back here or somewhere else in the league.”

Of course, the Ravens frequently say they are leaving the door open for departed players to return in the future, but they currently have a 90-man roster with numerous individuals having no real chance of making the regular-season roster and still elected to let Richardson go.

Richardson went unclaimed off waivers on Wednesday.

Injury report

Twelve players currently on the 90-man roster did not practice on Wednesday including tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), wide receiver Chris Moore (foot), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), cornerbacks Will Davis (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (undisclosed), and running back Kenneth Dixon (knee).

Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice during training camp.

Roster moves

With Dixon and Taliaferro still sidelined because of injuries, the Ravens were light at the running back position and signed Stephen Houston on Wednesday. The former undrafted free agent out of Indiana spent time with New England and Pittsburgh during training camp two years ago.

The Ravens waived left-footed punter Michael Palardy to make room on the roster.

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Ten Ravens thoughts on first week of training camp

Posted on 02 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens approaching the end of their first week of training camp, I’ve offered 10 early thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens have numerous injury questions, but Joe Flacco is looking less and less like one. Other than the brace on his left knee, you’d never know he’s eight months removed from surgery. He’s moving and throwing like he always did and says he’s not even thinking about the knee.

2. Everyone is rooting for Keenan Reynolds to make an impact after his brilliant career at Navy, but he’s a substantial work in progress. It’s still very early, but he hasn’t played with much confidence and has dropped more passes and kicks than you’d like to see even in practices.

3. With other running backs currently sidelined, Terrance West is taking advantage of the reps and has looked the part of a motivated young player vying for a significant role in the offense. West has shed 15 pounds from last season and is noticeably more explosive running the football.

4. After missing spring workouts to have the screws removed from his right foot, Jimmy Smith has had a quiet start. He hasn’t practiced poorly, but he’s still working his way back to full strength. The defense sorely needs him to return to his pre-surgery 2014 form this season.

5. An understated need in 2016 will be for Za’Darius Smith to become an impact player. He looks comfortable in pass coverage and has shown good pass-rush ability. If he can handle responsibilities formerly held by Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw, less pressure falls on Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

6. Though Jerraud Powers remains the favorite to play slot cornerback in sub packages, rookie Tavon Young has displayed good ball skills and has shown good aggression in coverage. He also looked smooth and fast returning a kickoff at Monday’s stadium practice. He’s someone to watch in the preseason.

7. Much has been written about Kamalei Correa competing to start at inside linebacker next to C.J. Mosley, but he plays with an edge, evident by the skirmishes on Monday. The Ravens need more attitude and higher-end talent, and Correa has a chance to bring both to the defense.

8. It’s unclear how much time he’ll miss, but it was a shame to see rookie receiver Chris Moore walking with his left foot in a boot on Monday. It was only a couple practices, but his acceleration going after the deep ball reminds a little bit of Torrey Smith.

9. It was interesting to see Justin Tucker repeatedly pop kickoffs into the air that landed inside the 5-yard line on Monday. With touchbacks on kickoffs moving to the 25, John Harbaugh said this offseason that the Ravens could alter their approach instead of just booting it through the end zone.

10. Crockett Gillmore has a rare combination of size and quickness that is fun to watch, but you wonder if his physical style of play will continue hindering his durability. He’s already had quite a few injuries in two-plus years with a hamstring strain the latest ailment to sideline him.

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