Tag Archive | "Jimmy Smith"

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Ravens lose cornerback Jimmy Smith to thigh injury

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a thigh injury on the opening series of their 34-14 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-year defensive back appeared to hurt his hamstring chasing after Chiefs running back Charcandrick West on his 38-yard touchdown run. Minutes after going to the Baltimore locker room for further examination, Smith was declared out for the remainder of the game.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not have an update on Smith after the Ravens’ 10th loss of the season.

“I don’t have an update on that. I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “I knew he was out for the game, but that’s the last I’ve talked to the doctors about that.”

Intending to use Lardarius Webb exclusively as a nickel back and at safety this week, the Ravens instead moved the veteran back outside — opposite of Shareece Wright — in the base defense after Smith’s injury.

Smith’s exit created an opportunity for the recently-promoted Jumal Rolle to play cornerback in the nickel package for the remainder of the game. After appearing in 18 games for Houston over the last two seasons, Rolle was signed to the Baltimore practice squad after being cut by the Texans last month.

Harbaugh said earlier in the week that he wanted to give Rolle a chance to play over the final three weeks of the season.

“We had guys to come in and step it up,” Webb said. “Jumal Rolle came in, played good. We’ve got Shareece here. I thought he came in and did an awesome job when Jimmy went down.”

Should Smith not be able to return to play in Week 16, a high-octane Pittsburgh passing game will face even less resistance in a Baltimore secondary that has struggled all season.

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Kansas City’s turnaround reflects bizarro season for Ravens

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Luke Jones

It wasn’t long ago that the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs were in the same spot as the Ravens.

Having completed a stretch of four of their first six on the road and lost star running back Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury a week earlier, Andy Reid’s team was 1-5 after a 16-10 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 18. It was the same day Baltimore fell to San Francisco to drop to 1-5, the worst start in the 20-year history of the Ravens.

Two months later, Kansas City is in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and is in line to become the first NFL team since the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals to rebound from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Ravens need to win one more game just to avoid tying the worst record in team history.

It’s only fitting that the Ravens meet a bizarro version of themselves in this difficult 2015 season.

“We’re playing the hottest team in football coming in here, coached by a great coach,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They have a bunch of great players. They’re plus-12 [in] turnovers. I don’t think they ever turn the ball over. They’re doing the things they need to do to win football games. They’re doing what we hoped to do after a slow start.”

When 12 of your 13 games have been decided by a single possession like the Ravens have experienced this season, you need to be good at protecting the football and limiting your opponents’ scoring chances to win those tight contests. Of course, 4-9 Baltimore hasn’t done that in ranking 31st in turnover ratio (minus-12), 30th in takeaways (11), and 24th in giveaways (23).

Kansas City ranks second in the league in turnover ratio in addition to having a top 10 defense and rushing attack.

The Chiefs are everything the Ravens want to be right now.

“Giving them away and not taking them away. That has been the story that has not helped us and [has] helped other teams,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “If I can pinpoint something, I would say defensively, it’s turnovers and big plays. That’s a huge part — interceptions and fumbles and forced fumbles, turnovers in general, being a stingy defense, taking that ball away.

“Giving our offense more opportunities [and] cutting other offenses’ opportunities short. That would have gone a long way this season for us.”

If it weren’t enough to look around the league and see Michael Oher starting at left tackle for the undefeated Carolina Panthers and Tyrod Taylor shining in Buffalo — two players often maligned to varying degrees by Ravens fans — Thursday may have brought an even better example of this bizarre world. Heavily criticized as a third-round bust in his four years with the Ravens, Jah Reid signed a three-year extension with the Chiefs on Thursday as he’s held down the starting right tackle job.

Strange times, indeed.

High school reunion

Sunday will be a proud day for Colton High School in California as not only will Ravens cornerbacks and high school teammates Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright play their ninth game together, but they’ll look to the opposing sideline and see another familiar face from those days — Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen.

“It’s pretty cool. Danny Sorensen, he was a young kid when I was at Colton — me and Shareece,” Smith said. “He was our safety. He comes from a long line of talented football players. His brother, actually, is Brad Sorensen, who was my high school quarterback, and he was the backup for San Diego a few weeks ago [when we played]. It’s kind of a cool thing.”

Daniel Sorensen was signed by Kansas City as a rookie free agent out of Brigham Young last year.

Pitta named Ed Block winner

After suffering two serious right hip injuries in a 14-month period, tight end Dennis Pitta was named the Ravens’ recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award this season.

The 30-year-old returned to the practice field in late October, but he was not cleared to return to live-game action and has remained on the physically unable to perform list. While his football future remains in doubt, Pitta has continued to serve as a mentor and an additional coach to a young group of tight ends throughout the 2015 season.

Thursday’s injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), Albert McClellan (ankle), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Terrance West (calf)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Jeff Allen (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), LB Tamba Hali (knee), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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Nothing surprising about Ravens in blowout defeat

Posted on 13 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The most depressing part of the Ravens’ 35-6 loss to Seattle on Sunday was it not being surprising.

Maybe quarterback Jimmy Clausen played a little better than most predicted. And after showing improvement against a list of underwhelming offenses in recent weeks, the Baltimore defense didn’t perform as well as expected — or at least hoped — by fans.

But was there anything else all that unexpected about the injury-ravaged Ravens being blown out by the two-time defending NFC champion and red-hot Seahawks?

Everything felt off at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, a venue that’s hosted so many meaningful December games over the last 16 years. Not only was the contest originally scheduled to be a nationally-televised Sunday night game, but it kicked off a three-game homestand, the kind of scheduling the Ravens would typically embrace when in the midst of the playoff race.

Instead, the seating bowl was virtually empty in the fourth quarter after Russell Wilson threw his fifth touchdown pass of the game and third to Doug Baldwin.

“It was bad. [The pass defense] has to be better than that,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who unsurprisingly labeled Sunday’s performance the “worst” of the season. “It’s no individual guy’s fault; it’s just not as good as it needs to be. I’ll take responsibility for that. We have to play way, way better pass defense.”

In addition to Clausen becoming the first quarterback not named Joe Flacco to start a home game for the Ravens since Dec. 30, 2007, just four of the 14 offensive skill position players — quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends — active for Sunday were even on the 53-man roster at the start of October. After Eugene Monroe was placed on injured reserve a day earlier, guard Kelechi Osemele made his first NFL start at left tackle.

Perhaps the best reflection of just how depleted the roster is, right guard Marshal Yanda was the last player out of the tunnel as the Ravens introduced the starting offense before the game. Taking nothing away from the four-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the best players in franchise history, but an offensive lineman being the last player announced doesn’t exactly energize a crowd already struggling through a miserable season.

Where have you gone Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs — or even Joe Flacco and Steve Smith?

At least the weather was beautiful for a mid-December day?

It was the worst home loss since 2013 when New England handed the Ravens a 41-7 defeat in Week 16. Their six points were their lowest output since a 20-3 loss at Indianapolis in the 2009 postseason, and it was the first time Baltimore failed to score a touchdown in a game since Justin Tucker kicked six field goals in a win at Detroit on Dec. 16, 2013. The Ravens’ 28 rushing yards were the second-lowest total under Harbaugh.

But what did you really expect with a quarterback claimed off waivers less than three weeks ago leading an injury-depleted unit against one of the best defenses in the NFL?

Clausen wasn’t the one who gave up five touchdown passes on Sunday.

The Ravens ended all discussion about the defense making recent progress as they failed to record a sack for the first time since Week 16 of last year. At least they aren’t alone in falling victim to Wilson recently as the fourth-year quarterback has thrown a whopping 16 touchdowns without an interception in his last four games.

But beyond the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs in the opener, the Baltimore defense can’t use injuries as an excuse in the same way that the opposite side of the ball can. It’s clear the unit needs an infusion of talent to bolster the pass rush and secondary this offseason.

“We already know how tough it is. I’m not going to stand here and make excuses,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “We know what the situation is. We know what we came from. We know what we don’t have. Playing in games against teams that are fighting to make the playoffs is going to be even tougher on us. Obviously, you saw that today.”

Officially eliminated from playoff contention and having clinched the first losing season of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens will now compete in their first games since 2007 knowing they have nothing to play for beyond pride. It isn’t about accountability at this point — that will come after the season — as we know what’s been wrong with this football team for three months, with injuries only turning problems into full-blown crises in recent weeks.

No, Sunday didn’t bring frustration as much as resignation for the Ravens — and their fans — against a strong football team, something they pride themselves in being most seasons. But certainly not this one as Seattle showed the Ravens just how far away they are from being a playoff-caliber team at the moment.

There will be plenty of time for discussion about which players and coaches will or won’t return in 2016.

But the final three games are just about survival while taking a peek at young players for the future.

Though Sunday was the first time all year that the Ravens have lost by more than one score, the lopsided defeat wasn’t remotely surprising.

It made for a sobering day at a place not used to such misery.

And feelings don’t figure to get much better before this season mercifully comes to an end in three weeks.

“It’s a test of our pride, and it’s a test for us as men,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We have to care for one another, and we have to always do for each other. These aren’t the results that we want, and it’s not our time for this season, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have [anything] to play for.”

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In last stand, Ravens fail to change losing tune

Posted on 15 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Sunday represented the last stand for the 2015 Ravens.

After their win over San Diego two weeks ago, players and coaches talked about making a second-half run to climb back into an underwhelming AFC wild-card race. Coming off their bye, the Ravens had an extra week to make mid-season adjustments and to prepare for a 2-6 opponent that hadn’t won a road game in nearly two years.

Their most optimistic fans believed there was at least a small chance for the Ravens to turn around their season starting with a win over the lowly Jaguars. But that dream vanished with Elvis Dumervil’s face mask penalty with no time remaining, setting up Jason Myers’ 53-yard field goal to hand the Ravens a stunning 22-20 defeat.

Head coach John Harbaugh called it “as tough a loss as you’re ever going to see” as Baltimore fell to 2-7, but it was just the latest crushing defeat in the most disappointing season in franchise history. The Ravens are just bad enough to find new ways to lose close games on a weekly basis.

“I felt like we lost the game way before that,” said wide receiver Kamar Aiken, citing the Ravens’ slew of other mistakes and his own dropped passes. “It should have never gotten to that point.”

Dumervil’s penalty was just the last of several miscues over the final four minutes of the game after Jacksonville punted the ball back to the Ravens with 3:57 remaining.

The first play of that drive was a Joe Flacco pass to Kyle Juszczyk that resulted in six yards before the fullback ran out of bounds — stopping the clock. After then moving the ball to the Jacksonville 43, the Ravens elected to take a timeout on fourth-and-5 instead of letting the play clock expire and taking a five-yard penalty for a delay of game.

Arguably the best punter in the NFL this season, Sam Koch punted the ball into the end zone for his first touchback of the season, giving the Jaguars the ball at the 20 instead of inside their 10 with 1:06 left and no timeouts remaining.

The decision seemed inconsequential at the time, but how crucial did that extra second and field position turn out to be for the Jaguars?

On second-and-15 from the Jacksonville 40, Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis dropped what would have been the game-clinching interception. That missed chance came just two plays before Dumervil’s critical mistake on a play in which virtually everyone on the field had stopped playing except for Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and the Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

But the Ravens had other failed chances and errors — including four second-half turnovers — that put them in position for the final bizarre play to matter. There may have been some new post-bye wrinkles with more three-tight sets on offense and new personnel groups on defense — the previously-missing 2013 second-round pick Arthur Brown even played — but the same mistakes came at critical times as the Ravens committed nine penalties for 121 yards.

It used to be that the Ravens had to play poorly and a team like Jacksonville would need to be nearly perfect to have a real chance to win in Baltimore, but let’s not pretend that the Jaguars were a juggernaut with their collection of dropped passes, a 26-yard field goal miss, and questionable play-calling throughout the day.

Sunday was 60 minutes of mediocre football played between two bad teams, with the Ravens blinking hardest at the end.

“We’re just not the type of team that’s finding ways to win right now,” said Flacco, who committed three turnovers in the third quarter despite three touchdown passes on the day. “We’re not good enough to [win] football games at the end. You can look at how crazy it is no matter what. We have chances to close those games out. We’re just leaving room for stuff like this to happen.”

You can keep pointing to closes losses and dwelling on misfortune.

Instead of turning a corner after their bye week and making a statement that the second half of 2015 would be a different story, the Ravens played the same losing tune in the end. And it wiped out what faint hope might have remained in their lost season.

M&T Bank Stadium used to be a place where the Ravens were almost invincible, but they’re now 1-3 at home with losses to Cleveland and Jacksonville, perennial doormats of the AFC. There’s just no explanation for it other than being a bad team, even if the Ravens and their fans might feel like the football gods were conspiring against them on that final play.

“We are not catching those breaks,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “It’s a flag here, dropped picks, and [missed] opportunities, and we’re not coming up with them.

“It’s not the universe; it’s us.”

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Criticism not sitting well with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith

Posted on 12 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — By nearly all accounts, 2015 has been a difficult season for Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Coming back from last November’s season-ending Lisfranc surgery on his left foot was already challenging, but the pressure accompanying a four-year, $41 million contract extension has put the fifth-year defensive under a microscope. The results haven’t been pretty over the first eight games as teams frequently targeted the No. 1 cornerback and even defensive coordinator Dean Pees described Smith’s play as “tentative” late last month.

Asked about that criticism with the Ravens now back from their bye, Smith didn’t give the impression that he agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“Honestly, I don’t even want to … I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” said Smith, who was then asked if he believes he needs to play more aggressively. “I feel like I’ve just got to keep getting better, keep playing my game.”

Has the criticism been too harsh for Smith? There’s no disputing that he’s given up several big plays in the first half of the season from Amari Cooper’s 68-yard touchdown catch in Week 2 to a long fourth-quarter reception to Anquan Boldin in a Week 6 defeat.

Of cornerbacks playing at least 300 defensive snaps in 2015, Smith ranks 71st in Pro Football Focus’ grading system for the position. However, the 2011 first-round pick leads the Ravens with two interceptions, accounting for half of the team’s takeaways through the first eight games of the season.

Last week, defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt downplayed Smith’s struggles, saying that he’s “doing a great job” and making “dominating plays” despite the need for more consistency.

With Smith typically preferring to play more press coverage, you could argue that he hasn’t been used effectively, but no one could reasonably argue that he’s played like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, which is what the Ravens are paying him to be. He appeared on track to reaching that lofty territory last year when he was emerging as a Pro Bowl-caliber player before the unfortunate foot injury.

“I’ve just got to keep improving, getting better, just getting back to myself, pretty much,” Smith said. “You guys write one thing; I feel totally different than how you guys feel. I’m not going to get into that, but I’ve just got to keep playing ball.”

The good news is that Smith has stayed healthy after missing a total of 17 games in his first four NFL seasons. It’s reasonable to expect improvement over the second half of 2015 as he grows more confident with his surgically-repaired foot that he hasn’t wanted to discuss since training camp, leading many to wonder if he isn’t 100 percent physically.

The Ravens need much better from Smith than what they’ve seen so far in 2015.

Whether he agrees or not.

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Crazy or not, Ravens striking right chord after bye week

Posted on 10 November 2015 by Luke Jones

An 8-0 finish?

Playoffs?

Seriously?

The chatter among players began moments after the win over San Diego and has only been amplified with a bye week to rest their bodies and minds. Despite a 2-6 record that has them standing 13th out of 16 teams in the AFC entering Week 10, the Ravens still have their sights set on the playoffs as they trail current No. 6 seed Pittsburgh by 2 1/2 games.

Few outside the Baltimore locker room think qualifying for the postseason is anything but crazy talk, but that’s perfectly fine with the Ravens.

“That’s why it’s going to feel so much greater when we finally make it,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Coming back from this type of record and this season and the first eight [games], it’s going to feel that much greater when we make the playoffs. Let’s make some history.”

Unrealistic? Absolutely. Insane? Perhaps.

But I still like it.

Recent Ravens teams haven’t exactly oozed swagger like those from yesteryear, and that was even before they lost their two most demonstrative leaders — Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith — to season-ending injuries in the first half. Players know the odds are wildly against them, but believing you’re good enough fits into that winning equation — whether you actually are or not in the end.

Doubting talent and coaching is fair, but questioning the effort of these Ravens doesn’t mesh with all six of their losses coming by just one possession and a combined 30 points. A team that’s mailed it in doesn’t compete on a weekly basis, making the post-bye confidence an encouraging sign for better results with a more favorable schedule in the second half.

Of course, how much better is the real question, and that can only be answered on the field.

“We have to earn our way to have that conversation for sure,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But I expect our guys to have high expectations. The standard here has been high. We’ve set a high bar here for a long time, and we’re proud of that. We have high expectations, so we’re not going to let those expectations go. We’re not pleased with where we are — just like the fans aren’t pleased, coaches aren’t pleased, players aren’t pleased. Nobody in the organization is pleased with where we are, and we’re very determined to turn it around.”

We’ve all heard how the Ravens could be better than their 2-6 record. Given the small margin of defeat in those six losses, it’s fair to acknowledge the possibility, but let’s not forget those two victories could have easily turned into defeats as well. The eternal optimist would be stretching further to say the Ravens could be 6-2 or better than the pessimist would be in pointing to the possibility of a winless record through eight games.

Even if you believe that the Ravens were unlucky in the first half of the season, that doesn’t mean a run of good fortune is on the way. With Baltimore having a poor defense and an average offense lacking reliable pass-catchers — even before Smith’s Achilles injury — for Joe Flacco, predicting much better than a .500 record in the second half of the season would be based more on blind optimism than what we watched in the first half of 2015.

But players and coaches certainly don’t have to feel that way.

“The mindset is 1-0. Take care of what we have to take care of this week,” said running back Justin Forsett, who “definitely” thinks the Ravens can still make the playoffs. “We’ll just do our part and control what we control. Hopefully, at the end, we’ll be where we want to be.”

Even if the Ravens were to somehow run the table to finish 10-6, there’s no guarantee of even that being good enough as they needed help in Week 17 a year ago to make the playoffs with that same record. Rebounding from 2-6 is an incredible long shot, but who said the Ravens or their fans need to be grounded in reality, especially with eight games to go?

Does Harbaugh think the Ravens can make history as the first team to start 1-6 and make the NFL playoffs under the current format?

“Of course we can. We’re planning on it,” Harbaugh said. “We’re very optimistic about what’s in front of us, our future. We love our players, love the way they work, love the enthusiasm that they had today coming back and getting ready for Jacksonville.

“We’ll take it one day at a time, one game at a time.”

That’s all the Ravens can do, but some extra bravado can only help their near-impossible cause.

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Five Ravens predictions for rest of 2015 season

Posted on 07 November 2015 by Luke Jones

No one expected this.

Even if you wondered why the Ravens were receiving so much preseason love after enduring a number of substantial offseason departures, a 2-6 record at the midway point could haven’t been predicted based on the history of the John Harbaugh era. Now, Baltimore must simply crawl back to respectability before any thought of playoff contention can seep back into the psyche.

If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic, the Ravens have four remaining games against opponents who entered Sunday with losing records and two others against teams with only .500 marks. After playing five of their first seven on the road to begin 2015, Harbaugh and his team will relish the opportunity to play five of their next seven contests at M&T Bank Stadium.

While inviting you to mock my preseason prophecies for the Ravens from a couple months ago, I offer five new predictions for the second half of the 2015 season …

1. Joe Flacco will remind the Ravens that reworking his contract won’t be cheap this offseason. Simply looking at the numbers won’t tell the story as you can’t expect Flacco and this group of pass-catching targets to excel with Steve Smith out for the rest of the year. That said, the eighth-year quarterback will find a way to make the offense work and play at a respectable level. With Flacco scheduled to carry a $28.55 million cap figure in 2016, both sides knew all along that his six-year, $120.6 million contract signed in 2013 would need to be reworked this offseason. Flacco will play well enough to remind Ozzie Newsome that he can lead the Ravens to the top, especially if the general manager assembles an acceptable group of talent around him unlike two of the last three seasons.

2. Jimmy Smith will start playing more like the cornerback the Ravens signed to a long-term deal last spring. Already lacking playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Ravens could hardly afford to have the fifth-year cornerback play at an underwhelming level coming off last year’s Lisfranc surgery, but Smith has at least played better of late. The surgically-repaired foot should continue to improve as the season goes on, and that will help Smith’s confidence after defensive coordinator Dean Pees recently described his play as “tentative” this season. With other recent deals such as the ones with Eugene Monroe and Dennis Pitta not working out, the Ravens need Smith to look like a No. 1 corner averaging eight figures per year. He’ll begin regaining that form in the second half.

3. Rookie Buck Allen will emerge as a viable offensive weapon coming out of the backfield. It’s easy to say that the Ravens need an inexperienced group of receivers to step up in Smith’s absence, but how much can you reasonably expect from a group of former rookie free agents and castoffs? Baltimore will lean more on its running game and Allen needs more than the 4.6 carries he’s averaged in his first eight NFL games. Justin Forsett will remain the primary ball carrier, but the 2015 fourth-round pick has more explosiveness as a receiver out of the backfield and can help an undermanned passing game. To keep Forsett fresh and to determine whether Allen can at least be a strong No. 2 option, Marc Trestman will give the rookie more opportunities and he will take full advantage.

4. Chris Givens and Terrence Brooks will become starters by the end of the season. Envisioning Givens as a starter isn’t going out on a limb since he played more snaps than Marlon Brown in the San Diego game, but the fourth-year wideout plays with a chip on his shoulder after plummeting down the depth chart in St. Louis and gives Flacco a speed option he lacked at the start of the season with Breshad Perriman sidelined. Givens isn’t a long-term starter, but he will make enough plays to warrant keeping him around as an option to use in three- and four-wide sets in 2016. Meanwhile, veteran Kendrick Lewis has disappointed at safety, and it’s time for the Ravens to see whether Brooks can be a viable starter moving forward. At the very least, he’ll wrestle away the job from Lewis.

5. The Ravens will finish with a 6-10 record to earn a top 10 pick in the 2016 draft. Predicting a dramatic second-half turnaround just isn’t realistic given Baltimore’s lack of overall talent and injuries, but a favorable remaining schedule will translate to more wins for a group that’s continued to compete every week under Harbaugh. Even with two of their three remaining away games coming against teams with losing records, the Ravens shouldn’t be considered a good bet to win on the road. A 6-10 record would have had the Ravens picking as high as eighth or as low as 10th in this spring’s draft. A return to championship contention in 2016 isn’t impossible, but hitting on a couple higher draft picks in the first and second rounds would be a heck of a shot in the arm for a roster lacking elite players.

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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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Despite strong finish, Ravens defense on pace to set dubious record

Posted on 02 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense was far from perfect in Sunday’s 29-26 win over San Diego, but the struggling unit could take satisfaction in a strong fourth-quarter performance.

Despite surrendering another big play — this time a 70-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Malcom Floyd late in the third quarter — and allowing the Chargers to go 7-for-10 on third downs through three periods, Dean Pees’ defense buckled down in the final 15 minutes, allowing just 72 yards on 15 offensive plays and making stops on all three of San Diego’s third-down attempts.

Holding the Chargers to a game-tying 49-yard field goal with 2:29 remaining in game, the Baltimore defense left Joe Flacco and the offense enough time for a game-winning drive that culminated with a Justin Tucker 39-yarder as time expired. San Diego’s 371 yards were the lowest total allowed by the Ravens since Week 4 and the third-lowest total given up by Baltimore this season.

“With a win, everything is great, but we’ve still got to go back and work on some things,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith, who cited that the secondary played extensive man coverage on Sunday. “We gave up a huge play too easily, and that could change a game against a team on another night. Those are kind of the things I’m looking at right now. But like I said, we won, we’re happy. We’ve got work to do.”

In addition to eliminating the big plays, the Ravens must figure out ways to force turnovers as Sunday marked the fifth consecutive game without a takeaway. Baltimore is tied with Dallas for the fewest takeaways in the NFL with four, but the 2-5 Cowboys already had their bye and have played only seven games so far.

The Ravens’ last takeaway came in the fourth quarter of their Week 3 loss to Cincinnati when Elvis Dumervil stripped Andy Dalton of the football and C.J. Mosley returned the fumble for a touchdown. Counting overtime, 22 periods of football have passed since the Ravens last created a turnover.

Having forced 40 or more turnovers in a season three times — 2000, 2003, and 2006 — in franchise history, the Ravens are currently on pace to set the NFL record for fewest takeaways in a non-strike season. The Washington Redskins own the record with just 12 in 2006, a season in which the Ravens forced 40 turnovers on their way to the best regular-season record in franchise history at 13-3.

Interestingly enough, the 1982 Baltimore Colts forced only 11 turnovers in an abbreviated nine-game schedule that came after a players’ strike. The Colts finished 0-8-1 in their penultimate season in Baltimore.

Even if the Ravens are able to pick up the pace in the takeaway department to avoid making NFL history, they have a long way to go to match the franchise-worst mark of 22 takeaways set in 1996 and matched last season. Baltimore also had only 24 takeaways in 2013, the fifth-lowest mark in franchise history.

The Ravens defense must eradicate the big plays that have been back-breaking in several close losses this season, but creating a few more turnovers would go a long way in finding a few more wins in the second half of 2015.

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Ravens coordinator says Jimmy Smith’s play too “tentative” in 2015

Posted on 29 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — This was supposed to be Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith’s year.

Returning from last season’s Lisfranc injury and receiving a four-year, $41 million contract extension that included a $13 million signing bonus this spring, the 2011 first-round pick was to finally take his place among the best cornerbacks in the NFL. An interception returned for a touchdown against Peyton Manning in the season opener made it look like Smith was picking up right where he left off before last year’s injury.

But the season hasn’t gone that way.

Despite Pro Football Focus rating him as the ninth-best cornerback in the league at the time of his foot injury last October, Smith has found himself targeted frequently this season, beginning with a 68-yard touchdown he surrendered to rookie Amari Cooper in a Week 2 loss to Oakland and continuing on a near-weekly basis. Smith says he isn’t surprised by opponents going after a cornerback coming off a serious foot injury, but that expectation hasn’t prevented the 6-foot-2 defensive back from being beaten on crucial plays, whether it was by A.J. Green for the game-deciding touchdown in Week 3 or by Anquan Boldin for a long fourth-quarter reception two weeks ago.

“I think he has been tentative and not really letting it go,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Whether that’s the injury, whether it’s not, I don’t [know] — only he can tell you that. I just haven’t seen him quite be the [same] productive player. It’s more [having] a lot of confidence and go up there and really be aggressive. It’s basically at the line of scrimmage, because he’s a big guy. When he gets his hands on you, he does a great job. I think sometimes he has been a little tentative, and I think he’ll say that, too.”

Dating back to the summer, Smith has said several times that he doesn’t want to talk about his surgically-repaired foot, leading many to believe that it’s remained an issue for the talented cornerback. Though he missed little practice time in the spring and summer, there have been occasions when Smith has appeared to be in discomfort or at least hasn’t trusted the foot.

Among 61 NFL cornerbacks who’ve played 200 or more snaps on passing plays this season, Smith ranks 53rd in PFF’s overall grades at the position. It’s a significant reason why a pass defense that already faced questions entering the season has ranked 28th in the NFL through the first seven weeks of the season.

Smith was paid handsomely to be the most reliable member of the secondary — and arguably the Ravens’ best defensive player — but he has instead joined his teammates in the struggles. The Colorado product is taking the difficult start in stride, but the Ravens can only hope that he regains his pre-injury form sooner rather than later.

“It’s probably just like anyone else coming off of [an injury],” Smith said. “Some things are going to happen that may not go your way, but you just keep fighting. It’s not like I’m out there just getting killed, so I’m not depressed or anything like that. The balls are going to come, I expect them to come, and I’ve got to make plays.”

At a position already dependent on confidence as well as sudden changes in direction, any lingering doubt or effect from the foot surgery would undoubtedly be detrimental to performance. Of course, health has been a concern in his career as Smith missed a total of 17 games in his first four seasons in Baltimore.

With a 1-6 record and playoff hopes all but lost, the Ravens are viewing the rest of the season through a long-term scope and they need Smith to begin playing like the difference-maker he was by the end of his first full season as a starter in 2013 as well as the first eight games of 2014. Facing a shortage of playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Ravens have more long-term money invested in Smith than any other defensive player currently on the roster to provide a game-changing return.

How does that happen?

“Keep playing. You have to go out there, and you have to practice it the same way,” said Pees, who added that it’s not a question of work ethic. “You can’t be tentative in practice no matter who you’re going up against on the scout team over there. You have to do it. I really do think it’s like anything else. The only way you build confidence is you have good things happen to you in a football game. Once that happens, it’s a lot easier.”

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