Tag Archive | "Jimmy Smith"

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Ravens just not quite good enough when they needed to be

Posted on 26 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and Steelers played a Christmas classic that removed any doubt about whether this rivalry is still among the best in the NFL.

Baltimore fought like hell until the bitter end and a four-point loss at Heinz Field is nothing to be ashamed of in the big picture, but this also wasn’t the AFC divisional round — as much as the one may have felt like a playoff game on Sunday. Being eliminated from postseason contention with a week to go in the regular season only reinforces a theme that’s become too familiar over the post-Super Bowl XLVII seasons under head coach John Harbaugh.

“We’re very close to being a very good football team,” Harbaugh said after the 31-27 loss. “We can be a great football team, but we’re not there yet. We haven’t gotten there this year, obviously. We’ve got to get there.”

Having now missed the playoffs in three of the last four years, the Ravens just aren’t quite good enough.

That was apparent on Sunday as a defense that had ranked in the top five all season inexplicably allowed three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of play. There’s no excusing Dean Pees’ unit for surrendering a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just over a minute that culminated with Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown reaching over the goal line with nine seconds remaining.

Instead of cementing its status among the better units in franchise history, this defense has crumbled down the stretch, allowing 26 or more points in three straight games. You can’t put all of that on the absence of cornerback Jimmy Smith as an underwhelming pass rush was exposed badly against the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger rarely harassed in the pocket.

But before we put all blame on the defense for what amounted to the practical end of the Ravens’ season, let’s remember an 8-7 record is the result of a collection of missed opportunities and not just what was on display in Week 16.

An 0-4 October left very little margin for error while looking ahead to how difficult the December schedule would be. That loss to the woeful New York Jets in Week 7 is still painful and no less damaging two months later.

The Ravens offense may have come to play for the most part on Christmas, but how many times could we really say that about this below-average group in 2016? Marty Mornhinweg did little to spark the offense after the firing of coordinator Marc Trestman in October and showed no better commitment to the running game, instead allowing Joe Flacco to set a career high in passing attempts without the kind of productivity to justify the imbalance.

Even on Sunday, the Ravens entered Pittsburgh territory on all five of their drives in the first half and managed just six points by intermission. Tight end Darren Waller’s inability to secure a touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter served as a turning point as it forced Baltimore to settle for a short field goal and a 20-10 lead instead of a two-touchdown cushion.

Baltimore’s normally-superb special teams have been propped up by Pro Bowl kicker Justin Tucker, but a return game that stuck way too long with veteran Devin Hester did no favors for an offense that would have benefited from better field position all season. On Sunday, a bad snap cost the Ravens a chance for three points early in the second quarter.

Not good enough.

With the season finale in Cincinnati now a meaningless endeavor, attention shifts to the future.

Harbaugh’s not wrong in saying this team wasn’t that far away — they’re 8-7, not 3-12 — but the crucial question is whether the Ravens are moving in the right direction or falling further away. It’s difficult to say this is a better football team now than it was in September, and that’s a big concern.

The Ravens at least improved from last year’s 5-11 disaster that wasn’t all about injuries despite what many wanted to believe. That should be remembered when determining what changes need to be made this offseason.

Still, this team is depending heavily on a number of veterans who aren’t getting any younger or better at this stage of their careers. Unlike Flacco, who was relying on a 37-year-old receiver expected to retire at the end of the season and a 31-year-old tight end coming back from two major hip injuries, Roethlisberger turned to two Pro Bowl talents in their primes in Brown and Le’Veon Bell when it mattered most.

As we’ve now said for a few years, the Ravens need to find dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball to make the difference in these close games that we see around the league on a weekly basis. The early returns from the 2016 draft have been very encouraging, but this roster is still feeling the effects of lackluster drafts in recent years.

Is this coaching staff capable of getting the most out of its players, especially younger ones who need to develop? There have been more questions about play-calling and game management this year than in the past, and the Ravens are one of the most penalized teams in the league.

Is Harbaugh willing to make changes to his staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball where the Ravens have struggled substantially in three of the last four seasons? Is the head coach’s message stale after nine seasons?

Questions that seemed silly just a couple seasons ago should now be asked with another quiet January in Baltimore. Of course, owner Steve Bisciotti has the only opinion that really matters, but both Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have to explain why this team wasn’t good enough and how they plan to improve next year and moving forward.

Seats are getting warm now.

The Ravens weren’t quite good enough this year, but are they moving in the right direction or stuck in neutral?

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Christmas Day

Posted on 24 December 2016 by Luke Jones

It became crystal clear for the Ravens on Saturday.

Beat Pittsburgh on Christmas Day or officially be eliminated from playoff contention. Miami’s overtime victory over Buffalo wiped away any chance of a wild-card spot for Baltimore, who will now need to top the Steelers and almost certainly need to beat Cincinnati in Week 17 to take the AFC North title.

The Ravens have won five of their last seven games to rebound from a winless month of October, but they will need to win their first road game in exactly three months on Sunday. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has rebounded from its own four-game losing streak earlier this season by winning five in a row, a stretch that included four road games.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Steelers meet for the 42nd in their regular-season history with Pittsburgh holding a 21-20 advantage. Counting the postseason, 15 of the 20 games in the John Harbaugh era have been decided by one possession. Baltimore has won four straight overall against the Steelers and has been victorious in four of the last six meetings at Heinz Field.

Here’s what to expects as the Ravens try to keep their postseason hopes alive …

1. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will combine for 180 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Since the start of 2013, the Baltimore defense has held Brown under 100 receiving yards in six of eight meetings, but the two times the All-Pro receiver eclipsed the mark were games in which cornerback Jimmy Smith did not play. The Ravens’ second-ranked run defense is likely to rebound from a brutal performance last week, but Bell’s ability as a receiver out of the backfield is a concern for linebackers who have struggled in coverage in recent weeks.

2. Mike Wallace will find the end zone once again against his former team. The speedy wideout is just 37 receiving yards shy of 1,000 for the season as he’s been everything the Ravens could have asked for when signing him to a two-year deal in March. The Steelers secondary has played better in recent weeks and has done a good job limiting big plays, but offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will do what he can to get the ball in Wallace’s hands. It won’t be another 95-yard sprint like we saw in Week 9, but the former Steeler will catch his first touchdown at Heinz Field since 2012.

3. The Ravens will reach the century mark on the ground against a banged-up Steelers defensive line. They rarely commit to the run, but the Ravens have averaged 4.8 yards per carry over their last five games behind the same offensive line. The Steelers rank fifth in the league in run defense, but defensive end Stephon Tuitt missed practice all week and is questionable to play with a knee injury and defensive end Cam Heyward was placed on injured reserve last month. Whether it’s Terrance West or Kenneth Dixon, the Ravens will try to control the clock and keep the Pittsburgh offense off the field.

4. A clean pocket will help Ben Roethlisberger throw for 250 yards. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees faces a predicament with an undermanned secondary and a front that’s struggled to get consistent pressure without the blitz, a dangerous combination against a potent passing game. It also doesn’t help that the Steelers offensive line has allowed just three sacks over its last five games and will have a healthy Maurkice Pouncey, who played only 19 snaps in the first meeting. The Ravens will likely try to play coverage in hopes of minimizing big plays and forcing the Steelers to move methodically.

5. The Ravens will fall 24-20 to officially miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Counting them out completely would be a mistake and they’ve been inside the Steelers’ heads for the last few years, but the Ravens haven’t shown the kind of road mettle this season to make you think they’ll play well enough to beat a red-hot team on the cusp of a division championship. Unless the postseason version of Joe Flacco arrives a couple games early, the Ravens offense won’t have quite enough firepower to match an offense with better weapons. The defense will contain Bell between the tackles, but the absence of Smith in the secondary will be a fatal blow in a close game.

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Ravens rule out cornerback Jimmy Smith for Pittsburgh

Posted on 23 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If the Ravens are to extend their franchise-best four-game winning streak against their bitter rival and move closer to a division title, they’ll have to do it without their top cornerback on Christmas Day.

Jimmy Smith was officially declared out for Sunday’s AFC North showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers as he continues to recover from a sprained right ankle. The 28-year-old hasn’t practiced since injuring the ankle in the Week 14 loss at New England on Dec. 12 and missed last Sunday’s win over Philadelphia.

On Friday, Smith declined an interview request and was wearing a walking boot on his right foot as he left the Ravens locker room. His absence spells trouble against All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown and a Pittsburgh passing game ranking fifth in the NFL.

Though Baltimore has rarely used Smith to travel with Brown exclusively in past meetings, defensive coordinator Dean Pees will now be counting on the cornerback trio of rookie Tavon Young and veterans Shareece Wright and Jerraud Powers to contain one of the best receivers in the league.

“Jimmy is a different kind of mover than Antonio Brown, so it wouldn’t necessarily be the guy that you would match up with [him],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You could in certain places and wherever you run certain routes, you would have to be really diligent about the details of that. We play a lot of zone coverage and man coverage. We mix our coverages up, so whether we did that or not would depend on the call and the situation.”

Brown recorded seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 21-14 loss to the Ravens on Nov. 6, but the 5-foot-10 receiver had just two receptions for nine yards until the fourth quarter when the Steelers already trailed 21-0. Baltimore has typically held him in check compared to his impressive success over the last five years, but most of those meetings included a healthy Smith in the defensive backfield.

In the two meetings with Pittsburgh that followed Smith’s season-ending foot injury in 2014, the Ravens allowed Brown to record a combined 20 catches for 261 yards and a touchdown.

Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith (thigh) was listed as questionable after being added to the injury report as a limited participant in Thursday’s practice, but he participated fully in Friday’s walk-through, leaving little doubt about his status for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens ruled out rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa (ribs) and listed defensive back Anthony Levine (toe), defensive end Brent Urban, and guard Alex Lewis (ankle) as questionable. Levine practiced on a limited basis all week while Lewis was a full participant in every practice.

The Steelers are dealing with several key injuries of their own as they officially listed tight end Ladarius Green (concussion) and wide receiver Sammie Coates (hamsring) as doubtful and designated starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt (knee) as questionable to play on Sunday. Tuitt did not practice all week after injuring his knee in last week’s win at Cincinnati.

Steelers safety Sharmarko Thomas was officially ruled out with a concussion.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

According to Weather.com, the Christmas Day forecast for Pittsburgh calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 44 degrees and light winds reaching five miles per hour.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with white pants for the first time this season while Pittsburgh dons its all-black “Color Rush” uniforms for the nationally-televised game on NFL Network.

Below is the final full injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Kamalei Correa (ribs), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: DB Anthony Levine (toe), G Alex Lewis (ankle), WR Steve Smith (thigh), DT Brent Urban (illness)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: S Shamarko Thomas (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: WR Sammie Coates (hamstring), TE Ladarius Green (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle), DE Stephon Tuitt (knee)

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Steve Smith added to Ravens’ Thursday injury report

Posted on 22 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already dealing with the likely absence of their top cornerback against Pittsburgh on Christmas Day, the Ravens have added another key player to their injury report.

Wide receiver Steve Smith was listed as a limited participant in Thursday’s practice due to a thigh issue. The 37-year-old practiced without incident during the portion of the workout open to media and was seen in the locker room after practice.

Winding down his 16th year in the NFL, Smith has long been expected to retire after the season and has told head coach John Harbaugh of that intention, but he has made no public announcement since returning from last year’s brutal Achilles tendon tear. Of course, the five-time Pro Bowl selection originally planned to retire at the end of the 2015 season before the injury.

“I just try to be in the moment. I try not to think too far ahead,” said Smith when asked this week if he ponders how many games he has left in his career. “I try not to make this game more than it already is, which is a lot. You just try to narrow your focus, make it play by play, day by day, game by game.”

Jimmy Smith remained sidelined with a right ankle sprain suffered in the Week 14 loss to New England. The sixth-year cornerback appears highly unlikely to play at this point with the Ravens only conducting a walk-through practice on Friday.

Veteran cornerback Shareece Wright would make his second straight start if Jimmy Smith is unable to play. He made two tackles and recorded a pass breakup in last Sunday’s win over Philadelphia.

“I think Shareece has picked up his game,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “I think people were down on him and hard on him. We were hard on him, and he was hard on himself. I think the sign of a pro is when you fight back and you play well and you come back and you play well. I think he’s done that.”

Linebacker Kamalei Correa (ribs) and defensive end Brent Urban (illness) were also missing from Thursday’s workout while linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah received a veteran day off. Defensive back Anthony Levine was a limited participant for the second straight day while dealing with a lingering toe injury.

The Steelers were once again without defensive end Stephon Tuitt (knee) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion). Second-year wide receiver Sammie Coates was also added to the Thursday injury report after hurting his hamstring.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Kamalei Correa (ribs), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), DE Brent Urban (illness), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Anthony Levine (toe), WR Steve Smith (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Alex Lewis (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Justin Gilbert (illness), TE Ladarius Green (concussion), S Shamarko Thomas (concussion), DE Stephon Tuitt (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle), WR Sammie Cotes (hamstring), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)

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Jimmy Smith remains out as Ravens count down to Christmas Day

Posted on 21 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens received no early Christmas present on Wednesday as Jimmy Smith remained sidelined from practice ahead of their Week 16 showdown with Pittsburgh.

The starting cornerback injured his right ankle in the first quarter of the Week 14 loss to New England and hasn’t returned to the field since. The Ravens were able to squeak out a 27-26 win over Philadelphia last Sunday, but Smith’s absence could spell major trouble against a Steelers passing game ranking fifth in the NFL.

“We don’t know what will happen. We’ll see Sunday night,” safety Eric Weddle said. “Christmas under the lights. It’s going to be tough with Jimmy or without. They present so many challenges and matchups across the board. They’re playing outstanding football.”

Veteran Shareece Wright started in place of Smith against the Eagles in Week 15 and appeared to hold up well in coverage, but the four highest passing totals surrendered by the Baltimore defense this season have come in games in which Smith has missed significant time.

Named to his sixth straight Pro Bowl on Tuesday night, left guard Marshal Yanda was given the day off from practice as has frequently been the case on Wednesdays in the second half of the season. Rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa (ribs) was also absent as the Ravens practiced indoors.

Despite missing his seventh straight game with a lingering hamstring injury this past Sunday, tight end Crockett Gillmore is no longer listed on the injury report.

The Steelers are dealing with key injuries of their own as defensive end Stephon Tuitt (knee) and tight end Ladarius Green (concussion) missed practice on Wednesday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Kamalei Correa (ribs), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DB Anthony Levine (toe)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Alex Lewis (ankle)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle), OT Marcus Gilbert (non-injury), TE Ladarius Green (concussion), QB Ben Roethlisberger (non-injury), S Shamarko Thomas (concussion), DE Stephon Tuitt (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)

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Ravens-Eagles: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 18 December 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — One game at a time.

That’s been the message all week for the Ravens, who must put aside thoughts of a Christmas Day showdown with Pittsburgh to take care of the struggling Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon. Likely needing to win the final three weeks to qualify for the postseason, Baltimore can’t afford to overlook a team that’s lost six of seven since a promising 4-2 start.

Of course, the Ravens will be shorthanded in the secondary with cornerback Jimmy Smith sidelined with an ankle injury and already declared out on Friday. The league’s 11th-ranked pass defense has struggled mightily without Smith — giving up their four biggest passing totals in games in which he’s missed significant time this season — but the Eagles have struggled offensively behind rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and an underwhelming group of wide receivers.

After practicing on a limited basis all week, nickel cornerback Jerraud Powers has passed the concussion protocol and is active for Sunday’s game. Shareece Wright is expected to start in place of Smith opposite rookie cornerback Tavon Young in the base defense.

Despite being full participants in practice by the end of the week, both offensive lineman Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) are inactive. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is a healthy scratch for the third time in the last four games, continuing a disappointing season for the 2015 fourth-round pick.

As expected, third-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro is active and will make his 2016 debut as a return specialist for Baltimore. He was promoted from the practice squad this week to replace struggling veteran Devin Hester, who was waived on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Eagles will have wide receivers Jordan Matthews (ankle) and Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) on the field despite both being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Matthews working in the slot against Powers could be a problematic matchup for the Ravens defense.

The Eagles deactivated offensive lineman Allen Barbre (hamstring) and will start Stefen Wisniewski at left guard. Rookie Isaac Seumalo will start in place of the injured Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), becoming Philadelphia’s fifth right tackle of the season.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles (concussion) was ruled out on Friday.

The Ravens and Eagles will be meeting for the fifth time in the regular season with Philadelphia holding a 2-1-1 advantage. Baltimore will be trying to avoid going 0-4 against the NFC East this season, but is 13-7 at home in the month of December under ninth-year head coach John Harbaugh.

The forecast for Sunday’s game calls for light rain and cloudy skies with temperatures starting in the high 50s and dropping into the 40s later in the afternoon. There will also be winds up to 17 miles per hour, which could present an issue for the passing and kicking games.

It will also be interesting to see how the grass surface holds up after there were complaints about the footing from the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Craig Wrolstad.

The Ravens will be wearing black jerseys with black pants while Philadelphia dons its white tops with green pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
RB Buck Allen
LB Lamar Louis
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore
LB Za’Darius Smith

PHILADELPHIA
WR Paul Turner
CB Dwayne Gratz
RB Darren Sproles
DE Steven Means
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai
OL Allen Barbre
DT Taylor Hart

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Ravens officially rule out Jimmy Smith for Philadelphia game

Posted on 16 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will be without their best cornerback as they meet Philadelphia in their home finale on Sunday afternoon.

After missing practices all week with a right ankle sprain, Jimmy Smith was officially ruled out on Friday and will miss his third full game of the season. Smith was injured late in the first quarter of Monday’s 30-23 loss at New England and didn’t return.

Though the Eagles are tied for 21st in passing offense behind rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and an underwhelming group of wide receivers, Smith’s status remains uncertain with a crucial showdown at Pittsburgh looming on Christmas Day. It’s no secret that the Baltimore pass defense has struggled dramatically without him on the field, allowing their four biggest passing totals of the season in games in which Smith missed substantial action.

The Ravens gave up a season-high 401 passing yards to the Patriots in Week 14.

“You hate to lose one of your best corners, but you definitely have to continue to play ball,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We have something we’re trying to do. We can’t let us losing a guy on defense stop us.”

Other than Smith, the Ravens are in relatively good shape from a health standpoint with no other players ruled out or listed as doubtful. Nickel cornerback Jerraud Powers (concussion), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), defensive back Anthony Levine (toe), and guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were designated as questionable to play against the Eagles.

Powers remains on the last step of the NFL’s concussion protocol and practiced on a limited basis all week. Of course, his status is more significant now with Smith out and Shareece Wright already expected to be in the starting lineup.

Gillmore, Levine, and Lewis were full participants in Friday’s practice.

Meanwhile, the Eagles officially ruled out veteran running back Darren Sproles, who sustained a concussion in last Sunday’s loss to Washington. Starting right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai is also out with a knee injury.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) was designated as questionable after participating fully in practices on Thursday and Friday.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Craig Wrolstad.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for rain with temperatures reaching the high 50s and winds up 16 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (toe), G Alex Lewis (ankle), CB Jerraud Powers (concussion)

PHILADELPHIA
OUT: RB Darren Sproles (concussion), OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: G Allen Barbre (hamstring), TE Brent Celek (stinger), WR Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen), LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (illness), WR Jordan Matthews (ankle)

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Jimmy Smith absent as Ravens begin preparing for Philadelphia

Posted on 14 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens began preparations for their Week 15 contest against Philadelphia without their top cornerback on the practice field.

Jimmy Smith was not present for Baltimore’s Wednesday walk-through as he recovers from a right ankle sprain suffered in Monday’s loss to New England. The 2011 first-round pick left the game late in the first quarter and did not return, but head coach John Harbaugh has offered no clarity on his status for Sunday’s game or beyond.

“I really don’t want to get into that, to be honest with you,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t really see any purpose to get into that. Thanks for asking.”

Should Smith not be able to play against the Eagles on Sunday, the Ravens would likely turn to Shareece Wright to start opposite rookie Tavon Young. Slot cornerback Jerraud Powers practiced on a limited basis despite leaving Monday’s game with a concussion.

Reserve defensive back Anthony Levine (toe) and linebacker Terrell Suggs were absent from Wednesday’s practice. Suggs received a veteran day off.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) made his return to practice on a limited basis after missing his sixth straight game. Rookie guard Alex Lewis (ankle) was a full participant after practicing on a limited basis last week. He appears poised to return against Philadelphia after missing four consecutive games.

Third-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro was officially promoted to the 53-man roster on Wednesday and is expected to be in the return specialist mix with veteran safety Lardarius Webb, according to Harbaugh. The Ravens waived four-time Pro Bowl returner Devin Hester on Tuesday.

“That was a little bit of a tough move just because we have so much respect for Devin and the effort he’s put in,” Harbaugh said. “I told him I feel like we didn’t get the job done. We didn’t do enough to make the return game productive enough to make it worthwhile.”

The Eagles were without top receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) and veteran running back Darren Sproles (concussion) during their Wednesday practice.

The Ravens will wear their black jerseys for their home finale on Sunday. They own a 15-6 all-time record when wearing their alternate tops and are 12-3 under Harbaugh.

Below is the full injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DB Anthony Levine (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Alex Lewis (ankle)

PHILADELPHIA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Allen Barbre (hamstring), WR Jordan Matthews (ankle), RB Darren Sproles (concussion), OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Brandon Brooks (illness), TE Brent Celek (stinger), WR Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen)

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Ravens part ways with Hester, make other roster moves

Posted on 13 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens kept waiting for the spark from four-time Pro Bowl return specialist Devin Hester than never came.

Indecisiveness, fumbling problems, and injuries led to the 34-year-old’s demise as he was officially waived by Baltimore on Tuesday. Hester’s decision to let a punt bounce at the Baltimore 14-yard line and roll to the 1 led to a safety in the first quarter of Monday’s loss to New England.

It was the final straw in a disappointing season for Hester, who was one of the most exciting players in the NFL in his days with the Chicago Bears.

Monday’s scene was familiar to the Ravens as the once-feared returner frequently let punts bounce instead of catching them, often hurting field position for a below-average offense needing all the help it could get. Hester was hindered by a groin injury earlier in the season and did not play in the preseason while recovery from January toe surgery.

The 2006 second-round pick from the University of Miami also had issues securing the football, fumbling five times and losing one of them earlier this season.

Still trying to find the kind of production they once received from 2012 Pro Bowl returner specialist Jacoby Jones, the Ravens signed Hester to a one-year deal a week before the start of the regular season. Considered by some to be the greatest return man in NFL history, Hester holds the record for most all-time return touchdowns — punts and kickoffs — and the most all-time punt return scores.

He ranks sixth in the NFL among qualified kick returners with a 24.5 yard average per return and is 18th among punt returners with just a 7.2 yard average this season.

Though the move was not made official on Tuesday, the Ravens intend to promote third-year wide receiver and returner Michael Campanaro from the practice squad, according to The Sun. In addition to possibly contributing in the return game, the 2014 seventh-round pick will serve as another option at the receiver position, whereas Hester hadn’t played an offensive snap all season.

Campanaro has just three kickoff returns and five punt returns in his brief NFL career, hardly making him a sure bet to pump life into the position.

The Ravens also placed running back Lorenzo Taliaferro on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and signed linebacker Lamar Louis. Taliaferro had missed the last four games with the injury and only appeared in three games after coming off the physically unable to perform list.

An undrafted free agent from Louisiana State, Louis appeared in one game for Arizona earlier this season and was most recently with New Orleans.

It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will need to add a cornerback or two to the 53-man roster after starter Jimmy Smith left Monday’s game with a sprained ankle and nickel back Jerraud Powers sustained a concussion. Cornerback Robertson Daniel is currently on the practice squad and appeared in one game against the New York Jets earlier this season.

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Ravens not showing what it takes to win games on road

Posted on 13 December 2016 by Luke Jones

The final score alone was nothing to be ashamed of.

Many thought the Ravens could win in New England on Monday, but fewer expected them to really pull off the upset. The end result technically only means that John Harbaugh’s team has no realistic path to an AFC North title that doesn’t involve winning at Pittsburgh in Week 16.

So, why then does this one sting that much more than last month’s defeat at Dallas?

It’s because the Ravens showed that they still don’t have what it takes to win a big game on the road and haven’t displayed that moxie in quite some time. The 38-6 thumping of Miami last week was supposed to be the offensive breakthrough that would propel them down a final stretch that included three of four away games, but we instead saw the same offense we witnessed over the first 11 games of the season.

Instead of giving the Patriots everything they could handle to show they were back among the AFC’s top tier of contenders, the Ravens looked like the mediocre team their 7-6 record says they are.

Removing their injury-riddled October from the equation, they’re just not noticeably better than they were at the beginning of the season when they produced their only two road wins. Those victories came after erasing a 20-point deficit to lowly Cleveland in Week 2 and edging Jacksonville with a 54-yard field goal in the final minute of a Week 3 tilt. Yes, Baltimore’s only road victories of the season were nail-biters against the two worst teams in the AFC back in September.

Former offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was still two weeks away from being fired when the Ravens last won outside Baltimore, and it will have been exactly three months since that last road win when the Ravens take the field against the Steelers on Christmas Day.

They have been a good team at M&T Bank Stadium with a 5-2 mark in 2016, but also a pretty bad one on the road. We know winning at Heinz Field will be a tough task, but nothing about the Ravens’ current profile suggests their Week 17 trip to Cincinnati — where they haven’t won in five years — should be considered a sure thing, especially if five-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green is playing.

The Ravens struggled in every phase of the game on Monday, ranging from the offense and defense to special teams and coaching. If we’re being truthful about what we watched and are weary of moral victories in which they “battled” and “fought” back, the Ravens were very fortunate to even be in the game over the final 20 minutes. Winning the turnover battle by a 3-1 margin normally results in a victory, but that doesn’t happen when you stink up the joint for the first 2 1/2 quarters against arguably the best head coach and quarterback in NFL history.

The defense was torched by Tom Brady and the special teams — specifically former return specialist Devin Hester — also played a big part in the loss, but the Ravens offense was its usual self after the one-week aberration against the Dolphins that prompted many observers to buy into the newfound hype.

Passing the ball all day — running game be damned — and checking down all night while being completely perplexed by zone coverage. Not one touchdown drive beyond the two early Christmas gifts provided by New England’s special teams in the third quarter. A way-too-lethargic pace when trailing by two scores late in the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t good enough from Marty Mornhinweg, Joe Flacco, and company. Even the defense has looked mortal on the road as it’s allowed 24 or more points in each of the last four contests and may once again be without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, who injured his ankle on Monday night.

The Ravens are now 10-20 in regular-season road games since Super Bowl XLVII. The old formula of dominating at home and playing .500 ball away from M&T Bank Stadium brought much success in Harbaugh’s first five seasons — a 21-19 record on the road over that time — but the Ravens have fallen off the away cliff over the last four years, which helps explain their absence from January football.

If they don’t quickly find a way to play better in opposing cities, another New Year’s end to a season will be in order.

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