Tag Archive | "Jimmy Smith"

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 30 September 2017 by Luke Jones

Coming off one of the worst losses in team history and remembering what happened last Christmas Day, the Ravens should have no shortage of motivation against Pittsburgh on Sunday.

But it’s difficult knowing what to expect after such a shockingly poor performance in London and with the injuries continuing to mount. A Week 4 tilt is hardly a must-win game, but the Ravens surely would like to hold serve at home and escape the next two games with no worse than a 3-2 record going into the middle portion of the regular season.

The Steelers are coming off a disappointing loss of their own as their high-octane offense has been largely stuck in neutral through the first three weeks of the season. However, Pittsburgh does find itself in better shape than the Ravens from a health standpoint, a key factor in what’s always a very physical ballgame.

It’s time to go on the record as these AFC North foes meet for the 43rd time in the regular season with the Steelers holding a slight 22-20 edge as well as a 3-1 advantage in postseason encounters. Pittsburgh prevailed in dramatic fashion to clinch the division title last Dec. 25, but the Ravens have won six of the last eight meetings, a stretch that includes their only postseason victory since Super Bowl XLVII. Including the playoffs, 16 of the 21 showdowns with the Steelers in the John Harbaugh era have been decided by a single possession.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Alex Collins will lead the Ravens in rushing and will score his first touchdown. I’m not sure how real his 7.8 yards per attempt average is since he’s rarely carried the ball with a game’s outcome in doubt, but this sputtering offense is in desperate need of a spark and there’s no denying the urgency with which Collins has run. The Ravens have averaged 4.6 yards per carry since Marshal Yanda’s season-ending injury in Week 2, but most of that has come with a multi-score second-half lead over Cleveland and a huge deficit against Jacksonville and the Steelers are getting healthy with defensive end Stephon Tuitt returning. If the Baltimore passing game can’t get going again, Pittsburgh is likely to stack the box.

2. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell will crack 100 yards of offense for the first time this season. It’s been a slow start to 2017 for the Steelers’ Pro Bowl running back, but the Ravens will be without standout defensive tackle Brandon Williams and defensive end Brent Urban, putting pressure on young linemen lacking experience against a rock-solid Pittsburgh offensive line. Baltimore linebackers were undisciplined in pass coverage against Jacksonville, which is another reason for concern with Bell’s ability as a receiver out of the backfield. The Ravens may need to take some chances with their linebackers to boost their pass rush, but that will leave them vulnerable on underneath throws.

3. Terrell Suggs will break a six-game drought against the Steelers with a sack against Ben Roethlisberger. No defender has more career takedowns of the Pittsburgh quarterback than Suggs, but the Ravens’ pass rush was nonexistent against Jacksonville while trying to rely mostly on a four-man rush. Not only do they need another edge rusher to consistently emerge opposite Suggs, but the inside pass rush is a big question mark since Urban was a major part of that equation. It isn’t enough to merely make Roethlisberger uncomfortable as Baltimore also needs to keep him in the pocket to prevent the downfield improvisation with his receivers that so often gets a secondary in trouble.

4. Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will catch a touchdown despite being held to a season low for yards. The pain of last December’s game-winning score notwithstanding, the Ravens have generally done a respectable job against Brown while rarely having top cornerback Jimmy Smith travel with the All-Pro receiver. It will be interesting to see how much rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey plays — especially with 6-foot-5 receiver Martavis Bryant back in the fold — but the Ravens are better equipped to handle the Pittsburgh passing game than they were in the fourth-quarter collapse in Week 16 last year. Brown will inevitably get touches, but he won’t be the difference in the game.

5. The Pittsburgh defense will be too much for the Ravens in a 17-14 loss. This will be a close one as it almost always is in this rivalry. I fully expect the Baltimore defense to rebound from last week’s embarrassment and play well despite being banged up on the defensive line, but it’s difficult having faith in the Ravens to score points considering the current state of the offensive line and how uncomfortable Joe Flacco has looked trying to throw the football down the field. They’re also facing a Steelers defense that’s improved from recent years despite its clear issues against the run in Chicago. Roethlisberger hasn’t won a game at M&T Bank Stadium since 2010 and the Steelers haven’t won in Baltimore since Charlie Batch pulled off an upset in 2012, but the Ravens are the inferior team on paper because of their many injuries and haven’t shown enough on offense to make me believe they’re going to win this one.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 44-7 loss to Jacksonville

Posted on 26 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens matching the team record for biggest margin of defeat in a 44-7 loss to Jacksonville in London, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. We always try to determine blame after any loss, but you’ll rarely find a performance with such universal guilt to go around as Sunday’s. Even a couple days later, the stench remains overwhelming, but the Ravens can take solace in knowing it only counts as one loss in the standings.

2. It’s difficult finding reasons to be optimistic about an offensive line that started a former sixth-round pick and three former undrafted free agents against the Jaguars. You hope left tackle Ronnie Stanley becomes the group’s anchor, but the absence of Marshal Yanda was as nightmarish as feared.

3. The Ravens defense showed no ability to create pressure with a four-man rush, meaning defensive coordinator Dean Pees needs to be much more creative with stunts and blitzes. The loss of defensive end Brent Urban will hurt the inside pass rush in sub packages, too.

4. Yes, the offensive line is a major problem, but Joe Flacco is showing the same flaws with poor footwork, anticipating pressure even when he has the time and space, and not pushing the ball down the field. Everything about this offense needs to be better, and that includes the quarterback.

5. Ravens wide receivers have combined for 13 catches this season. There are currently 35 players in the NFL with more. Relative to other position groups, the trio of Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Breshad Perriman should be an offensive strength, so there’s no excuse for such anemic production.

6. The fruits of Greg Roman’s work at least showed in the first two weeks, but I’m still waiting for a sign that the Ravens made the right call sticking with Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The passing game largely remains a mess with no downfield push.

7. Jimmy Smith played well and a couple others had their moments, but the defense sure looked like it was believing its hype before making Blake Bortles look like Ben Roethlisberger. Given the resources used, this defense must be special for Baltimore to win, but that’s still easier said than done.

8. I’m hesitant to read too much into garbage time, but Alex Collins looked the part for the second straight week and runs with urgency. That should have Terrance West and Buck Allen looking over their shoulders in a muddled offensive backfield.

9. I laughed at the outrage expressed by some over Jacksonville’s fake punt with a 37-point lead. I do find it unwise to burn a gadget play in a blowout, but John Harbaugh and the Ravens have done that same thing multiple times on the winning end of past lopsided affairs.

10. It’s a shame Jermaine Eluemunor’s debut in his native country didn’t come with a better result. His first activation was fueled by last week’s season-ending injury to Yanda, but that’s still a pretty amazing story for a London native to play his first NFL game at Wembley Stadium.

11. Those expecting a victory in Week 3 were reminded how volatile this league is — and how underwhelming the Ravens have been on the road in recent years — but I feel for the thousands who made the trip. Losing happens, but they deserved better than an uncompetitive showing.

12. We’ll see whether Baltimore was wise to request not having its bye after the London trip. How the Ravens fare at home against Pittsburgh and at Oakland could go a long way in determining if they’re serious contenders or pretenders who feasted on two bad teams the first two weeks.

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Perriman remains on mend from “long-term” hamstring injury

Posted on 15 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens aren’t yet ruling out wide receiver Breshad Perriman for the rest of the preseason, but his return to practice isn’t considered imminent.

Two weeks after leaving the field with a hamstring injury, the 2015 first-round pick still isn’t practicing and has only been seen catching passes from a stationary position when in view of the media. Head coach John Harbaugh stopped short of saying Perriman wouldn’t make it back for any preseason games, but he acknowledged how unpredictable a serious hamstring injury can be.

“Nothing’s changed with Breshad,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a long-term hamstring guy in terms of from when he did it. It’s a pretty good hamstring [injury] he had. He’s making progress. Everything is on schedule, and they’re happy with the way he’s progressing. That’s what I know.”

This marks the third straight year in which the 23-year-old has missed most of training camp, a frustrating development for a speedy 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver who’s flashed potential when healthy. Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a right knee injury and was sidelined for most of last year’s camp with an injury to his left knee before returning to play in the preseason finale and all 16 regular-season games, catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns.

Perriman isn’t the only recent first-round pick to be dealing with an injury as second-year left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed his third consecutive practice on Tuesday, making it unlikely that he’ll play in Thursday’s preseason game in Miami. Harbaugh wouldn’t specify what Stanley is dealing with, but his short-term status sounded more positive than Perriman’s.

“No season-ending thing or anything like that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something he’s working through. There are two or three guys like that that are working through some things. I’d like to get them back sooner rather than later, but we don’t want to push them too much and [we need to] just let them heal up a little bit. I’d say it’s ‘camp stuff’ right now.

“I haven’t gotten anything definitive on Ronnie from the trainers, so when we do, we’ll let you know as far as when he’s coming back.”

Fourth-year lineman James Hurst was once again working as the first-team left tackle in Stanley’s absence.

Harbaugh confirmed that first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey will make his preseason debut on Thursday after practicing for the fourth straight day.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), and inside linebacker Lamar Louis (undisclosed) all remained absent from Tuesday’s workout.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Jimmy Smith were also missing from practice, but the Ravens might have elected to keep both veterans off a wet field as heavy rain moved through Owings Mills. Suggs and Smith both practiced without incident on Monday.

Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (knee) and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (undisclosed) returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out the previous day.

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Ravens add salary cap space by restructuring Jimmy Smith’s deal

Posted on 10 August 2017 by Luke Jones

Entering Wednesday with the least amount of salary cap space in the NFL, the Ravens have taken an important step to create more flexibility.

As first reported by ESPN, Baltimore restructured the contract of veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith, which frees up an additional $5.15 million in cap space for the 2017 season. According to NFLPA records, the Ravens had just $5.046 million in cap space on Wednesday and now have $10.196 million in room.

However, that full amount is only available until the end of the preseason when the Rule of 51 — which only takes into account the top 51 cap numbers on the 90-man roster — ceases to apply. At that point, the entire 53-man roster, players on injured reserve, and the 10-man practice squad all count against the cap, leaving less flexibility for general manager Ozzie Newsome. Teams typically need to have at least $4 million or $5 million entering the regular season to account for the inevitable injuries that will require replacement signings.

Originally scheduled to make $8.5 million in base salary this season, Smith instead receives a $7.725 million bonus to go along with a $775,000 salary for 2017. This lowers his scheduled 2017 cap figure to $7.45 million, but it adds $2.575 million to his cap numbers for both 2018 and 2019.

The Ravens clearly needed more cap flexibility, but the 29-year-old Smith will now count for $15.675 million toward the 2018 cap and $16.175 million in 2019, numbers that aren’t exactly appealing for an oft-injured defensive back who will be on the wrong side of 30.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of preseason opener

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens counting down to their preseason opener against Washington, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens won’t dare exhale until Joe Flacco is back on the practice field without incident, but a solid performance from Ryan Mallett against Washington would quell some short-term concerns. He’s practiced better of late, but a poor outing will only spark more questions about the still-unsigned Colin Kaepernick.

2. Flacco has already missed nearly two weeks of practice, which is substantial for an offense that was tweaked in the offseason. He also hasn’t been able to build much rapport with Jeremy Maclin. The lost time isn’t insurmountable, but it certainly sets up for some early-season growing pains.

3. The Ravens having strong defensive line depth is nothing new, but it’s impressive to consider the upside at such little cost beyond standout defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Surprising rookie free agent Patrick Ricard has only complicated what could be some tough roster decisions.

4. The fullback position remains a work in progress with running backs coach Thomas Hammock offering a lukewarm assessment of Lorenzo Taliaferro’s performance at his new spot. This spot takes on more significance with the losses sustained at the tight end position since the spring.

5. Tony Jefferson is impressive when playing downhill toward the line of scrimmage, but he looks rather ordinary in deeper coverage. I like the idea of using him as a dime linebacker in passing situations, but injuries at the nickel have forced Lardarius Webb to play there instead of at safety.

6. As if rookie free agents Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White haven’t received enough early-camp attention as receivers, Jerry Rosburg loudly praised their efforts as gunners on the punt team during Tuesday’s practice. Standing out on special teams would boost their roster chances even more.

7. To this point, Brent Urban hasn’t been seriously challenged for the 5-technique spot as he’s played the run well and has served as an inside rusher in sub packages. Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley have their work cut out for them to crack the game-day rotation.

8. Buck Allen was one of the bigger disappointments of the 2016 campaign, but he has run with more confidence and aggression this summer. The Kenneth Dixon injury created an opportunity, so it will be interesting to see whether he takes advantage in the preseason.

9. A major point of emphasis for the running backs has been pass protection as the Ravens were forced to use former fullback Kyle Juszczyk in single-back sets last year because their young tailbacks struggled mightily. Terrance West and Allen need to be much better in that area.

10. Jimmy Smith missed a few practices with an undisclosed injury, which reminded just how critical he is to the defense. Yes, having Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey should prevent a 2016-like collapse, but this defense needs to be special and likely won’t be if Smith can’t stay on the field.

11. Kamalei Correa is the favorite to start at the inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley, but keep an eye on the nickel package where Patrick Onwuasor has also received some reps. The dime package could come into play as well if they don’t find a reliable three-down linebacker.

12. I recommend Robert Mays’ recent piece on Marshal Yanda, who quietly continues building his case as one of the best five or six players in franchise history. A couple more Pro Bowl selections would put the 32-year-old in the Hall of Fame discussion at the very least.

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Ravens still trying to get healthy with start of preseason looming

Posted on 06 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are counting down to Thursday’s preseason opener knowing franchise quarterback Joe Flacco will not play against the Washington Redskins.

Head coach John Harbaugh says he’s still not sure when the 10th-year veteran will even take the practice field after missing the first nine full-team workouts of training camp with a back injury. His absence has left backup Ryan Mallett to run the first-team offense while the discussion has persisted about free agent Colin Kaepernick.

“We just do not know the time frame. They have not given us a time frame yet,” Harbaugh said in Annapolis Saturday night. “We know he is getting better every single day. Obviously, we have a plan for him, football-wise, when he gets back, but we haven’t been told when yet.”

The Ravens had hoped that Flacco might only miss one week of practice, but that was always the best-case scenario as they’re being cautious with the start of the season still five weeks away. If he doesn’t return to the field this week, it would be difficult envisioning him playing in the second preseason game at Miami on Aug. 17.

Flacco isn’t the only notable starter currently sidelined, however, as cornerback Jimmy Smith missed his third consecutive practice on Saturday. First-round rookie Marlon Humphrey has also missed three straight workouts with an undisclosed ailment, but he was seen doing some agility work on the sideline at the Naval Academy, leaving one to believe he isn’t far away from a return.

Smith’s return to practice is apparently imminent, which is good news for a player with a frustrating history of injuries.

“Jimmy just [has] a little tweak in there,” said Harbaugh, refraining from specifying the location. “I decided to keep him off the turf today, and I actually held him out [Friday], too. He should be back Monday.”

Harbaugh also appeared to take a conservative approach with veterans Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, and Jeremy Maclin, who all sat out the practice at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium after practicing without incident on Friday. Cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz was also a new absentee on Saturday.

Newly-signed right tackle Austin Howard was not with the team for Saturday’s practice, but he is likely to be on the field when the team reconvenes Monday morning in Owings Mills. The 30-year-old spent part of the 2011 season on Baltimore’s practice squad before being signed by the New York Jets, an interesting footnote as he was inked to a three-year, $16 million deal on Friday

“We were disappointed to lose him; I remember it well when we lost him,” Harbaugh said. “We wanted to keep him at the time, too, and that is how it works in this league. He did a great job, but a lot of times guys like to come back to Baltimore. They get out and see that this was a pretty good place.”

Others remaining sidelined Saturday included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (hamstring), Kenny Bell (hamstring), and Chris Matthews (undisclosed), guard Alex Lewis (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Sheldon Price (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee).

Tight end Larry Donnell returned to practice after hurting his hand on Thursday.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (knee) cleared waivers Saturday and reverted to injured reserve. He will no longer count against the 90-man roster limit and is in the final season of his four-year rookie contract signed in 2014.

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Revamped Ravens defense better live up to expectations

Posted on 29 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens stayed true to their board, but that doesn’t change reality after going defense with their first four picks of the 2017 draft.

This is an unbalanced roster with the heaviest lifting of the offseason now in the books. Yes, general manager Ozzie Newsome reminded us again Saturday that the Ravens aren’t done building this year’s team, but there are only so many viable free agents still out there to move the meter in any meaningful way. Right now, Baltimore has a below-average offense that’s going to be difficult to improve dramatically without some substantial improvement from players already on the roster.

The Ravens may still add Nick Mangold or bring back Anquan Boldin, but there’s a reason why they’re still out there. They’re not “Plan A” guys anymore.

Of the seven Ravens players selected in the first three rounds over the last two drafts, just one — left tackle Ronnie Stanley — was an offensive player. It’s difficult to improve on that side of the ball if you’re not spending free-agent dollars or investing early draft picks, which will make life more difficult for quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg as they will likely lean on unproven talent at wide receiver and on the offensive line.

Asked about the state of his offense after the first wave of free agency last month that included lucrative contracts for nose tackle Brandon Williams and safety Tony Jefferson and another deal for cornerback Brandon Carr, Newsome fairly pointed to the draft as the way to build the rest of the roster. But the Ravens came away with fourth-round guard prospect Nico Siragusa and fifth-round developmental right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor as their only picks for that side of the ball.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Ravens should have reached to draft offensive players purely out of need as they did appear to get good value with their picks, but the 2017 draft being so rich in defensive talent was a reason why the offense should have been a bigger focus in free agency. The outcome is an offense that’s lost a starting wide receiver, a starting right tackle, a starting center, and a Pro Bowl fullback and has netted only 32-year-old running back Danny Woodhead and two Day 3 offensive linemen.

Which side of the ball had its coordinator fired again last year?

Like it or not, the Ravens prioritized building a great defense above anything else this offseason. The unit collapsed down the stretch in 2016, but the primary cause of that was the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith as John Harbaugh’s team went 2-5 in games in which he missed meaningful time.

When Smith was on the field, the Ravens had a strong defense despite an underwhelming pass rush. And even with the resources used in both free agency and the draft to revamp the secondary and the pass rush, Smith’s availability remains arguably the biggest key for defensive success.

On paper, the Ravens defense does look better than the 2016 edition, but it will need to be great — possibly even special — to justify the use of so many resources and to make up for an offense with a ton of question marks. Taking that kind of a leap is no sure thing, especially in the modern NFL that is geared toward offense.

Will some combination of the pass-rushing group of Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser, and Tim Williams be ready to step up with Terrell Suggs set to turn 35 in October and Elvis Dumervil no longer on the roster? Is first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey going to be ready to play at a high level if Smith goes down again for some period of time? Can Kamalei Correa hold down the inside linebacker spot vacated by the retired Zach Orr? Will defensive coordinator Dean Pees use so many new pieces effectively and maximize their versatility?

The excitement for the defense is understandable with so much youth and potential at every level, but remember there isn’t a 25-year-old Ray Lewis leading this group before waxing nostalgic about replicating the 2000 Ravens. Even if we’re looking for a more contemporary comparison — it’s a different game than it was nearly two decades ago — the 2015 Denver Broncos had a generational talent in Von Miller and two 1,000-yard receivers on the other side of the ball.

A winning blueprint leaning so heavily on defense is very difficult to execute.

But it’s where the Ravens find themselves after free agency and the draft.

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Ravens open 2017 voluntary offseason workout program

Posted on 18 April 2017 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)

Ravens players officially began preparations for the 2017 season on Tuesday, reporting to Owings Mills for the start of the voluntary offseason workout program.

Of course, most players have been working out on their own for weeks, but this is the first time in which team activities were allowed to be conducted at the practice facility. The first phase of the nine-week program lasts two weeks and involves strength and conditioning work as well as physical rehabilitation. The coaching staff is not allowed to lead players in on-field workouts during this opening part of the offseason program.

This part of the offseason program is officially voluntary, but most players — especially younger ones — are expected to attend regularly.

The Ravens will provide media access on Wednesday with quarterback Joe Flacco, cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Eric Weddle, and wide receiver Mike Wallace scheduled to talk, but photos and video released by the team on Tuesday showed a great number of players in attendance for the first day. That list included Flacco, Smith, Weddle, Wallace, Brandon Carr, Tony Jefferson, Danny Woodhead, C.J. Mosley, Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tavon Young, Michael Pierce, Carl Davis, Breshad Perriman, Alex Lewis, Ronnie Stanley, James Hurst, Albert McClellan, Kamalei Correa, Anthony Levine, Brent Urban, Sam Koch, Michael Campanaro, Crockett Gillmore, Benjamin Watson, Nick Boyle, and Ryan Jensen.

The second phase of the program lasts three weeks and consists of on-field workouts that may include individual player instruction and drills as well as team practice. However, no live contact is permitted, and the offense and defense may not work against each other.

The final phase of the program permits teams to conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity (OTAs), which are voluntary. No live contact is allowed, but teams may conduct 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills. Teams may also hold one mandatory minicamp for all veteran players during that final phase of the offseason program.

The Ravens will also hold a rookie minicamp beginning May 5, the weekend after the 2017 NFL draft.

Below is the Ravens’ 2017 offseason training program schedule:

First Day: April 18
OTA offseason workouts: May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 5-6, June 8-9
Mandatory minicamp: June 13-15

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Carr’s reliability made him easy choice for Ravens

Posted on 21 March 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You can hardly blame the Ravens for being drawn to cornerback Brandon Carr.

After starting no fewer than four different players at cornerback in each of the last three seasons — including a whopping seven in 2014 — the Ravens needed more dependability at a position high in demand and limited in quality. The 30-year-old Carr may not have lived up to the high expectations that accompanied a $50 million contract with Dallas five years ago, but he’s been a reliable cornerback who’s started all 16 games in each of his nine NFL seasons.

Carr needs to show he can still play at a high level in 2017, but just being there means more than you might think for a team that’s started the likes of Rashaan Melvin and Shareece Wright in meaningful games over the last few years. Perhaps that’s why the Ravens signed Carr over former Dallas teammate Morris Claiborne, a talented former first-round pick who’s missed more than 40 percent of games in his career.

“There were different guys that had different histories,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the durability of others on the free-agent market. “You know you cannot do any better than Brandon has done. There’s a reason for that. Sure, luck comes into it and you do knock on wood and laugh about those kind of things.”

That durability is something the Ravens hope will continue with No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith missing 22 games over his six-year career and most of last December when their once-mighty defense fell apart. Some drop-off is inevitable whenever a team loses one of its best players, but performance can’t fall off a cliff in the way the Baltimore defense’s did at the end of last season without addressing the problem.

The Ravens feel confident about the trio of Smith, Carr, and 2016 fourth-round pick Tavon Young to go along with starting safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson, but Harbaugh said they will continue to look for more secondary depth with this year’s draft deep in cornerback talent.

How has Carr been able to stay on the field at a position involving so much lateral movement and speed?

“I do not even know how I do it myself with the injuries that I won’t even talk about,” said Carr, who cited his work with outside trainers and his focus on nutrition as factors that have kept him healthy. “I just keep playing through them. Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw, and sometimes it is just being stupid and playing through whatever is going on.

“Alongside of that, my preparation throughout the offseason taking care of my body [and] just keeping a balance in my life with family, friends, football, and my faith. I just try to stay on top of injuries.”

Holding the longest active streak for consecutive games (144) started by a cornerback, Carr isn’t guaranteed to continue being an iron man who’s never missed a game as he turns 31 in May. But the Ravens figured they would take their chances.

“I think the biggest indicator of future behavior and success is past behavior and success,” Harbaugh said. “He has proven that already.”

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Ravens narrowly avoided Atlanta’s fate four years ago

Posted on 06 February 2017 by Luke Jones

The Atlanta Falcons are predictably the butt of many jokes after surrendering the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history on Sunday night.

Coughing up a 25-point lead in the second half will do that to you, but Ravens fans should pause a moment or two before piling on Matt Ryan and company with too much enthusiasm. After all, Baltimore nearly suffered a similar fate in Super Bowl XLVII four years ago.

No one will forget the image of Joe Flacco raising the first Vince Lombardi Trophy or Ray Lewis celebrating the euphoric conclusion of his “last ride” in New Orleans, but the Ravens came dangerously close to squandering a 22-point lead in the second half. Such a notion felt impossible after Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the third quarter, but San Francisco finally found its offense while the Ravens offense couldn’t run and managed only two field goals in the second half.

It didn’t take long for a comfortable 28-6 lead to become a heart-stopping affair.

You can blame the Superdome blackout if you’d like, but a defense led by Lewis and Ed Reed at the end of their careers gave up three second-half touchdowns and a field goal, which is exactly what the Falcons did before the Patriots marched down the field for the winning touchdown in overtime.

Just imagine how differently we’d view Super Bowl XLVII had Jimmy Smith been flagged on fourth-and-goal from the 5 or the 49ers hadn’t forgotten over their final four plays inside the 10 that Frank Gore was gashing a Baltimore front playing without the injured Haloti Ngata. Of course, unlike the Falcons, the Ravens were able to make a few plays to protect their narrow lead in the end, and that’s all that matters.

Super Bowl LI reminded us that you should never count out the New England Patriots and that the margin between winning and losing can be so razor thin. It also might help to run the ball when you’re protecting a 28-20 lead and are comfortably in field-goal range with under five minutes remaining.

But before mocking Atlanta too much, remember that the Ravens nearly became the Falcons four years ago and breathe a quick sigh of relief that a storybook ending didn’t turn into a nightmare.

** Many Ravens fans predictably went to social media to use Sunday’s result as validation for Flacco being better than Ryan — a tired debate that needs to end — but I’d hardly pin that loss on the quarterback as much as I would on the offensive play-calling of Kyle Shanahan and a defense that couldn’t stop a nosebleed in the second half.

Regardless, Flacco and the Ravens have a lot of work to do to give fans something more current to brag about. Even with the fallout of a devastating Super Bowl defeat, Ryan and the Falcons have a lot more going for them right now.

** After watching his limitations as a pass rusher with just five total sacks in his four seasons in Baltimore, Courtney Upshaw collecting the first quarterback takedown of Super Bowl LI wasn’t what I expected to see.

The former Ravens linebacker added weight to play on the Falcons defensive line this year, and that sack was his only tackle of the postseason.

** Every organization and fan base would love to be the Patriots, but Ravens director of public relations Patrick Gleason offered some perspective hours before Sunday’s kickoff in Houston.

It’s understandable to be discouraged by the Ravens missing the playoffs in three of the last four years and improvements certainly need to be made from top to bottom, but this organization has built up a ton of equity over the last two decades and is still just four years removed from winning the ultimate prize. Relative to most teams around the NFL, the Ravens have spoiled their fans for a long time, which isn’t easy to do.

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