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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Bengals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 09 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Off to their worst start since the 2005 season, the 3-5 Ravens have never been in such a position in the John Harbaugh era as they meet the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals for the 35th time in franchise history.

Hoping their return to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time in nearly a month will snap a three-game losing streak, the Ravens trail the Bengals by 2 1/2 games in the AFC North and will see their playoff hopes on life support if they drop their third consecutive division game. However, Baltimore has won four of the last five meetings with Cincinnati as the Bengals are still chasing consistency with a talented and deep roster.

The Ravens listed five players as questionable on the final injury report of the week — four of them key defensive players — while Cincinnati will be without inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and will be playing its first game since the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins in Week 9.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens lead the all-time series with Cincinnati by a 19-15 margin and are 12-5 in Baltimore. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 6-4 against the Bengals, which includes a 4-1 record at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their first game since Oct. 6 and move closer toward the .500 mark to begin the second half of the season …

1. Underused wide receiver Deonte Thompson will catch the first touchdown of his career. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s use of Thompson has been perplexing as the second-year wideout has been effective whenever afforded opportunities and has caught just over 64 percent of attempts on which he’s been targeted (nine of 14), the highest success rate of any wide receiver or tight end on the roster. Flacco has struggled in the vertical passing game this season, which was understandable early in the year, but the returns of Jacoby Jones and Thompson have given the Ravens adequate speed to complement No. 1 receiver Torrey Smith. It’s difficult to envision the offense being fixed due to an ineffective offensive line and an inadequate number of consistent weapons, but the Ravens need to throw caution to the wind in taking more deep shots. With Smith once again receiving the most attention, Thompson will slip free for a long score.

2. The absence of Atkins will not be an elixir for the Ravens’ inept running game. It’s true that the Cincinnati defense is more vulnerable after its recent rash of injuries, but the Baltimore running game has been effective for only 30 minutes — the second half of the Miami game in Week 5 — of the 480 total played this year. A poor offensive line is undersized at center and left guard and Ray Rice once again showed a lack of explosiveness last week in Cleveland despite his claims of finally being 100 percent healthy. Caldwell will likely explore further use of the pistol formation to give the Ravens more options in running the ball while working out of a three-wide, shotgun spread formation extensively, but expecting the Ravens to suddenly start running the ball effectively is based on hopes and dreams and nothing about their performance this season. It’s only common sense to assume the Ravens will average under 3.0 yards per carry and accumulate no more 70 or 80 rushing yards until they show otherwise.

3. A banged-up secondary won’t be able to handle the many Bengals weapons, allowing quarterback Andy Dalton to throw for two touchdowns and 250-plus yards. Everyone knows how dangerous Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is, but the emergence of fellow wide receiver Marvin Jones spells bad news for a secondary listing Jimmy Smith, Corey Graham, and James Ihedigbo as questionable for Sunday’s game. The Ravens’ 14th-ranked pass defense has been vulnerable to missed tackles and big plays, which doesn’t bode well against an offense with talented pass-catching options at receiver, tight end, and in the backfield with rookie Giovani Bernard. Cornerback Lardarius Webb will do a respectable job against Green when the Ravens shade safety help in his direction, but there isn’t enough quality coverage to go around in shutting down the league’s seventh-ranked passing attack, meaning the Ravens must pressure Dalton heavily to give themselves a good chance.

4. Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth will have another shutdown effort against linebacker Terrell Suggs. Browns tackle Joe Thomas receives all the accolades while Whitworth just made his first Pro Bowl last season, but the Bengals lineman has arguably given Suggs more trouble than any other blocker in his 11-year career. Of Suggs’ 7 1/2 career sacks against Cincinnati, only 2 1/2 have come since 2006 when Whitworth was drafted in the second round out of LSU. Without Whitworth playing in their last game, the Bengals gave up five sacks and Dalton turned the ball over four times as he was harassed all night. The Ravens will win on Sunday if they can repeat Miami’s performance in forcing the bad Dalton to come out, but that pressure will need to come from defenders who aren’t lined up against the Bengals left tackle. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to move Suggs around a bit, but big performances will need to come from Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Jones, and others.

5. With their backs against the wall even more than they were last week in Cleveland, the Ravens will fall short once again in a 27-20 final. In the history of the Harbaugh era, the Ravens have been able to rise to the occasion when they’ve needed it most in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Bengals have had success over the last couple years but still fight the trap of reverting to the “Bungles” from time to time. It might not be a must-win game for the Ravens in terms of the mathematics of the playoff race, but falling to 3-6 virtually ends their playoff hopes with five of their final seven games coming against teams with winning records. Those trends would lead you to believe the Ravens will find a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against a team with more talent, but “that was then, this is now” as author S.E. Hinton would say. A familiar script of a slow start offensively coupled with a solid defensive effort void of game-changing plays will lead to another close defeat for the Ravens.

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Three defensive starters listed as questionable for Bengals game

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Three defensive starters listed as questionable for Bengals game

Posted on 08 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens presented a healthier outlook on Friday with the return of three defensive starters to the practice field but listed five as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Linebackers Terrell Suggs and Daryl Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith all took part in the final full workout of the week, and the latter two were listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. Safety James Ihedigbo, cornerback Corey Graham, and wide receiver Brandon Stokley were also designated as questionable.

Listed as probable for Sunday’s game, Suggs (foot) was added to the injury report as a non-participant on Thursday but appeared to simply be given a day off based on his pre-practice theatrics on Friday. Upon seeing reporters while walking out to the practice field, the 31-year-old linebacker walked with an over-the-top limp before breaking into a brisk jog, indicating he would be ready to go for Sunday’s game.

Daryl Smith (thigh) and Jimmy Smith (groin) both missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday, but their presence for the final full practice of the week was an encouraging sign for their status against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The third-year cornerback exited last Sunday’s loss in Cleveland early when his groin tightened up on him.

The inside linebacker received treatment for his thigh injury throughout the week and painted an optimistic outlook for his chances of playing against the Bengals. Coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about the status of Daryl Smith and Jimmy Smith.

“That’s the whole goal,” said Daryl Smith when asked if he expected to play. “I’m feeling good and looking forward to Sunday. A couple days rest on it and rehab, and I should be ready to ride.”

A concerning development from Friday’s injury report was the addition of starting strong safety James Ihedigbo, who was limited with a toe injury in the final practice of the week despite working fully the previous two days. This is sometimes an indication of an injury taking place during practice, and he did not appear to be limited during the portion of practice open to reporters Friday morning.

Graham (calf) took part in Friday’s practice after sitting out a day earlier and expressed optimism that he would be ready to play on Sunday.

With both Smith and Graham listed on the injury report and less than 100 percent, the Ravens elected to place second-year cornerback Asa Jackson on the 53-man roster to add depth to a secondary. Jackson practiced all week after completing an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy and provides another special-teams option on Sundays.

The Ravens officially placed left guard Kelechi Osemele (back) on season-ending injured reserve to make room for Jackson.

“Asa looked good. He looked like he was in shape,” Harbaugh said. “Like always, working the little nuances of the game and stuff like that after a few weeks off in terms of knocking the rust off. But I thought he was surprisingly sharp and looked good.”

Stokley (groin) was present and suited up to work after missing the first two practices of the week. He hasn’t played since Week 3 as he’s battled the groin ailment for more than a month while other receivers on the roster have gotten healthy.

For the Bengals, starting tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) missed his second straight practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. Reports from Cincinnati indicate he will be a game-time decision against Baltimore.

Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) was limited in practice all week and was deemed questionable, but the play-making back is expected to play.

Cincinnati ruled out starting inside linebacker Rey Maualuga as he continues to recover from a knee injury and did not practice all week.

The referee for Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Bengals will be Walt Coleman.

Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 60 degrees with winds up to 21 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Here’s the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Corey Graham (calf), S James Ihedigbo (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
PROBABLE: LB Terrell Suggs (foot), WR Marlon Brown (finger)

CINCINNATI
OUT: LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow)
DOUBTFUL: LB Mike Boley (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), TE Jermaine Gresham (groin)
PROBABLE: G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Jimmy Smith, Daryl Smith miss practice on Wednesday

Posted on 06 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to the practice field to intensify preparations for Sunday’s meeting against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens were without two defensive starters on Wednesday as cornerback Jimmy Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith were absent.

The third-year defensive back left early in the Week 9 loss to the Cleveland Browns with what was described as a groin injury by head coach John Harbaugh. Smith was feeling better on Monday, but his status will be monitored over the course of the week and veteran Corey Graham would start in his place should he be unable to play against the Bengals.

Meanwhile, the starting inside linebacker was absent during the portion of practice open to media with a thigh injury. Smith finished Sunday’s game with nine tackles and a sack despite picking up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) was also absent from practice on Wednesday as was left guard Kelechi Osemele (back), who will be placed on injured reserve at some point this week.

Fresh off reinstatement following an eight-game suspension, second-year cornerback Asa Jackson was practicing and appears to have a good chance to be activated for Sunday’s game with Jimmy Smith currently ailing. The Ravens have a roster exemption that expires Monday before they must either place Jackson on the 53-man roster or waive him.

Rookie defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore also took the practice field for the first time as a member of the Ravens after he was selected in the sixth round of April’s draft and began the season on the non-football injury list while working his way back to full health. A Notre Dame product, Lewis-Moore tore his ACL in the BCS title game last January and now begins a 21-day window in which he can practice before the Ravens either place him on the 53-man roster or send him to season-ending injured reserve.

Since Jackson and Lewis-Moore aren’t currently on the 53-man roster, they did not appear on Wednesday’s injury report.

Coach John Harbaugh had no new information on the pending return of tight end Dennis Pitta, who could potentially return later this month from the dislocated hip he suffered in late July.

“I don’t know exactly [when he will be ready],” Harbaugh said. “When we talked about that time frame, that was a long time ago. Everything I’ve been told is that he is on schedule, but it’s still pretty vague and generic. We are getting close to that date. I’m interested to hear when he can start practicing again. I’ve been asking that question [and] haven’t gotten a yes yet. He’s closer than ever, obviously, and I have my fingers crossed — just like everybody else does.”

Meanwhile, the Bengals were without inside linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related) on Wednesday.

Here is Wednesday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Kelechi Osemele (back)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (thigh), LB Daryl Smith (thigh), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (finger)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Rey Maualuga (knee), DT Devon Still (elbow), LT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Giovani Bernard (ribs), LB Mike Boley (hamstring), TE Jermaine Gresham (groin), G Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Steelers “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 20 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-16 Sunday at Heinz Field, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Joe Flacco

4. Jeromy Miles

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Haloti Ngata

1. Elvis Dumervil (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens’ pass rush faces tall order in slowing Rodgers

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Ravens’ pass rush faces tall order in slowing Rodgers

Posted on 09 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens know an enormous challenge awaits when they welcome Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his first trip to Baltimore as a starter.

They’re well aware of the accuracy, the strong arm, the quick release, and the ability to extend plays to find a talented group of pass catchers. But unlike other top quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady the Ravens meet regularly, Rodgers is a signal caller the Ravens have mostly watched from afar aside from a 2009 loss at Lambeau Field in which he threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-14 final.

On paper, Rodgers doesn’t scare you with his legs as he’s rushed for just 42 yards in four games, but his ability to extend plays reminds the Ravens of Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and it creates a unique challenge for a pass rush with 19 sacks this season, ranking second in the league behind Kansas City. The key is getting to Rodgers — or at least making him uncomfortable — while keeping him in the pocket to prevent a talented trio of wide receivers from breaking off routes and losing defensive backs in coverage like they can when he’s allowed to escape.

“He’s great on the move. He can move to run, but he really moves to throw,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Those guys do a great job of uncovering downfield. They push off. They do all the different tricks of the trade to get open downfield, and they do a good job with it.”

Discipline must accompany the pressure that’s often wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks this season as the free-agent additions of linebacker Elvis Dumervil and defensive end Chris Canty coupled with the renaissance of 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs have often masked a vulnerable secondary in a pass defense that ranks 16th in the league. As was the case last Sunday in Miami when Ryan Tannehill completed five passes of 20 or more yards in the Ravens’ 26-23 win, the secondary has too often given up the big play, which doesn’t bode well against Rodgers and the league’s fourth-best passing attack at 312.3 yards per game through the air.

Packers wideouts Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones each have more than 300 receiving yards through four games, so the Ravens will depends on Suggs and the defensive line to put heat on Rodgers to prevent these targets from getting loose. Though they allowed only one sack against Detroit in Week 5, the Packers have struggled to protect Rodgers with fourth-round rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari — veteran Bryan Bulaga was lost for the year in the preseason — and an offensive line that yielded 10 sacks in their first three games.

The Ravens secondary fully acknowledges how the pass rush has aided the transition of two new starting safeties — including rookie Matt Elam — from a year ago.

“It’s like our best friend right now,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “Once we can sic our dogs on them, it’s heaven for defensive backs, because we’re just waiting for the ball to fly out. We’re running with our backs down to the ball, and you hear big cheers that we just got a sack.”

What’s been even more effective for the Ravens’ pass rush and defense in general has been the ability to consistently generate pressure with the front four, which was a constant problem a year ago with a weaker defensive line and a banged-up Suggs for much of the season. According to Pro Football Focus, only four of the Ravens’ 19 sacks this season have come by use of the blitz, leaving more defenders to drop into coverage on many occasions.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has effectively used sub packages to not only keep the defensive line fresh but to confuse opponents by lining pass rushers up at various spots over the course of the game.

“Pressure in any kind of way is good,” Suggs said. “You can do it with three-man rushes; you can do it with blitzes. You definitely don’t want an NFL quarterback to have all day.”

Unlike other top quarterbacks such as Manning and Brady who are statuesque in the pocket, Rogers will move away from pressure, making it critical for the defensive line to be disciplined and mindful of the edges in its quest to hit the 2011 league MVP and three-time Pro Bowl selection as much as possible.

The Ravens followed a similar strategy in each of the last two weeks against mobile quarterbacks in Buffalo’s EJ Manuel and Tannehill. However, defenders warn that they can’t let discipline turn into hesitation with the fear of Rodgers using his legs to roll and escape trouble.

“You’ve just got to keep on after him and keep rushing him,” defensive tackle Arthur Jones said. “When you play timid, you open up more lanes to run. If we play our game of football, we’ll take care of it.”

The Ravens’ defensive game has lived and died with their front seven this season, and they’ll have an opportunity to show the disastrous Week 1 performance against Manning and the powerhouse Broncos was more of an aberration than an inability to answer the challenge against a top offense.

Suggs has been the ringleader of the pass rush with seven sacks already, putting him on pace to shatter his career high of 14 collected in his award-winning campaign just two years ago. But like the rest of a defense that currently ranks 14th in yards and points allowed, Suggs isn’t satisfied and sees better days ahead for the group.

Containing Rodgers and an offense that’s averaged over 450 yards and just under 30 points per contest would be the Baltimore defense’s loudest statement yet.

“It’s just five games,” said Suggs of his monster start as well as the Ravens’ potent pass rush. “We have a great expectation for this team. You can’t be satisfied after five games with what you’ve done. You always want to consider your progress. It’s not a big deal. We’re going to continue to work.”

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Our Ravens/Bills “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Bills “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 29 September 2013 by WNST Staff

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Buffalo Bills 23-20 Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Ray Rice

4. Terrell Suggs

3. Elvis Dumervil

2. Dallas Clark

1. Ed Dickson (Two slaps)

(Ryan’s slaps on Page 2…)

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Rice’s hip injury headlines list of health concerns from win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The Ravens came away with a 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but with it came a new list of health concerns topped by the status of running back Ray Rice.

Rice went down with a left hip injury in the fourth quarter on a non-contact play and was immediately taken to the locker room where he was diagnosed with a hip flexor strain, according to coach John Harbaugh. Backup Bernard Pierce handled the workload the rest of the way to help the Ravens improve to 1-1 on the season.

Baltimore was optimistic after the game about Rice, who wasn’t scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging as of Sunday afternoon. However, it had to be a scary scene for Harbaugh and the Ravens to see one of their best offensive players go down in pain without being touched.

“I don’t have the ‘scary gauge’ on me right now,” said Harbaugh when asked to express how he felt upon seeing the injury occur. “He might’ve gone down to protect himself, too. That’s just something that we’ll have to see. We’re confident and optimistic right now. We’ll have to see tomorrow how he responds to that.”

The Ravens also suffered several injuries on the defensive side of the ball as linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain) and cornerback Chykie Brown (knee strain) both left the game with injuries and are each expected to undergo an MRI on Monday. There was some fear in the post-game locker room that the second-round linebacker’s pectoral injury could be significant, but Harbaugh expressed optimism that Chykie Brown’s knee injury didn’t appear to be serious.

Defensive end Chris Canty left the game after the opening series of the second half with a groin injury and didn’t return as he received treatment on the bench but wasn’t taken to the locker room at any point.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith had his helmet knocked off after a violent collision with safety James Ihedigbo in the second half and was taken to the locker room for a concussion evaluation but returned to action soon thereafter. The 2011 first-round pick also started at corner over Corey Graham in the base defense, which was a change from Week 1.

“Jimmy has been practicing really well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a really good player.”

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Our Ravens/Broncos “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Broncos “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 06 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Denver Broncos 49-27 Thursday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Rick Wagner

4. Brynden Trawick 

3. Ed Dickson

2. John Harbaugh

1. Jimmy Smith (two slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens positional stock report entering training camp

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Ravens positional stock report entering training camp

Posted on 19 July 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With players beginning to report to Owings Mills by the end of the weekend and the first full-squad workout less than a week away, training camp signifies the official start of the Ravens’ marathon journey to defend their Super Bowl championship from a year ago.

Coach John Harbaugh will undoubtedly be eager to learn which players report in better shape — Courtney Upshaw, anyone? — and which ones with preexisting injury concerns — Lardarius Webb and Jameel McClain among others — are ready to return to the practice field.

With that in mind, the time for pondering the upcoming season is nearly over as I predict whose stock will rise and which players will fall during camp and the preseason. I’ve made two selections from each position group, with some units obviously being more intriguing than others to watch this summer.

On Friday’s edition of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction, I provided a more extensive breakdown of the offensive units and defensive units and Drew Forrester offered his own choices. You can listen to those segments HERE and HERE.

QUARTERBACKS
Rising: Joe Flacco
Falling: Caleb Hanie
Tip: The Ravens will rely on their franchise quarterback more heavily than ever in terms of both play on the field and leadership off it as Flacco will be working with the least-experienced group of wideouts he’s seen over his six seasons. Meanwhile, Hanie is the latest contestant in fans’ annual game of “Who Will Unseat Tyrod Taylor as Backup Quarterback?” with which I haven’t been impressed.

RUNNING BACKS
Rising: Bernard Pierce
Falling: Ray Rice
Tip: These choices seem too obvious, but they are simply a product of the Ravens wanting to get Pierce more involved in the offense while keeping Rice fresh for the latter portion of the season. The veteran will remain the feature back and Pierce the change of pace, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rice receives fewer carries than in past years while posting a career high in receptions this season.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Rising: Torrey Smith
Falling: Jacoby Jones
Tip: We’ve discussed the merits of such names as Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson ad nauseam, but Smith becoming a receiver capable of making 70 or more receptions would be far more significant than predicting which other young receiver might make more than a token contribution on the field. Much has been made by Jones’ improved footwork from his time spent dancing this offseason, but I just don’t see him showing enough versatility to be an every-down receiver in the Baltimore offense.

TIGHT ENDS
Rising: Dennis Pitta
Falling: Billy Bajema
Tip: It will be fascinating to see how much offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell elects to use Pitta out of the slot and how that might impact his production as well as Ed Dickson as they approach unrestricted free agency next winter. Meanwhile, Bajema will have a tough time beating out Maryland product Matt Furstenburg and 2012 practice-squad member Alex Silvestro for the third tight end spot.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Rising: Kelechi Osemele
Falling: Bryant McKinnie
Tip: Entering his second year and finally able to focus on the left guard position, Osemele has made the free-agent departure of Ben Grubbs a distant memory, hasn’t he? I don’t anticipate McKinnie having any real issues in terms of his work ethic or keeping his starting job, but many have glossed over the reality that he’ll turn 34 early in September and has never been a very strong run blocker, two realities that are likely to be exposed over a 16-game schedule.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
Rising: Chris Canty
Falling: Terrence Cody
Tip: One of the most overlooked aspects of the Ravens’ defensive struggles last season was the inability to find a suitable replacement for Cory Redding, which Canty will bring as an effective 5-technique player this season. Cody appears to be the easy choice in this unit after he was sidelined this spring while recovering from hip surgery and will be pushed by rookie nose tackle Brandon Williams in the defensive line rotation.

LINEBACKERS
Rising: Arthur Brown
Falling: Jameel McClain
Tip: With Brown expected to be 100 percent after undergoing sports hernia surgery this spring, he will have every chance to win one of the starting inside linebacker jobs. The Ravens and McClain have said all the right things in being optimistic that he’ll be cleared to play, but I remain skeptical until that day actually arrives and others such as veteran Daryl Smith and the emerging Josh Bynes will have the opportunity to close the gap in the meantime.

CORNERBACKS
Rising: Jimmy Smith
Falling: Chykie Brown
Tip: After two disappointing campaigns to begin his NFL career, Smith will finally start to show more consistency at the cornerback position and he’ll need it to unseat Corey Graham as a starter opposite Lardarius Webb. Brown will remain a strong special-teams player, but his opportunities in the nickel package will dwindle with Webb and Smith both healthy this year.

SAFETIES
Rising: Matt Elam
Falling: Christian Thompson
Tip: The first-round pick Elam may not be a Pro Bowl player, but his skills in pass coverage to go along with his physicality will be an upgrade over Bernard Pollard in the Baltimore secondary. It didn’t speak well for Thompson, a 2012 fourth-round pick, that the Ravens drafted a safety in the first round, re-signed James Ihedigbo, and signed veteran Michael Huff in the offseason and that’s not even taking into account his four-game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

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Jimmy Smith, the breakout player of 2013

Posted on 13 July 2013 by jeffreygilley

Every year, there are players who “break out.” This year, one of them will be the physically imposing Jimmy Smith.

Smith was brought to Baltimore with high expectations. He was dubbed the Ravens’ next great cornerback and was expected to match up with the best of the best.

Going into the 2011 draft, Smith was viewed as a top ten talent. Some experts even said Smith was better than Patrick Peterson, the fifth overall pick in the same draft.

Smith has had an inconsistent start to his career. In a 35-7 blowout victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011, Smith was injured on the very first play. Smith would come back that season and played well in stretches but was susceptible to double moves.

Perhaps Smith’s inconsistent play can be attributed to his college career. Smith was plagued by off field issues but they did not overshadow his performance in his junior and senior seasons. Over that time period, Smith gave up 11 completions with only one being for a first down. Those statistics are impressive by themselves but even more so when you consider Smith played in the pass-happy Pac 12-Conference. When looking at film from that year, teams rarely tested him in the passing game. Smith even excelled in run defense.

Because of his success in college, Smith is not used to being tested. Now that he has experience, he will have a great 2013 season.

Smith also has momentum on his side going into 2013. As I predicted, Smith had a huge impact on Super Bowl XLVII. Smith, the Ravens best tackling cornerback was assigned to cover Michael Crabtree towards the end of the game. Smith more than delivered by breaking up two passes. By forcing these two incompletions, the 49ers turned the ball over and the rest is history.

Lardarius Webb is the unquestioned number one corner on the Ravens’ roster. Smith will have to compete with Corey Graham who is second on the depth chart at this point. Offseason reports suggest Smith is a completely different player. According to these reports, Smith is more of a professional and is pushing Graham early on. Graham is a great corner but is more of a nickel corner. In addition, Smith’s physical prowess make him more suited to play on the outside.

The Ravens will need a solid year out of Jimmy. Have you seen the schedule? There are many elite receivers the Ravens will face. They include Demaryius Thomas, Andre Johnson, AJ Green, Brandon Marshall, and Calvin Johnson. Outside of Smith, there is not a cornerback on the roster that can match up physically with these players.

Expect a great season out of Jimmy Smith. He has every tool to become a superstar in the NFL.

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