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Twelve Ravens thoughts on preseason win over Detroit

Posted on 28 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winding down the preseason with a 30-9 win over Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Solid in his preseason debut, Joe Flacco got rid of the ball quickly, which did disrupt the timing on a few throws. Such a strategy was hardly surprising in his first game back from a major knee injury, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this going into the season.

2. In 10 plays, Terrell Suggs registered two tackles and the Baltimore defense just had a different look and feel with him on the field. I’m not sure if that says more about the 33-year-old linebacker or the rest of the defensive personnel at this point.

3. He may not be ready for an every-down role, but rookie Matt Judon reinforced why he’s deserving of being a situational pass rusher in sub packages. He did impressive work against starting right tackle Riley Reiff and collected a sack, five tackles, and a pass defense.

4. Considered a threat to win the starting job entering the summer, Buck Allen was the last of the Ravens’ top four running backs to receive action and ran for just 15 yards on eight carries. Averaging only 1.9 yards per carry this preseason, he hasn’t impressed running between the tackles.

5. Injuries at safety gave Terrence Brooks the chance to go the distance on Saturday, but he dropped an easy interception and missed a couple tackles leading to big gains. He still hasn’t been able to put it all together despite looking the part on paper.

6. We’re now three games into the preseason and there are no signs that rookie Ronnie Stanley can’t handle protecting Flacco’s blindside after he more than held his own against Pro Bowl defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. It wasn’t a sexy pick, but Stanley is already looking like a gem.

7. A year ago at this time, Carl Davis looked like the early star of the 2015 draft class, but he continues to have a quiet preseason and failed to register a statistic in 18 snaps. His performance is especially concerning after he hit the rookie wall last year.

8. With the season-ending injury to Benjamin Watson, the coaching staff has to be watching Darren Waller and wishing he hadn’t drawn himself a four-game suspension. Other than a drop that led to an interception in the preseason opener, he’s flashed appealing upside at his new position.

9. Remembering his special-teams prowess, I never thought Anthony Levine was in real danger of not making the roster, but he added an interception and a sack on Saturday to go along with his late-game heroics in Indianapolis. Seeing him work as a dime back will be interesting.

10. The Ravens were wise not to risk playing Lardarius Webb due to back tightness since he’s had his healthiest summer in a few years. If he’s right physically, his tackling ability cannot be overlooked at the safety position and the Ravens can move him around a bit.

11. You couldn’t ask for more from Jeremy Butler in his quest to earn a roster spot, but it was interesting to note that he only participated in two plays on special teams. If he’s going to be active on game days, he’ll need to be a part of those units.

12. It was hardly surprising, but seeing Haloti Ngata recognized in the second half of Saturday’s game was still a special moment. Despite an unceremonious departure after nine years in Baltimore, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and future Ring of Honor member deserved a big ovation.

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Depth being tested for Ravens before season even begins

Posted on 28 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The returns of Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs and a 30-9 win over Detroit should have made Saturday a great night for the Ravens.

Instead, they were left with the familiar sting from the injury bug that bit them too many times in 2015.

Nothing really compares to the losses of a franchise quarterback and one of the top defensive players in franchise history — who both looked good in their first live-game action since last season — but injuries to veteran tight end Benjamin Watson and rookie running back Kenneth Dixon soiled what should have been a good feeling for the Ravens in the final real tuneup before the start of the 2016 season. Fortunately, the injuries come at positions where Baltimore has good depth, but you hate to lose play-making depth and potential before the season even kicks off, especially when coming off a 5-11 season in which there was a shortage of difference-makers on either side of the ball.

Watson suffered the more catastrophic injury as he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon on the first offensive play of the night, ending his first season with the Ravens before it even began. No one realistically expected him to duplicate his career season from a year ago in which he caught 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns, but the Ravens thought Watson would bring veteran leadership and dependability to the position after he had missed a total of four games in his last seven seasons.

“He’s been a great teammate and was really developing into a weapon for us,” said Flacco, who’s often leaned on tight ends in the passing game throughout his career. “I was really excited about getting to play with him this year. That’s going to be really tough on us.”

Without Watson, a once-deep tight end group looks more uncertain with Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Dennis Pitta all having struggled to stay on the field to varying degrees and second-year options Darren Waller and Nick Boyle facing suspensions to begin the regular season. With Williams and Pitta currently sidelined, you wonder if converted wide receiver and former practice-squad member Daniel Brown will now find his way onto the 53-man roster to begin the year.

Fortunately, head coach John Harbaugh said Dixon’s left knee injury does not look “overly serious,” but that doesn’t mean the 2016 fourth-round pick won’t miss some valuable time. It certainly didn’t look good when ex-Raven and Detroit defensive tackle Haloti Ngata buckled Dixon’s left knee making a tackle at the 1-yard line late in the first half, but a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Sunday will hopefully confirm the optimism expressed by the Ravens after the game.

Terrance West has received much of the attention for his improvement this summer, but the rookie Dixon looks like the running back most capable of hitting a home run whenever he touches the ball, a trait the Ravens have consistently lacked in the backfield since Ray Rice was in his prime. Dixon was the first young back to see action behind veteran starter Justin Forsett on Saturday, gaining 41 yards on six carries and catching one pass for nine yards before leaving the game just before halftime.

Dixon leads all Ravens running backs with 107 yards on 22 carries in the preseason and has displayed a different level of explosiveness from West, Forsett, or Buck Allen and shows surprising physicality for a 5-foot-10, 212-pound back, making his injury all the more disappointing for a team needing to get off to a fast start in 2016.

“It hurts seeing him go down because he’s in our room every day,” said West, who also had a good night with 43 rushing yards on seven carries against the Lions. “Everybody wants to play, but at the same time we care about each other. To see him go down, it hurts all of us.”

To be clear, these injuries won’t ruin the season as there are other options at each position to help pick up the slack.

But on a night when the Ravens were celebrating the much-anticipated returns of Flacco and Suggs, things just got more difficult again.

And, deep down, Harbaugh probably couldn’t help but think, “Here we go again.”

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Ravens-Lions preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 26 August 2016 by Luke Jones

Our longest look at Ravens starters in the preseason will be our only look at some in Saturday’s game against Detroit on Saturday night.

The much-awaited return of starting quarterback Joe Flacco will be the dominating story in the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, but head coach John Harbaugh would like to see a good showing from his starting units that likely will still be without the likes of Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, and Elvis Dumervil. For a team that did more minor tweaking than overhauling after a 5-11 season, many questions remains.

“Either we’re going to be good or we’re not,” Harbaugh said. “It’s what we do, not what we say. We can talk about it all we want. I have reasons for optimism, and I have reasons for pessimism. It’s just going to matter how well we coach, how well we play.

“You have to do your part. Your part is to get better. Your part is not to stay the same. If you stay the same, you’re getting worse. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. You never stay the same. Your goal has to be to come out here and get better, and it’s hard to do.”

Most starters are expected to play the entire first half before giving way to younger players and fringe veterans fighting for roster spots. It will be a good opportunity for Flacco to get his first live-game reps with veteran newcomers Benjamin Watson and Mike Wallace, who have played very little in the preseason and have yet to register as much as a catch between them.

The Ravens will see a number of old friends across the field on Saturday night. Not only will five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata be making his return to M&T Bank Stadium, but fellow Super Bowl XLVII champions Anquan Boldin and Josh Bynes and former assistant coaches Jim Caldwell and Teryl Austin will be on the opposing side.

Flacco was asked whether he’d ask the 345-pound Ngata before the game to take care of him should the two meet in the pocket during Saturday’s game.

“I don’t think so,” said the 31-year-old quarterback as he laughed. “It will be interesting to see him. I’m used to seeing him over there [on defense during practices], but it will be interesting seeing him in some other colors for sure.”

Saturday marks the fourth time that these teams have met in the preseason with the Ravens holding a 2-1 edge to go with their 3-1 advantage in all-time regular-season meetings. Baltimore has built a 22-12 record in preseason games during the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

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

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

OUT: WR Steve Smith (Achilles), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), S Matt Elam (knee), DE Bronson Kaufusi (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), CB Kyle Arrington (head), S Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), G John Urschel (contusion)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles), DT Brandon Williams (undisclosed), WR Chris Matthews (soft tissue injury), CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), TE Darren Waller (jaw), CB Jerraud Powers (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Saturday night

LB Matt Judon

With other edge defenders expected to be sidelined against the Lions, the rookie fifth-round pick has a great opportunity to etch out a role as a rotational pass rusher if he can build on what he’s done in the first two preseason games against tougher competition on Saturday. Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees have spoken highly of Judon’s combination of size and quickness, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against first-team blockers. The Ravens need someone to emerge as an impact pass rusher behind Suggs and Dumervil, and Judon has propelled himself into that conversation.

RB Buck Allen

The second-year back had a 19-yard touchdown reception in the preseason opener, but he’s carried the ball 10 times for only 20 yards and has no other receiving yards beyond that score. Allen has clear ability as a receiver out of the backfield, but you’d like to see him show more as a runner between the tackles after he averaged an unspectacular 3.8 yards per carry as a rookie. With Terrance West showing improvement as a rusher and rookie Kenneth Dixon looking like a potential change-of-pace back, the 2015 fourth-round pick is still waiting to make a statement of his own this summer.

CB Will Davis

While Shareece Wright and Jerraud Powers have struggled in the preseason, Davis is trending upward as he has looked healthier and quicker since struggling early in camp. The Ravens knew he had the ability to play on the outside, but he held up surprisingly well playing some slot cornerback against Indianapolis, which is something worth monitoring moving forward. The organization obviously thought enough of Davis to send a seventh-round pick to Miami last year, so it will be interesting to see if the 2013 third-round pick will climb the depth chart as he moves further away from knee surgery.

G Vlad Ducasse

The seventh-year veteran isn’t a lock to make the team, but the other options in the competition at left guard lack experience while he’s started 22 games over his career. His performance against the Colts wasn’t quite as stellar as it was against Carolina, but Ducasse figures to improve his chances with a strong showing against the Lions while third-year guard John Urschel is expected to be sidelined again. The Ravens don’t have great depth at tackle, but Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis have the ability to play outside, meaning a guard like Ducasse could receive the nod over a reserve tackle like De’Ondre Wesley.

CB Tavon Young

A hamstring injury sustained in the preseason opener slowed a fast start to his first training camp, but Young figures to have a chance to show what he can do at the nickel spot while veterans such as Powers and Kyle Arrington are likely to be sidelined against the Lions. Despite only being 5-foot-9, Young has shown a nose for the football and impressive confidence for a rookie cornerback. At the very least, the Ravens are looking for him to be a major contributor on kickoff and punt coverage units and potentially as a kick returner, which remains an unsettled position on this current roster.

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Flacco ready to take final step toward football normalcy

Posted on 25 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — You can tell Joe Flacco is tired of talking about his left knee.

The Ravens quarterback understands the many questions, cordially answering each one. But he also hasn’t missed a practice rep all summer despite sitting out the first two preseason games as a precaution.

The 31-year-old downplayed Saturday’s game against Detroit carrying more significance than the many preseason games in which he’s participated over his nine-year career. Still, this is the longest Flacco has gone without playing in a competitive game since his collegiate days.

“I’m excited about it. It has been a while,” said Flacco, who expects to play most of the first half against the Lions. “Obviously, I had to go through a little bit to get here to this point to where I can go back out there and play with my guys. That is really what I’m looking forward to — just getting back out there in live action and being in a real huddle and just seeing everybody’s eyes and how excited they are to get after it.”

It will be Flacco’s final step toward football normalcy as the next time he’ll take the field will presumably be the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11. By then, many of the questions about his knee will likely be replaced with ones about how to beat Rex Ryan’s defense to get off to a 1-0 start in 2016.

Understandably, the Ravens will hold their breath to some degree until Flacco gets hit the first time — and gets back up. The last ninth months have been strange territory with a quarterback who’d never missed a game in his career until last November, but there was little upside to exposing Flacco in the first two preseason games, especially before knowing how rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley would fare in his first live-game action.

The time is now to get the 31-year-old back out there.

“There’s really no doubt that he’s ready to play,” Harbaugh said. “But football is risky for everybody. That’s just the way it works. You have to weigh the benefits with the risk and put them out there. Joe is a quarterback. He’s not going to break. He’s going to play.”

The Ravens will surely be looking for signs of anxiousness from Flacco playing in his first fully-live pocket. Unlike training camp practices, he won’t be wearing a red non-contact jersey and the defensive front will be trying to hit him and hit him hard.

He’ll be entering new territory in his post-surgery world.

Will Flacco subconsciously pull away from under center too soon? Does he throw the football a split-second earlier than he should while standing in an imperfect pocket? Will he throw off his back foot — something he was already guilty of doing from time to time in his career?

These questions explain why Flacco needs to get his game legs back under him before Week 1.  The veteran may not view getting hit again as a desired rite of passage, but he knows it’s an inevitable part of the game.

“It would be great not to get hit,” said Flacco while cracking a smile. “I don’t need to get hit. But if I do, it is not a bad thing, either.”

Of course, Saturday isn’t just about getting Flacco back on the field. An offense with several new pieces needs time to gel and to build some momentum ahead of the season opener.

The Ravens not only need a healthy Flacco in 2016, but they need a better one than they saw last year when he threw 12 interceptions in 10 games before the injury. Saturday doesn’t need to be perfect, but a couple of crisp scoring drives would make Baltimore feel better going into the start of the season.

“Results are always important,” Harbaugh said. “If it’s important enough to go out there and put the guys in that situation, it’s important enough to do well. That’s the idea. We want to do as well we can.”

With plenty of questions on both sides of the ball yet to be answered, the Ravens will only thrive in 2016 with Flacco healthy and at the top of his game.

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For Ravens left tackle Stanley, not being noticed is good thing

Posted on 24 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Most teams would have trepidation starting a rookie at left tackle to block for a franchise quarterback coming back from a major knee injury.

But that fear doesn’t seem to resonate with the Ravens as Ronnie Stanley continues to go about his business in his first summer protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside. In fact, the 2016 first-round pick is hardly being discussed when coaches are grading the tape from daily practices.

The Ravens hope that continues with Flacco making his preseason debut against Detroit on Saturday night, his first start since tearing two ligaments in his left knee on Nov. 22, 2015. The organization wouldn’t have made Stanley their earliest draft pick in 16 years — or released veteran Eugene Monroe this summer — if they didn’t think he was up to the challenge.

“He has just really quietly gone about his business each and every day at practice,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who quipped that the only help he’s given Stanley was to suggest buying bonds. “He is very focused. There is not a lot of stuff going on outside of him just trying to do his job, and it is a really good sign. He has a good, quiet demeanor. He is working extremely hard.”

Questions remain as to who will ultimately replace free-agent departure Kelechi Osemele at left guard — with veteran John Urschel and rookie Alex Lewis being the top candidates — but Stanley has silenced any lingering questions about his readiness with a strong preseason. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound lineman has graded as the best rookie tackle in the NFL and has yet to allow a pressure in the preseason.

Trestman gives much credit to offensive line coach Juan Castillo for getting Stanley to this point, but the Ravens made it clear early on that they felt the polished young tackle was a perfect fit for their outside zone scheme after he played in a pro-style offense at Notre Dame.

“There is nothing that tells you he can’t do this, and the game is not going to be too big for him and the spot is not going to be too big for him,” Trestman said. “That is an important spot, obviously. That is what we are seeing each and every day. We have to assess it and grade it each day and each game. We think he is going to grow into being an outstanding football player.”

Tougher test for Judon

Much of Saturday’s focus will be on veteran players seeing their most extensive action of the preseason, but the coaching staff wants to take a closer look at rookie outside linebacker Matt Judon.

Leading the Ravens in tackles (nine) and sacks (two) in the preseason, Judon has mostly faced second- and third-team offensive players, but head coach John Harbaugh said after Saturday’s win in Indianapolis that they want to put him against some starting-caliber competition. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Judon plays with a style that reminds at least one member of the coaching staff a little bit of Terrell Suggs.

“He’s got pretty good burst coming off the edge for being big and physical,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who also praised Judon’s mental preparation. “I think he’s going to grow into a big guy, kind of like ‘Sizz’ is. I wouldn’t compare him to [Suggs] in any way, shape, or form right now, but I think he’s that style of guy.”

Roster preview on Saturday

With final roster cuts less than two weeks away, the third preseason game often provides good insight into which fringe players are on the right side of the bubble.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg mixes and matches quite a bit on coverage and return units to evaluate young players in the first two preseason games, but we’ll see the real groups — or close to them — in the first half on Saturday. Bubble players appearing on those units figure to have a better chance than those who are absent early on.

“What you will see is the player rotation will be different,” Rosburg said. “We will have guys like Albert McClellan, [who] hasn’t played a rep on special teams so far, and he is one of our best players. He is one of the best in the league. Zach Orr has not played a rep on special teams this preseason. Kyle Juszczyk [hasn’t played a special-teams rep. I could go on and on. The first two preseason games, we are trying to develop players. The third preseason game starts out more like a real game.”

Injury report

Twelve players remained absent from Wednesday’s practice, a group including nose tackle Brandon Williams, left guard John Urschel (contusion), tight ends Dennis Pitta (broken finger), Maxx Williams, and Darren Waller, safeties Kendrick Lewis and Matt Elam (knee), cornerbacks Kyle Arrington (concussion), Jerraud Powers, and Maurice Canady (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle).

Brandon Williams hasn’t practiced since playing in Saturday’s preseason game, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed his unspecified ailment on Tuesday.

“He has a nick or a bruise,” Harbaugh said. “All of the guys that were out today — with the exception of Matt Elam — have non-season-threatening-type issues they’re dealing with. Brandon has one of those, so he’s out because he couldn’t practice.”

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Harbaugh frustrated by Pitta’s extended absence with broken finger

Posted on 22 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Three weeks have passed since Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered what was originally deemed a minor finger sprain from a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa.

In fact, the injury was treated with humor by both Pitta and close friend and quarterback Joe Flacco.

It turned out to be much more serious, however, which explains the lengthy absence. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed that Pitta suffered a break in the finger, and he is still unable to catch passes or take part in practices. The training staff fears that another hit to the finger might require doctors to insert a screw in it, keeping him sidelined even longer.

The ninth-year coach said it was “absurd” that the Aug. 1 injury occurred in the first place.

“We want to get him out here running and in the [walk-throughs],” Harbaugh said. “I want to get him timed up with Joe, but he really can’t catch right now and he definitely can’t get his finger banged up. It’s ridiculous, it’s sad, and I’m disappointed about it.”

Harbaugh tried to find a positive by noting that the broken finger may have kept Pitta out of harm’s way from a more serious injury during training camp. The 31-year-old is trying to come back from two catastrophic injuries to his right hip and has appeared in just seven games since Super Bowl XLVII.

Already with a deep collection of tight ends on the roster, the Ravens need to see what Pitta can offer at this stage of his career after not playing in a game in 23 months. He appeared to be moving well in spring workouts and over the first few days of the summer, telling reporters that his surgically-repaired hip felt great.

“We have to get him and Joe timed up. That was really coming early on,” Harbaugh said. “It was really exciting to see, so we need to get him back as soon as we can. It’s not going to be this week. A bone has to heal before they can put him out there.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on preseason win over Indianapolis

Posted on 21 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens continuing the preseason with a 19-18 win over Indianapolis, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens didn’t give up any first-half touchdowns, but the starting defense struggling again against the opposing first unit was disappointing as Andrew Luck completed all eight of his passes. The group tightened up in the red zone, but surrendered three long drives and missed too many tackles.

2. The second of those long drives was halted thanks to a forced fumble by Albert McClellan, who continues to make a good case to be Baltimore’s strong-side outside linebacker in early-down situations. He set the edge well and finished with three tackles.

3. John Harbaugh was displeased with 11 penalties for 91 yards, including three defensive pre-snap penalties in the first half that resulted in first downs. When you have a shortage of play-makers, it’s even more critical to play smart and disciplined football, something the Ravens failed to do last year.

4. After a terrible first quarter, the offense came alive with Kamar Aiken drawing a 41-yard pass interference flag and catching a 14-yard touchdown on a beautiful crossing route. I’m interested to see what Aiken’s role looks like with Steve Smith’s return, but he deserves his share of targets.

5. The Ravens re-signed Shareece Wright this offseason to be a starting cornerback and he was solid down the stretch of a lost 2015 season, but he remains shaky in coverage — even against the Colts’ second offense — and is the logical target for opponents to test in this secondary.

6. He has plenty of stickers on his suitcase as a journeyman, but Josh Johnson has performed better than anyone expected and has outplayed Ryan Mallett for much of the summer. Harbaugh acknowledged it now being a competition for the backup job, but I’d still be surprised if Mallett is unseated.

7. It was interesting to see Will Davis play quite a bit at slot cornerback in the nickel, especially after Jerraud Powers struggled for the second straight week. Normally an outside corner, Davis made some plays inside and finished the game with five tackles and a sack.

8. Despite being a versatile backup, center Ryan Jensen had arguably the most embarrassing play of the evening when he was completely pancaked back into running back Kenneth Dixon on a third-and-goal play from the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Not a good look.

9. Rookie edge rusher Matt Judon impressed for the second straight week, collecting another sack and showing a promising combination of strength and quickness. The Grand Valley State product is still raw, but you can see why the Ravens were so happy to land him in the fifth round.

10. Known for his deep-threat ability at Cincinnati, Chris Moore ran crisp routes and showed strong hands in catching three passes for 20 yards after missing the preseason opener with a foot injury. With Breshad Perriman’s Week 1 status remaining in doubt, Moore becomes more interesting in this offense.

11. Credit the NFL last year for adopting the college rule allowing the defense to run back a conversion try for two as Anthony Levine did to win the game. It’s a rare play that might occur only once or twice a year around the league, but what excitement it brings.

12. Sitting Joe Flacco again was probably the right move, but the third preseason game now carries more importance than normal for the Ravens. With so many starters playing so little this summer, it’s hard to get a feel for just how good this team will be in 2016.

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Ravens-Colts preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 19 August 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

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

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

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

Five players to watch Thursday night

RB Justin Forsett

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

CB Jimmy Smith

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

OT Ronnie Stanley

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

LB Albert McClellan

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

WR Chris Moore

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

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Suggs, Ravens defense dominate in Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 17 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Leaping high in the air to snatch a Joe Flacco pass at the line of scrimmage, Terrell Suggs returned the ball the other way before heaving it into a crowd of Ravens fans on Wednesday.

It was one of the highlight plays in all of training camp in what was only the third day of practice for the 33-year-old linebacker. In good shape and increasing his activity level from the first two days of limited work, Suggs looked a lot like the high-impact force he’s been for well over a decade in Baltimore.

“I saw Anthony Levine and said, ‘I guess he’s back,'” said head coach John Harbaugh about the impressive interception. “We heard him before that. It was good to see him make a play like that though.”

Suggs wasn’t the only one to shine on Wednesday as the defense dominated the offense in a fully-padded practice ahead of Saturday’s preseason contest in Indianapolis.

Third-year safety Terrence Brooks intercepted an overthrown Flacco pass during a seven-on-seven period of practice. Ryan Mallett was also victimized by the secondary as cornerback Jerraud Powers picked him off and later broke up another pass from the backup quarterback.

It’s likely no coincidence that the defense has picked up its intensity this week with Suggs back on the field for the first time since tearing his Achilles tendon in Denver just over 11 months ago. Younger players also value his underrated mental preparation and the knowledge he shares when stepping on the field.

“He brings a special kind of energy with him,” defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “He’s definitely one of those guys that’s almost like having another coach on the field with you. When we’re out there together and he sees something, sometimes he’s telling me, ‘The play’s coming to you.’ Before the ball is snapped, it’s easier to make pre-snap reads and things like that with a guy like Suggs beside you.

“He hasn’t told me anything wrong in three years. Every time he has been beside me and said, ‘This is what is about to happen,’ it has happened.”

The Ravens are still dealing with a long list of absences just a few days before their second preseason contest, but Harbaugh confirmed that running back Justin Forsett, offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Jeremy Zuttah, and wide receiver Michael Campanaro were just given Wednesday’s practice off.

Tight ends Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams, and Daniel Brown, wide receiver Chris Matthews, guard John Urschel, defensive backs Kendrick Lewis, Kyle Arrington, Sheldon Price, and Sam Brown, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi were all missing due to various ailments. Wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro remain on the physically unable to perform list and did not participate.

However, the Ravens confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Smith has passed his physical and will return to the practice field in the near future, putting him on track to be ready for the start of the season.

Rookie cornerback Tavon Young returned to practice after missing three days of practice with a hamstring injury suffered in the preseason opener.

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Perriman running, but no clear date for practice return

Posted on 16 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The start of the 2016 season is less than four weeks away, but the Ravens still don’t know when wide receiver Breshad Perriman will return to practice.

The updates on the 2015 first-round pick have not been as frequent this summer as they were a year ago when he injured his right knee on the first day of training camp, but the organization had hoped he might be ready by now to return from a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered in mid-June. Head coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday that he had no insight regarding the status of the 22-year-old receiver, who remains on the active physically unable to perform list.

“I wish I did. They had talked about this being the time frame — right about now [in] mid-August — when he would be back,” Harbaugh said. “That was the date that I was given back in June. He’s running. He’s on the ground running right now. But I haven’t been told that he’ll be back to practice tomorrow. I’m just like the fans. I’m waiting for him to get back out there. When he’s ready, he’ll be back out there.”

It was initially feared that Perriman’s ACL injury would require season-ending reconstruction surgery, but distinguished surgeon Dr. James Andrews determined that the knee was stable and would not require surgery, instead prescribing a stem-cell injection to accelerate the healing process. It’s been just over two months since Perriman injured his left knee, but some medical sources estimate a period of at least three months to recover from such an injury.

Should Perriman not return by the end of the preseason, the Ravens could place him on the reserve PUP list, which would sideline him for at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Under that scenario, he would not count as part of the 53-man roster to begin the season.

Of course, many remain skeptical regarding Perriman’s status after he suffered a partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the first day of training camp last year and ultimately missed the entire season because of a slower-than-usual recovery and a setback suffered in late September.

Perriman practiced extensively during organized team activities this spring, but those workouts did not include starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who was recovering from his own knee injury at the time. The two haven’t been able to work on the field together since last year.

“It’s tough for me to really worry about right now just because we have so many other guys that we have to worry about getting better and getting on top of it,” Flacco said. “I haven’t really spent a ton of time with him on the football field — really, just last offseason — so it’d definitely be nice to get him out here at some point.

“At the same time, you can’t bring him back too early if he’s not going to be ready.”

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