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Breaking down the 2017 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

A year after the Ravens surprisingly released veteran running back Justin Forsett on final cut-down day, there were no real surprises in the formulation of the first 53-man roster for the 2017 season.

The acquisitions of reserve offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko likely pushed veteran Jeremy Zuttah and former practice-squad member Matt Skura off the roster, but cornerback Robertson Daniel and linebacker Brennen Beyer were the only other players from last year’s team not to survive Saturday’s final cuts and neither saw meaningful action in 2016.

More roster changes are inevitable in the coming days as Baltimore has already made two trades to augment its offensive line depth and could look for another running back or a veteran inside linebacker. General manager Ozzie Newsome should have another roster spot to play with once cornerback Maurice Canady is placed on injured reserve as expected. Still recovering from knee surgery, Canady needed to be on the initial 53-man roster to remain eligible for a designation to return later in the season.

The Ravens will certainly scan the open market for potential additions to enhance the roster that’s already been assembled as hundreds of players hit the waiver wire on Saturday. Beginning Sunday, they will also put together a 10-man practice squad with a number of Baltimore players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Below are some early impressions of the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Analysis: The Ravens and their fans will continue to hold their breath until Flacco stays on the field and shows his back is no longer a concern after he was sidelined for the entire summer. However, the fact that there are only two quarterbacks on the roster leads you to believe the organization is confident that Flacco is truly healthy and ready to go. At the very least, you’d expect the Ravens to re-sign Josh Woodrum or another quarterback to the practice squad for some extra depth.

RUNNING BACKS (3) — Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Analysis: This group lost much of its upside after Kenneth Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury right before training camp, but the unrest on the offensive line this summer made it difficult to evaluate the backs. Woodhead figures to be a major part of the passing game if healthy, but how well West fares as the No. 1 back will depend on how effectively the line gels. This is a position the Ravens should explore upgrading, especially if they can find a back possessing some return skills.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5) — Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Analysis: The competition among a batch of young receivers on the preseason roster never really materialized as Moore, a 2016 fourth-round pick, did little to distinguish himself and still landed on the roster. The major question will be how quickly Flacco can build a rapport with Maclin, who didn’t sign with the Ravens until the week of mandatory minicamp in mid-June. It’s difficult to identify a trustworthy red-zone threat in this group, but that’s been a problem for this offense for years. 

TIGHT ENDS (4) — Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Analysis: Few would have guessed Mayle would be one of four tight ends on the roster when there were questions months ago about how the Ravens would pick among six viable options. The losses of Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, and Darren Waller subtracted production, physicality, and upside from the equation, but Boyle has been solid and Watson and Williams are healthy. It remains to be seen whether the Ravens will get enough production from these tight ends as blockers or receivers.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko
Analysis: The Ravens finally have their projected starting offensive line on the practice field, but there are plenty of questions beyond Yanda and Stanley. Newsome attempted to address the depth by making two trades, but neither Bergstrom nor Bowanko are established commodities. Beyond taking a leap of faith that Greg Roman’s blocking schemes will work their magic, there isn’t a ton to love about this group on paper, which is unsettling when your quarterback is just returning from a back injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Analysis: Eight defensive linemen in a 3-4 base system are too many, but the Ravens are smart not wanting to lose a talented defensive lineman just to keep an inferior player elsewhere. You would think the organization will attempt to use its defensive line depth to potentially acquire talent at another position of need or will eventually try to stash one with a injury. Of course, don’t dismiss the possibility of Ricard being used more as a fullback and blocking tight end to help justify the high number here.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Analysis: Correa hasn’t seized control of the starting job next to Mosley, leaving the door open for Onwuasor or even Bradley to potentially push him for playing time further into the season. The loss of special-teams standout Albert McClellan really hurts their depth as he could play any of the four linebacker positions, a valuable asset on Sundays with only 46 players active. Bradley earned his job with a strong summer, but a veteran addition to compete with Correa would ease some concerns.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Analysis: Entering his 15th year, Suggs remains the soul of the defense and is still an above-average three-down outside linebacker, but you have to be intrigued with the young talent and depth here. Judon and Bowser have battled for the starting “Sam” linebacker spot with both looking like viable options while Za’Darius Smith solidified his roster standing as a situational rusher. Williams is raw, but he has shown impressive potential as a pure rush specialist, something this defense needs.

CORNERBACKS (6) — Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Analysis: The Ravens haven’t had this kind of outside corner depth in a long time with Humphrey likely to push the veteran Carr for his starting spot at some point in 2017. Tavon Young’s spring knee injury was a blow to the nickel spot, but the undrafted Hill may have been the best story of the summer after only receiving a tryout during rookie camp weekend. With safeties Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine expected to play the nickel and dime spots, respectively, five cornerbacks are likely enough.

SAFETIES (5) — Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
Analysis: The depth here is strong after Jefferson was signed to a lucrative deal to be a major factor against the run and in covering tight ends. There is plenty of room for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be creative in the secondary with Webb and Levine having so much versatility. The rookie Clark will likely be more of a special-teams contributor than anything else, but the Ravens needed another safety with their primary backups projected to be so involved in sub packages.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Analysis: This trio enters its sixth consecutive season together. That continuity is just one reason why these three are so tremendous at what they do.

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Flacco finally returns to practice for Ravens

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After more than a month of uncomfortable waiting, the Ravens finally welcomed franchise quarterback Joe Flacco back to the practice field on Saturday.

Missing all of training camp and the preseason with a back ailment, the 32-year-old was back on the field just eight days before Baltimore’s season opener in Cincinnati. Flacco was immediately working with the first-team offense and looked sharp throwing passes to receivers during the portion of the workout open to the media.

“It feels good to be back out here with the guys and be a part of everything again,” Flacco said in a statement released by the team. “Really, it’s been a weird situation the last few weeks, because it’s just something you have to wait out. You’re putting in all the hard work you can, but at the same time, it’s a waiting game. You definitely have to fight against not doing anything, but also keep your mind fresh.

“But for today, it was awesome being back on the field — just like it always is — and to be with my guys. I feel excited about the season we have coming up.”

Head coach John Harbaugh had confirmed earlier in the week that Flacco had begun throwing and other football-related activity in preparation for his imminent return to the practice field.

“Joe looked good. He practiced very well,” Harbaugh said. “Now, one of the next pieces is to see how he responds to that over the next few days.”

Flacco wasn’t the only offensive player to return to practice as former first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman and veteran running back Danny Woodhead were present and working after extended absences due to injury. Harbaugh expressed optimism earlier this week that Perriman would soon return from a significant hamstring injury suffered on Aug. 1.

Baltimore did not announce any further roster cuts prior to Saturday afternoon’s practice, but quarterback Josh Woodrum, linebacker Brennen Beyer, offensive tackle Stephane Nembot, and cornerbacks Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price (concussion), Robertson Daniel, Brandon Boykin, and Maurice Canady (knee) were all absent as the team practiced indoors.

The Ravens also announced during practice that they acquired center Luke Bowanko from Jacksonville for an undisclosed draft selection. The 2014 sixth-round pick started 14 games as a rookie, but he lost his starting job in 2015 and missed most of last season with a hip injury. He has played in only eight contests over the last two seasons.

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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2017 preseason

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the 2017 preseason now over, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season with head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome making their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the initial 53-man squad as the Ravens will look to add other players who could be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53 players with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that results in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that given position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
OUT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: The fate of the 2017 campaign lies on the health of Flacco’s back, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Woodrum land on the practice squad as a No. 3 option.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (3)
IN: Terrance West, Buck Allen, Danny Woodhead
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
OUT: Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ricky Ortiz, Bobby Rainey
Skinny: Mizzell looks like a prime practice-squad candidate, and the Ravens could still seek an outside option for the fullback position in the coming days.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
OUT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
Skinny: Moore and Matthews make the roster because of their special-teams contributions, but neither did much to solidify a role in the passing game this preseason.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
OUT: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: The depth here is shaky at best, but it’s reasonable to think Mayle or Donnell could be re-signed in the not-too-distant future when other roster questions are addressed.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, Austin Howard, James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
OUT: De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, David Nelson, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: This is not an impressive group on paper, so you’d hope Newsome can add another viable piece to the mix between now and the start of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard
OUT: None
Skinny: Keeping eight defensive lineman is unusual and likely not tenable, but there’s too much talent here to let someone go in favor of an inferior player at another position.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
INJURED RESERVE: Albert McClellan
OUT: Donald Payne, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: Bradley has a chance to help fill the special-teams void left by McClellan, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a veteran inside linebacker added in the near future.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
OUT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Smith answered the challenge this summer to solidify his standing on the 53-man roster, but this talented young group behind Suggs must now show up when the lights come on for real.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Tavon Young
OUT: Robertson Daniel, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Reggie Porter
Skinny: The injured Canady needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for the designation to return from injured reserve, but the outside corner depth is as good as it’s been in a long time.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
OUT: Otha Foster
Skinny: With Webb and Levine both filling meaningful roles in the dime package to begin the season, Clark becomes more of a necessity for depth and will fill a large special-teams role.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: Kenny Allen, Taybor Pepper
Skinny: This trio of specialists stays together for the sixth consecutive season, which is quite a rarity in today’s NFL.

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Flacco resumes football activity, but not yet practicing

Posted on 29 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t yet returned to the practice field, but he has resumed football activity less than two weeks ahead of the 2017 season opener.

After missing all of training camp and the preseason with a back ailment that surfaced in July, the 32-year-old is taking meaningful steps to return to practice in the near future.

“I will say he has started to throw. He’s started to move around and do the football stuff in the last two days,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “So, he’s moving toward practice. It’s just when the docs clear him, which we don’t know that date when that’s going to happen right now. We believe it’s going to be real soon in time to prepare for Cincinnati, and then he’ll be out there.”

Details on Flacco have been scarce since the Ravens issued an Aug. 11 press release stating that he would not play in the preseason and the plan was for him to be ready for Week 1. Reporters have periodically seen the 10th-year quarterback around the team’s training facility, but he hasn’t been on the sideline during open practices or the first three preseason games.

After promising Saturday that Flacco would be back to play in the opener, Harbaugh said the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player has remained active while continuing to receive treatment for his back.

“It’s been different things. His rehab has been very much rehab-oriented,” Harbaugh said. “It hasn’t been football-oriented, so he’s been working on that. He’s worked really hard on it. I do believe he’s in good shape. I wouldn’t say football shape because he hasn’t played football, but he’s in really good shape as far as his conditioning, his cardiovascular, his strength, and those kinds of things. Those are things that we’ll just have to wait and see when he comes out to practice.”

How quickly he’ll be able to shake off the rust in time to play effectively against Cincinnati remains to be seen.

Harbaugh also said wide receiver Breshad Perriman is close to returning to practice. Having missed the last four weeks with a hamstring injury, the 2015 first-round pick was moving well at roughly three-quarters speed in an extensive on-field workout prior to Saturday’s preseason win over Buffalo.

“I’m optimistic that he’ll be practicing very soon and he’ll play against Cincinnati,” Harbaugh said. “I’m very optimistic, and that’s barring any kind of setback.”

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Ravens welcome last two first-round picks back to practice

Posted on 28 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens welcomed their last two first-round draft picks back to the practice field on Monday morning.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey and left tackle Ronnie Stanley were present and taking part in the portion of the workout open to the media, a positive development with the season opener now less than two weeks away. Humphrey hadn’t practiced since Baltimore’s second preseason game on Aug. 17 while Stanley had been sidelined since Aug. 12 with an undisclosed injury.

Before Saturday’s preseason win over Buffalo, Humphrey went threw an extensive on-field workout and was running and backpedaling at full speed, an indication that he was ready to return from the “soft tissue” affliction that had kept him out. Stanley was a very limited participant on Monday and was leaving the field as the viewing portion of practice concluded.

Tight end Maxx Williams, offensive tackle Stephane Nembot, and linebacker Donald Payne all returned to practice after missing Saturday’s game.

Joe Flacco (back) remained absent and has now missed more than a month of practice, but head coach John Harbaugh promised Saturday that his starting quarterback would play against Cincinnati on Sept. 10. How prepared he’ll be to face the Bengals remains to be seen.

Others still sidelined included wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring), linebacker Albert McClellan (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee). Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was the only new absence from Monday’s session after playing 14 snaps late in the 13-9 win over the Bills.

The Ravens signed long snapper Taybor Pepper, a likely sign that they plan to hold Morgan Cox out of the preseason finale in New Orleans on Thursday. Cox was practicing without any incident on Monday.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 13-9 win over Buffalo

Posted on 27 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 in the preseason with a 13-9 win over Buffalo, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The narrative remained the same for the third preseason game with the defense excelling and the offense struggling to move the ball. Maybe the defense will be up to the task in 2017, but winning 13-9 games leaves very little margin for error.

2. I’ve said this before, but the defensive depth continues to impress as there’s been little drop-off in play from the opening quarter to the final minutes of each game. Ozzie Newsome isn’t going to be able to keep a few defensive players who definitely would have stuck in the past.

3. After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of the first two preseason games, the Ravens gained 41 yards on 16 carries in the first two quarters against the Bills. The running game is even more important with Joe Flacco’s situation, but it hasn’t shown many encouraging signs.

4. Baltimore was credited with six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The secondary has been strong and the young outside linebackers have received plenty of attention, but this deep defensive front has been very disruptive this summer.

5. Watching Justin Tucker make tackles or even pick up a fumble in Miami last week makes for a fun story until he suffers a close call like he did on Saturday night. The Ravens really need their All-Pro kicker to show more restraint, especially in a meaningless preseason game.

6. Rather than asking whether Jaylen Hill makes the roster, I’m now wondering how long it will be before he carves out a meaningful role on the defense. Lardarius Webb has had a strong summer at the nickel, but there’s a reason why he was moved to safety two years ago.

7. Nothing enhances the enjoyment of preseason football more than a combined 17 penalties for 156 yards in the first half. Our poor eyes.

8. Patrick Onwuasor alternating series with Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker was one of the more interesting developments of the third preseason game. He’s only 227 pounds, but Onwuasor plays with a mean streak that was evident in his rookie season and just continues to improve.

9. Filling in for the injured Danny Woodhead, Taquan Mizzell presented himself well by catching six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His skill set is similar to Woodhead’s, which hurts his roster chances and makes him intriguing at the same time.

10. Bubble players filling a prominent role on special teams included Chris Matthews, Sheldon Price, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Robertson Daniel, and Vince Mayle. That doesn’t mean they’re all making the roster, of course, but that tends to be an indication of any tiebreaker with another bubble player.

11. Marshal Yanda has been one of my favorite players for a long time, but seeing him as the last offensive player out of the tunnel during stadium introductions says a lot about the current state of that side of the ball.

12. Breshad Perriman and Marlon Humphrey showed encouraging signs before the game. Perriman ran at three-quarters speed and was cutting and running routes effectively while Humphrey looked like someone ready to return to the field, backpedaling and sprinting at full speed.

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Harbaugh promises Flacco will return for Ravens season opener

Posted on 27 August 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With the season opener against Cincinnati just two weeks away, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh still isn’t saying when Joe Flacco will begin practicing.

But he made it clear that the starting quarterback will be on the field for Week 1, reiterating that Flacco remains “on schedule” and citing the press release earlier this month that said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. The release did not specify when Flacco would begin practicing, however, leaving many to wonder if he will have sufficient time to prepare after such a long layoff.

“I’m not going to stand up here and answer that question every single day,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be back for the Bengals game. I promise you that.”

The 10th-year coach said after last week’s win in Miami that Flacco wouldn’t be practicing this past week, but he apparently didn’t like being asked the same question nine days later. Harbaugh spoke to reporters just once between the games and was not asked about Flacco after last Thursday’s practice.

The franchise quarterback missing all of training camp with a back injury is always going to be a colossal story for a team that’s missed the playoffs three of the last four years. The starting offense has struggled to move the ball consistently with backup Ryan Mallett throughout the preseason as the Ravens managed to score just three points in the first half of Saturday’s 13-9 win over Buffalo.

“Do you really care when he’s going to practice? Do you really care?” Harbaugh replied to the reporter who inquired about Flacco.

Yes, it’s fair to say the entire fan base wants to know when Flacco will be back on the practice field with so few days remaining until the Ravens kick off for real on Sept. 10. Harbaugh has the right not to answer, of course, but questioning the relevance of the topic is insulting to both reporters and fans.

Especially when all we hear from coaches is how important practice is.

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Ravens need to ramp up rushing attack in third preseason game

Posted on 24 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ideally, the Ravens would be putting the finishing touches on their 2017 preparations against Buffalo on Saturday night.

The third preseason game is typically the final tuneup for the starting units before they turn their sights toward the season opener in a couple weeks. The Baltimore offense instead remains in a concerning state of flux with several key players out once again against the Bills.

In fact, the Ravens could field an entire offense (see below) with players currently sidelined with injuries or already lost for the season, which tells you how difficult the last couple months have been for a group that already sustained some substantial losses in the offseason.

QB Joe Flacco
RB Kenneth Dixon
WR Breshad Perriman
TE Crockett Gillmore
LT Ronnie Stanley
LG Alex Lewis
C John Urschel
RG Nico Siragusa
RT Stephane Nembot
TE Dennis Pitta
WR Tim White

Of course, Flacco is expected to return to practice as soon as the beginning of next week, but his absence again makes it extremely difficult to evaluate the passing game. Even if backup Ryan Mallett improves from his uninspiring performance over the first two preseason contests, the Ravens will hope it’s the final time he’s seeing any meaningful playing time with the starters this season.

The focus should be on the running game. After hiring senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris to rebuild a ground attack that ranked 28th in rushing yards per game and 21st in yards per carry in the NFL last season, the Ravens need to see meaningful progress with four of their five projected offensive line starters expected to be on the field Saturday.

“Our run game, Joe D has done a great job, fantastic job,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who also praised Roman’s efforts to install a more downhill, physical attack. “You look at what that line has been through here recently — nobody has blinked. That’s big. We’ve got guys that have played multiple spots and continue to do that, and [they’re] playing pretty well there. That’ll be a big, big part of our football team if we can run the football against a really good defense.”

Despite positive remarks from Mornhinweg and head coach John Harbaugh this week, the Ravens have averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of their first two preseason games when starters and key backups have played. Considering six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda has yet to see any preseason action and Stanley missed the Miami game, we can’t take much away from the first two games, but those numbers are all we have to go on so far and the running game wasn’t finding much room against a stout defensive front in training camp practices open to media.

Projected starter Terrance West has carried just 11 times on 21 yards in the preseason while backup Buck Allen has gained 61 yards on 18 rushing attempts. In addition to getting West into a flow ahead of the regular season, the Ravens must still figure out their fullback picture, which has included Lorenzo Taliaferro, rookie free agent Ricky Ortiz, and even defensive tackle Patrick Ricard.

On the offensive line, new right tackle Austin Howard needs to show improvement from his unimpressive preseason debut in Miami while Ryan Jensen must continue his solid work to hold off former starter Jeremy Zuttah for the center job. Unfortunately, the left side of the line is more complicated to judge with projected left guard James Hurst filling in at left tackle with Stanley still out.

The expected presence of Yanda on Saturday night hopefully allows the group to begin finding much-needed cohesion.

The Ravens made no secret in the offseason about their desire to revitalize a running game that’s been substandard in three of the last four seasons. That goal has become even more important with Flacco missing the entire summer and likely to be rusty going into the regular season.

Attempting more passes than any team in the NFL over the last two years hasn’t worked and will not be the winning formula for 2017.

“The history of the Ravens shows that you play great defense, you run the ball, you don’t turn the ball over, [then] you win and you’ll have a chance at the Super Bowl,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’re going to show that and see where it takes us.”

With a defense showing great potential in 2017, the offense likely just needs to be average for the Ravens to have a good chance to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

We won’t learn much about the passing attack on Saturday, but the ground game making strides would make the Ravens feel much better with Flacco hopefully returning to the practice field next week.

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Mornhinweg kind of, sort of provides update on Flacco

Posted on 23 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are anticipating quarterback Joe Flacco’s return to the practice field sooner than later.

With the team having already said Flacco is expected to be ready for the season opener in Cincinnati on Sept. 10, Mornhinweg was asked if there was a specific time he’d like to see the 10th-year quarterback back at practice to remain confident that the offense would be ready to go. Presumably not wanting to give away any specifics, his answer sounded more like something out of a comedy routine.

“Well, I think I know and at least Joe thinks he knows when this will happen. That way, I think I know, so we think we know. Look, if it’s before that or a little bit before — it’s probably not going to be much before — or a little bit after, we’ll adjust the plan. As long as he’s back with a reasonable amount of time to prepare, I think we’re going to be just fine there.”

Did you get all of that?

Though Flacco hasn’t been seen on the sideline at practices open to media or during the first two preseason games, Mornhinweg confirmed he’s been very active in mental preparations for the new season. The next step will be getting him enough practice time to prove that his back is healthy and to shake off enough rust before facing the Bengals.

The offensive coordinator said he met with Flacco individually for over an hour earlier this week to go over offensive schemes. The quarterback hasn’t met with reporters since late July, leaving his daily routine to largely remain a mystery over the last four weeks. Beyond receiving treatment in the training room, it’s unclear whether Flacco has yet begun any physical preparations such as throwing the football.

“He’s in all of our team meetings, offensive meetings as well as the group and quarterback meetings — all of the meetings with very few exceptions,” Mornhinweg said. “He is on it. The day before yesterday, we went through a little scenario, and he’s on it that way. Now, I’m sort of twitching to get him on the field here one of these days and then we’ll have a nice little plan for him there.”

Whatever the plan is beyond him sitting out the final two preseason games, the Ravens remain tight-lipped with the opener less than three weeks away.

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Several offensive standouts still sidelined as Ravens return to practice

Posted on 23 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Counting down to what’s labeled the dress rehearsal before the start of the regular season, the Ravens continue to be without several notable offensive players at practice.

Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and veteran running back Danny Woodhead remained absent during Wednesday’s workout despite Baltimore having not practiced the previous two days. Stanley hasn’t been on the practice field since Aug. 12 due to unspecified ailments while Woodhead was banged up in the Miami game, making both unlikely to play against Buffalo in the all-important third preseason game on Saturday.

Other players not practicing Wednesday included quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey (“soft tissue” injury) and Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), linebacker Donald Payne (undisclosed), and defensive back Maurice Canady (knee).

In better news for the Ravens, outside linebacker Tim Williams, wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, and cornerback Robertson Daniel all returned to the field after missing recent time.

Retired linebacker Zachary Orr was a visitor at practice, sitting with general manager Ozzie Newsome for an extended period of time and receiving enthusiastic hugs from his former teammates and coaches. Head coach John Harbaugh said last week that Orr would have a chance to become a coach or a scout with the organization if he would be interested.

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