Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

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Good health alone won’t save season for struggling Ravens

Posted on 24 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens can indeed get better.

Fans don’t want to hear it in the midst of a frustrating four-game losing streak, but winning is tough without your two best pass rushers, your top wide receiver, your best offensive lineman, your starting left tackle, and your starting inside linebacker. However, that reality lets no one — not Ozzie Newsome, not John Harbaugh, not Joe Flacco — off the hook in a season suddenly unraveling before Halloween.

Teams with sufficient talent and good coaching are able to overcome injuries against mediocre competition like the Ravens faced in the last three games. Expecting to beat elite teams with such an extensive infirmary report is unrealistic, but dropping three straight to Washington, the New York Giants, and the New York Jets is unacceptable. You have to win one or two of those if you fancy yourself to be a real playoff contender.

For a little bit of context, the Ravens went 4-2 without Ed Reed to begin the 2010 season. A year later, they won four straight games despite the incomparable Ray Lewis being sidelined with a toe injury. Yes, those future Hall of Fame talents were past their primes at that point, but the same can be said for Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Steve Smith, and even Marshal Yanda, especially if less than 100 percent healthy.

In other words, their returns alone won’t magically transform a bad team — which is what the Ravens were in a winless October — into a great one. Keep in mind that their potential presence will also be accompanied by a tougher schedule in November and December.

“It’s always way better to be healthy,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no question about that — and have your best players on the field. But we always have confidence in the guys we’re putting out there that they’ll get the job done.”

It was apparent before the season that the Ravens needed young players to take major steps forward to lessen the dependency on older talent, and that hasn’t happened so far. Though it’s only a snapshot of the current state of affairs, the Ravens had just one post-Super Bowl XLVII first-round pick — struggling wide receiver Breshad Perriman — on the field for the last two games.

Of the nine Baltimore picks made in the first three rounds of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 drafts, only three — Mosley, Brandon Williams, and Timmy Jernigan — have established themselves as meaningful contributors. That catches up with a team sooner or later.

Underwhelming drafts and several bad contracts make it fair to question Newsome, the front office, and the scouting department, no matter how good their reputation had been over the years. The Ravens are in clear need of young play-makers to make the difference in the many close games they’ve played since the start of last season.

At the same time, it’s difficult to look at Harbaugh and his coaching staff and not question whether players are consistently being put in the best position to succeed. After Sunday’s loss to the Jets, the ninth-year head coach said his team is practicing “exceptionally well” and should have won each of the last four games.

Such a statement then makes outsiders ask why the crisp preparation isn’t carrying over to Sundays and whether the coaches are teaching the right methods to begin with. Of course, head-scratching in-game decisions and the constant penalties don’t reflect well on the coaching, either.

“You’ve got to make it happen on game day,” Harbaugh said on Sunday. “For our team, where we’re at right now, we’re not going to be a margin-for-error team. It’s not going to be like that. We need to be a sound, tough-minded, fundamentally-smart-playing football team.”

Harbaugh has admirably guided his teams through trying times before, but this represents his greatest challenge with his future quite possibly hanging in the balance.

Beyond just getting healthy, the Ravens need to do whatever it takes to get Flacco back on track. Many of the problems — the offensive line, the up-and-down running game, and inconsistent play at wide receiver — are largely out of his control, but that can’t forgive him for playing his worst football at critical times over the four-game losing streak. Of course, a sore right shoulder didn’t help matters against the Jets.

In the first half on Sunday, Flacco completed 15 of 22 passes for 200 yards to help the Ravens carry a 16-14 lead into halftime. Over the final 30 minutes, however, he was just 10-for-22 for a meager 42 yards and two interceptions leading to the deciding 10 points for the Jets.

One of Flacco’s best traits earlier in his career was an ability to do more with less around him — to a certain degree — but that just hasn’t been the case this season. Even with the other problems at work, the 31-year-old’s play hasn’t offered much of a solution in these winnable games.

A week off could go a long way in helping the Ravens get healthy, both physically and mentally after a brutal month.

But it’s not the end-all, be-all for a team with too many problems to count.

And barring other internal improvements, good health alone won’t save a season rapidly moving in the wrong direction.

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Ravens-Jets: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 October 2016 by Luke Jones

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Ravens are looking to stop the bleeding before a much-needed break as they face the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Playing at MetLife Stadium for the second straight week, Baltimore is dealing with a plethora of injuries, but starting quarterback Joe Flacco is active after practices this week with a right shoulder injury. Flacco was designated as questionable to play, but he appeared to be throwing the ball well in the portion of Friday’s workout open to reporters.

It was interesting to note, however, that Flacco did not do his typical throwing on the field before full-team warmups, an indication that he isn’t 100 percent and is trying to take care of his shoulder.

The rest of the injury report isn’t as encouraging as the Ravens officially deactivated linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps), wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) after all three former Pro Bowl selections were listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring) were ruled out on Friday.

With Suggs and Dumervil out, Za’Darius Smith and rookie Kamalei Correa were lining up was the starting outside linebackers during pre-game warmups. Albert McClellan was once again working at inside linebacker with Mosley sidelined.

The biggest surprise was the deactivation of rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) after he practiced fully all week. The first-round pick has now missed four straight games, continuing to leave the Ravens vulnerable on the left side of the offensive line.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith is active after going through the concussion protocol this week. He practiced on a limited basis wearing a red non-contact jersey, but the veteran defensive back was obviously cleared over the weekend to play against the Jets.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is also active after returning to practice on Friday.

With all seven inactives being injured players this week, rookie defensive tackle Willie Henry is active for the first time this season. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Robertson Daniel are also active after being moved to the 53-man roster on Saturday.

Meanwhile, New York will be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) after he was listed as questionable on the final injury report. His absence clearly leaves a big void on the defensive line for the struggling Jets.

Sunday’s referee will be Walt Anderson

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the low 60s and winds up to 23 miles per hour.

The Ravens will wear white jerseys with black pants while the Jets don green tops with green pants.

Sunday marks the 10th regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding an 8-1 advantage and having won the last eight games. The Jets haven’t beaten the Ravens since a 19-16 overtime final on Nov. 2, 1997.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Shareece Wright
LB Terrell Suggs
LB C.J. Mosley
LB Elvis Dumervil
G Marshal Yanda
OT Ronnie Stanley
WR Steve Smith

NEW YORK
DL Muhammad Wilkerson
QB Christian Hackenberg
QB Bryce Petty
WR Jeremy Butler
LB Darron Lee
OT Brent Qvale
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 22 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens need a break, but they could use a victory even more.

With several key starters sidelined with injuries and having lost their last three games, the Ravens are naturally looking forward to some rest with next week’s bye, but beating the New York Jets feels like a must if a realistic second-half run to the playoffs is in the plans. Falling to 3-4 would require a 7-2 finish just to get to 10 wins, and a challenging schedule awaits in November and December.

Meanwhile, the Jets are already all but finished with a 1-5 record and have made a change at quarterback. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Joe Flacco will be anywhere close to 100 percent after missing practices this week with a right shoulder injury, making the quarterback play iffy at best for both sides.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Jets for the 10th time in their regular-season history. Baltimore has won eight straight matchups with the only New York victory coming in a 19-16 overtime final on Nov. 2, 1997.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens will set a season high for rushes and a season low for passes to protect their quarterback. Flacco looked sharp throwing passes in Friday’s walk-through and the offensive line may welcome back both starting offensive tackles, but Baltimore still needs to be smart with its franchise quarterback. The problem is that the Jets rank sixth in run defense and are allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, the same as the Ravens’ No. 1 run defense. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will stick with the run to the tune of well over 30 carries while Flacco throws fewer than 33 passes, his season low.

2. Jets receiver Brandon Marshall will catch a touchdown against a banged-up Baltimore secondary. The New York passing game is hardly scary, but top cornerback Jimmy Smith was recovering from a concussion all week and will likely draw the difficult task of slowing the 6-foot-4 Marshall, who has 443 passing yards this season. Smith won’t get much help from a Ravens pass rush that has been ineffective all season and will be without both Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Jets have a poor offense, but injuries have made an improved Ravens defense more vulnerable.

3. The Ravens defense will pick off Geno Smith twice in his first start since 2014. The lowest scoring offense in the league is desperate to turn to Smith, who has thrown 36 interceptions in 32 career games in the NFL. After setting a franchise low with only six interceptions in 2015, Baltimore has picked off eight passes in the first six games of the season, which has certainly helped playing in close games. Look for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to dial up some blitzes and disguise coverages to confuse a quarterback who’s only playing because veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has been downright awful.

4. Breshad Perriman will finally score his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. It’s been an underwhelming start to what is essentially the 2015 first-round receiver’s rookie season as Perriman has caught just 13 of the 29 passes thrown his way and has struggled to catch balls consistently. However, we’ve seen him flash his ability to make plays in the vertical passing game and it only feels like a matter of time before he finds the end zone. With the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense having to deal with Mike Wallace on the opposite side of the field, Perriman will catch a deep one for a score.

5. John Harbaugh’s team will limp into the bye feeling better about itself with a 23-16 win. Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and the Ravens playing in one-possession games. Perhaps Baltimore would win by multiple scores if the injury report weren’t such a mess, but you just can’t trust the Ravens to be anything but mediocre right now. That said, the Jets have been a disaster in Todd Bowles’ second season and not even playing at home makes you believe they’re a good bet to win. There will be penalties and self-inflicted mistakes because that’s what they do, but the Ravens will find a way to come home with a much-needed win before embracing a week off.

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Flacco questionable, seven other Ravens doubtful or out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 21 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens listed Joe Flacco as questionable to play against the New York Jets after he returned to the practice field on Friday.

Losers of three straight games, Baltimore can hardly afford to be without its franchise quarterback, who has dealt with a right shoulder injury this week. Taking part in a walk-through practice that did not involve helmets or shells, Flacco threw to Dennis Pitta from 10 to 15 yards away with plenty of zip on the football during the portion of practice open to media and did not show any discomfort.

“He looked good. He was throwing the ball well,” said Pitta, who teased his close friend about his absence from practices this week but added that he’d be surprised if Flacco doesn’t play. “He didn’t seem in any kind of pain. We’re excited to have him back out there, for sure.”

Flacco missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging exam earlier in the week. The 31-year-old signal-caller received treatment after participating fully in Friday’s workout and was not available to reporters.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was also designated as questionable to play and was a limited participant for the third straight day. As of Friday afternoon, he hadn’t been fully cleared from the concussion protocol.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is questionable after returning to practice on Friday and missing the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants, but the Ravens continue to be without wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps), Elvis Dumervil (foot), and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder). Dumervil and Mosley were officially ruled out on Friday while Smith, Suggs, and Yanda were all designated as doubtful.

The banged-up Ravens will certainly welcome their Week 8 bye after Sunday’s game.

“We have a lot of injured guys and guys who will need that time off,” Pitta said. “I think we’ll all welcome that time off to heal up and get ready to finish the season. It puts even more pressure on this game because everybody wants to go into that bye with a win. We certainly don’t want to lose four straight going into that bye and have to sit all week and think about it.”

Defensive backs Shareece Wright (thigh) and Kendrick Lewis (thigh) are also doubtful to play in Week 7. Wright hasn’t practiced since leaving Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants while Lewis was added to Thursday’s injury report as a limited participant, which often indicates an injury occurred during practice.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) was listed as questionable after being a full participant in practice for the third straight day, but head coach John Harbaugh offered little insight on his status for Week 7. The first-round pick has missed three straight games and was a limited participant in two practices last week before sitting out the loss to the Giants.

“I like what we saw,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how he feels tomorrow after the work and see how he feels on Sunday.”

With seven players listed as doubtful or out, the Ravens could be in line to make a roster move or two ahead of Sunday’s game. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro would be a potential option as he began practicing this week and is a good special-teams player.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) and listed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) as questionable after he failed to participate in Friday’s practice. Reports from New York indicated concern for the 2015 Pro Bowl selection’s Sunday status.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Anderson.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to 17 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
OUT: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)

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Injury report not looking much better for Ravens on Thursday

Posted on 20 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Thursday brought little good news for the Ravens on the injury front as starting quarterback Joe Flacco again headlined a list of eight players absent from practice.

Flacco missed his second straight practice while nursing a right shoulder injury, creating more concern about his status for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Jets. Not counting the season-ending knee injury he sustained last November, the ninth-year quarterback hadn’t missed consecutive regular-season practices in recent memory.

Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), and cornerback Shareece Wright (thigh) were also absent for the second consecutive day.

Reserve cornerback Jerraud Powers (groin) was the only player to return on Wednesday after missing the previous day’s workout. However, wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) and safety Kendrick Lewis (thigh) were added to the reporter as limited participants on Thursday.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion) was practicing for the second straight day, but he was once again sport a red non-contact vest over his jersey, indicating he has not yet been fully cleared in the concussion protocol. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is not on the injury report, but he continues to wear a red vest as well.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner were practicing for the second straight day as they both appear poised to return to action in Week 7.

The Jets were without five players during their Thursday practice as head coach Todd Bowles ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) for Sunday’s game.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), DL Sheldon Richardson (non-injury), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Flacco injury creates unsettling feeling for already-reeling Ravens

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco says his right shoulder injury is nothing to worry about and head coach John Harbaugh expressed his belief that the Ravens quarterback will play against the New York Jets on Sunday.

But we’re also talking about the man who had missed only one regular-season practice in his NFL career before tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last November. In other words, it takes a lot to keep the 31-year-old off the practice field, making Wednesday’s absence more concerning for a struggling team already trying to avoid its first four-game losing streak since 2007.

Like with any pitcher in baseball, you never want to hear about a quarterback dealing with an ailment to his throwing arm — no matter how minor it might be — because you don’t know how long it could linger. Fortunately, the bye comes next week to afford Flacco some extended rest, but the Ravens can hardly afford a loss to the struggling Jets with a challenging second-half schedule to come, making it difficult to sit him if he is capable of playing and isn’t at substantial risk of making the injury worse.

“It is not about being pain free,” said Flacco, who underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam after reporting the injury on Monday. “You can deal with a little pain. It is just about making sure you can throw the ball good enough to go out there and help your team.”

The memories of the injury-ravaged 2015 were already returning with five former Pro Bowl selections inactive for Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, but the additions of Flacco and veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs (torn biceps) to the injury report this week create a full-fledged sense of déjà vu. Injuries are part of the game, but the attrition has reached an alarming level in a matter of just a week or two.

The saving grace is that Baltimore is just a game behind first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North and none of the key players to get hurt during the current slide have suffered season-ending injuries — at least to our current knowledge. We know Flacco is the only player the Ravens truly can’t afford to lose, and the current ailment pales in comparison to the ACL injury sustained last year.

But that team was already 3-7 and going nowhere fast when the franchise quarterback was lost for the season.

Of the three quarterbacks to start games in Flacco’s place last season, Ryan Mallett fared the best, leading an upset victory over the Steelers in Week 16. It’s hardly a stretch to think the Ravens’ backup couldn’t help the Ravens to a win over a 1-5 team with a different starting quarterback of its own on Sunday.

“This league is all about the next man up,” running back Terrance West said. “Everybody is behind Mallett. Everybody wants Flacco to play, but if he doesn’t, it’s about the next man up. That’s how the league goes.”

Whether it’s Flacco or Mallett under center, the Ravens will likely need to lean more on their running game against a Jets defense that’s been poor against the pass but has surrendered only 3.4 yards per carry. Having Flacco throw 45 or 50 times per game was already less than ideal, and that’s even more obvious now.

Maybe the starting quarterback’s absence turns out to be nothing more than a midweek footnote, but the missed practice time alone is less than ideal with Marty Mornhinweg in his second week as offensive coordinator. Averaging a career-worst 6.02 yards per attempt, Flacco could stand to use the practice reps with a group of wide receivers who struggled to consistently create separation on short-to-intermediate routes in Week 6.

Aside from the expected absence of five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, the offensive line is fortunately trending in the right direction with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Rick Wagner both practicing fully on Wednesday. It’s no secret that Flacco has taken a beating over the last few weeks, so improved pass protection would make Harbaugh and the Ravens feel better about playing him with a tender shoulder on Sunday.

It would also help if top receiver Steve Smith can return from an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of the Week 5 loss to Washington. Even at age 37, Smith still represents the most reliable pass-catching target that the Ravens have.

Baltimore was already banged up and in real need of a break, but a Week 7 win is a must after losing three straight. Even at full strength, this roster needing to go 7-2 after the bye just to finish with a 10-6 record — which isn’t always guaranteed to land a playoff spot — would be an extremely difficult task.

Improving to 4-3 is critical, but a win against even the lowly Jets feels very uncertain without Flacco on the field and healthy.

Despite his claim on Wednesday suggesting otherwise, the shoulder is surely something to worry about.

“I sure hope not,” said Flacco about whether it could come down to a Sunday-morning decision. “I really don’t know to be honest with you. I hope I come in here and start feeling pretty good.”

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Nine Ravens players absent from practice on Wednesday

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already dealing with a litany of injuries, the Ravens added starting quarterback Joe Flacco to the list as they continued preparations for their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

The 31-year-old signal-caller was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he deals with a right shoulder injury. He played all 83 snaps in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, but the veteran appeared to be banged up in the post-game locker room after the game.

Flacco said he did not feel any discomfort during the game and only felt “a little something” in the post-game locker room on Sunday.

“We’re just going to see how the thing goes during the week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play. I don’t know what the percentage is. No one gave me a percentage on it. I believe he has a legitimate chance to play.”

The Ravens were also without wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and cornerbacks Shareece Wright (thigh) and Jerraud Powers (groin) on Wednesday.

Harbaugh said Monday that Suggs and Yanda are unlikely to play until after next week’s bye, but he didn’t rule out the former trying to play against the Jets if his arm were to improve.

“Last time he [tore his other biceps], he played the game after the first game,” Harbaugh said. “If he comes up and says he can play, then we’ll put him out there. He’s not a long-term deal, either.”

The good news for Baltimore was the presence of cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion), who was practicing with a red non-contact vest over his jersey. His limited participation would mean he’s reached the penultimate step in the concussion protocol before being cleared to return to full action.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace (ribs) and Breshad Perriman were also practicing with red vests during the open portion of practice, but they were not listed on the injury report.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) were both present and working during practice, a good sign for their availability against the Jets. Stanley was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 3 while Wagner wasn’t even listed on Wednesday’s report.

As expected, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Asa Jackson were both practicing. Taliaferro has begun his 21-day practice window after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list while Jackson is currently on the practice squad and could be an option for depth with the current injuries in the secondary.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially named Geno Smith their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling mightily in the midst of a 1-5 start.

Left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (knee), and defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) were absent from Wednesday’s practice for New York.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Nick Mangold (knee), OL Brent Qvale (neck), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Ravens just can’t seem to escape malaise of mediocrity

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens just couldn’t shake it in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, another winnable game that wasn’t won.

Yes, the injuries are piling up and the rest of the AFC North is conveniently a mess, but those factors only deflect from the reality that’s becoming more apparent every week, especially after three straight losses to cancel out a 3-0 start.

The Ravens are stuck in a malaise of mediocrity that’s rapidly becoming their identity. Truthfully, it’s what they’ve mostly experienced since Super Bowl XLVII, going just 26-28 with one playoff appearance over that time. Their 2014 campaign that included a postseason win and a trip to the divisional round used to be the norm, but it’s been Baltimore’s ceiling since raising the Lombardi Trophy four years ago.

Look no further than Sunday being the Ravens’ 20th game decided by a single possession since the start of 2015. They’re not terrible, but they’re not particularly good, either. Especially after last season’s 1-6 start, the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” routine is starting to fall on deaf ears with close games becoming the norm in the NFL.

The Ravens are what their record says they are.

“We’re a .500 team. We’re 3-3 in tight games,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’ve won some, we’ve lost some. You could easily say we could be 5-1, 6-0 or we could be 0-6 or 1-5.”

Everyone deserves blame, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office.

The Ravens entered Week 6 tied for 22nd in the NFL in penalties before adding 15 more for 111 yards against the Giants, several of those short-circuiting offensive drives like we’ve seen all too often this season. Coaches and the players themselves need to be accountable for the weekly routine of shooting themselves in the foot.

Baltimore entered Sunday ranked fifth in pass defense and held the Giants to just seven points and 133 yards in the first half, but the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith led to Eli Manning throwing for 296 yards after halftime, most of that going to Odell Beckham Jr. Losing Smith obviously hurt, but allowing passing plays of 75, 43, and 66 yards in one half is inexcusable.

Of course, a pass rush that continues to be nonexistent beyond the occasional flash from the now-injured Terrell Suggs hasn’t helped one bit. With Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both sidelined, the Ravens continue to wait for their young pass rushers to step up.

With three starters missing on Sunday, the offensive line played about how you’d expect, but opposing defenses aren’t going to feel sorry for the Ravens. They’ve got to figure out a way to make it work in the meantime.

On Sunday, John Harbaugh received too much criticism for going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to begin the fourth quarter — that was the correct decision in a game in which his pass defense was rapidly falling apart — but he’s deserved plenty of blame for bizarre choices in recent weeks. During a losing streak, a head coach needs to find solutions and not be part of the problem as has been the case over the current three-game slide.

The coaching issues go beyond simply firing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman last week.

Even Joe Flacco — who generally receives too much blame during tough times — played his worst on the final drive of Sunday’s game when the Ravens still had a chance to win, missing a wide-open Mike Wallace and making some questionable decisions with the football. The franchise quarterback isn’t high on the list of current problems, but he’s only been OK and not much better than that this season, which isn’t good enough from the highest-paid player on the roster.

It’s certainly not helping Flacco that we’re again asking who the play-makers are on this roster, something that’s become an annual question for longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office. Steve Smith still being the Ravens’ best receiver is both a compliment to the 37-year-old and a clear indictment of the front office.

The Ravens received much praise for the Weddle signing this offseason, but even that came after wasting early draft picks and making bad free-agent signings at the safety position over the last few years.

The Odell Beckhams of the league don’t grow on trees, but when are the Ravens going to find a special player or two — on either side of the ball — to make the difference in these one-score games? Ed Reed had a Hall of Fame career of doing exactly that, allowing Baltimore to snatch numerous victories from the jaws of defeat.

The Ravens’ current list of injured players includes five over the age of 30. This is an aging roster short on high-impact young players, which is why the Ravens find themselves stuck in neutral.

They’re springing too many leaks to inspire much confidence, especially with a difficult second-half schedule looming. Even when they begin fixing an issue such as the special teams playing better in Week 6, another pops up elsewhere with the defense collapsing in the second half of a winnable game.

Yes, there’s plenty of football to play and the AFC North is wide open with Cincinnati two games below .500 and 4-2 Pittsburgh losing Ben Roethlisberger to a knee injury for the time being, but that doesn’t change the truth about the Ravens.

From top to bottom, it just feels too mediocre.

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Ravens-Giants: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 15 October 2016 by Luke Jones

Two teams already at a potential crossroads in the 2016 season.

After their first 3-0 start since 2009, the Ravens have lost two straight and fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman on Monday. Meanwhile, the New York Giants have dropped three in a row after a 2-0 start to their season.

Injuries are a major story as six key Ravens players are listed as doubtful or worse for Sunday’s game, but Baltimore doesn’t have time to waste with two straight road games before the Week 8 bye and Marty Mornhinweg trying to breathe life into the NFL’s 22nd-ranked offense. The Giants won’t feel sorry for the Ravens as first-year head coach Ben McAdoo needs a win to reverse his own team’s fortunes.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play the Giants at MetLife Stadium for the first time ever. Baltimore is 3-1 in the regular-season history and won the last regular-season meeting between these teams, a 33-14 blowout at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 23, 2012. Of course, the Ravens also defeated the Giants by a 34-7 margin in Super Bowl XXXV.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens will rush a season-high 30 times with Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon each gaining at least 50 yards. Everyone has clamored for Baltimore to run more, and Mornhinweg will do just that with a banged-up offensive line going against the league’s 17th-ranked defense. The Giants will key on West with his 5.0 yards per carry average, so this might be the time to show different looks with Dixon, who didn’t play after the first quarter against Washington. The Giants have allowed only 3.5 yards per carry this season, but the Ravens have to stick with the run if this game is close.

2. The Giants will match their full season total by sacking Joe Flacco four times. Five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley are inactive, and Rick Wagner is no sure bet to start even if he’s active on Sunday. Even if the Ravens commit to the run and use designed roll-outs and waggles to keep Flacco away from the pass rush, the Giants still have the tandem of Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon that will create problems for Alex Lewis and James Hurst. If Baltimore falls behind and needs to throw, it could get ugly in this department.

3. Mike Wallace and Odell Beckham Jr. will each catch a touchdown of 30 or more yards. If they run as much as we expect, the Ravens should find some opportunities to take more shots down the field as so many offensive players wanted under Trestman. The Giants will also be without starting free safety Nat Berhe, which will give Wallace a greater chance to shake free. The Ravens secondary has held up well, but there were coverage breakdowns last week that Washington failed to exploit in windy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium. Beckham shaking free will result in a different outcome.

4. Matt Judon will collect his first career sack despite the Ravens not getting enough pressure on Eli Manning. Elvis Dumervil is out and head coach John Harbaugh didn’t make it sound as though we’ll see the veteran again until after the bye, meaning the Ravens must start getting pass-rush contributions from younger outside linebackers. Judon has been inactive for the last two games, but he posted three sacks in the preseason while second-year linebacker Za’Darius Smith hasn’t shown much so far. The rookie fifth-round pick will flash, but creating enough pressure off the edge will remain an issue.

5. The injury-depleted Ravens will compete, but the Giants will prevail in a 25-17 final. The change at offensive coordinator was already challenging enough for Sunday, but the Ravens are likely to be without top receiver Steve Smith and as many as three starting members of the offensive line on the road. Meanwhile, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is doubtful to play, which will compromise a run defense that’s been superb in 2016. The Ravens still have a reasonable chance to win considering the Giants aren’t very good, but there’s too much unknown and too many injuries to pick them this week.

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Energized Ravens offense knows pressure is on to produce

Posted on 12 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens players reacted differently to the firing of Marc Trestman than they did to Cam Cameron’s removal four years ago.

Cameron’s firing was shocking to players with just three weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season. Despite the annual outside complaints and speculation about his job status, Joe Flacco and the Ravens had found much success with Cameron guiding the offense for nearly five full years. What happened in the seven weeks that followed would make history, but the change served as a jarring wake-up call for the entire offense in the midst of what had already been a 9-4 season to that point.

With Trestman, however, the Ravens had won just eight of 21 games, never finding any meaningful stretch of prosperity in his brief tenure. Following Sunday’s 16-10 loss to Washington, the frustration in the locker room was apparent as the tone had seemingly shifted from “if” to “when” in terms of a potential firing.

Two days after John Harbaugh officially replaced Trestman with quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, players expressed kind words about their former coordinator as a person and as a coach, but their opinion of the change was crystal clear. And nobody sounded surprised.

“It was difficult to see him go, but I think it was something that this offense needed,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, who experienced the Cameron firing and isn’t known for being overly critical. “We were in kind of a bad place. It didn’t seem like we were getting out of it. Hopefully, this will spark us. Marty is a great coach, and we have a lot of faith in him. He brings an energy and an excitement to our offense that we needed. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put it together and play much better going forward.”

“Energy” and “excitement” were the buzzwords uttered by multiple players about Mornhinweg during Wednesday’s media session. Trestman’s questionable play-calling was evident to even the casual observer, but it sounded as if his personality wasn’t inspiring an offense ranking 22nd in total yards and tied for 22nd in points per game entering Week 6.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken immediately smiled when asked about their first impressions of the promoted Mornhinweg, citing his energetic personality. But that feeling will be fleeting if improved results don’t accompany the change.

Players predictably cited improved commitment to the running and taking more shots down the field as the anticipated changes in a system that can only be tweaked and not overhauled in the middle of a season. How it will play out on game day remains to be seen.

“It is just up to him as a play-caller and getting into the rhythm of the game and feeling when you do those things,” said Flacco, who was much more guarded than his teammates in discussing the change on Wednesday. “Obviously, you aren’t just picking things off the call sheet and calling them. There is a rhythm to it, and there is a reason for it. That is the biggest thing.”

Even if players weren’t surprised by the decision, one only hopes they still took a long look in the mirror on Monday.

Trestman wasn’t committing costly penalties to blow up drives on a weekly basis.

He wasn’t failing to block for Flacco.

And the 60-year-old certainly wasn’t dropping passes in critical situations.

Identifying Trestman as the problem is fair, but only if the remaining group — Harbaugh, Mornhinweg, and the players — finds the solution and fast. The training wheels are off, and it’s time for the offense to pedal faster down the street or fall into the bushes.

If it’s the latter, maybe this group just isn’t as good as we thought it could be and it will be unfortunate that Trestman had to take the fall.

“I think we just need to do what we keep doing, but just turn it up a notch,” Wallace said. “We’re in every single game. It’s just a matter of making one play here, one play there. We just need to get over the top. That’s what the coaches are trying to do to get us there. You have to explore every single situation. Unfortunately, that means some people lose their jobs. I’ve been there before myself.

“That’s football. It’s the business we’re in. Everybody knows it when you sign up, so nobody’s hanging their head or anything like that. It’s unfortunate, but everybody knows.”

And the Ravens know it’s now on them with their biggest excuse officially out the door.

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