Tag Archive | "Joe Flacco"

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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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Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers  - Matty Melting Ice Ryan

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NFL Quarterbacks who are “Coach Killers”

Posted on 13 August 2016 by Dennis Koulatsos

Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers - Matty Melting Ice Ryan

Coaches beware: pictured is one of the ultimate coach killers – Matty Melting Ice Ryan

There are a handful of NFL quarterbacks that seem to have all the physical tools to get the job done, but for some reason have never put it all together.  They look like a duck, walk like a duck, even quack like a duck – but they just can’t swim.  More often than not they sink straight to the bottom, and in most cases they’ve cost their coach and his coaching staff their jobs while they get to keep their’s.

QBs that quickly come to mind are Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, and Jay Cutler.  They’re in a league of their own.  There is a second tier of QBs that includes Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, and Sam Bradford.  RGIII may eventually get in to this second tier, but then again he is attempting to jump start his career at the Factory of Sadness known as the Cleveland Browns.  I don’t know if any QB could be successful in that awful organization.

Let’s take a little closer look at all of the aforementioned QBs. Matthew Stafford has been through numerous head coaches.  He’s been handed several #1 overall draft pick wide receivers, decent offensive lines, and a plethora of other offensive weapons.  Heck, even Megatron – Calvin Johnson – had enough and decided to walk away from the game during this past off-season.  Blessed with a gun for an arm, there are times that he can’t hit water falling out of a boat.  I’ve never been able to put my finger on it, but there’s definitely something wrong with this guy.

Matt Ryan is another one.  Fortunately for Joe Flacco, the comparisons between the two stopped right after Big Joe won a Super Bowl.  Just look at the weapons he’s had – Tony Gonzales, Julio Jones, Roddy White – just to name a few. If not for an ill-advised time out by the Seahawk’s Pete Carroll, Matty Melting Ice would still be looking for his first playoff win. The clock is ticking on Ryan’s career, and he is running out of time to prove his growing critics wrong.

Jay Cutler has a habit of throwing the ball to defensive backs and oftentimes in bunches.  Jumping Jay has also been surrounded with weapons, who all – to a man – have lots of uncomplimentary things to say about him once they’ve escaped Chicago.  If I was coaching Da Bears, I’d put this cat on a pitch count, and never have him throw more than 20 times a game.  In fact, I’d bring back Ted Marchibroda’s offense from the 80’s – run, run, pass, punt.  You laugh, but it’s superior to pass, pass, pick, play defense.

Ryan Tannehill is a coach killer in training.  He is still young on the job curve, but I’ve seen nothing from him to indicate that he’ll ever develop into a an NFL QB worthy of his draft position and his huge new contract.  Selfishly I really like him, because as long as he is under center, we’ll all be able to easily obtain discounted tickets to Dolphins home games.  It’s always a great trip to Miami in the winter, and Ravens fans do a great job of taking over the stadium (cue the Ravens Seven Nation Army chant).

Which brings us to Dalton, Bradford and Romo.  The first two have won exactly the same number of NFL playoff games as you and I,  and the last one has a knack for throwing an interception at the absolute worst possible time. There are throwers and there are field generals, and all 3 of these gentlemen most definitely fit in the former category.

By the virtue of his dismal playoff record, Dalton used to have a monkey on his back.  Now that monkey has grown into an 800-pound gorilla, one that he cannot shake off until he gets that elusive first playoff win. It is inexplicable – and at the same time defies logic – that he has a future Hall of Fame receiver like AJ Green and can’t hit him when it counts.  Coach Marvin Lewis is extremely lucky he gets to work for one of the cheapest owners in the NFL, or he would have been gone a long time ago.

Bradford’s career has been marred by injuries, but even when healthy he has not shown that he is anywhere in the elite category.  Somehow Jeff Fisher (6 playoff wins in 22 years – but that’s going to require an entire separate article dedicated to his record) survived Bradford’s tenure with the Rams, and hopefully his Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson can do the same.  Pederson was smart enough to draft an insurance policy in the form of Carson Wentz.

Tony Romo “led” the Cowboys to a 12-4 record two years ago.  The Pokes saved Romo from himself by running DeMarco Murray into the ground, 400 plus times.  By drafting Ezekiel Elliott and signing free agent running back Alfred Morris, they’re hoping the same formula works as well as it did in the past.  Of course that will cause Dez Bryant to squawk, but then again if he didn’t then they would be the Dallas Cowboys.  ‘Merica’s Team.

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Stanley starts, veterans sit in Ravens preseason opener

Posted on 11 August 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After being labeled a game-time decision to play earlier in the week, Ravens rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley made his NFL preseason debut against Carolina on Thursday night.

The sixth overall pick of April’s draft held up well in his first live-game action, steering Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy wide of the pocket on his very first pass-blocking opportunity in the first quarter and making the key block on an 8-yard run by Terrance West on the following drive.

The Notre Dame produce was replaced by fellow rookie Alex Lewis in the second quarter, but it was an encouraging debut for Stanley, who left Saturday’s stadium workout with a “soft tissue” injury and did not practice on Monday. Head coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about Stanley’s status on Tuesday after he returned to the field to participate in a walk-through practice open to media.

“He said it all along that he was going to play,” Harbaugh said. “I asked him before the game, ‘Are you going?’ He looked at me like, ‘Are you crazy? Of course I’m going.’ That’s a good sign for him as well.”

While Stanley got his feet wet at the NFL level, the Ravens rested a number of healthy veterans with Joe Flacco headlining the list. Harbaugh had strongly hinted earlier in the week that the veteran quarterback would not play in the preseason opener even though he hadn’t missed a single rep in practice over the first two weeks of training camp.

It remains to be seen whether Flacco will see the field next week at Indianapolis.

“I just didn’t feel like there was any reason to go with Joe tonight,” Harbaugh said. “In the big picture, I don’t think that’s hard to understand. It makes sense I think. He’ll go maybe next week. Maybe he’ll go the third game; we haven’t decided that yet. When Joe didn’t go, there’s not a lot of reason to play some of those other guys.”

Other healthy veterans receiving the night off included receivers Kamar Aiken and Mike Wallace, running back Justin Forsett, tight end Benjamin Watson, right guard Marshal Yanda, and defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan.

Williams revealed on Twitter before the game that his wife had given birth to their son, further explaining his absence on Thursday night.

Injured players who did not suit up on Thursday included wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles), Breshad Perriman (knee), Michael Campanaro (strains), Chris Moore (foot), and Chris Matthews (undisclosed), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), tight ends Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and Dennis Pitta (finger), cornerback Maurice Canady (undisclosed), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (ankle).

After missing practice earlier in the week with an undisclosed injury, second-year tight end Maxx Williams played against the Panthers and caught two passes for 15 yards in the first half.

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Ravens-Panthers preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 10 August 2016 by Luke Jones

Thursday will feel familiar as the Ravens begin the preseason against the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers.

With Joe Flacco and other veterans not expected to play, the game will resemble the end of last season with backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and other young players factoring heavily into the action immediately. Of course, the Ravens don’t mind that reality as much right now with the start of the regular season still a month away.

“It’s going to be the young guys,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be the guys that need to play in this game that we want to find out about. Anybody that has a health issue or anything like that is not even going to be thinking about playing. It’s just going to be one of those kinds of camp games that we learn about our young guys.”

Coming off a 5-11 season and their worst campaign in nearly a decade, the Ravens are feeling more urgency in this year’s preseason for obvious reasons. Wins and losses in the summer may not have a strong bearing on how a team will fare in the regular season, but a 1-3 preseason last year was a reflection of how little depth the Ravens had in 2015, a weakness that was painfully exposed as injuries piled up.

With the likes of Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil still working their way back to full health, the Ravens want to see young players seize opportunities and make names for themselves on a roster clearly in transition. As much as the discussion has centered around older players on this roster, young play-makers must emerge to help facilitate Baltimore’s return to contender status in 2016 and beyond.

“I can’t wait to see how this shakes out on Thursday, but also for the next three weeks seeing who the guys are,” Harbaugh said. “I’m looking for the guys to make plays. Who is going to make the plays? That’s it. We have a bunch of guys with potential who are definitely talented enough to do it.

“The best guy is going to make it. The roster is way too tight for anybody to be a project right now; it’s going to be [about] guys making plays.”

Thursday marks the seventh time these teams have met in the preseason with the Ravens holding the 4-2 edge over the Panthers. Baltimore has compiled a 20-12 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 Thursday night’s game against Carolina.

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 will 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 Terrell Suggs (Achilles), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), WR Chris Moore (foot), TE Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), DE Bronson Kaufusi (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), WR Chris Matthews (“soft tissue” injury), CB Maurice Canady (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (ribs), OT Ronnie Stanley (“soft tissue” injury), WR Michael Campanaro (unspecified strains), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: QB Joe Flacco (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), TE Daniel Brown (jaw), CB Jimmy Smith (foot)

Five players to watch Thursday night

RB Terrance West

Much focus has been placed on the number of absences in the first two weeks of training camp, but West has arguably been the early star of the summer, looking lighter and more explosive than he did last season when he rushed for 180 yards on 46 carries in six games with the Ravens. Coaches have been pleased with West’s work ethic as he’s shown improved field vision and is better in pass protection. His performance to this point has likely dismissed pre-camp predictions that he would be on the roster bubble, but carrying over that success to preseason games would put West in the conversation to start.

LB Kamalei Correa

The rookie second-round pick has brought athleticism and an edge to a group of Ravens linebackers that’s been practicing without Suggs and Dumervil. Until recently, he looked like the clear favorite to start at the weak-side inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley, but third-year linebacker Zach Orr is also competing for the job and has taken more starter reps over the last few practices. Regardless of how that battle shakes out, Correa will see plenty of action inside and as an edge defender in sub packages. If his practice performance translates to the preseason, his No. 51 will be called frequently on Thursday.

OT Alex Lewis

With first-round pick Ronnie Stanley’s status for Thursday in question after he suffered a minor injury last weekend, the Ravens may start Lewis at left tackle after selecting him in the fourth round of April’s draft. Baltimore appears comfortable with Stanley handling the job as a rookie, but it’s clear that an upgrade is needed from top reserve James Hurst, who has been practicing more extensively at guard in recent practices. If Lewis can hold up to some reasonable degree against a tough Carolina front, the Ravens would feel a lot better about the prospects of him being Stanley’s primary backup in 2016.

LB Za’Darius Smith

He hasn’t received a ton of press, but Smith could be one of the biggest keys for the Ravens defense in 2016. With Suggs turning 34 in October and coming off an Achilles injury and Dumervil better suited for a situational role, the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Smith becoming an impact player would quell the many concerns about the pass rush. He’s primarily been working at Suggs’ rush linebacker spot, but he has improved at setting the edge, making you wonder if he could step into a hybrid role with responsibilities formerly held by Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee. This defense would be a lot better if he can.

WR Jeremy Butler

Butler is rarely mentioned while other young receivers are frequently discussed, but he has stacked quality practices after catching 31 passes for 363 yards in eight games last year. Though more of a possession receiver, the 6-foot-2 Butler makes catches in traffic and has managed to stay on the field while the likes of Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews, and Breshad Perriman have missed time with injuries. Butler may lack the upside of some of the aforementioned names, but there’s something to be said about being able to stay on the field and produce when jobs are clearly up for grabs.

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Ravens putting extra focus on youth in preseason opener

Posted on 09 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after declining to say whether Joe Flacco would play in Thursday’s preseason opener, Ravens coach John Harbaugh all but ruled his quarterback out against Carolina.

And why would he want to force the issue with Flacco not missing as much as a single rep in training camp after undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery in his left knee just eight months ago? The ninth-year quarterback likely won’t be the only healthy veteran held out of the first preseason game with the focus clearly being placed on Baltimore’s youth.

“I think everybody can figure out what’s going to happen,” Harbaugh said. “I just don’t want to get into everybody. I don’t want to be talking about who’s going to play and who’s not going to play. It’s going to be the young guys [playing]. It’s going to be the guys that need to play in this game that we want to find out about.

“Anybody that has a health issue or anything like that is not even going to be thinking about playing. It’s just going to be one of those kinds of camp games that we learn about our young guys.”

Harbaugh isn’t ruling out the possibility of left tackle Ronnie Stanley playing against the Panthers after he returned to the practice field on Tuesday.

However, the 2016 first-round pick’s uncertain status certainly makes for an easier decision to sit Flacco if there were any lingering doubts about doing so. Stanley only missed one full workout after suffering a “soft tissue” injury over the weekend.

“He wanted to be out there,” Harbaugh said. “I think he said right after [Saturday’s practice], ‘It’s nothing.’ I don’t know if anything is nothing, physically, in this league, but we’ll see if he can play Thursday night with how it feels out there and everything. It probably is a game-time decision.”

Stanley wasn’t the only player to return to the field on Tuesday as rookie cornerback Maurice Canady and tight end Daniel Brown were also participating. Brown’s presence was surprising after he took a vicious hit to the upper body that left him groggy and forced him out of Monday’s practice.

The Ravens were still without 12 members of their 90-man roster on Tuesday as wide receivers Chris Moore, Chris Matthews, and Michael Campanaro, tight ends Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta, and Maxx Williams, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi were sidelined. Wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro remain on the physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice this summer.

The extensive list of ailments likely prompted Harbaugh to use a walk-through practice format two full days before a game, an unusual measure.

“We’ve had some really good practices, some really physical practices,” Harbaugh said. “This is an opportunity for us to recover a little bit from that and get ready for Thursday night and just focus on attention to detail. We emphasize technique and communication. We want our guys to exaggerate technique and exaggerate communication in this setting to build muscle memory in the way we play.”

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Harbaugh not revealing whether Flacco will play Thursday

Posted on 08 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have determined whether quarterback Joe Flacco will play in the preseason opener against Carolina.

They’re just just not telling anyone before Thursday night.

“We’ve decided about everybody, but I’m not going to make any announcements,” Harbaugh said. “We’re just going to play the game and do it that way.”

Speculation has persisted that Flacco will not see the field against the Panthers, a notion undoubtedly reinforced by the recent “soft tissue” injury suffered by rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley. The 2016 first-round pick did not practice on Monday morning, leaving rookie fourth-rounder Alex Lewis to man the left tackle position.

Exactly eight months removed from left ACL reconstruction surgery on Monday, Flacco said at the start of training camp that he wasn’t setting a goal of playing in the first preseason game or even playing extensively in the preseason, focusing instead on being ready to compete at the highest level in the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11. Flacco has averaged just over 14 snaps per game in the last three preseason openers, making one assume that there isn’t much to gain for the ninth-year quarterback to play this early in the summer.

Flacco has shown very few signs of lingering effects from last December’s surgery beyond the brace that he now wears on his left knee. He has appeared to take the same number of reps in practices that he did in past summers.

“The way our practices are out here and the way we compete and how competitive they are, I’m going to get plenty of work out here,” Flacco said at the start of training camp. “Just talking to [the coaches], you want to keep it [safe]. I’ve played in a million games, and to put it at any further risk of getting hit in a simple early preseason game probably wouldn’t be the smartest thing. I’m not really too concerned with that stuff.”

Harbaugh reiterated that Stanley’s injury would not result in a long-term absence.

Twelve other players were absent from Monday’s practice due to injury reasons, a list that included wide receivers Chris Moore (foot), Chris Matthews (soft tissue), and Michael Campanaro, tight ends Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) and Dennis Pitta (finger), cornerback Maurice Canady (undisclosed), and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the physically unable to perform list.

After receiving a couple scheduled days off earlier in camp, the oft-injured Campanaro is now dealing with muscle strains, according to Harbaugh. The third-year receiver also missed Saturday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (left leg), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), and safety Matt Elam returned to the practice field on Monday. Cornerback Shareece Wright received a veteran day off.

Already light at the tight end position, the Ravens lost Maxx Williams to a non-contact injury midway through the workout. He walked off the field with a member of the training staff and did not return.

In the final minutes of practice, second-year tight end Daniel Brown took a vicious high hit from safety Sam Brown and was down on the ground for several minutes before finally walking inside with members of the training staff.

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Veterans rest as Ravens continue countdown to preseason opener

Posted on 05 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With their first preseason game now less than a week away, the Ravens rested a number of veterans during Friday’s practice.

However, that list did not include starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who continues to ease any lingering concerns about the health of his surgically-repaired left knee. The 31-year-old has yet to miss a practice this summer despite undergoing ACL reconstruction surgery just eight months ago.

It remains to be seen whether Flacco will play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, but the Ravens are pleased with where the ninth-year quarterback is from a football standpoint despite him missing all spring workouts and their June minicamp while rehabbing.

“It is obvious he has spent time on his own getting himself ready,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “He is certainly ready mentally. Each and every day, he is just working to try and get better, and we are seeing a lot of productivity out here. It is good stuff.”

A total of 18 players were missing from the field at the start of Friday’s practice with wide receiver Kamar Aiken, running back Justin Forsett, safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Albert McCellan, tight end Benjamin Watson, and offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Marshal Yanda presumably receiving the day off as veterans with no known injury concerns.

Players absent because of injuries included tight ends Dennis Pitta (finger) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (ribs), wide receiver Chris Moore (foot), cornerback Maurice Canady, and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (broken ankle). Wide receivers Steve Smith (Achilles) and Breshad Perriman (knee), linebackers Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) remain on the active physically unable to perform list and have yet to practice this summer.

Safety Matt Elam was on the field for the start of practice before leaving the field and not returning. He appeared limited during Thursday’s practice with an unknown ailment.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was having one of his best practices of camp before he began favoring his left leg toward the end of Friday’s workout. The defensive back broke up a deep ball intended for speedy receiver Mike Wallace in a 1-on-1 drill and broke up another pass later in the day.

Camp highlights

One of the top plays of the day was an impressive connection from Flacco to second-year tight end Maxx Williams with linebacker C.J. Mosley in tight coverage down the middle of the field. The quarterback threw slightly behind Williams in order to fit the ball into a tight window and the 2015 second-round pick made a strong catch.

Williams has quietly had a solid camp despite a few veterans being ahead of him in the pecking order.

Currently atop the depth chart as the Ravens’ primary return specialist, Kaelin Clay flashed skills as a receiver with a great touchdown catch on a back-shoulder throw from backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and brought in another good catch later in practice. However, he dropped an easy one during an 11-on-11 drill.

Safety Terrence Brooks has a lot to prove after an underwhelming start to his NFL career, but he had a strong day, intercepting a Mallett pass that went off the hands of tight end Darren Waller and stripping the ball from running back Terrance West as the whistle blew to conclude a non-live play.

Waller later beat coverage from linebacker Kamalei Correa to catch a touchdown pass from Flacco on a deep corner route.

Late teammate remembered

A number of Ravens players including Perriman, Forsett, Kendrick Lewis, Julian Wilson, and Anthony Levine used Twitter to remember late teammate Tray Walker, who would have celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday.

The young cornerback tragically died from injuries sustained in a motorbike accident in March.

The Ravens have not issued his No. 25 jersey this summer.

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