Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Humphrey questionable, Lewis out for Ravens against New Orleans

Posted on 19 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will be without a starting offensive lineman and could be without one of their starting cornerbacks for Sunday’s much-anticipated meeting with New Orleans.

Left guard Alex Lewis was officially ruled out after missing practices all week with the neck injury sustained at Tennessee, but an unexpected concern is the status of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was designated as questionable on the final injury report. The 2017 first-round pick suffered what’s being labeled a thigh injury during Thursday’s practice and did not take part in Friday’s walk-through session that was closed to reporters.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Humphrey is receiving treatment and that the Ravens would “just see how it goes” in terms of whether he’ll be available to try to help slow Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense. Of course, Baltimore would still have veteran cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith to start on the outside with Tavon Young manning the nickel, but the luxury of rotating fresh players at every level has been a calling card for the league’s No. 1 scoring defense this season.

You’d rather not have to test that depth against one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and the league’s third-ranked passing offense.

“We just don’t talk about that stuff,” Harbaugh said. “You just move on. If he’s there, he’s there. If he’s not, he’s not, and that’s how you do it. It’s not something you give too much thought to. That’s how the league works.”

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has distributed snaps among his top three outside corners since Smith returned from a four-game suspension two weeks ago. Should Humphrey not be able to play against the Saints, the Ravens would be one injury away from having a problem on the outside as rookie cornerback Anthony Averett is just returning from a long-term hamstring injury and only practiced on a limited basis this week. The 5-foot-9 Young played extensively as an outside corner as a rookie two years ago, but both he and the recently-acquired Cyrus Jones are more ideal at the nickel.

Pro Football Focus has graded Humphrey as the 18th-best cornerback in the NFL — and Baltimore’s best — so far this season.

Lewis’ absence was expected after he was carted off the field on a stretcher early in the fourth quarter of the 21-0 win over the Titans and later diagnosed with a pinched nerve, according to Harbaugh. What remains to be seen is how the Ravens approach their offensive line for Week 7 with starting right tackle James Hurst likely playing a pivotal role. Since Hurst hadn’t practiced at left guard — where he started last season — all last week, the Ravens chose not to disrupt two different line positions and simply inserted rookie Bradley Bozeman at left guard in place of Lewis.

With a full week to prepare, the Ravens may shift Hurst to left guard and start rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle. Brown has played 37 offensive snaps this season and has occasionally served as a sixth offensive lineman in certain packages, but he played extensively as the first-team right tackle during the preseason and is considered the right tackle of the future.

“We’re not showing our hand. On the other side of the coin, it’s really not a big deal,” said Harbaugh, who was pleased with how both Brown and Bozeman practiced this week. “It’s really not a big deal. Guys get hurt for both teams. Guys play, guys don’t play, guys come back. It’s just part of the process.

“We’ve done well with injuries. We’ve been very blessed so far this year, and we’re not worried about that.”

(Update: On Saturday, Hurst was added to the injury report with a questionable designation because of a back issue, but the Ravens did not promote an extra offensive lineman to the 53-man roster, making it likely the veteran lineman will at least be active on Sunday.)

The Saints have placed wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) on injured reserve and ruled out starting left guard Andrus Peat with a head injury. Starting right guard Larry Warford was listed as questionable with a back injury.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday’s game in Baltimore calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-50s, but winds 15 to 25 miles per hour could create problems for both passing games.

Returning to M&T Bank Stadium after playing four of their first six games on the road, the 4-2 Ravens will now reap the benefits of playing four of their next five at home. However, the next three opponents — New Orleans, Carolina, and Pittsburgh — all made the playoffs last season while their first post-bye game will be against Cincinnati, who is tied with the Ravens for first place in the AFC North.

“It’s a good place to be. The challenge is they’re all really good teams, and that’s how the NFL works,” Harbaugh said. “Wouldn’t rather have them anywhere else — that’s for sure — than with our fans and in our stadium here in Baltimore.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Alex Lewis (neck)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring)

NEW ORLEANS
OUT: G Andrus Peat (head), DT Taylor Stallworth (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Jermon Bushrod (non-injury), G Larry Warford (back)

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Historic outing puts Ravens in good position for defining stretch

Posted on 15 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Tennessee Titans waved the white flag early in their shutout loss to the Ravens on Sunday.

Perhaps it wasn’t as pronounced as when Chris McAlister claimed Eddie George “folded like a baby” after taking a big hit from Ray Lewis in an old AFC Central rivalry game that was once every bit as intense and nasty as what Baltimore-Pittsburgh would become, but the Titans running the ball on a third-and-10 play from their own 36 late in the second quarter said all you needed to know after the Ravens had already collected six sacks in the first half.

The score was just 14-0, but Tennessee wasn’t going to threaten the rest of the way, crossing midfield only once after intermission — to the Baltimore 49 — in a 21-0 final that included a franchise-record 11 sacks. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota never had a chance as he finished with fewer completions than the number of times he was sacked.

Yes, it was a historic single-game defensive performance by the Ravens, a team that’s no stranger to such feats over the last two decades. But playing defense in today’s offense-crazy NFL is a different animal than it was six or seven years ago, let alone trying to make modern-day comparisons to the gold standard that is the 2000 Ravens. For some context, only four teams in that Super Bowl XXXV season averaged 25 points per game whereas nearly half the league is doing that so far in 2018.

That’s not to say this year’s Ravens after just six games are anywhere close to being deserving of comparisons to that historic group or another handful of great Baltimore defenses, but the eye-popping numbers are tough to ignore. Consider that Sunday’s marquee showdown between New England and Kansas City featured a total of 83 points scored, six more than the Ravens have allowed all season. Early opponents Tennessee, Cleveland, Denver, and Buffalo may not be keeping defensive coordinators up at night, but the Ravens are surrendering only 12.8 points per game in a league in which only six other teams are allowing under 20 points per contest. Chicago is the only other team to surrender fewer than 100 points on the season, and the Bears have allowed 96 — in five games.

Baltimore still hasn’t surrendered a second-half touchdown despite playing four of its first six on the road, including the last three in a row. The Ravens defense has had only one truly bad half of football when it gave up 28 points to Cincinnati in a Thursday road game, which is always a difficult proposition.

Making the aforementioned numbers even more amazing is the fact that Wink Martindale’s defense has forced only six turnovers so far, meaning the Ravens have shut down opponents in a more “straight-up” fashion. Sunday was the 14th shutout in franchise history and the first not to feature a single takeaway, meaning there was never the need for a fumble recovery in the red zone or an end-zone interception as is usually the case to preserve a goose egg.

That will need to change with the real fun about to begin.

The Ravens will play four of their next five games at M&T Bank Stadium, but their next four opponents — New Orleans, at Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati — all rank in the top 15 in scoring offense with the Saints, Steelers, and Bengals each in the top seven. Week 7 features the No. 1 scoring offense against the top scoring defense in the league as future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and Super Bowl-winning coach Sean Payton have had an extra week to prepare for Martindale’s creative schemes.

The good news is the defense shouldn’t need to do it alone as the offense is much improved from recent years and ranks in the top 12 in most major categories. You can’t expect to entirely shut down a team like the Saints, of course, but what’s made the Ravens’ 4-2 start so encouraging is how much more balanced the performances have been. It will certainly mark the biggest test of the season to date.

John Harbaugh’s team finished its road-heavy start to the season on a high note Sunday with one of the greatest single-game defensive performances in team history. Victories in two of the next three games — a challenging but reasonable goal for a legitimate playoff team — would put the Ravens at 6-3 entering their bye. They’ve entered their bye week with a losing record in each of the last three seasons, ultimately leaving too little margin for error down the stretch each time. December trips to Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers will be easier to navigate if the Ravens are contending for a first-round bye rather than needing to be virtually perfect just to sneak into the tournament.

The Ravens have looked like a playoff team with an elite — and throwback — defense, an above-average offense, and an ability to hold their own on the road to give them their best start since 2014.

Now we’ll find out just how great this defense is and how truly serious the Ravens are as contenders.

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Ravens guard Lewis leaves Sunday’s game with neck injury

Posted on 14 October 2018 by Luke Jones

Excitement from the Ravens’ 21-0 win over Tennessee was tempered by the neck injury sustained by starting left guard Alex Lewis.

Lewis was carted off the field on a stretcher after a collision with Titans linebacker Sharif Finch on the third play of the fourth quarter. The 2016 fourth-round pick initially remained on his feet upon making the block before eventually going to the ground and being cared for by both teams’ medical staffs.

Making his 14th career NFL start, the 26-year-old Lewis was taken to a local hospital and underwent a CT scan before being released and allowed to travel home with his team on Sunday night. The Ravens said he had feeling and movement in all of his extremities and would undergo further testing in Baltimore on Monday.

“So far, so good,” head coach John Harbaugh said in his post-game press conference. “There’s a lot of optimism.”

Lewis missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery early in training camp. He was replaced by rookie Bradley Bozeman at left guard Sunday as the Ravens closed out the shutout victory to improve to 4-2, their best start after six games since the 2014 season.

Should Lewis miss more time, the Ravens could elect to move starting right tackle James Hurst to left guard — the position he played last season — and move rookie Orlando Brown Jr. into the starting lineup at right tackle.

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turner

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Ravens promote running back to address depth concerns

Posted on 13 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have promoted rookie Gus Edwards from the practice squad to address concerns at running back ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Tennessee.

A hamstring injury suffered by rookie running back De’Lance Turner on Wednesday necessitated a move as Baltimore had only two healthy backs — Alex Collins and Buck Allen — on the 53-man roster. Edwards, a 6-foot-1, 238-pound Rutgers product, spent the spring and summer with the Ravens and rushed for 174 yards on 53 carries and caught three passes for 34 yards during the preseason.

“We’re very confident with either one of those guys,” said head coach John Harbaugh about Edwards and Turner on Friday. “They’re both kind of in the same bucket. They do the same things.”

Turner was placed on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster, an unfortunate development for the rookie after Harbaugh expressed a desire earlier this week to give him more opportunities. The Alcorn State product had caught two passes for 17 yards and carried once for four yards in four games since replacing the injured Kenneth Dixon on the 53-man roster after Week 1.

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce (foot) was listed as questionable after returning to practice on a limited basis on Friday. It’s unclear how much he was able to do as the entire session was closed to the media, but Pierce was wearing a walking boot on his right foot in Cleveland last Sunday and has missed two of the last three games with the injury.

Cornerback Tavon Young (hip) is also questionable after practicing on a limited basis on Friday. The nickel back missed Thursday’s workout.

Cornerback Brandon Carr (knee) and defensive back Anthony Levine (hamstring) were also designated as questionable, but both practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and are not in danger of missing Sunday’s game. Outside linebacker Tim Williams (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis all week and was listed as questionable after missing last week’s game against the Browns.

For what it’s worth, 17 of the 21 Ravens players listed as questionable on the final injury report through the season’s first five weeks have been active for that week’s game.

The Titans did not list Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan (foot) on their final injury report after he practiced fully for the second straight day. However, Tennessee has depth concerns at the linebacker position as starting inside linebacker Will Compton was ruled out with a hamstring injury and fellow starting inside backer Wesley Woodyard was limited with a shoulder injury all week after missing the Titans’ game in Buffalo last week.

Former Ravens linebacker Kamalei Correa was listed as questionable with a foot injury, but he practiced fully on Friday.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Nashville calls for rain showers and temperatures in the high 60s with a 65-percent chance of precipitation and winds up to 11 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), RB De’Lance Turner (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Brandon Carr (knee), DB Anthony Levine Sr. (hamstring), DT Michael Pierce (foot), LB Tim Williams (hamstring), CB Tavon Young (hip)

TENNESSEE
OUT: LB Will Compton (hamstring), S Kenny Vaccaro (elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Kamalei Correa (foot), DL Bennie Logan (elbow), LB Robert Spillane (knee), LB Wesley Woodyard (shoulder)

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pierce

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Pierce still sidelined as Ravens return to practice field

Posted on 10 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are still waiting on the return of a key member of their defensive line ahead of a third consecutive road game at Tennessee on Sunday.

After suffering a setback with a lingering foot injury that kept him out of the Week 5 loss at Cleveland, defensive tackle Michael Pierce was absent from Wednesday’s practice and is in danger of missing his third game in four weeks against the Titans. The third-year defensive lineman was spotted in a walking boot prior to the Browns game, but he was not wearing it in the locker room before Wednesday’s workout.

Pierce’s absence in Week 5 was eased by the return of defensive tackle Willie Henry after a four-game absence, but head coach John Harbaugh didn’t downplay how important Pierce is to the league’s top-ranked scoring defense. He missed the Week 3 win over Denver and played the following week in the victory over Pittsburgh before resurfacing on the injury report late last week.

“That’s a firm ‘maybe.’ I’m very hopeful, and I say that in all sincerity,” said Harbaugh about Pierce’s availability for Sunday. “I’m very hopeful. We’ll find out, but we could use him. He’s a factor inside. He’s a big difference.”

Six other players missed Wednesday’s practice, but the only real concern in that group appears to be rookie cornerback Anthony Averett, who has missed three straight games with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Brandon Carr (knee) and defensive back Anthony Levine (hamstring) also missed last Wednesday’s practice before practicing the rest of the week and playing against the Browns.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams returned to practice after missing the Cleveland game due to a hamstring injury.

Rookie running back De’Lance Turner was listed as a limited participant on the injury report after tweaking his hamstring during the opening portion of practice open to reporters. Turner left the field with a member of the training staff, and it’s unclear whether he returned later in the session. If the injury is serious, the Ravens would have only two healthy running backs — Alex Collins and Buck Allen — on the 53-man roster, which would likely necessitate a roster move. Rookie running back Gus Edwards is on the practice squad after spending the spring and summer with the Ravens.

Harbaugh confirmed former New England cornerback and Gilman product Cyrus Jones will be in the mix for the return specialist job after being claimed off waivers on Monday. The Ravens have already used Janarion Grant and Tim White — who are both on the practice squad — in that role, but ball security was a problem for each of them. Harbaugh and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg will evaluate other in-house options in addition to Jones this week.

“He’s done it before, so he’s in the mix,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, the thing about Tim and Janarion, we could bring those guys up on Saturday if we wanted to. We just have to figure out the roster stuff. We have some other guys who are going to do it. John Brown is going to practice up back there. Of course, Willie [Snead] is back there practicing. I guess we’ll just kind of find out on Sunday and let them figure out who it’s going to be.”

Meanwhile, the Titans were without three starters for their Wednesday practice with two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan being the most notable. Lewan left Sunday’s loss at Buffalo with a foot injury and underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam for it earlier in the week. He told reporters after Sunday’s game that he dealt with a similar injury last year despite playing in all 16 games.

“I would probably anticipate this thing hopefully improving,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said on a Wednesday conference call. “But then we’ll have to see where he’s at at the end of the week and if he’s able to practice.”

Starting inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis after sitting out in Week 5. Safety Kenny Vaccaro remains sidelined with an elbow injury and is unlikely to play against the Ravens.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), WR John Brown (non-injury), CB Brandon Carr (knee), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring), DT Michael Pierce (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), S Eric Weddle (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB De’Lance Turner (hamstring), LB Tim Williams (hamstring)

TENNESSEE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Will Compton (hamstring), OT Taylor Lewan (foot), S Kenny Vaccaro (elbow)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Wesley Woodyard (shoulder), LB Robert Spillane (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Dennis Kelly (illness)

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collins

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Lack of quality plaguing Ravens running game more than quantity

Posted on 09 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh noted his team had run the ball 25 times when the inevitable question came about the run-pass ratio from Sunday’s 12-9 loss at Cleveland.

Baltimore had also run a season-high 84 plays, but the 11th-year coach made his position clear on Monday.

“I don’t understand the question, why it’s a topic,” Harbaugh said. “You have to do whatever you have to do to move the ball and score points. We’ve been doing a pretty good job of that up until this last game. We just need to put more points on the board. Nine points — three, three, and three — is tough to win games that way. That’s the bottom line.

“But this run-pass balance thing, I don’t understand why it’s a topic.”

He’s right about both his offense — which ranked in the top 10 in multiple categories entering Week 5 — and the overall run-pass obsession many have when spitting out stats about win-loss records and running the ball a certain number of times that confuse correlation with causation. Simply put, teams run when they win, not win because they run. You sometimes wonder if some would prefer running the ball more — no matter how effectively — to their team actually winning games, but today’s NFL is a pass-heavy league and analytics-based principles such as throwing more frequently on first down improve your chances of winning compared to the traditional three yards and a cloud of dust. Like it or not, that mindset isn’t changing anytime soon.

The difference Sunday from previous weeks, however, was that the Ravens weren’t passing the ball effectively while they averaged a season-best 4.6 yards per carry, well ahead of what they’d done in the first four games. Joe Flacco produced 2018 worsts in both yards per attempt (5.3) and completion percentage (51.8 percent) on Sunday, but Baltimore continued to chuck it anyway with the veteran quarterback recording a season-high 56 attempts, territory in which few quarterbacks consistently function well. There were certainly occasions when offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could have worked an additional run into the mix.

Passing on 11 of 14 plays inside the red zone was particularly questionable as Flacco threw an ugly interception on a second-and-goal play from the 2 in the second quarter that proved to be one of the most critical plays of the game. Harbaugh and the Ravens frequently view the goal line to be four-down territory — which is the correct mindset — so why not try to pound the ball into the end zone again after Buck Allen was stopped on the previous down?

It’s true that only six teams have more rushing attempts than the Ravens through Week 5, but they also lead the NFL in offensive plays run and only 10 teams have rushed less frequently than their 36.3 percent. When you match that with Baltimore winning all three of its games by double digits and trailing by multiple possessions in just one game (Cincinnati), you’re probably justified if you want to roll your eyes the next time you hear Mornhinweg say they want to run the ball. The Ravens are currently a passing team, and that had worked very well until Sunday.

The warranted criticism from Week 5 aside, the problem with the Ravens running game has been quality much more so than quantity. Clamoring for more rushes doesn’t exactly make a ton of sense when you rank 30th in the league in yards per carry (3.4). That’s not to say the ground game doesn’t need to improve with Sunday’s poor passing performance being a perfect example why.

“Yes, we’re concerned. We want to run the ball well,” Harbaugh said. “We’re working as hard as we can to do it. If the question is: Are you working hard at the run game? Yes, we’re working really hard at it. We want to be a really good running team just like we want to be a great passing team and great at everything else. We work hard at what we think we can do well.”

After adding three veteran wide receivers and drafting two tight ends, the Ravens passing more frequently than they did last year when they ran 43.6 percent of the time — 12th most in the NFL — seemed inevitable, but why has the running game struggled so much?

Assistant head coach Greg Roman and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris were viewed as miracle workers last year when the Ravens averaged 4.0 yards per carry and finished 11th in rushing yards per game despite having four new starters along the offensive line. Even with the departures of center Ryan Jensen and right tackle Austin Howard, the healthy returns of guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis brought optimism that the unit would improve from a year ago.

The group has held up well in pass protection, but Lewis, center Matt Skura, and right tackle James Hurst have graded particularly poorly in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. As was the case on Sunday when Alex Collins ripped off a 19-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and Allen picked up 17 yards on a third-quarter run, most of their rushing success has come on the outside, which makes sense when two of your three interior linemen have been below-average run blockers.

It’s also worth noting the Ravens have been in the shotgun much more frequently this season — 63 percent compared to 48 percent last year, according to Sharp Football — which certainly impacts the dynamics of a ground attack. That’s not to say an offense can’t run effectively from the shotgun, but it’s a more passing-minded formation and the Ravens are also running a little less frequently out of the gun than they did last year (18 percent compared to 22 percent, per Sharp).

Only one of the five opponents Baltimore has faced this season is allowing fewer than 4.1 yards per carry and only Cleveland ranks in the top 10 in Football Outsiders’ run defense efficiency metric. In other words, the Ravens haven’t exactly been running against the 2000 version of themselves in the season’s first month.

Surely concerns over Collins fumbling the ball haven’t helped, but he leads all running backs in forced missed tackles per touch, which reflects a lack of running room and a need to keep giving him opportunities to break longer runs. Allen is a capable short-yardage back and better in the passing game, but his 2.8 yards per carry average compared to Collins’ 3.8 reflects less explosiveness. Neither back has the dynamic talent of a Ray Rice, but the pair did the job for the Ravens last year, making it difficult not to look at an offensive line still trying to find its footing in the running game.

Perhaps Sunday’s defeat serves as both a necessary reminder that you can’t do it all with the pass and a sign of better things to come for the ground attack, but the week-to-week volatility of the NFL makes it difficult to predict.

“You just keep working. You keep grinding,” Harbaugh said. “When we come out and run for 200 yards — which we will — it’s not going to be ‘fixed.’ The next game is going to be a new game. It’s not like you’re going to come out and run for 200 yards every week. Every week is a new week in the National Football League. You see a different defense, you see different fronts, different guys are healthy, different guys aren’t healthy, plays get made, plays don’t get made — things happen.

“I don’t think it’s as much of a trend as everybody wants to look at it. The big-picture trends just really aren’t there.”

Maybe so, but it’s difficult envisioning the Ravens getting to where they want to be by season’s end without having a better running game in their back pocket when they need it.

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timwhite

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Ravens jettison another return specialist, claim Baltimore native

Posted on 08 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have jettisoned their second return specialist in the last three weeks and brought back a Baltimore native to their 53-man roster.

A day after fumbling a punt in the second quarter of the 12-9 overtime loss to Cleveland, wide receiver and return specialist Tim White was cut to make room for former New England cornerback and Gilman School product Cyrus Jones, who was claimed off waivers. White replaced rookie return specialist Janarion Grant in Week 3 and was averaging 8.3 yards per punt return and 22.5 yards per kick return, but ball security proved to be the last straw like it was for Grant, who fumbled a return in each of his two games on the active roster and is now on the practice squad.

White also lost a fumble in the preseason.

“It’s the tale of two Tims. The ball security is not where it needs to be,” said head coach John Harbaugh prior to Monday’s announcement. “He knows that, yet he made some really good decisions [against Cleveland]. He picked the one ball up off the goal line after they tapped it back and made some good decisions on fielding some punts and things like that. He should have had a punt return that we blocked somebody in the back on — shouldn’t have happened. I loved the decision-making and hated the ball security.”

Jones was claimed off waivers from the Patriots and spent two weeks on Baltimore’s practice squad last month after being cut by New England at the end of the preseason. The Patriots re-signed the former second-round pick from Alabama to their 53-man roster on Sept. 19, and he returned five punts for 45 yards and made one tackle on defense in two games.

It remains uncertain what role the Ravens envision for Jones, but his history of fumbles — five in his rookie season –is a major reason why the 2016 second-round pick from Alabama originally fell out of favor with the Patriots. Baltimore had only four healthy cornerbacks on Sunday with rookie Anthony Averett still sidelined with a hamstring injury, meaning Jones could offer more positional value than either White or Grant did as the No. 5 wide receiver on the roster.

The Ravens could elect to use No. 4 wide receiver Chris Moore as their kick returner — a role he held last year — and Jones as their punt returner. The 24-year-old didn’t return any kickoffs for the Patriots in his latest stint in Foxborough.

Former Ravens cornerback Darious Williams was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Rams on Monday. The undrafted free agent appeared in three games and was cut over the weekend to make room for returning cornerback Jimmy Smith.

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jimmysmith

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Seven Ravens players designated as questionable for Cleveland game

Posted on 05 October 2018 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Saturday 1:30 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have designated seven players as questionable and ruled two others out for Sunday’s AFC North meeting with the Cleveland Browns.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams and cornerback Anthony Averett won’t play after missing practices all week with hamstring injuries while the list of questionable players is headlined by defensive tackle Michael Pierce (foot), outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (hamstring), and rookie first-round tight end Hayden Hurst (foot).

Pierce hadn’t been included on the injury report all week before missing Friday’s practice, a concerning development since he missed the Denver game two weeks ago with a foot injury. Smith practiced on a limited basis on Friday, but he didn’t appear close to 100 percent during the media viewing portion of the workout, leaving Baltimore’s depth at outside linebacker potentially vulnerable. Hurst was still only a limited participant in practices all week, leaving some question as to whether he’ll be active against the Browns after missing the first four games of the season.

One player not listed on the injury report who will make his 2018 season debut on Sunday is cornerback Jimmy Smith. The Ravens officially elevated Smith to the 53-man roster on Saturday as he’ll officially make his return from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

“He obviously did a really good job of staying in shape [and] worked hard over the period of time that he was away,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “That was good to see. He’s getting in football shape; I think he mentioned that. That’s part of it. You have to play the game to play the game. But I feel good about where he’s at and anticipate him playing on Sunday and playing well.”

Baltimore waived rookie cornerback Darious Williams to make room for Smith on the active roster, leaving the Ravens with four healthy cornerbacks against the Browns. Williams appeared in three games and would seem to be a logical candidate for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Cornerback Brandon Carr (knee), defensive back Anthony Levine (hamstring), and running back Alex Collins (knee) were all full participants on Friday, leaving little doubt about their status for Week 5. Collins wasn’t even listed on the final game status injury report, backing up Harbaugh’s Friday assertion that the starting back was fine.

After practicing all week on a limited basis for the first time since undergoing hernia surgery in late August, defensive tackle Willie Henry was listed as questionable for Sunday.

“He looked good. Willie hasn’t done quite as much because of the nature of his injury,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just have to see about that and see how he responds to practice today and things like that. Really, the other part of that is going to be the roster and where we’re at with the 46-, 53-[man roster] numbers and the injuries and things like that. That will all kind of play into that decision. He probably could go. Whether he will or not, I’ll probably know within 24 hours.”

Starting left guard Alex Lewis was a late addition to the injury report after being limited with a shoulder issue on Friday. Whether it’s the same shoulder that was surgically repaired last August is unclear, but Lewis was listed as questionable.

Meanwhile, the Browns officially ruled out reserve middle linebacker James Burgess with a knee injury and designated starting outside linebcker Christian Kirksey (illness) and starting safety Damarious Randall (heel) as questionable.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast for Cleveland calls for partly cloudy skies with scattered thunderstorms and temperatures reaching the mid-70s. There is a 40-percent chance of rain with winds five to 10 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), LB Tim Williams (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Brandon Carr (knee), DT Willie Henry (abdomen), TE Hayden Hurst (foot). DB Anthony Levine (hamstring), G Alex Lewis (shoulder), DT Michael Pierce (foot), LB Za’Darius Smith (hamstring)

CLEVELAND
OUT: LB James Burgess (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Christian Kirksey (illness), S Damarious Randall (heel)

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jimmysmith

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Ravens dealing with “good problems to have” as J. Smith, others return

Posted on 02 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens had just secured one of their biggest road wins in years as head coach John Harbaugh met with general manager Ozzie Newsome on the post-game bus in Pittsburgh.

Not only had they just beaten an elite quarterback on the road for the first time in over three years, but the Ravens were on the verge of welcoming back their top cornerback, a 2018 first-round pick, and an important member of their defensive line rotation. The thought of a 3-1 team getting even better is certainly exciting for an organization that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2014, but those returns will impact both the 53-man roster and which 46 players are active for games, leading Harbaugh and Newsome to discuss their plans in the aftermath of the 26-14 win over the Steelers.

“We have some tough decisions to make, but those are good problems to have,” Harbaugh said. “When you’re not going to be able to activate a really good, productive player, as hard as that is — especially on the player — it’s probably a good thing for your team. It means you’ve got some depth and you’re healthy.”

Headlining the list of returnees is veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith, whose four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy expired on Sunday. The 30-year-old reported to Owings Mills Monday morning and is expected to practice this week and play at Cleveland on Sunday. The Ravens currently have an exemption for Smith that allows them to delay making room on the 53-man roster until later in the week.

How Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will distribute the snaps at cornerback remains to be seen as current starters Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr have played well over the first quarter of the season. Humphrey, Baltimore’s 2017 first-round pick, brings the most upside of the group and is considered the No. 1 cornerback of the future, but Carr — one of the most respected players in the Ravens locker room — has started an incredible 164 consecutive games in his career and has played some of his best football in years with Pro Football Focus grading him as the NFL’s 19th-best corner through Week 4.

Of course, the Ravens dealt with a similar challenge last year with Smith nursing a sore Achilles tendon that ultimately gave out in early December. The trio shared snaps for a large portion of the 2017 season, but Baltimore also has slot cornerback Tavon Young to consider now, meaning it isn’t as simple as moving Carr into the nickel role as the organization did occasionally last year.

“It’s a good problem to have, the fact that we’ll have another really good player playing corner and we’ll have the chance to put another guy out there that can cover people,” Harbaugh said. “I think who starts and all that is one thing, but really, they’re all going to play. They’re going to play a lot, and that’s good for the Ravens.”

Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst is likely to make his NFL debut this week, which will complicate the current tight end rotation of Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, and 2018 third-round pick Mark Andrews. At the start of the season, the outsider consensus was that Williams would have been the odd man out if Hurst had been healthy, but the 2015 second-round pick has already exceeded his receiving yardage total from last season and is second on the team in catches of 20 or more yards (three). Williams has caught all 12 of his targets for 119 yards and six first downs.

Even if the Ravens manage to keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster, it would be unlikely for all to be active on game days, creating a tough decision between blocking-minded veterans in Boyle and Williams and the two rookies carrying more upside as receivers. After a quiet summer, Andrews has been one of the biggest surprises of the young season with eight of his 10 catches going for first downs and an 11.9 yards per catch average.

Hurst was listed as questionable to play against Pittsburgh before ultimately being held out for a fourth straight game. The South Carolina product expressed optimism that he was ready to go last week, but he was only a limited participant in practices.

“I don’t think the docs and the trainers were comfortable with just the one week back,” Harbaugh said. “I’d have probably been more comfortable than they were, but it was smart. We’ll just have to see how he does this week. Obviously, he has a good chance to play, but he has to get through full practices and be ready to go.”

Harbaugh said defensive tackle Willie Henry will also return to practice this week, potentially giving the Ravens another inside pass-rushing threat to put pressure on Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield on Sunday. Henry appeared in line to secure the starting 3-technique spot this summer before undergoing surgery for an umbilical hernia in late August. His return would impact the playing time of Chris Wormley the most as the 2017 third-round pick has manned the 3-technique position in the base defense and is second behind only Brent Urban for most snaps among Baltimore defensive linemen this season.

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Seven Ravens players listed as questionable for Pittsburgh game

Posted on 28 September 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite listing seven players as questionable on the final injury report, the Ravens are getting healthier ahead of their Week 4 trip to Pittsburgh.

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (knee) and defensive tackle Michael Pierce (foot) were among those officially receiving the questionable designation, but both are expected to play after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday. They sat out the Week 3 win over Denver and will offer a boost as Baltimore tries to slow a Steelers offense averaging 29.3 points per game so far in 2018.

“They both seem good. I don’t see any reason they wouldn’t play,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll just have to make sure. I guess they could always have a reaction; I haven’t talked to the trainers yet in terms of how they reacted to today’s practice. That’s always a part of the evaluation, but based on what I saw today, they looked good.”

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee) was also listed as questionable, but he was able to return to practice on a limited basis on Friday, easing concerns about his availability on Sunday night. It’s worth noting the seven-time Pro Bowl selection didn’t talk with the media this week, an unusual development suggesting his knee won’t be 100 percent as the Ravens try to secure their first win at Heinz Field since 2015.

Cornerback Brandon Carr (knee), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), and defensive back Anthony Levine (hamstring) are also officially questionable, but all are expected to play after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.

The most interesting injury question will be the status of rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, who practiced this week for the first time since sustaining a stress fracture in his foot last month. The first-round pick was a limited participant in practices all week, but the Ravens liked what they saw from him after a month-long layoff.

“You can’t really say he didn’t miss a beat just because who knows?” Harbaugh said. “We’re not really playing padded football in practice as much, but it didn’t really seem like there was a difference between when he left and what he did this week. I thought he looked very good, very strong. As far as his availability to the game, it will depend on what the trainers say. We’ll just have to see how that goes. It’s something they’ll evaluate between now and then.”

Defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery) and rookie cornerback Anthony Averett (hamstring) have been officially ruled out for Week 4. With Averett missing his second straight game, the Ravens have only four healthy cornerbacks available, making a weekend roster move possible with cornerbacks Robertson Daniel and Makinton Dorleant currently on the practice squad.

Only two players — safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Mike Hilton — appeared on Pittsburgh’s final injury report, but they are listed as doubtful to play on Sunday. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was removed from the injury report after dealing with an abdomen injury earlier in the week, but he practiced fully on Friday.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday night calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s with calm winds at six miles per hour and only a 10-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday night:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), DT Willie Henry (abdomen)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Brandon Carr (knee), TE Hayden Hurst (foot), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring), LB C.J. Mosley (knee), DT Michael Pierce (foot), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (knee)

PITTSBURGH
DOUBTFUL: S Morgan Burnett (groin), CB Mike Hilton (elbow)

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