Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Future now all that matters for 2015 Ravens

Posted on 28 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are facing the Cleveland Browns in arguably the most irrelevant nationally-televised game in franchise history.

Perhaps ESPN Monday Night Football broadcaster Mike Tirico said it best last week when he asked analyst Jon Gruden if he loved football and followed that by saying, “We’ll test you and see how much all of you love it out there.”

But ask head coach John Harbaugh if he cares about the outside perception of his injury-depleted team and of Monday night’s game between two of the worst teams in the AFC.

“We want to go win a football game. It’s a fight out there,” Harbaugh said on Saturday. “We’re not sitting there saying, ‘Oh, I wonder what everybody thinks about me.’ I’m not worried about [that]. We’re not in seventh grade here. ‘I wonder what they think of me. What are they texting about us? What does Snapchat say?’

“We don’t care what they think. We’re going to go out there and be our best, do our best and try to accomplish everything we can accomplish.”

It’s the right attitude for the Ravens to have as there’s no such thing as tanking the remainder of the season with a slew of players — and, frankly, several coaches — fighting for jobs in 2016 and beyond. But when your current starting offense — aside from four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda — more closely resembles one for a fourth preseason game, there’s no hiding from the truth.

Wins and losses do not matter as it relates to the context of the 2015 season. The end result only affects where the Ravens might pick in next April’s draft as the organization is in desperate need of impact talent. In that way, they’re better off losing as many of their final six games as possible.

And if we’re being honest, the Ravens aren’t equipped to win with what remains of the original 2015 roster — no matter how hard they try. The loss of Flacco was the final straw in that regard.

That’s why it’s important for the organization to get an extended look at younger players the rest of the way. The list is headlined by rookie running back Buck Allen, who will be making his first NFL start after veteran Justin Forsett suffered a season-ending arm injury last week.

“We’re excited to put the ball in Buck’s hands and see what he can do and give our other guys an opportunity to play, and that’s the nature of our league,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “The next guy has to be ready to help us. It can happen during the course of the game — which it did — and it happens week to week. That’s an expectation that we have that they’ll play well for us.”

Regardless of how many games they win or lose the rest of the way, the Ravens would love to see Allen look the part of a starting running back for the future after selecting him in the fourth round this past spring. Learning more about other little-used players such as safety Terrence Brooks, defensive end Brent Urban, and the forgotten 2013 second-round linebacker Arthur Brown could go a long way in trying to revamp the roster in the offseason in hopes of once again being a playoff contender next season.

Harbaugh won’t say it publicly, but identifying pieces for the future and making decisions about dead weight on the roster must be the top priority. Other than determining whether he can play at a level warranting a return to back up Flacco next season, it’s just not compelling to see how Matt Schaub — or any number of other known commodities — will fare against the Browns in front of a national audience.

It’s an unfamiliar place in which the Ravens find themselves, but all eyes need to be on the future for the final six games of a nightmare season. They’ll show up and play to the best of their ability, but these Ravens are firmly in evaluation mode.

Any other thinking would be shortsighted.

“Everything you do you have to be thinking about the short term and the long term, so we try to do both,” Harbaugh said earlier this week. “Definitely from a coaching perspective, your focus is most certainly on the short term — and your players and your coaches — and getting ready for the next game. But there is an awareness of the long term, for sure.”

The long term is the only intrigue remaining in a lost season that — unfortunately — will be on display for the football world to see on Monday night.

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Ravens defensive end Urban to be elevated to 53-man roster

Posted on 25 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Now in his third week of practice since returning from a torn biceps, Ravens defensive end Brent Urban will be elevated to the 53-man roster.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not immediately announce an official roster move as Urban would not have to be placed on the active roster until Monday if Baltimore elected to wait. The 2014 fourth-round pick injured his biceps in early August and was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the regular season.

“Whether he’ll be active or not and play in the [Cleveland] game, we’ll have to figure that out, but Brent will come up and be on the 53-man,” Harbaugh said. “He’s done a really good job. He’s worked hard; he looks good. It’s going to be exciting to see him in real action at some point in time and see how he does, because he hasn’t played that much. But he’s practiced really well.”

It remains unclear when the move will be made official as running back Justin Forsett has yet to be placed on IR after suffering a broken right forearm in Sunday’s win over St. Louis. The Ravens are currently ailing along the offensive line with left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) both injured and missing practice on Wednesday, so they may also need to add an offensive lineman to the roster ahead of Monday’s game with Cleveland.

Urban’s 21-day practice window doesn’t expire until Sunday, meaning he can continue to participate without being added to the active roster until then.

In addition to Osemele and Monroe, wide receiver Marlon Brown was also absent from Wednesday’s practice after playing only four offensive snaps against St. Louis.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle returned to practice after missing the Rams game with a left foot injury that had him in a walking boot last week.

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Tucker not escaping Ravens’ list of struggles in 2015

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Luke Jones

All three of the Ravens’ victories in 2015 have come on a Justin Tucker field goal on the final play of the game, but the fourth-year kicker wasn’t all that happy after Sunday’s 16-13 win over St. Louis.

Despite making the game-winning 47-yarder as time expired, Tucker missed two kicks from 51 yards earlier in the day with the second coming with just 1:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. The misses continued a concerning trend for the 2013 Pro Bowl kicker on attempts from 50 or more yards where he has gone just 2-for-7 this season.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this upset or mad after hitting a game-winner,” Tucker said on Sunday, “but this is kind of uncharted territory for me — and Morgan [Cox] and Sam [Koch] — all of us together. To be able to bounce back like that though, it’s definitely satisfying.”

To be clear, Tucker’s struggles are relative to the many kicking issues we’ve witnessed around the NFL. The 26-year-old has failed only once inside 50 yards all year, which was a 45-yard miss when he stepped into a large divot with his plant foot at Levi’s Stadium against San Francisco in Week 6.

Simply put, Tucker is still one of only a few kickers around the NFL who you want lining up for a huge kick late in a close game. However, his six misses in 10 games — he’s 22-for-28 in 2015 — have already surpassed his total in any of his first three full seasons in Baltimore.

Many have pointed to a declining success rate from 50 yards and beyond since his rookie season when he was a perfect 4-for-4. There was no significant drop-off during his Pro Bowl campaign in 2013 when he was 6-for-7 from 50-plus, including a game-winning 61-yarder at Detroit on Monday Night Football.

In 2014, Tucker was just 4-for-9 from 50 yards or longer, but all five of those misses came from 54 or longer, a reflection of the Ravens’ confidence in allowing him to try kicks from greater distances. The University of Texas product still went 3-for-3 on kicks from 50-53 yards, making those overall numbers less concerning.

Entering a contract year in 2015, Tucker has misfired on five tries from 50 or greater. But unlike last season, he hasn’t attempted most of those from exaggerated distances and is just 2-for-6 on tries from 50-53 yards.

How does head coach John Harbaugh — a longtime special teams coordinator in Philadelphia — explain Tucker’s two misses from 51 yards against the Rams in Week 11?

“There’s the hold, there’s the snap, the whole thing goes together,” said Harbaugh, who has shared his thoughts with Tucker. “There’s the wind. There’s the footing. All those things are a factor, no question, but the swing mechanics are the main thing. It’s not hard to see when the swing mechanics aren’t what we would be looking for or what he would be looking for. To my eye, that’s what happened in the game [Sunday].”

After Sunday’s game, Tucker acknowledged the challenges of kicking at M&T Bank Stadium where the open corners of the upper deck can lead to swirling winds. The kicker said he didn’t hit the first attempt well, but the second miss from 51 was struck “right on the screws” before it “just leaked” due to the wind.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, Tucker is expected to seek a contract that would make him one of the highest-paid kickers — if not the highest paid — in the NFL. If the sides cannot agree to a deal in a timely fashion, the Ravens could use the franchise tag as the franchise tender at the kicker position was a reasonable $4.126 million in 2015 and wouldn’t increase dramatically next year.

Even if he’s been more erratic from beyond 50 yards since his remarkable Pro Bowl season, Tucker remains one of the best kickers in the NFL, making it unlikely that the Ravens would allow him to depart after the season. But it’s clear he has a high standard for himself that he hasn’t quite reached in 2015.

“I’ve been doing this long enough now to know at our stadium, I’ve just got to hit [what] we like to call a ‘Dawg Pound’ ball like we’re kicking into the ‘Dawg Pound’ in Cleveland,” said Tucker, alluding to the difficult conditions in FirstEnergy Stadium late in the season. “It’s a slightly different ball that you’ve got to hit. You just get it up over the line and make sure it goes straight. That’s basically what I’ve got to do moving forward, regardless of the distance of the kick.”

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Forsett expected to be ready for offseason workouts

Posted on 23 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Overshadowed by the season-ending knee injury suffered by Joe Flacco, Ravens running back Justin Forsett underwent surgery to repair a broken right forearm on Monday.

The 30-year-old suffered fractures to the radius and ulna in the first quarter of Sunday’s 16-13 win over St. Louis, but head coach John Harbaugh doesn’t expect the injury to be a major disruption to Forsett’s preparations for the 2016 season.

“My assumption is that bones heal pretty quickly, so I’m sure he’ll be back in the offseason lifting weights and training,” Harbaugh said. “I would expect Justin back next year full-speed, ready to go. He’s under contract and a big part of what we’re doing going forward.”

Signed through the 2017 season, Forsett is scheduled to make a $3 million base salary and carry a $3.7 million cap figure next season. A reserve journeyman when he was signed by the Ravens, Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season.

In Forsett’s absence, rookie Buck Allen is expected to assume the starting role for the remainder of the season. The fourth-round pick from USC ran for 67 yards on 22 carries and caught five passes for 48 yards against the Rams on Sunday.

Another interesting option in the backfield will be second-year running back and former Towson standout Terrance West, who was initially signed to the practice squad and elevated to the 53-man roster last week. The 2014 third-round pick wore out his welcome in both Cleveland and Tennessee earlier this year, but his decorated career at the FCS level makes him a viable back to evaluate over the final six games of 2015 if he’s willing to put in the work.

“He’ll definitely get an opportunity,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see as far as activation and depth charts and things like that as we go throughout the course of the week. But he’s practiced well for us since he has been here and is learning the offense. He doesn’t have it all probably 100 percent down right now, but he’s working hard at it. We’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen so far.”

Receiver shuffling

As all attention now falls on the new man who will be delivering the football, the Ravens again shuffled the deck at the wide receiver position  by promoting Chuck Jacobs from the practice squad and waiving veteran Joe Morgan on Monday.

“He has been practicing with us and done a really nice job, so we’re excited to add him,” said Harbaugh about Jacobs, who played for Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. “We let Joe Morgan go to make room on the [roster]. Joe did a good job for us. It just wasn’t working in the plans there for us fit-wise.”

Baltimore also signed Seattle wide receiver Chris Matthews to the practice squad. The 6-foot-5 target has just four career regular-season catches, but he made a name for himself with four receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX.

Koch short-lived backup

The Ravens were working on signing another quarterback on Monday to back up new starter Matt Schaub, which means punter Sam Koch’s time as the primary backup won’t last long.

When asked if Koch had received any reps as Baltimore’s emergency No. 3 quarterback this season, Harbaugh laughed and insisted he had not. Before the veteran punter, ex-Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin served as the emergency signal-caller from 2010-2012, but he began his college career at Florida State as a quarterback.

“I guess it’s by default like they have the line and everybody steps back,” Harbaugh said. “And Sam was still standing there. That’s how Anquan got it. Anquan actually played in college at least, but Sam can throw.”

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Ravens indicate Flacco could be ready for start of training camp

Posted on 23 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, MD. — A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed Joe Flacco suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee in Sunday’s game, but the Ravens remain hopeful that their franchise quarterback will be ready for the start of next year’s training camp.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments won’t take place until after the swelling subsides in Flacco’s knee over the next week or two. However, the early prognosis suggests the Ravens won’t need to drastically alter their plans for the quarterback position in 2016.

“It’s probably way early and, obviously, speculative,” Harbaugh said. “But my indications that I’ve been given would be that he would be back for the start of training camp and that it wouldn’t be an issue. However, as we well know, those are always things that get determined based on how the rehab goes.”

Conventional projections suggest a recovery period of nine to 12 months for tears to the ACL and MCL, but some athletes have made it back sooner depending on a variety of factors including how rigorously they rehab. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 9, 2014 and was fully cleared to participate in the Cardinals’ minicamp this past June, a recovery that took only seven months. Palmer knew what to expect after suffering the second ACL tear of his career, but he is also five years older than Flacco, who said Sunday that he’d never suffered more than a MCL sprain before.

Though his mobility and speed are underrated, Flacco isn’t a quarterback who has relied heavily on his legs as he ran the ball just 13 times in 10 games this season. The rehabilitation process isn’t quite as challenging for a quarterback compared to a skill position player like a wide receiver or cornerback who depends on constant changes in direction and quick lateral movement.

“Joe can run and he’s athletic, but if there is some drop-off, that’s not the main thing for the quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “He’s certainly going to have plenty enough athleticism, even if there is some drop-off there. The way technology is, guys bounce back from these things really well and I have every expectation that he’ll bounce back 100 percent and be stronger than ever and be ready to roll next year and be in great shape like he always is. That’s a long way away, but right now, there’s no reason to think he won’t come back better than ever.”

While the Ravens look forward to having Flacco return next season, they will now face the reality of playing a regular-season game without him for the first time since Dec. 30, 2007 when he was still a senior at the University of Delaware. His streak of 137 consecutive starts (counting playoff games) will officially come to an end Monday night when veteran Matt Schaub starts against Cleveland.

For his head coach and most of his teammates, it will be uncharted territory not having Flacco under center. The 34-year-old Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowl selection with Houston, will become only the second starting quarterback of the Harbaugh era.

It won’t be an easy chore for a 3-7 team that was already highly unlikely to move back into the playoff race, but the Ravens will still try to push through their biggest injury to date.

“I don’t know how many coaches have had that kind of a run with their quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “It’s definitely been a great blessing and something I’ve been very grateful for over the years — all of us here. Not just the [head] coach but all the coaches and all the players and the organization have had that remarkable run with a quarterback that just has really stayed healthy. He’s been an iron man.

“This will be a change for all of us and something that will be a big challenge for us. It’s a challenge I wouldn’t say we’re looking forward to — we’d rather it not be the case — but we’re not going to shy away from it.”

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Ravens couldn’t be further from “paradise” right now

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Upon being inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime on Sunday, former Ravens safety Ed Reed ended his brief speech by belting out the refrain from “Two Tickets to Paradise,” conjuring memories from the franchise’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens couldn’t be further from that paradise almost 34 months later after losing Joe Flacco — the MVP 0n that memorable night in New Orleans — to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the final drive of the 16-13 win over St. Louis. Of course, Baltimore’s 2015 playoff hopes were all but officially gone long before Flacco and 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett suffered season-ending injuries on Sunday, but losing your franchise quarterback to a serious injury rocks an organization from top to bottom.

The season from hell continues.

“I’m probably still in shock a little bit,” said Flacco, who started the Ravens’ last 137 games counting the playoffs and will now miss the first action of his eight-year career. “You play football and you play as long as I have and you play as hard as we do out there, then stuff like this happens. You have to just stand tall and be tough about it.

“That’s all you can do.”

At 3-7 and now preparing for the final six games with veteran backup Matt Schaub at the helm, the Ravens will play out the string with eyes pointing squarely toward the future and an unsettling offseason. In addition to improving a roster lacking game-changing talent on both sides of the ball, general manager Ozzie Newsome will need to renegotiate Flacco’s contract that carries a $28.55 million salary cap figure in 2016 while not knowing for sure if the veteran signal-caller will be ready for the start of next season.

Until Flacco is healthy and back under center, the Ravens won’t be able to help but feel there’s a black cloud hanging over their heads.

In the meantime, the Ravens and their fans will receive a glimpse of life without their franchise quarterback. Troy Smith was the last quarterback not named Flacco to start a regular-season game for the Ravens when Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was playing in his final game and Brian Billick was coaching his last contest on Dec. 30, 2007.

Jettisoned by Houston and Oakland in the last two years, Schaub will now be asked to compete without the Ravens’ top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) entering training camp. Frankly, it’s a near-impossible situation for a 34-year-old many feared had already reached the end of the road as an NFL quarterback before signing a one-year deal to back up the durable Flacco.

The Ravens may be fortunate to win another game the rest of the way, which would at least help their position in the 2016 draft after the most disappointing season in franchise history. From that perspective, the ugly win over the Rams on Sunday felt more like a loss, especially after learning of Flacco’s injury minutes after Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.

Anyone watching the Ravens play in 2015 knows the problems run deeper than a slew of injuries to impact players such as six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, tight end Dennis Pitta, Smith, and now Flacco and Forsett, but it’s difficult to recall too many NFL teams suffering such a number of injuries to high-impact players in recent memory. At least an already-poor record numbs the disappointment of losing Flacco compared to if the Ravens had been 7-3 and just seen their Super Bowl aspirations crushed on Sunday like Arizona experienced losing Carson Palmer to a torn ACL last November.

But you still can’t help but feel like the Ravens are snakebitten.

“I guess when it rains it pours,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We’ve been dealing with it all year, from Suggs to Steve. It’s tough. … Nobody feels sorry for us. We’ve got to make sure we come out and prepare hard.”

What’s next?

Many wondered how the Ravens would respond to last week’s gut-wrenching loss to Jacksonville and if they would continue to compete in the way they have all season with one-possession outcomes in every game. Baltimore flirted with the wheels completely falling off the cart for much of Sunday’s game with more than 100 yards in penalties in the first half and scoring just three points through three quarters.

Receiving plenty of help from the sloppy Rams, the Ravens managed to pull out their third victory of the season by making fewer mistakes than their opponent in the end. But without Flacco — or Forsett — for the rest of the season on top of their many other injuries, when will enough finally become enough physically, mentally, and emotionally?

“It’s tremendously disappointing for those [injured] guys,” said John Harbaugh, who will coach his first game without Flacco under center next Monday night in Cleveland. “We’ll be fine as a football team. We’ll bounce back — that’s what you do. Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he’s going to come in [and] he’s going to play very well.”

If only it were that simple, but what else can the Ravens coach really say at this point?

The Ravens were reminded on Sunday that it wasn’t that long ago that they reached paradise in raising the second Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

But less than three years later, that memory feels a universe away.

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Ravens lose starting running back Forsett to broken arm

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — An injury-plagued 2015 season got even worse for the Ravens in the first quarter of Sunday’s 16-13 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Starting running back and 2014 Pro Bowl selection Justin Forsett was lost for the rest of the season after suffering a broken right forearm in the first quarter. The veteran back was slammed to the turf by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and television replays showed his arm bending in a grotesque manner.

Forsett’s right forearm was immediately placed in an air cast before he was helped to the locker room.

“I kind of looked over his body and just saw his forearm and said, ‘OK. I’m not looking at that anymore.'” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who also suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter. “I didn’t see much, but I knew it wasn’t good. It’s a shame, but we gutted it out and got a win.”

The Ravens immediately announced the severity of the injury as their starting offense has now lost its starting quarterback (Flacco), top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) to season-ending injuries in 2015. With the Ravens having deactivated Terrance West prior to Sunday’s game, they were down to just two healthy running backs — rookies Buck Allen and Raheem Mostert — for the remainder of the game.

In Forsett’s absence, Allen accumulated 115 total yards despite only averaging 3.0 yards per carry against a stingy St. Louis defense. The 2015 fourth-round pick is expected to be the starter for the remainder of the season.

“He played like a pro. He played like a top-caliber NFL running back,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “You saw it out there. He made guys miss. He made plays in the passing game, plays in the run game. I thought our offensive line did a great job.”

Entering Sunday’s game, Forsett was averaging 4.2 yards per carry and had rushed for 26 yards on four carries against the Rams. The 30-year-old signed a three-year, $9 million in the offseason after rushing for a career-high 1,266 yards last season.

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Ravens-Rams: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens conclude a three-game homestand with major concerns along their offensive line when they host the St. Louis Rams on Sunday afternoon.

Having already lost starting center Jeremy Zuttah for the season due to a pectoral tear, the Ravens officially deactivated left guard Kelechi Osemele after he missed two practices with a knee injury this week. Osemele had returned to practice as a full participant on Thursday, but the fourth-year lineman was again absent for the final workout of the week, leading to him being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week.

While second-year lineman John Urschel already set to make his first NFL start as a center, the Ravens are expected to use 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen at left guard. Of course, this development is concerning with the Rams possessing one of the most talented defensive lines in the NFL.

Second-year safety Terrence Brooks is active for the first time since suffering a thumb injury in Week 5, but recently-promoted running back Terrance West was deactivated for his first game as a member of the 53-man roster. Newly-signed receiver and punt returner Kaelin Clay is active and could see opportunities in the return game after return specialist Jeremy Ross was cut this past week.

As expected, rookie tight end Nick Boyle (foot) is inactive, but the Ravens will only go with two healthy tight ends in Week 11 after also deactivating tight end Chase Ford, who was signed earlier this week.

After officially ruling out Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn (hip/back) on Saturday, the Rams will welcome back defensive end Chris Long, who had been sidelined for more than a month with a knee injury.

Tony Corrente will be the referee for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys and black pants while St. Louis dons its white tops with white pants.

The Sunday afternoon forecast calls for a mix of sun and clouds with temperatures in the upper 40s and winds that could reach 15 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Sunday brings the sixth all-time meeting between the Ravens and the Rams with Baltimore owning the 3-2 advantage. St. Louis is seeking its first victory in Baltimore after losing road games in 1996 and 2007.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

WR Joe Morgan
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
RB Terrance West
CB Cassius Vaughn
TE Chase Ford
G Kelechi Osemele
TE Nick Boyle

QB Sean Mannion
RB Tre Mason
S Christian Bryant
TE Justice Cunningham
OT Isaiah Battle
OT Rob Havenstein
DE Robert Quinn

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Ravens-Rams: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 21 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Nothing is a given for the disappointing Ravens.

The fact that all nine of their games have been decided by one possession leads you to believe that the 2-7 Ravens are likely to win at least a couple more games in 2015, but last Sunday’s home loss to Jacksonville further changed their perception after the bye week. Baltimore may be able to compete — even win — any of its seven remaining game, but none can be pointed to as a predicted win with any level of confidence, either.

That principle certainly applies against a St. Louis team that sports the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense but also the sixth-ranked defense int he league. However, the Rams will be missing Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn, which will hurt one of the best pass rushes in the league.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and St. Louis meet for the sixth time in their regular-season history and for the first time at M&T Bank Stadium since 2007. Baltimore holds a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series as the Rams are seeking their first road win in three tries against the Ravens.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to win just its second home game this season …

1. Lardarius Webb will see more snaps as a safety and secure another interception. The veteran cornerback saw a handful of opportunities at the new position against Jacksonville, and head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees like his range and ball skills in that spot. It would be even more interesting to see the Ravens work Terrence Brooks into the mix and use him and Webb interchangeably between safety and the nickel spot in passing situations. The new look will result in Webb picking off a pass for the second straight week against the worst passing game in the league.

2. Todd Gurley will remind us why he’s the next big thing at the running back position. With Case Keenum taking over for the benched Nick Foles at quarterback and winds that could approach 20 miles per hour on Sunday, the Rams figure to ride their rookie running back, who is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He’ll approach his career high of 30 carries and eclipse the century mark with a touchdown on the ground against a good Baltimore run defense that has given up just 3.8 yards per attempt. Gurley once lived in Baltimore and rooted for the Ravens, so it will be a nice homecoming.

3. John Urschel will hold up respectably in his first NFL start at center. With left guard Kelechi Osemele likely departing via free agency this offseason, Urschel figures to step into a permanent starting role next season, but he’ll be filling in for the injured Jeremy Zuttah for the rest of 2015. It won’t be an easy task blocking 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald, but Urschel proved his worth as a blocker filling in late last season. He won’t shut Donald down completely, but there won’t be much drop-off from Zuttah and he’ll quell concerns about his shaky shotgun snaps from Week 8.

4. Keenum will make some plays as a passer while still looking like a backup. Yes, the 27-year-old quarterback played against the Ravens last year in an embarrassing defeat at Houston, but Keenum only completed 47.6 percent of his passes in that game. With Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin as pass-catching weapons, Keenum will be able to make some throws, but this is a very poor passing game that hasn’t been able to sustain drives all season. Rams offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will rely on the running game, but Keenum will commit two turnovers to go along with his 160 passing yards.

5. The Ravens defense will be the difference in a 17-16 win for Baltimore. The long touchdown to Malcom Floyd in Week 8 and a heartbreaking ending last week have masked the fact that Pees’ unit has played better in recent weeks, and that improvement will continue against a bad offense now turning to its backup quarterback. Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense won’t be able to consistently march up and down the field against a talented Rams front seven, but they’ll do enough to narrowly pull out a victory in what looks like another coin-flip game between two disappointing teams.

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Perriman calls injury “hardest thing I’ve ever been through”

Posted on 19 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Walking to the podium to address the media for the first time since injuring his knee on the first day of training camp in late July, Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman cracked a smile.

There hasn’t been much for the 2015 first-round pick to be happy about this season as he was officially placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his rookie campaign before it ever began. Perriman’s partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament wound up being a microcosm of the 2015 season for Baltimore.

Much worse than anyone thought.

“It has been probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, honestly,” said Perriman, who is still wearing a brace on his right knee that is “healing very well” now. “It’s just a huge disappointment for me, and I feel like I’m letting them down as well, because I feel like I do have a role on this team. I don’t know how much I can help, but I know that I can help somewhere.”

Drafted to be the replacement for speedy veteran Torrey Smith, Perriman had impressed in spring workouts and was considered more advanced than Smith was as a rookie in 2011. The Ravens were so confident in Perriman’s ability and potential that general manager Ozzie Newsome did not add another veteran to pair with the 36-year-old Steve Smith, a mistake that’s come back to haunt them in the midst of a 2-7 season.

Injuring his knee in the final 30 minutes of the first full-squad practice on July 30, Perriman was initially told he would only miss a couple days of practice. However, a closer look revealed a PCL sprain — which is defined as a partial tear — that would keep him out longer than expected.

With head coach John Harbaugh not providing many specifics along the way, fans and media questioned what was really going on with Perriman’s knee and some began questioning his tougness. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old was struggling with the reality of not being able to contribute to the team that selected him 26th overall in April.

“I didn’t really see it coming, so once it happened, I shut everyone out,” Perriman said. “I wasn’t really talking to anybody. Finally, my parents noticed it, because I wasn’t even picking up their calls. Finally, they came up here for the weekend, and they really noticed my feelings and my reaction to all this stuff. They gave me words of encouragement about all the stuff that I’ve been through and all of the things that other people have been through that is way worse than this.”

His knee finally feeling good enough to return to the practice field on a limited basis on Sept. 24, Perriman experienced a setback a few days later in a pre-game workout at M&T Bank Stadium. Admitting that he “overdid it” working out with wide receivers coach Bobby Engram on the morning of the Cincinnati game, Perriman felt a “pop” in his knee, which would prove to be the fatal blow to his chances of playing this season.

Head coach John Harbaugh denied any knowledge of a setback when asked a few days later, but Perriman visited renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who discovered that the tear was worse than what it was originally. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound receiver received a platlet-rich plasma injection in addition to having the knee scoped, but the Ravens’ lack of transparency created more skepticism without any confirmation that he had re-injured his knee.

Even after the setback, the Ravens hoped Perriman would be able to return before the end of the year, but the rookie never appeared close to returning to practice as his teammates began realizing it looked like he wouldn’t be playing in 2015.

“As the season went on, it’s kind of like, ‘OK, this is going to be tough for him to really come in and contribute,'” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “Yes, you obviously feel for the kid. At the same time, it’s tough to really think too much about that, because we’re all in the midst of our own little thing and our own little battles.”

Harbaugh acknowledged during the bye week that the clock was ticking for a potential return, but Perriman said the collaborative decision was made to for him to go on IR this week because he would not have enough time to rebuild quadriceps strength and get back into football shape to realistically be able to play before the end of the season.

Despite his obvious disappointment of missing the entire season, Perriman said doctors haven’t shared any concern about the knee being a chronic or long-term problem.

“Not at all. They never expressed that to me, so that’s not [part] of my worries at all,” said Perriman, who also confirmed that the injury was unrelated to the Osgood-Schlatter disease that plagued him when he was younger. “They basically told me once I get this thing back 100 percent, that I’ll be good, and I should be fine throughout the rest of my career. It could potentially happen again, but the odds of that probably are slim.”

Even if Perriman is fully healthy moving forward, questions remain about his ability going into a critical offseason. At the time they drafted him, the Ravens hoped he would be their No. 1 receiver of the future with Steve Smith entering his 15th NFL season. Now, the latter is recovering from a torn Achilles and hasn’t yet announced whether he will follow through with his original plan to retire.

Trying to find a silver lining in a disappointing rookie year, Perriman feels confident about his mental approach to the game after learning all receiver positions in the offense, saying he’s at “a very strong point in the playbook.”

Despite his physical and emotional challenges dealing with the injury, coaches see a player with a strong commitment to the game.

“It’s difficult to continue to talk about the same subject, so we talk about other things,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “I think football’s really important to Breshad. I think being a Raven is really important to him, and he wants to get back here as quickly as he can. I know he’s working with the people who are trying to help him do that. He loves football, and he wants to be a part of this.”

After his frustrating and bizarre rookie season, fans will remain skeptical until Perriman proves that he is fully healthy and ready to contribute in 2016.

He can look no further than to a receiver the Ravens recently played — San Diego’s Keenan Allen — for inspiration. Having suffered a Grade 2 PCL tear in late October of his final season at Cal, Allen was slow to recover throughout the pre-draft process, which contributed to him falling to the third round of the 2013 draft.

Allen went on to catch 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie that fall. Perriman and the Ravens can only hope his career follows a similar path after a trying first year.

“This was a difficult point in time for me. I was in — I would probably say — like a dark hole for a good period of time,” Perriman said. “But I feel like next year — when next year comes around once I finally get healthy — I’m going to be hungrier than ever. I feel like I’m going to come back harder than I ever have.”

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