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Ravens-Bills preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 25 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense enters Saturday’s preseason game against Buffalo having lived up to very lofty expectations through the first two exhibition contests.

First in the NFL in points per game allowed, rushing yards per game allowed, passing yards per game allowed, and total yards per game allowed, Baltimore knows preseason success doesn’t automatically translate to the regular season, but playing this well sure beats the alternative. Just ask the injury-riddled offense that has more questions than answers at this point.

“The whole idea of us going into this year was that we want to be a great defense and we want to finish,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, whose unit struggled mightily in the final month of the 2016 season. “You have to start to finish. I would rather have a good start than a bad start and be sitting there worried about a bunch of stuff. But I’m still worried about it.

“To say it doesn’t mean anything — I think coaches tell you that — I think that is crap. You want to go out there and you want to play well every day and every week no matter who is on the field.”

Viewed as the dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season, the third preseason game typically involves starters playing the entire first half. However, with the Ravens already dealing with a plethora of injuries, the plan might be different against the Bills.

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer many specifics on what to expect.

“We just have a plan for this year that we are sticking with,” Harbaugh said. “It does not really compare to any other year. You never really know. Different guys have different situations. It is more individualized probably than ever before. You play guys according to their needs.”

Saturday marks the first time since 2003 that the Ravens and Buffalo have met in the preseason with the Bills having won two of the previous three exhibition contests. These teams met in the 2016 season opener with the Ravens winning 13-7 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore owns a 26-12 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’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider any veterans who could be held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Sheldon Price (shoulder), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Albert McClellan (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Thursday night

LB Tim Williams

After struggling in the preseason opener against Washington, the third-round pick from Alabama showed off his pass-rushing skills against Miami with a sack and two quarterback hits. Williams has a long way to go to be an every-down linebacker, but the Ravens need players who can get to the quarterback off the edge and he can still carve out a role as a situational pass rusher.

RB Buck Allen

The third-year back looked like he’d face an uphill battle to make the roster several weeks ago, but injuries have afforded him more chances and he’s run with more urgency this summer. Though Terrance West is still projected to be the starter, senior offensive assistant Greg Roman likes to have more than one back involved in the ground game and Allen has rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries this summer.

CB Sheldon Price

Hampered by a shoulder issue for a good portion of the summer, Price is trying to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster and his 6-foot-2, 198-pound frame is ideal for an outside corner. The current absence of 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey helps Price’s case, but rookie free agent Jaylen Hill has all but locked up a job at this point, making it critical for Price to play well in the last two preseason games.

C Jeremy Zuttah

The Ravens needed depth after losing their starting left guard and two other interior options, but Zuttah must prove he can hold up in Roman’s schemes that are more downhill and physical. The fact that Zuttah was released by San Francisco five months after being traded there means he has essentially been cut twice since March and he needs to play with a chip on his shoulder if he wants to unseat Ryan Jensen.

LB Bam Bradley

The reviews for Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker have been mixed, but the Ravens don’t have many alternatives at the position. The 237-pound Bradley has more bulk than special-teams standout Patrick Onwuasor and has played well this preseason, making him one of several undrafted free agents who remain in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster.

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Ravens need to ramp up rushing attack in third preseason game

Posted on 24 August 2017 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sizing up the 2017 Ravens roster before the third preseason game

Posted on 21 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the first two preseason games in the books, it’s again time to examine the Ravens’ 53-man roster as we move closer to final cuts being made at the end of next week.

My current look at the roster suggests 41 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My assessment of the players currently on the 90-man preseason roster lists 23 players on the bubble with a few young players making a push. Not all bubble players are created equal, however, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying more talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of maintaining a reasonable number of players at every position, trying to boldly designate a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of the roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams contributions in addition to what they bring to their respective positions.

Unlike the past few years, teams are no longer required to trim their 90-man roster to 75 prior to the final preseason game. The Ravens must determine their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Sept. 2, but changes frequently come in the days leading up to the season opener on Sept. 10.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 21. You can check out last week’s projection HERE.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: Even if the Ravens ultimately choose to replace Mallett, I’m still not close to buying Woodrum as the one to do it, but he’s been a fun preseason story.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Ricky Ortiz, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Taquan Mizzell
LONG SHOT: Bobby Rainey
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
Skinny: It appears that Ortiz has leapfrogged Taliaferro in the fullback competition, but it’s not a great sign for either one that defensive lineman Patrick Ricard is seeing extended looks in that role.

WIDE RECEIVERS (11)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Michael Campanaro, Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
Skinny: I don’t get the sense that Moore’s job is in danger, but you’d like to see more from the 2016 fourth-round pick, especially with Perriman still sidelined with a hamstring injury.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
BUBBLE: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell
LONG SHOT: Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Williams showed explosiveness in Miami that we hadn’t seen since his knee surgery, but I still believe the Ravens will try to carry a fourth tight end on the 53-man roster if possible.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor
BUBBLE: Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura, De’Ondre Wesley
LONG SHOT: Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir, Derrick Nelson
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
Skinny: The re-signed Zuttah might be a lock, but he’s not a great fit for Greg Roman’s scheme and has essentially been cut by two teams in the last five months, meaning he still needs to prove himself.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Patrick Ricard, Willie Henry
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The depth here is a great problem to have, and I’ll still predict that the Ravens ultimately trade a defensive lineman before potentially being forced to waive a talented one like Henry.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
BUBBLE: Bam Bradley
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Donald Payne
Skinny: A good showing in the preseason has nudged Bradley onto the roster radar, and the Ravens still need to see more consistency out of Correa in a starting role.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: A strong start to the preseason has improved Smith’s stock, but he still feels like a candidate to be traded for help at another position of need.

CORNERBACKS (11)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Robertson Daniel
LONG SHOT: Reggie Porter
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young, Maurice Canady (designated to return candidate)
Skinny: Hill is as close as a rookie free agent gets to being a roster lock, and Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine are slated to play the nickel and dime spots to minimize the need for an extra corner.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Otha Foster
Skinny: Clark has remained a regular on the special-teams units and remains in good shape to secure a 53-man roster spot as a 2017 draft pick.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s still nothing to see here.

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Ravens cancel Monday’s practice to visit Pentagon, other sites

Posted on 21 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens called off practice to visit some special places on Monday.

The itinerary included touring the Pentagon, watching the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and visiting John F. Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. Two players — wide receiver and Naval Academy graduate Keenan Reynolds and safety and former Marine Otha Foster — were allowed to take part in the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“Our team has worked hard throughout this offseason and training camp,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Our coaches appreciate and respect that effort. The team deserves a day away from the fields and meetings and an opportunity to spend some time together away from the facility.

“How fortunate and blessed are we to experience a day like this. It’s humbling, and we are so appreciative.”

Harbaugh has taken players on occasional excursions in the past, but the timing of this one was aided by the fact that 16 players on the preseason roster missed practice on Sunday. Players were already scheduled to have Tuesday off before returning to practice in preparation for the third preseason game against Buffalo this Saturday.

A pair of rookies were new absences on Sunday as third-round outside linebacker Tim Williams and undrafted wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo were absent during the portion of practice open to media. Adeboyejo has been dealing with a knee issue in recent days, but it was unclear why Williams wasn’t participating.

Running back Danny Woodhead was absent for a second straight day as Harbaugh confirmed that the veteran was “banged up” in the preseason win over Miami, but he didn’t specify what the 32-year-old was dealing with. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey missed practice once again with what’s believed to be a hamstring issue.

Other players remaining sidelined on Sunday included quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed) and Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), cornerbacks Robertson Daniel (undisclosed), Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), and Maurice Canady (knee), and linebacker Donald Payne (undisclosed).

Cornerback Tavon Young (knee), wide receiver Tim White (thumb), and guards Alex Lewis (shoulder) and Nico Siragusa (knee) remain on the 90-man preseason roster, but all are expected to miss the entire 2017 season and will be placed on injured reserve at the end of the preseason.

Flacco becomes “Weapon X”

Reporters and fans have joked that glimpses of Flacco this summer have been as rare as Bigfoot with the 10th-year quarterback not being on the sideline during practices or games, but wide receiver Mike Wallace says there’s a reason for that.

“When he comes back, you all are going to see,” said Wallace as he laughed. “He has gained like 30 pounds of muscle, and he is running like a 4.5 [40-yard dash] now. I’m telling you guys, it’s crazy! You have to see him. He is under wraps. He is like Weapon X. He is under wraps right now, but when he comes back, it is going to be crazy.”

Flacco will not play in the preseason, but the Ravens continue to expect him to be ready for the season opener in Cincinnati on Sept. 10. Despite the quarterback’s extended absence, Wallace says he isn’t concerned about the Ravens offense not having enough time to get in sync.

“Joe is a vet. He has been 10 years in the game,” Wallace said. “He has won a Super Bowl, he has been in every situation. He might need to knock a little rust off, but hopefully we can knock that out in those days of practice before Week 1. Once we get into the game, all it will take is a couple plays, and then you feel like you are in the game. It is like, ‘OK, let’s go.'”

Ricard the traitor

Rookie defensive lineman Patrick Ricard has received many looks at fullback this summer, which has drawn playful jealousy and ire from other members of his position group.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams admitted being envious about Ricard’s opportunity to play offense while outside linebacker Terrell Suggs apparently feels betrayed.

“‘Sizz’ calls me a traitor going to the other side of the ball and hitting them,” said Ricard, who played fullback and tight end in high school. “But it’s all fun and games. They all like it.”

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How Zuttah fits in return to Ravens offensive line remains unclear

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Veteran center Jeremy Zuttah is back with the Ravens, but determining how he’ll fit into a revamped offensive line isn’t easy.

After starting all 16 games and being invited to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season, the 31-year-old was traded to San Francisco in March as the Ravens wanted to get bigger and stronger at the position. But after season-ending injuries to Alex Lewis and Nico Siragusa and the surprising retirement of John Urschel, the Ravens found themselves extremely thin on the interior line, prompting general manager Ozzie Newsome to re-sign his former starting center a week after he was cut by the 49ers.

No assurances have been made that Zuttah will automatically move back into the starting job he held over the last three seasons.

“The role for right now is to come out, work hard and earn playing time,” Zuttah said after his first practice back with Baltimore. “They said to go out there, compete, and we’ll see where we’re at. That’s honestly where we are.”

Head coach John Harbaugh isn’t tipping his hand, either, but he did say Zuttah would work primarily at center and probably wouldn’t be viewed as an option to start at guard beyond an “emergency” scenario. Fourth-year lineman James Hurst was listed on the latest depth chart as the first-team left guard after the news broke about Lewis undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, but he’s played left tackle in recent days with starter Ronnie Stanley sidelined with an undisclosed ailment.

With Hurst also serving as the primary backup at both tackle spots, some have speculated that the Ravens could shift Jensen to left guard to help stabilize that position and to allow Hurst to focus on left and right tackle responsibilities in practice. Former practice-squad member Matt Skura started at left guard in Thursday’s preseason win over Miami.

The third preseason game against Buffalo next Saturday will offer more clarity, but Harbaugh was content to declare a center competition between Zuttah and Jensen for now.

“They are both in play. We will do whatever is best for the Ravens,” Harbaugh said. “The best players play, and the best players are the guys who play the best. That is how we do it — always have, always will. We will see how it plays out. I love competition, and I’m sure that all of those guys in there want to start.

“They have to earn it, so that is what they will try to do.”

Listed to be 19 pounds heavier than Zuttah, Jensen better fits the profile of what the Ravens wanted at the position with senior offensive assistant Greg Roman implementing a more downhill and physical brand of run-blocking schemes. Zuttah was originally acquired by the Ravens in 2014 when former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was bringing his stretch-zone blocking scheme to Baltimore.

There’s also something to be said about Jensen’s durability and performance at center this summer, which has been steady despite a carousel of players at every other position on the line.

“Even when he has had [physical issues], he has fought through them and gone out and practiced,” Harbaugh said. “He has played well in the games. He played better in this [past] game than the first game. I thought he played well in this game. He’s a motivated guy. We will see what happens.”

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Flacco not expected to return to Ravens practice this week

Posted on 18 August 2017 by Luke Jones

After another uneven performance by backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and the starting offense in a 31-7 preseason win over Miami, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Joe Flacco isn’t expected to return to practice this week.

The 10th-year quarterback has been sidelined with a back injury since the start of training camp and will not play in the preseason, but the team said in a release last week that “the plan” is for Flacco to be ready for the Sept. 10 opener in Cincinnati. He will now have no more than two weeks of practice time to get ready for Week 1.

“I don’t think that time frame is this week yet,” Harbaugh told reporters after Thursday’s game. “So, we’ll kind of stick with the plan on that. I think it’s a straightforward date that the doctors and the back specialists have given us, so we’re going to stick with that.”

The original hope was that Flacco would only miss a week of practice with a back issue he revealed to team officials upon reporting for the start of camp on July 26. The organization said from the start that caution would be exercised with a 32-year-old quarterback who has missed just six games in his first nine seasons and has rarely ever sat out practices in his career.

Mallett improved somewhat from the first preseason game by completing 13 of 22 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown to reserve tight end Larry Donnell, but he was also intercepted twice and again struggled to push the ball down the field with confidence. His struggles this summer have led many to continue clamoring for Baltimore to sign polarizing quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The Ravens were also missing their two best offensive linemen against the Dolphins on Thursday as six-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and 2016 first-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley sat out, leaving Mallett to be protected by a starting line consisting of four former undrafted free agents.

“I thought he did good. He got out of trouble a few times. He made a few throws,” Harbaugh said. “I think we just keep working to build off that. He was under pressure quite a bit early on, and I thought he handled it well and didn’t make mistakes. That’s really important. He played good, solid football.

“We’re not totally together upfront right now, and I think he’s doing OK given the circumstances.”

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Ravens-Dolphins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 16 August 2017 by Luke Jones

At a time when many teams are in fine-tuning mode, the Ravens offense remains in flux entering the second preseason game against Miami on Thursday night.

As if the extended absence of quarterback Joe Flacco weren’t concerning enough, injuries have ravaged an offensive line that entered training camp already facing significant questions. Three interior linemen — Alex Lewis, John Urschel, and rookie Nico Siragusa — have been lost for the season since the start of training camp, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley is currently sidelined with an undisclosed ailment.

The injuries have forced Baltimore to shuffle the group on nearly a daily basis, making it difficult to assess a running game that has been revamped by senior offensive assistant Greg Roman or the pass protection that will need to be even better for a quarterback who will be returning from a back injury.

“We are just going to have to build everything around it, but you do benefit from the fact that guys are working different positions,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “There is an unintended benefit. That would be something you are trying to get guys to do. We have been forced to get guys to [work at other positions] probably more than we would like. We will make it work, and in the end, it will be for good.”

Against the Dolphins, the offense will hope to approach the high level of success enjoyed by the Ravens defense in the preseason opener. The revamped unit held Washington to 47 total yards and no points in the first half of the 23-3 victory last week. Harbaugh confirmed that 2017 first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey will make his preseason debut against the Dolphins, adding even more intrigue to the defense.

Though the Ravens offense realistically needs to be graded on a curve with backup Ryan Mallett under center and the offensive line less than 100 percent, Harbaugh made it clear that he wants to see improvement from the 3.3 yards per play gained against the Redskins in the first half.

“It is an opportunity for young guys to go in there and play well,” Harbaugh said. “We want to be as precise as we can be with our passing game, and we want our backs to run hard.”

Thursday marks the first ever meeting between these AFC teams in the preseason, but the all-time regular-season series is tied at 6-6. Baltimore won in 38-6 blowout fashion over Miami last December and has prevailed in five of the last six clashes in the regular season. They will meet again in a Thursday night game at M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 26.

The Ravens own a 25-12 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’s game.

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 veterans 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: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), WR Kenny Bell (hamstring), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), LB Lamar Louis (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Austin Howard (shoulder), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), CB Sheldon Price (shoulder), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee)

Five players to watch Thursday night

OL James Hurst

After entering camp as the starting right tackle and moving to left guard in place of Lewis, Hurst is expected to start at left tackle with Stanley sidelined. Despite his immense struggles there in the past, he needs to show improvement protecting the blind side since Lewis was also the backup left tackle. The Ravens love Hurst’s work ethic and believe he’s improved, so the Miami front will be an important test.

LB Kamalei Correa

Lost in the terrific defensive performance last week was the quiet play of Correa, who struggled to get off blocks and made one tackle in 17 defensive snaps. He looks the part in practice, but that needs to translate to games to ease concerns about the 2016 second-round pick replacing Zach Orr. The Ravens are poised to play more dime this year, which should help spare Correa from being exposed in coverage.

TE Maxx Williams

It’s been a quiet camp for the 2015 second-round pick, who is coming off a knee cartilage surgery that’s clouded expectations. Williams has worked hard to push his way through practices on a daily basis, but he hasn’t moved well and has struggled to make plays. You want to give him more time and the benefit of the doubt coming back from such a procedure, but his 21 plays last week weren’t encouraging.

CB Jaylen Hill

Long-term injuries to Tavon Young and Maurice Canady have opened the door for Hill, who has looked the part as a nickel corner with a good chance to make the roster as a rookie free agent. He’s shown good ball skills and reminds you a bit of Young as a 5-foot-10, 178-pound corner who plays bigger than his slight stature. Lardarius Webb appears likely to play the nickel spot, but Hill is definitely in the mix.

FB Ricky Ortiz

The reviews for Lorenzo Taliaferro at fullback have been underwhelming while Ortiz quietly received more than twice as many offensive snaps in the opener. The Ravens may not have a desperate need for a traditional fullback with the way Roman often motions a tight end into that position, but the Oregon State product will try to prove himself before outside options are potentially considered.

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Perriman remains on mend from “long-term” hamstring injury

Posted on 15 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens aren’t yet ruling out wide receiver Breshad Perriman for the rest of the preseason, but his return to practice isn’t considered imminent.

Two weeks after leaving the field with a hamstring injury, the 2015 first-round pick still isn’t practicing and has only been seen catching passes from a stationary position when in view of the media. Head coach John Harbaugh stopped short of saying Perriman wouldn’t make it back for any preseason games, but he acknowledged how unpredictable a serious hamstring injury can be.

“Nothing’s changed with Breshad,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a long-term hamstring guy in terms of from when he did it. It’s a pretty good hamstring [injury] he had. He’s making progress. Everything is on schedule, and they’re happy with the way he’s progressing. That’s what I know.”

This marks the third straight year in which the 23-year-old has missed most of training camp, a frustrating development for a speedy 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver who’s flashed potential when healthy. Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a right knee injury and was sidelined for most of last year’s camp with an injury to his left knee before returning to play in the preseason finale and all 16 regular-season games, catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns.

Perriman isn’t the only recent first-round pick to be dealing with an injury as second-year left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed his third consecutive practice on Tuesday, making it unlikely that he’ll play in Thursday’s preseason game in Miami. Harbaugh wouldn’t specify what Stanley is dealing with, but his short-term status sounded more positive than Perriman’s.

“No season-ending thing or anything like that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s something he’s working through. There are two or three guys like that that are working through some things. I’d like to get them back sooner rather than later, but we don’t want to push them too much and [we need to] just let them heal up a little bit. I’d say it’s ‘camp stuff’ right now.

“I haven’t gotten anything definitive on Ronnie from the trainers, so when we do, we’ll let you know as far as when he’s coming back.”

Fourth-year lineman James Hurst was once again working as the first-team left tackle in Stanley’s absence.

Harbaugh confirmed that first-round rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey will make his preseason debut on Thursday after practicing for the fourth straight day.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), and inside linebacker Lamar Louis (undisclosed) all remained absent from Tuesday’s workout.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Jimmy Smith were also missing from practice, but the Ravens might have elected to keep both veterans off a wet field as heavy rain moved through Owings Mills. Suggs and Smith both practiced without incident on Monday.

Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo (knee) and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (undisclosed) returned to practice Tuesday after sitting out the previous day.

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Sizing up the 2017 Ravens roster before the second preseason game

Posted on 13 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the preseason opener against Washington in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to examine the Ravens’ 53-man roster for the first time since the end of mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

My current look at the roster suggests 40 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 21 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are created equal, however, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying more talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of maintaining a reasonable number of players at every position, trying to boldly designate a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers or safeties isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of the roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams contributions in addition to what they bring to their respective positions.

Unlike the past few years, teams are no longer required to trim their 90-man roster to 75 prior to the final preseason game. The Ravens must determine their initial 53-man roster by 4 p.m. on Sept. 2, but immediate changes often come in the days leading up to the season opener on Sept. 10.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are part of the projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 13.

QUARTERBACKS (4)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Dustin Vaughan, Josh Woodrum
Skinny: Depending on Flacco’s health, the Ravens could carry three quarterbacks into a season for the first time since 2009, but they would need to upgrade from Vaughan or Woodrum to justify doing so.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (8)
LOCK: Terrance West, Danny Woodhead
BUBBLE: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen, Bobby Rainey
LONG SHOT: Ricky Ortiz, Taquan Mizzell
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
Skinny: Finding an upgrade at fullback or another viable running back is certainly a possibility, but Taliaferro provides game-day versatility at either position and Allen has looked better this summer.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore
BUBBLE: Quincy Adeboyejo, Michael Campanaro, Keenan Reynolds, Chris Matthews
LONG SHOT: Griff Whalen, Kenny Bell, C.J. Board
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
Skinny: How quickly Perriman recovers from a hamstring injury and Campanaro’s inability to stay healthy are variables that could alter the outlook at this position between now and early September.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson
BUBBLE: Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell
LONG SHOT: Ryan Malleck
Skinny: Williams hasn’t moved well and could conceivably wind up on IR if his knee doesn’t hold up, which could open the door for Mayle and even a post-Week 1 addition like Donnell or another veteran.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Matt Skura, Jermaine Eluemunor
BUBBLE:  De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot
LONG SHOT: Jarell Broxton, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir, Derrick Nelson
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
Skinny: This group could really use another veteran upgrade or two between now and the start of the season after losing three key interior linemen since the start of training camp.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Bronson Kaufusi
BUBBLE: Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
LONG SHOT: None
Skinny: The defensive line is the deepest positional group on either side of the ball, making it a distinct possibility that Newsome attempts to trade from this strength to reinforce another position of need.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (8)
LOCK: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Albert McClellan, Patrick Onwuasor
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Bam Bradley, Donald Payne, Lamar Louis
Skinny: There doesn’t appear to be much drama with this group from a roster standpoint, but don’t sleep on the undersized Onwuasor to push Correa for playing time, especially in the nickel package.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Tim Williams
BUBBLE: Za’Darius Smith
LONG SHOT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Given the newfound youth at this position and McClellan’s ability to play both outside spots, Smith could be the odd man out or even a candidate to be traded for depth at another position.

CORNERBACKS (11)
LOCK: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey
BUBBLE: Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Brandon Boykin, Robertson Daniel
LONG SHOT: Trevin Wade, Reggie Porter
INJURED RESERVE: Tavon Young, Maurice Canady (designated to return candidate)
Skinny: The long-term injuries to Young and Canady have put Hill in good roster position, but a vested veteran like Boykin could still be signed after Week 1 when his full 2017 salary isn’t guaranteed.

SAFETIES (6)
LOCK: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Chuck Clark
LONG SHOT: Otha Foster
Skinny: Clark has been a mainstay on special teams and feels like a solid bet to stick around while Webb and Levine provide much-needed versatility by being able to play the nickel and dime spots.

SPECIALISTS (4)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Kenny Allen
Skinny: There’s nothing to ponder here.

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Ravens offensive line shuffle continues during Sunday’s practice

Posted on 13 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continue to shuffle their offensive line as they count down to their second preseason game at Miami later this week.

Two days after the organization announced second-year left guard Alex Lewis would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley was absent from practice. It’s unclear why Stanley wasn’t practicing after working without any visible issue Saturday morning, but recently-converted left guard James Hurst moved out to left tackle during the workout.

With designs of improving the running game after below-average production the last two seasons, the Ravens have lost three key interior linemen — Lewis, injured fourth-round rookie Nico Siragusa, and the retired John Urschel — since the start of training camp. During Sunday’s practice, Hurst, Matt Skura, Ryan Jensen, Marshal Yanda, and Austin Howard lined up from left to right as the first-team offensive line.

Stanley wasn’t the only notable new absence on Sunday as veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and rookie outside linebacker Tyus Bowser were also missing. Head coach John Harbaugh did not speak to reporters after practice to potentially provide any clarity on their status.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receivers Breshad Perriman (hamstring) and Kenny Bell (hamstring), offensive tackle Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee), and inside linebacker Lamar Louis were also absent from Sunday’s practice.

Rookie offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor left the field in the first half of Sunday’s session and didn’t return, adding even more concern to a decimated offensive line. Safety Eric Weddle also exited practice in the final 20 minutes, but it did not appear to be a serious issue.

Rookie wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo appeared to tweak his knee while making a sliding catch during a 7-on-7 passing drill, but he remained on the field for the duration of practice.

The highlight of the day occurred during 1-on-1 battles between the offensive line group and front-7 personnel with the former surprisingly getting the better of Baltimore’s younger defensive linemen and linebackers. The period concluded with an intense battle between Jensen and outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith. The center was flagged as he threw Smith to the ground, which touched off a pileup of multiple players. Cooler heads quickly prevailed as the fight turned more playful than nasty in nature and nose tackle Michael Pierce provided the comic relief by throwing a penalty flag up in the air.

During a red-zone session, veteran cornerback Brandon Carr picked off a Ryan Mallett pass intended for tight end Nick Boyle, a turnover that likely would have resulted in a touchdown going the other way.

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