Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Trade deadline passes without any action from Ravens

Posted on 01 November 2016 by Luke Jones

The NFL trade deadline passed without the Ravens — or any other team — making a deal of significance on Tuesday.

After Monday’s surprising trade of New England linebacker Jamie Collins to Cleveland, the final hours leading up to the 4 p.m. deadline were unsurprisingly quiet. With just under $3 million in salary cap room, Baltimore wasn’t in a great position to make a significant move.

Former Raven Torrey Smith was rumored to be on the trading block in recent days, but the San Francisco wide receiver and University of Maryland product is staying put with the 49ers, who are off to a 1-6 start.

All attention now moves to the practice field with the Ravens welcoming Pittsburgh to town for a critical AFC North tilt on Sunday. Baltimore hopes to welcome several injured players back to game action this week, a list including linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ronnie Stanley (foot).

The first injury report of the week will be released on Wednesday.

The big story for the Steelers is the status of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 17. The 34-year-old practiced on a limited basis on Monday and did some light on-field work during Pittsburgh’s bye week.

“I thought it was generally positive,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. “We hadn’t spent a lot of time analyzing it or talking about it at this juncture. Really, it’s been giving him the work and him taking the work. And he’s done a really good job with it.”

Should Roethlisberger not play, backup Landry Jones would make his second straight start. Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the Ravens would prepare this week as though the starter would play and added that the Steelers offensive system doesn’t change dramatically with Jones under center anyway.

On Tuesday, the Ravens released running back Stephen Houston from their practice squad. With Lorenzo Taliaferro being activated in Week 7, Baltimore has four running backs on its 53-man roster, diminishing the need to keep Houston in the organization.

After placing star running back Jamaal Charles on injured reserve, Kansas City worked out former Ravens running back Trent Richardson on Tuesday, according to ESPN. The former first-round pick of the Browns was released by Baltimore early in training camp after struggling to stay healthy this spring and undergoing knee surgery.

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Fresh off their bye, Ravens have no choice but to get well quickly

Posted on 31 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to work Monday aiming to start anew.

Using a much-needed bye week to get their bodies and minds right after a winless October, they won’t have long to wait to set the tone for the second half of the season. Playing two games in a five-day period is always a challenge, but those contests are against familiar AFC North foes — a de facto first-place Pittsburgh team that could be without Ben Roethlisberger followed by winless Cleveland — both at M&T Bank Stadium.

It certainly could be worse from a scheduling standpoint with the Ravens able to get a head start on the game plans for both opponents during the bye.

Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged the good timing of the condensed stretch, but the urgency is clear if the Ravens want to make something out of the remainder of the 2016 season.

“I want to knock some of this disappointment off,” said Harbaugh as Baltimore still carries a four-game losing streak. “This is something you carry around with you. It’s not what you want. It is not the goal. The goal is to win these games and have the kind of record that you think reflects how hard you have worked.”

Despite falling to 3-4 after a 3-0 start in September, the Ravens and their fans have cited the wide-open nature of the division with the Steelers sporting the only winning record as reason for optimism. A win on Sunday propels Baltimore into a first-place tie with a chance to then move back over .500 against the woeful Browns just four nights later.

It gets tougher after that for the Ravens, however, while the schedule softens for both the Steelers and second-place Cincinnati.

Baltimore’s remaining nine opponents sport a .522 winning percentage with the four road foes — Dallas, New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati — owning a combined .683 mark. The challenging second-half schedule was why so many opined that the Ravens needed to win at least five of their first seven games, but that potential margin for error is long gone.

Meanwhile, the Steelers’ remaining schedule sports a winning percentage of just .396 with their five road opponents a combined 13-25-1. After a Nov. 13 meeting with the NFC East-leading Cowboys at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh has just one more game on its schedule against a team currently above .500.

If the Steelers can tread water until Roethlisberger returns to good health — a big if with three of their next four games on the road — they are the consensus favorite to win the division, making Sunday’s game even more crucial for the Ravens.

The Bengals have stumbled out of the gate to a 3-4-1 start, but their eight remaining opponents have combined for a .458 winning percentage and their four road opponents are just 12-18. Cincinnati hasn’t looked nearly as formidable as it did a year ago, but each of its four losses has come against a first-place team.

Winning the division is always the goal, but that’s especially true in a year in which the AFC West currently holds three teams with just two losses each, making that division the mid-season favorite to claim the two wild-card spots. Of course, there’s plenty of football to be played across the league, but counting on enough mediocrity elsewhere to sneak in as a 9-7 wild card could be a particularly tricky recipe this season.

That’s why the Ravens must win the next two games to not only eliminate the foul taste of October from their palates but to begin stacking enough wins ahead of a brutal final month that features road games against New England, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. The last two road defeats to the New York Giants and New York Jets were painful enough, but Harbaugh made it clear on Monday how critical the next two contests in the Ravens’ home building are.

“We need to win these games,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t care where they are being played. We needed to win the two on the road the last two weeks; we didn’t. We need to win these at home.”

The remainder of the season depends on it.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts entering Week 8 bye

Posted on 27 October 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens having dropped four straight games going into a much-needed bye week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It’s admirable that Ozzie Newsome stays out of the spotlight when the Ravens are thriving, but is it fair that John Harbaugh faces all of the heat from media when there are so many questions about this roster? As it stands, we won’t hear from the general manager until January.

2. The comparison made between Timmy Jernigan’s fumble with C.J. Mosley’s in the Washington game is off-base. Mosley was inches away from scoring, whereas a defensive lineman was trying to imitate Ed Reed on his own goal line. They were both costly mistakes, but Jernigan’s was worse.

3. There was excitement about the return of Kenneth Dixon, but he’s received just nine touches for 16 yards in his first three games. You hope the bye allows his knee to get stronger, because he hasn’t shown the explosiveness he had in the preseason and the Ravens need that spark.

4. Count me in as wanting to see both Terrell Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger return for the Ravens’ critical Week 9 meeting with Pittsburgh. There aren’t many players left from the prime of the bitter AFC North rivalry that isn’t what it used to be.

5. Few things have gone well offensively, but Mike Wallace has been everything the Ravens could have reasonably hoped for. His 490 receiving yards lead the team, and he’s served as a productive deep threat. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, but he’s been more dependable than any other Baltimore wideout.

6. Harbaugh said in June that Elvis Dumervil underwent a “preventative procedure” to the foot area in the offseason. The pass rusher has been vague about specifics, but it would be interesting to know exactly what he’s been dealing with and how much the coach may have undersold the surgery.

7. I’m glad to see Breshad Perriman healthy enough to play, but he’s done little to quell pre-draft concerns about his route-running ability and inconsistent hands. He’s essentially still a rookie just seven games into his career, but catching just 41 percent of his 34 targets isn’t nearly good enough.

8. They’ve both taken their lumps in recent games, but Tavon Young and Alex Lewis have done a commendable job living up to the hype surrounding the fourth-round haul in this year’s draft. Despite both being forced to play out of position, they look like legitimate NFL players.

9. It isn’t a good look for offensive line coach Juan Castillo that his group has been a substantial problem in three of his four seasons with Baltimore. The lone exception was 2014 when Gary Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator and implemented his effective zone-blocking scheme.

10. The Ravens were excited to move Lardarius Webb to safety, but he’s appeared slow to react and hasn’t taken good angles as a tackler. The decision to carry his $9.5 million cap figure — second highest on the team — looks no less questionable now than it did in February.

11. It was a moot point in Week 7 since the offense never reached the red zone, but I’d like to see Crockett Gillmore and Darren Waller more involved in that area of the field. The Ravens need to use more size and physicality inside the 20.

12. I’d be fascinated to know what Steve Bisciotti is thinking as the Ravens take the weekend off. Does he see more failure from the coaching staff or the effects of an undermanned roster as the primary reason for Baltimore’s struggles?

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Truth about Flacco lies somewhere in between in 2016

Posted on 27 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s complicated with Joe Flacco.

Quarterbacks regularly receive too much credit when teams win and too much blame after losses. Needless to say, the Ravens experienced too much of the latter in a winless October in which offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was fired and replaced by Marty Mornhinweg. An offense with high hopes entering the season currently ranks 24th in the NFL in yards per game and tied for 25th in points per game entering a much-needed bye week.

The numbers have been even uglier for Flacco, who currently ranks 30th among 32 qualified quarterbacks in yards per attempt, 29th with a 75.4 passer rating, and 21st among qualified quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. His career-worst 5.96 yards per attempt and career-high 44 passing attempts per contest reflect a passing game high in volume and short on results. The most concerning aspect of his performance has been how poorly he’s fared late in games, posting a 63.0 passer rating and throwing five interceptions in the second half of contests compared to a more respectable 86.0 rating with one pick in the first half of games.

Some have tried to place all blame on Flacco while barely acknowledging the many issues on the offensive line, a mostly-down running game, and the inconsistent play at receiver, but the ninth-year quarterback hasn’t been an answer for the struggling Ravens, either. That’s a major problem when you’re the team’s highest-paid player.

“I’m obviously not playing good enough,” Flacco said. “We’re not a good offense, and it starts with the quarterback. I’ve got to be better. We’ve got to be more precise, and that starts with me. Just [being] more consistent overall. They’re the issues — just being precise and consistency.”

You can’t expect everything to be perfect around Flacco, but much has worked against him this season and he’s wilted too much under those conditions. He’s played behind five different starting offensive line combinations over the last five games — the last four being losses. It’s tough to trust your pass protection when you don’t even know who will be lining up in a given week.

The commitment and effectiveness of the running game have been called into question over and over. Those problems were major factors in Trestman’s dismissal, but the Ravens gained an embarrassing 11 yards on 11 carries in Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets. You just can’t be that one-dimensional and expect to beat anyone consistently, especially when playing on the road.

Even with the presence of vertical threats Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, it’s clear that Flacco still depends heavily on the 37-year-old Steve Smith, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Without him, the Ravens lack a dependable receiver to run precise routes in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field as others have struggled to get open or catch the ball consistently.

No, Flacco’s play hasn’t been good enough this season, but the coaching staff and his teammates haven’t provided many reasons for him to play well.

“I’m a Joe Flacco guy. I believe in Joe,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Joe is one of the most important keys for us, if not the most important key. Certainly, on offense, he’s the key to the whole thing. Joe Flacco is a great football player. Joe Flacco is the key to our success. We need to all do everything in our power [to ensure] all of the things are falling in place for him. He can play. He can throw it. He can make decisions. He can score touchdowns for us. He can do all of the things we need to do. We need to make sure that we give him a chance to do that.

“Joe will take care of what he needs to do. I’m not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. That’s something that we all go to work on. Joe works on it harder than anybody, cares about it more than anybody. We need to protect him. We need to run routes. We need to create confidence in our passing game. We need to run the ball well. We need to do the things we need to do to make the offense work, and Joe will make the offense work.”

The Ravens can only view the bye as a chance to reboot physically and start fresh as an offense. No matter how ugly the eyeball test has looked throughout the season, Harbaugh’s team remains in solid position in the AFC North with just a one-game deficit behind first-place Pittsburgh.

The time off will allow Flacco to rest a sore right shoulder and Smith to work his way back from an ankle sprain. In the meantime, Mornhinweg will have a chance to briefly catch his breath after taking over the coordinator job less than three weeks ago and can search for ways to jump-start a stagnant offense.

The biggest key for a turnaround will be the health of the offensive line, however, with rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Marshal Yanda both targeting a Week 9 return. Stanley was Baltimore’s earliest first-round pick in 16 years and had been progressing nicely until a foot injury sidelined him for the last four games. Of course, Yanda is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, but the linchpin of the offensive line returned to practice this week.

Straightening out the offensive line would go a long way in trying to figure everything else out.

“Building a good team always starts up front, and it starts with those guys,” Flacco said. “We are going to try to overcome anything we can, but those guys are a huge part of our success. Having everybody be healthy goes into that. Obviously, everybody deals with little things here and there, and each team has their own issues with that. It will definitely be a big part of it.”

The biggest problem for Flacco at this point might be his confidence as the unrest along the offensive line has wreaked physical and mental havoc on his play in the pocket. This was on full display against the Jets as the veteran quarterback displayed sloppy footwork and reacted to phantom pressure that wasn’t even there on multiple occasions.

According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco was pressured 11 times by the Jets, which is far from great but isn’t so outrageous when dropping back to pass 46 times in a game. When he wasn’t pressured in Week 7, he still managed only 6.6 yards per attempt and a 72.6 rating.

It’s a two-way street with a quarterback trusting his offensive line and the unit needing to give him enough reason to have that confidence. After a long offseason of rehabbing his left knee and a frustrating start to the season, perhaps a few days off is exactly what Flacco needs to clear his head.

“Right now, we just have one guy here and there doing something that is a little bit off — myself [included] – and it halts a whole drive,” Flacco said. “When that happens throughout the course of the game and you have a good amount of those, it leads to what we have been dealing with, which is not putting any points on the board and not giving ourselves really any opportunities to put any points on the board.”

With better health and plenty of fine-tuning, the Ravens hope to create more scoring opportunities in the second half of the season.

And they’ll need their franchise quarterback to be ready to take advantage of them if there’s any hope of righting a season moving in the wrong direction.

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Good health alone won’t save season for struggling Ravens

Posted on 24 October 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 22 October 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

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

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

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

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

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

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Flacco injury creates unsettling feeling for already-reeling Ravens

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nine Ravens players absent from practice on Wednesday

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

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

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

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Ravens not optimistic about Suggs, Yanda playing against Jets

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If the Ravens are to snap their three-game losing streak, they’ll likely have to do it without two of their three longest-tenured players in linebacker Terrell Suggs and right guard Marshal Yanda.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed reports that Suggs suffered a left biceps tear in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants. As he did late in the 2012 season when he tore his right biceps, the 34-year-old linebacker will try to continue playing. Suggs missed only one game after that injury before returning to action and finishing the remainder of that season that culminated with a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

“He’s played with that injury before, so he has a chance to come back soon,” said Harbaugh, who added that he was unaware if surgery was still a possibility for Suggs. “How soon remains to be determined. I’m not going to say anything this week yet. I think this week would be tough for him, but I don’t put anything out of Terrell Suggs’ possible ability to overcome. We’ll see how that goes.”

Suggs leads Baltimore with five sacks and is the only edge rusher who’s put any semblance of pressure on quarterbacks, but even the six-time Pro Bowl selection hasn’t been nearly as disruptive in the pocket as he has been in the past.

After missing his first game since the end of the 2012 regular season on Sunday, Yanda will be a “stretch” to play against the New York Jets in Week 7, according to Harbaugh. The five-time Pro Bowl selection is dealing with a shoulder injury that’s likely to sideline him until after the bye week.

Ryan Jensen started at right guard in Yanda’s place against the Giants on Sunday.

Harbaugh offered no further specifics on the Ravens’ other injured players, a lengthy list that includes wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), return specialist Devin Hester (thigh), and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (concussion) and Jerraud Powers (groin). Of those names, Dumervil could be the biggest return after being shut down yet again in his return from offseason foot surgery.

With the bye arriving next week, the Ravens could be tempted to take a conservative approach with any injured player who would benefit a great deal with an additional week of rest. Of course, Baltimore desperately wants to avoid falling to 3-4 with a challenging second-half schedule still to come.

Harbaugh also confirmed that running back Lorenzo Taliaferro will return to practice this week. The 2014 fourth-round pick is on the reserve physically unable to perform list and will begin a 21-day window in which the Ravens will be able to evaluate his progress coming back from foot surgery last year. At the end of the practice window, the organization would be forced to activate him, waive him, or leave him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

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Ravens just can’t seem to escape malaise of mediocrity

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

The Ravens are what their record says they are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From top to bottom, it just feels too mediocre.

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