Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"

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Dumervil shut down again with foot not “where it needs to be”

Posted on 14 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After two quiet games in his return from offseason foot surgery, Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil won’t play against the New York Giants on Sunday.

The 32-year-old resurfaced on the injury report this week and missed all three practices before officially being ruled out on Friday afternoon. Head coach John Harbaugh said he was not aware of any discussion of Dumervil’s season being in jeopardy, but there is obvious frustration with his lack of progress after he was originally expected to be ready for the start of the 2016 season.

Given the timing of this latest shutdown, Dumervil would appear unlikely to return until after the Week 8 bye.

“We’re hoping to get him back sooner rather than later,” Harbaugh said. “When that will be? I’m hoping sooner. We’ll see, but it’s a strength issue in his foot and his ankle. It’s got to be right. He went out there two weeks ago [and] last week, and that explosiveness really wasn’t there and he wasn’t really able to get into a tackle and really push like he needs to. We reexamined it and found that the strength probably isn’t quite where it needs to be, and we just need to get it there.”

Dumervil originally made it to the practice field on Aug. 22 before suffering a setback with his surgically-repaired foot just a few days later, forcing him out of the entire preseason as well as the first three games of the 2016 campaign. In 45 total snaps against Oakland and Washington the last two weeks, Dumervil failed to record a tackle and registered just one quarterback hit.

With the five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker once again ailing, the Ravens will need someone from the young group of Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, and Kamalei Correa to step up to offer pass-rush ability opposite 14th-year veteran Terrell Suggs off the edge. Suggs leads Baltimore with four sacks over the first five games.

“We want to get pressure with whoever is out there playing,” Harbaugh said. “Those guys are big guys. They are important to us. They are big powerful guys [and] young. They will get pressure, there is no question.”

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Energized Ravens offense knows pressure is on to produce

Posted on 12 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens players reacted differently to the firing of Marc Trestman than they did to Cam Cameron’s removal four years ago.

Cameron’s firing was shocking to players with just three weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season. Despite the annual outside complaints and speculation about his job status, Joe Flacco and the Ravens had found much success with Cameron guiding the offense for nearly five full years. What happened in the seven weeks that followed would make history, but the change served as a jarring wake-up call for the entire offense in the midst of what had already been a 9-4 season to that point.

With Trestman, however, the Ravens had won just eight of 21 games, never finding any meaningful stretch of prosperity in his brief tenure. Following Sunday’s 16-10 loss to Washington, the frustration in the locker room was apparent as the tone had seemingly shifted from “if” to “when” in terms of a potential firing.

Two days after John Harbaugh officially replaced Trestman with quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, players expressed kind words about their former coordinator as a person and as a coach, but their opinion of the change was crystal clear. And nobody sounded surprised.

“It was difficult to see him go, but I think it was something that this offense needed,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, who experienced the Cameron firing and isn’t known for being overly critical. “We were in kind of a bad place. It didn’t seem like we were getting out of it. Hopefully, this will spark us. Marty is a great coach, and we have a lot of faith in him. He brings an energy and an excitement to our offense that we needed. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put it together and play much better going forward.”

“Energy” and “excitement” were the buzzwords uttered by multiple players about Mornhinweg during Wednesday’s media session. Trestman’s questionable play-calling was evident to even the casual observer, but it sounded as if his personality wasn’t inspiring an offense ranking 22nd in total yards and tied for 22nd in points per game entering Week 6.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken immediately smiled when asked about their first impressions of the promoted Mornhinweg, citing his energetic personality. But that feeling will be fleeting if improved results don’t accompany the change.

Players predictably cited improved commitment to the running and taking more shots down the field as the anticipated changes in a system that can only be tweaked and not overhauled in the middle of a season. How it will play out on game day remains to be seen.

“It is just up to him as a play-caller and getting into the rhythm of the game and feeling when you do those things,” said Flacco, who was much more guarded than his teammates in discussing the change on Wednesday. “Obviously, you aren’t just picking things off the call sheet and calling them. There is a rhythm to it, and there is a reason for it. That is the biggest thing.”

Even if players weren’t surprised by the decision, one only hopes they still took a long look in the mirror on Monday.

Trestman wasn’t committing costly penalties to blow up drives on a weekly basis.

He wasn’t failing to block for Flacco.

And the 60-year-old certainly wasn’t dropping passes in critical situations.

Identifying Trestman as the problem is fair, but only if the remaining group — Harbaugh, Mornhinweg, and the players — finds the solution and fast. The training wheels are off, and it’s time for the offense to pedal faster down the street or fall into the bushes.

If it’s the latter, maybe this group just isn’t as good as we thought it could be and it will be unfortunate that Trestman had to take the fall.

“I think we just need to do what we keep doing, but just turn it up a notch,” Wallace said. “We’re in every single game. It’s just a matter of making one play here, one play there. We just need to get over the top. That’s what the coaches are trying to do to get us there. You have to explore every single situation. Unfortunately, that means some people lose their jobs. I’ve been there before myself.

“That’s football. It’s the business we’re in. Everybody knows it when you sign up, so nobody’s hanging their head or anything like that. It’s unfortunate, but everybody knows.”

And the Ravens know it’s now on them with their biggest excuse officially out the door.

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Will Mornhinweg provide spark Ravens offense needs?

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Based on their own history, the Ravens should be optimistic about the decision to make a change at offensive coordinator on Monday.

Of course, that feeling is relative as John Harbaugh’s decision to fire Marc Trestman wasn’t made lightly with the offense ranking in the bottom 10 in multiple categories, but the ninth-year head coach only needs to look at his Super Bowl ring to see what impact Jim Caldwell made in replacing Cam Cameron late in the 2012 season. In 2006, head coach Brian Billick parted ways with Jim Fassel after an offense-challenged 4-2 start and took over the play-calling for the duration of what would become the best regular season in franchise history at 13-3.

What can the Ravens expect from Marty Mornhinweg after two straight home losses that have threatened to derail a promising start to the 2016 campaign?

Unlike with Caldwell four years ago, Mornhinweg brings extensive experience as a play-caller after serving as an offensive coordinator for San Francisco (1997-2000), Philadelphia (2004-2012), and the New York Jets (2013-2014) in his long NFL coaching career. He guided multiple top 10 offenses with the talent-laden 49ers and Eagles, but he fared about as poorly in New York as you’d predict knowing how Geno Smith ultimately turned out as an NFL quarterback.

As you’d anticipate with any in-season coaching move, the Ravens aren’t about to tear up their playbook.

“It’s experience in this system — basically, the West Coast [offense] terminology,” Harbaugh said. “He fits right in. I know there will be some things that he will tweak, but the basic system is not going to change. The way we adjust some routes maybe or the way we organize our protections or some of our play-action passes, that’s all of the stuff that Marty has to do the way he believes it should be done. But the basic system terminology [and] the way we operate remains the same.”

It was a similar story for Caldwell, who replaced the man who had overseen the Ravens offense for nearly five full seasons. The change wasn’t a magic potion, but Caldwell welcomed more input from players, used the middle of the field more effectively in the passing game, and had a better feel for the utilization of the no-huddle offense as Joe Flacco would respond to the change by playing the best football of his career in a historic playoff run.

The 2013 season showed that Caldwell wasn’t a miracle worker as personnel losses and a broken running game led to a disappointing 8-8 record for the defending Super Bowl champions, but he was able to provide that spark in 2012 for a talented group to find its way. Harbaugh can only hope that Mornhinweg will have a similar effect this time around.

The job will start with unleashing a running game that’s looked better over the last two weeks despite continuing to be underutilized by Trestman. With an offensive line currently battling injuries and a young running back in Terrance West averaging 5.0 yards per carry, there’s just no reason for Flacco to be throwing the ball 45 or 50 times per game unless the Ravens are behind by multiple scores.

“We are improving. That is the tug-of-war you always have in there,” said Harbaugh, citing a conversation he had with offensive line coach Juan Castillo about the ground attack on Monday. “We all have a lot of pride, and we want to find a way to keep improving it within that. Next week is a new week. It is getting better. I do like the way Terrance is running, and I like the way the other guys are running, too. I expect to see more of those guys, also. More carries for everybody would be good.”

Perhaps Harbaugh — the longtime special teams coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles before being hired in Baltimore — recalled the work Mornhinweg did for the Eagles in 2006 when head coach Andy Reid handed over the play-calling duties after a blowout loss to Indianapolis in Week 12. With Mornhinweg placing more emphasis on the running game, the Eagles — led by backup quarterback Jeff Garcia — won six games in a row to advance to the second round of the playoffs that season.

No matter how much frustration there might have been with Trestman, this change can’t be viewed as a magic fix as there are issues going beyond the play-calling.

The offensive line must get healthy and perform at a higher level than we’ve witnessed through the first five games.

Wide receivers other than the 37-year-old Steve Smith must show better hands and more consistency, and it will then be up to Mornhinweg to find the vertical passing game envisioned by many throughout the offseason and summer.

The trio of young running backs will need to take advantage of the increased number of carries expected to come their way.

And despite being lower on the list of concerns, Flacco must still play better than he has so far in 2016.

If players don’t take these challenges into their own hands, the promotion of Mornhinweg will only be a footnote in a season suddenly moving in the wrong direction.

“We just need to get better,” Harbaugh said. “I didn’t feel in my gut that — going the way we were going — it was going to change [and] it was going to be able to get better. Not that everybody wasn’t trying. Everybody was doing everything they could do. I just think we need different chemistry in there right now to get to where we need to go.

“Marc Trestman’s the guy that’s going to suffer the most at this time, but it’s all of our responsibility that this happened. It’s all of our responsibility to get it right.”

And it will be all of their responsibility if history is to repeat itself for the Ravens.

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Ravens fire Trestman, appoint Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator

Posted on 10 October 2016 by Luke Jones

With a struggling offense and having lost two straight home games, the Ravens have made a coaching change.

Head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman less than 24 hours after Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins in which the Ravens were shut out over the final 44 minutes of play. Quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg will take over as the offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.

“My obligations are to the team, the organization, and the fans to be the very best team we can be,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team on Monday morning. “Today we find ourselves one game out of the division and conference lead after experiencing two tough losses at home. We will work to be better in every aspect of our football team. Our expectations are high, and we look forward to fulfilling them.

“I appreciate and respect the efforts and contributions Marc has made to the team since his arrival. Marc is a good person and an excellent football coach.”

With the Ravens failing to convert a third down and running the ball just eight times after the first quarter of Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh had apparently seen enough from an offense that has lacked any identity or consistency despite a 3-2 start to the 2016 season. Baltimore is averaging just 18.8 points per game, ranking 23rd in the NFL.

Frustration had continued to mount over the running game as Terrance West averaged 8.6 yards per attempt on just 11 carries in Sunday’s loss despite the Ravens never falling behind by more than one possession. The Ravens currently lead the NFL in passing attempts while ranking last in yards per attempt and 22nd in passing yards per game.

Though remembered by most for his unsuccessful run as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, Mornhinweg owns extensive experience as an offensive coordinator, serving in that capacity with San Francisco, Philadelphia, and the New York Jets. He has worked with such quarterbacks as Hall of Famers Steve Young and Brett Favre and Pro Bowl selections Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia.

Mornhinweg will now become Baltimore’s fifth offensive coordinator since the start of the 2012 season.

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Ravens not good enough to overcome coaching errors

Posted on 09 October 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman deserved a pass last season.

With a lack of speed at the skill positions and a run of injuries that made the offense look like a preseason unit over the final two months, how could you fairly critique the assistant in his first season in Baltimore?

But the red flags were there. The running game lacked productivity or commitment — or both — and the passing attacked often lacked rhyme or reason. A year later, the same problems persist as the Ravens offense turned in an embarrassing performance in being blanked over the final 44 minutes of a 16-10 loss to Washington, who entered Sunday ranked 29th in the NFL in total defense and 26th in points allowed.

It looked so promising early with a nine-play, 75-yard opening drive that resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Crockett Gillmore. In the first quarter, the Ravens went 3-for-5 on third down, rushed 11 times for 74 yards, and accumulated 146 yards of offense.

If only the game had ended after Justin Tucker’s 31-yard field goal to give the Ravens a 10-6 lead to begin the second quarter.

Over the last three quarters, Baltimore went 0-for-10 on third down and ran the ball eight times, one of those a fourth-down scramble by Flacco on the final drive. Instead of continuing to try to gash the Redskins with the run, the Ravens appeared to go away from the ground game whenever they could as Flacco threw the ball 46 times for just 210 yards. The ninth-year quarterback has now thrown a whopping 98 times over the last two games for just 508 yards, an anemic 5.2 yards per attempt.

If the opponent is truly adjusting to take away the run, then the passing game is hopelessly broken to not be able to take advantage. There’s no excuse to fall apart after the 37-year-old Steve Smith exited the game late in the first quarter with a sprained ankle.

But as the passing game languished, Terrance West averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 11 rushes on Sunday.

Eleven.

He was responsible for the two longest plays of the game for Baltimore with runs of 35 and 27 yards while Flacco dropped back to throw 50 times and had nothing longer than a 15-yard completion on the day.

“We didn’t get first downs,” said head coach John Harbaugh when asked about the disappearance of the running game. “Eight rushes [after the first quarter] and how many three-and-outs? How many runs do you want? That’s the bottom line. You have to move the ball, you have to get first downs. We have to have more plays. How many plays did we have if you’re not going to count the two-minute drive? You just have to look at how many plays we had in those situations.

“I didn’t think we abandoned the run. I would’ve liked to have seen us score. Once we got the turnover down [in the red zone in the second quarter], we threw it and got nothing there. Maybe we could’ve run it there if I was going to look back.”

The weekly excuses for not running the ball are wearing thin, and the frustration was apparent in the post-game locker room. Trestman isn’t solely to blame as the offensive line is banged up, receivers are dropping too many passes and struggling to gain separation, and Flacco isn’t playing at his best. Players must execute and the opponent is also competing, but even the most even-keeled observer has to question whether the maligned coordinator is able to put this offense in the best position to succeed at this point.

Do changes need to be made?

“I’m not going to get into all that. We’re not playing well enough,” said Flacco, who added that it was “embarrassing” to play that way in front of a disenchanted home crowd. “We’re not making plays. Yeah, there’s probably only a couple plays, we’re only giving ourselves a couple of plays to be made, but when they’re there, we’re just not making them. We are running off the field way too much. Definitely, definitely not fun to be out there today after the first series.”

Of course, the offense wasn’t the only problem on Sunday.

The special teams continue to struggle as the Redskins scored their first touchdown on an 85-yard punt return by Jamison Crowder in the first quarter. A bad Sam Koch punt early in the third quarter set up Washington at midfield for its eventual second touchdown.

On defense, the secondary buckled too much in the third quarter and linebacker C.J. Mosley’s fumble through the end zone on what looked like a game-changing interception was a back-breaker, but too much pressure is being placed on a much-improved unit that allowed only 10 points on Sunday.

But it was another coaching gaffe in the second quarter that stood out in the six-point defeat.

After linebacker Zach Orr forced and recovered a fumble inside the red zone, the Ravens failed to pick up a first down on three plays and lined up to try a 35-yard field goal to push the lead to 13-6. However, the Ravens called for their kicker to throw a pass despite the windy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium. Unsurprisingly, the pass to Gillmore was underthrown and fell incomplete.

Tucker said after the game that they had practiced the trick play — which included him initially lining up as a left-footed kicker — over the last five years, but there had been no discussion on the sideline about the crosswind potentially impacting the ability to run the fake. He maintained that the wind was not a factor on his throw and suggested that Gillmore may have slipped on the play, but the failure was neither of those players’ fault.

How you call a play for a non-quarterback to throw the ball in less-than-ideal conditions is baffling. We don’t know how the game might have changed if the Ravens had successfully kicked there, but they would have only needed a field goal to tie the game on their final drive if the score had been 16-13.

“You can second-guess it, but I’m not second-guessing it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve stood up here for nine years and said we’re going to be aggressive. People are going to have to defend fakes, they’re going to have to defend us going for it on fourth down. That’s just the way we’re going to continue to play, because that’s what we believe in. We believe in giving our players a chance to make plays, and we’re going to keep doing it. We’re not apologizing for that.”

The head coach’s answer was predictable, but there’s really no defending the call.

Plenty went wrong in the loss and players must take their share of the responsibility, but the Ravens just aren’t good enough to overcome the type of coaching errors that were made on Sunday.

Harbaugh and Trestman needed to be better in what was a very winnable game.

Now, the Ravens are left to rebound from two straight home losses that have all but washed away the good vibes of a 3-0 start.

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Left tackle Stanley expected to miss second straight game for Ravens

Posted on 07 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are looking at potentially starting their third different left tackle in as many weeks.

Rookie Ronnie Stanley (foot) is listed as doubtful to play against Washington on Sunday after missing all practices for a second straight week. The first-round pick missed his first game against Oakland last week as the Ravens are trying to protect his long-term health for the duration of the season.

With starting left guard Alex Lewis recovered from a concussion and having practiced fully all week, the Ravens could tab him to play left tackle after third-year lineman James Hurst struggled mightily against the Raiders in Week 4. A 2016 fourth-round pick out of Nebraska, Lewis played left tackle in college and also practiced at the position extensively this summer, leading many to believe he could serve as the primary backup to Stanley.

He says he’s ready to slide outside if asked to do so.

“You’ve just got to know where your help is at tackle, especially [as a rookie],” Lewis said. “I expect a little help, but at the same time, you’ve got to understand that when they call you to be on an island, you’ve got to go back to your fundamentals. It doesn’t really matter what the guy across from you is doing. It’s sticking to fundamentals and doing your technique and getting your job done.”

Should Lewis play left tackle, the Ravens could turn to John Urschel to play left guard. Originally projected to be the starter at that position entering training camp, Urschel was sidelined with a shoulder injury for much of the preseason and into the start of the regular season. This is the first week that Urschel has not been listed on the injury report.

Ryan Jensen struggled in place of Lewis at left guard last week.

“We are comfortable with the guys that have played,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “Alex has his feet wet in terms of playing a couple games. We have seen him play outside; we are good with that. We have seen the guys who are playing inside play inside with John and so forth. We do have a comfort level with that.”

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) returned to the practice field on a limited basis Friday and is listed as questionable to play against the Redskins.

Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he is expected to make his NFL debut after practicing fully all week. It will be interesting to see how involved he is offensively with starter Terrance West coming off a career-high 113 rushing yards last week.

Cornerback Sheldon Price (thigh) is also questionable after practicing on a limited basis this week.

Meanwhile, Washington will be without starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland (ankle), rookie hybrid linebacker Su’a Cravens (concussion), and rookie first-round receiver Josh Doctson (Achilles tendon) as the three were officially ruled out for Week 5 on Friday.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Ron Torbert.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday calls for partly cloudy skies, temperatures reaching the mid-60s, no chance of precipitation, and winds up to 17 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), WR/RS Devin Hester (thigh)

WASHINGTON
OUT: CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle), S Su’a Cravens (concussion), WR Josh Doctson (achilles), CB Dashaun Phillips (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow), G Shawn Lauvao (ankle)

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Ravens place second-year tight end Williams on injured reserve

Posted on 07 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens entered training camp with extensive depth at tight end, a strength that has already been tested substantially.

After losing veteran Benjamin Watson to a torn Achilles tendon in August, the Ravens have now placed second-year tight end Maxx Williams on injured reserve. The 2015 second-round pick aggravated a lingering cartilage issue in his knee in the Week 4 loss to Oakland and will undergo season-ending surgery in the near future.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Williams initially damaged the knee in a game against San Francisco last October. He will meet with specialists to determine the specifics of the surgery to have him ready for the 2017 season.

“The way the knee is built just made it worse,” Harbaugh said. “We were hoping to get him through the season and then get something done at the end of the season, but it has just flared up too many times now for his well-being and his future. As he told me yesterday, ‘I’m 22 years old. I have a career in front of me. Let me take care of this right now.'”

With veteran Dennis Pitta and third-year tight end Crockett Gillmore ahead of him on the depth chart, Williams had yet to be targeted by quarterback Joe Flacco in four games after he set the rookie franchise record for receptions (32) and receiving yards (268) as a rookie in 2015. Williams joins defensive tackle Carl Davis as early 2015 draft picks on IR for Baltimore this season.

Harbaugh had indicated at the beginning of the week that Williams’ status for the remainder of the season could be in doubt, a reality that led to the Ravens promoting tight end Daniel Brown from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Wednesday. Darren Waller, a 2015 sixth-round pick, could also be activated after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The Ravens must make a decision on what to do with the open roster spot by 4 p.m. on Saturday to make that player eligible to play against Washington.

“I do think special teams will play into this decision pretty dramatically,” Harbaugh said. “We have guys on our practice squad that are doing a really good job that can help us. We’ll figure that out.”

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Ravens part ways with veteran running back Justin Forsett

Posted on 04 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens are parting ways with veteran running back Justin Forsett, and it’s for real this time.

With Forsett being deactivated for Sunday’s loss to Oakland and injured rookie Kenneth Dixon moving closer to a return, Baltimore is electing to go younger at the position. Terrance West ran for a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against the Raiders while second-year back Buck Allen served as his backup.

The 30-year-old Forsett confirmed the news via his official Twitter account after his release was first reported by The Sun. He told the team website that he spoke with general manager Ozzie Newsome about his desire to be released in order to catch on elsewhere.

Forsett rushed for just 98 yards on 31 carries through the first three games of the season. Despite a slow start for the running game as a whole, he appeared to lack the explosiveness and the ability to break tackles that he had shown in his surprising 2014 Pro Bowl season in which he rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not provide a clear answer Monday when asked whether Forsett would still have a place on the roster moving forward with Dixon nearing a return and West performing so well in Week 4.

“Of course,” Harbaugh said. “Justin Forsett is a highly-respected, highly-valued guy in my eyes and the eyes of all of us. It is a competitive world that we are in. It is a competitive league; it is a competitive sport. He knows that as well as anybody. It doesn’t diminish him in any way. It just enhances him, in my mind, in terms of how he handles it. We will just have to see. All those personnel things are all to be determined. You can’t say anything about where anything is going to go because you just don’t know. None of us have the ability to see in the future, so we will see how it plays out.”

Forsett’s departure comes just a month after the Ravens released him as a paper move to temporarily create roster flexibility when final cuts were made. After being cut on Sept. 3, he was re-signed two days later to the same terms that remained on the three-year, $9 million contract he inked in 2015.

His production dipped last year as he averaged just 4.2 yards per carry before his season was cut short due to a broken arm suffered in late November.

Originally signed to a one-year, $730,000 deal just weeks after Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his future wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator in 2014, Forsett proved to be a very important contributor both on the field and in the community as the organization endured one of the ugliest periods in its history. Not only serving as a key performer in the backfield, Forsett became one of the positive faces for a franchise that needed to rebuild its image after the Rice saga.

The Ravens are lucky he passed their way.

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Ravens offense lacking direction, confidence in early going

Posted on 03 October 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The final numbers looked good for the Ravens offense despite the 28-27 loss to Oakland on Sunday.

The 27 points, 412 total yards, 130 rushing yards, and 25 first downs were season highs, but they conceal the truth through the first quarter of a season that’s still off to a promising 3-1 start for Baltimore.

This Ravens offense is lacking direction and confidence in what it does.

The decision to deactivate running back Justin Forsett in favor of Terrance West and Buck Allen was the right one, but it was a difficult choice and one that was understandably deflating to a veteran. Head coach John Harbaugh’s explanation that the Ravens were looking for a “spark” was sound in theory.

“You’ve got to try to do something,” Harbaugh said. “You try to do all the things, and then sometimes you try to do something else, too. That’s what we tried to do this week.”

So, why then did West receive only five carries in the first half? His 21-yard run with 11 minutes to go in the second quarter was Baltimore’s longest of the season, but the third-year back carried the ball on the next play and didn’t touch it again until the third quarter.

Why did offensive coordinator Marc Trestman have quarterback Joe Flacco throw 29 times in the first two quarters behind a backup left side of the offensive line that was no match for Khalil Mack and the Oakland front? Why make the bold move to bench Forsett in favor of West and not even try to run the ball until the third quarter against a rush defense that entered Week 4 ranked 29th in the NFL?

The early strategy looked even sillier as West ran for 87 yards on 16 carries after intermission. The Ravens hope that success wasn’t an aberration against a poor run defense, but the improved commitment to the run must continue moving forward.

The passing game again relied on too many short throws and hesitated to stretch the field vertically with the likes of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Pass protection was unquestionably a major problem on Sunday with James Hurst at left tackle and Ryan Jensen at left guard, but Baltimore has been reluctant to throw the ball downfield for large stretches of its first four games. You can only use the two-deep safety excuse so much for not taking vertical shots, especially when you don’t attempt to establish the run early in the game to force the opposition to put a safety in the box.

Why not roll Flacco out a little more and move him away from pressure while allowing receivers to get open down the field?

Steve Smith had the standout performance with 111 receiving yards and a 52-yard touchdown, but Kyle Juszczyk was second with 56 receiving yards on Sunday. He’s a good player and certainly capable of contributing in the passing game out of the backfield, but a fullback shouldn’t be your second-leading receiver when you throw the ball 52 times in a game.

“We’re just not there,” said Flacco, who averaged only 5.7 yards per attempt on Sunday. “To come out and only put up six points in the first half and get off to that start, dig yourself a hole like that, and then you have to play a perfect game. Then you have to go out there and you have to score and you have to move the ball and you have to go, go, go, go, go. When you do that, you have to convert third downs and you have to play that perfect game. It just makes it very tough.”

The Ravens not only lacked direction with the offense in the first half, but they lacked confidence throughout the game.

Trestman’s play-calling is under scrutiny and penalties have stalled too many drives, but two second-half decisions by Harbaugh showed a lack of trust in the offense.

After Flacco scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 2:41 remaining in the third quarter to make it a 14-12 deficit, Harbaugh elected to go for a two-point conversion that was unsuccessful. The decision to chase points with more than 17 minutes to play was indicative of a coach unsure that his offense would put together another scoring drive.

A few minutes later, Harbaugh accepted an unnecessary roughness penalty on a third-and-1 play in which his defense stuffed Latavius Murray for a loss of five at the Baltimore 25. Instead of conceding a 43-yard field goal attempt to Sebastian Janikowski — one of the better kickers in NFL history — the Ravens coach elected to give Oakland a third-and-17 play from the 36.

“You try to back them up and make it a tougher kick from an angle perspective,” Harbaugh said. “I wanted to keep it as a field goal game. Looking back on it, it wasn’t the right decision. I didn’t really believe — I didn’t really have a sense — that that many points were going to be scored down the stretch. It didn’t seem like it was going to be played that way.”

There’s no excusing the defense allowing a 16-yard completion and committing an offside penalty on the next two plays to give the Raiders a first down and an eventual touchdown to make it a 21-12 game, but Harbaugh’s acceptance of the penalty was another example of lacking faith in his offense. He doubted the Ravens’ ability to overcome a five-point deficit if he’d just declined the penalty and Oakland had kicked the field goal with more than 13 minutes to go.

That’s a real problem.

The good news is that the Ravens are still 3-1. They were beaten by a quality opponent on Sunday and shouldn’t panic after suffering their first loss of the season.

But the offense is a concern as the same problems have persisted week after week. The healthy returns of left tackle Ronnie Stanley and left guard Alex Lewis will help stabilize the shoddy pass protection witnessed in Week 4, but the slow starts, the penalties, the running game, and the overall philosophy remain issues.

The Ravens offense needs clear direction and more confidence if it’s ever going to take off.

“Everything that we do right now is just probably a little bit tougher than it needs to be,” said Flacco, who threw four straight incompletions when the Ravens needed 10 more yards to get into Justin Tucker’s field-goal range in the final minute on Sunday. “We need to find some ways to get some easy ones. I think our run game got some chunks today for us. I think that got going a little bit and helped us out when it did get going. Hopefully, we can find some more of that.”

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Ravens list Stanley as doubtful to play against Oakland

Posted on 30 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens do not expect to have their starting left tackle for Sunday’s meeting with Pro Bowl pass rusher Khalil Mack and the Oakland Raiders.

Rookie Ronnie Stanley was listed as doubtful for the Week 4 contest after missing practices all week with a lingering foot injury. Prior to the release of the final injury report, head coach John Harbaugh did not express concern that Stanley’s injury was a long-term issue even though he also missed a day of practice with the ailment last week.

“I don’t see it that way from what I’ve been told,” Harbaugh said. “I still think he has a chance for Sunday. You’ll see the [injury] report coming out later, but we’re not going to rule him out.”

Assuming Stanley does not play, it will be interesting to see how the Ravens proceed at left tackle with rookie left guard Alex Lewis (concussion) only returning to practice on a limited basis on Friday. With Lewis playing left tackle at Nebraska and seeing extensive time at that position in the preseason, many have concluded that he would serve as the true backup to Stanley at left tackle. However, Lewis’ absence during most of the practice time this week could lead to third-year tackle James Hurst receiving the start.

Lewis, a 2016 fourth-round pick, was listed as questionable on the final injury report.

Veteran outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil will make his 2016 season debut after missing the first three games while continuing to work his way back from offseason foot surgery. He was officially deemed to be questionable, but even Harbaugh acknowledged that the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher would play against the Raiders after practicing fully all week.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how he does,” Harbaugh said. “He hasn’t played in a long time — no preseason. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come out there like gangbusters or maybe he’ll have to knock some rust of. We’re just going to have to find out.”

To no surprise, rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was listed as doubtful after only practicing on a limited basis this week. He would figure to have a good chance to make his season debut against Washington next week if his knee responds well to more practice time.

The Ravens listed defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) as questionable, but both were full participants in practice on Thursday and Friday. Return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is also questionable after being listed as a limited participant all week.

The Raiders officially ruled out offensive tackles Menelik Watson (calf) and Austin Howard (calf), which likely opens the door for rookie Vadal Alexander to start at right tackle.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Ed Hochuli.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday calls for mostly cloudy skies, temperatures reaching the mid-70s, and only a slight chance of precipitation with light winds.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), RS Devin Hester (thigh), G Alex Lewis (concussion), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), G John Urschel (shoulder)

OAKLAND
OUT: S Nate Allen (quad), OT Austin Howard (ankle), OT Menelik Watson (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), OT Matt McCants (knee)

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