Tag Archive | "John Harbaugh"


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Avoiding finger-pointing may become Ravens’ biggest challenge

Posted on 27 October 2015 by Luke Jones

You could find excuses anywhere you looked after the Ravens fell to 1-6 on Monday night.

Substandard officiating and malfunctioning headsets are real issues the NFL needs to address, but dwelling on such factors serves no purpose when you’re in the midst of the worst start in franchise history.

An ever-growing list of injuries has stunted the ceiling of the 2015 Ravens, no matter if expectations were too high for such a playmaker-deprived roster to begin with.

Still a few days shy from Halloween, the Ravens face a cruel reality that no one could have anticipated.

The season is over — at least in the scope that football seasons have been viewed in Baltimore over the last 15 years. Even if you’re crazy enough to believe the Ravens are capable of winning eight or nine of their final nine contests in 2015, that still might not be enough as it was only last year that they needed a hand from Kansas City in Week 17 just to sneak into the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

Six losses by one score each might make the Ravens the best 1-6 team in NFL history, but that still only fetches the first overall pick in the 2016 draft if the season were to end today.

If Super Bowl XLVII was John Harbaugh’s finest hour in Baltimore, the eighth-year head coach is now entering his most critical one. With nine games to go in the season from hell, Harbaugh must steer the Ravens clear of the finger-pointing game the rest of the way.

Harbaugh has said this isn’t the first time one of his teams has faced adversity and has maintained that it will make the Ravens better in the long run, but it’s easier to hold the ship together in the midst of a losing streak when you’re still in the heart of the playoff race. Even when the Ravens stood at 0-3 or 1-4 earlier this season, there were historical examples from which to draw inspiration that they could climb back in the hunt.

But at 1-6, the Ravens have entered the territory when everyone — players, coaches, and members of the front office — begins looking over his shoulder. Even the bulletproof Ozzie Newsome has to be feeling at least the slightest bit of anxiety these days when he sees Steve Bisciotti’s name light up on his phone. They wouldn’t be the competitors that they are if that uneasiness didn’t exist right now.

That doesn’t mean Bisciotti will or should clean house, but everyone’s seat — some more than others — should feel at least a little warm over such a poor start.

The truth is that the Ravens aren’t fixing all of their problems this year, meaning not everyone is going to be around to see these dark times through. That goes for players, coaches, and the rest of the organization as change is an annual part of the NFL even when life is good. How much change remains to be seen, but that uncertainty for everyone is what Harbaugh must weather as the face of the organization over the rest of the season.

Right or wrong, it’s human nature for coaches to want to point to the front office and to players, for players to blame coaches and each other, for the front office to point to coaches for not getting the job done with the roster assembled in the offseason, and for all parties to blame injuries, officiating, and any other variable creeping into the equation in a given week. How effectively the Ravens avoid those traps over the next two months will go a long way in determining how long everyone sticks around under Bisciotti, who once fired a Super Bowl-winning coach only a year after he’d led the Ravens to the best regular-season mark in franchise history.

It was less than two years ago that the highly-competitive owner vowed to get more involved if the Ravens repeated the mistakes of a 2013 season that ended in an 8-8 record. Two years later, those problems pale in comparison to what they face now.

“I have to be patient to let people fail, but I don’t have to be patient enough to let people repeat failure,” Bisciotti said in January 2014. “I’ll be more apt to get my way next year if their solutions don’t change the problems. That’s fair, that’s where I am as owner.”

To the credit of Harbaugh, his staff, and his players, there have been few signs of the effort coming into question despite the results not being there. It would be too difficult to continue losing games by one possession if you weren’t giving it your all — or at least close to it — on a weekly basis in the NFL. So far, the Ravens have been quick not to use injuries, bad luck, or talent deficiencies in key areas as excuses and have taken accountability for all shortcomings under their control.

But will growing emphasis on the future prompt individuals to start thinking more about themselves instead of the greater good? It’s that type of thinking that becomes dangerous to a team and an organization.

Even with factors currently out of their control, everyone needs to be better.

Harbaugh and his staff need to accentuate the Ravens’ strengths — as few as there might be — and find ways to mask their weakness — as many as there are — as much as possible.

In a unique position as the franchise quarterback and highest-paid player on the team, Joe Flacco needs to find a way to make it work — at least a little better — with Marc Trestman and an underwhelming group of talent behind Steve Smith. Flacco’s comments about the final drive on Monday night seemed to allude to more than just headset issues and wouldn’t be the first time his words could be interpreted as some disenchantment with his new offensive coordinator. Likewise, a veteran coach like Trestman needs to better organize a group that’s been prone to getting completely out of sync for large portions of games like the offense was in the second half of Monday’s loss.

A poor defense that performed better against Arizona — relative to recent performances at least — has to find a way to build on that showing, starting with a Week 8 challenge against San Diego’s top-ranked passing game. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees lacks the horses to fairly compare this unit to the many great Baltimore defenses of the past, but he’s coaching for his job at this point with the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense.

Every player on the 53-man roster down to the last member on the practice squad needs to dig deep as many will be playing for their futures — in Baltimore or somewhere else — the rest of the way in 2015.

It will be Harbaugh’s responsibility to hold so many moving parts together without the familiar carrot of postseason play ahead and with everyone now looking over his shoulder and facing the temptation to point the finger elsewhere.

And even though much of their work won’t come until the offseason, Newsome and the front office need to do much better than the roster assembled for the 2015 season. An infusion of play-making, impact talent on both sides of the ball needs to occur as quickly as possible, which won’t be easy.

Excuses are all over the place if you’re willing to give in, and playing out the string won’t be pleasant.

But each member of the organization needs to remember that every time you point a finger somewhere else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

It’s an easy lesson to remember when times are good as they have been for a long time in Baltimore, but the Ravens have never found themselves in a position quite like this before.

In the NFL’s basement and with all hope lost for the 2015 season — at least in the way they envisioned it not too long ago.

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Harbaugh says “no chance” of Ravens trading Steve Smith

Posted on 23 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens off to the worst start in franchise history, many have questioned whether a trade of Steve Smith to a Super Bowl contender might be in the works.

The 36-year-old wide receiver plans to retire after the season, so wouldn’t it make sense for general manager Ozzie Newsome to deal the five-time Pro Bowl receiver for something that could help the franchise in 2016 and beyond?

Apparently, it’s not happening despite a 1-5 record that already puts the Ravens five games behind Cincinnati in the AFC North entering Week 7.

“That’s the first I’ve heard that one,” said head coach John Harbaugh of the trade speculation. “No, there’s no chance of that one. I wouldn’t part with him.”

Smith said Friday that he’d quit if traded elsewhere and that he wants to finish what he started. The trade deadline falls on Nov. 3 at 4 p.m., meaning the best record the Ravens could have by then would be 3-5.

Citing Baltimore’s proximity to his family’s home in Charlotte, N.C., Smith signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Ravens last year that runs through the 2016 season. With the former Carolina Panther playing at such a high level and the Ravens lacking consistent production at the receiver position beyond him, might Harbaugh and others within the organization try to persuade him to reconsider his retirement plans?

“We’ve got a game Monday night,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “He’s going to be here Monday night — I can promise you that. And for every game after that.”

Smith said earlier this week that his plans after the season remain “on schedule” after he announced his intentions in early August.

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Ravens continue shuffling players in and out of practice

Posted on 21 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day the Ravens welcomed back four players to the practice field, eight others were absent as they continued preparations for a Week 7 trip to Arizona.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), defensive end Chris Canty (calf), rookie wide receiver Darren Waller (concussion), and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) returned to practice on Wednesday. Canty has missed four straight games with a calf injury suffered in Week 2 while Webb and Waller missed Sunday’s loss to San Francisco after sustaining injuries in Week 5.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), safeties Kendrick Lewis (knee) and Terrence Brooks (thumb), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), defensive end Lawrence Guy, cornerback Asa Jackson, and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) were all missing from Wednesday’s workout. Forsett and Yanda both played against the 49ers despite practicing just once last week with their respective ankle ailments.

With the Ravens playing the Cardinals on Monday night, the first injury report of the week will not be released until Thursday.

Lewis left Sunday’s game with a left knee injury and didn’t return, but head coach John Harbaugh said a magnetic resonance imaging exam did not reveal any serious damage.

“Nothing serious with Kendrick — a bone bruise — and that’s a very good sign,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see where it goes throughout the course of the week. He was feeling pretty good today, but those things are hard to predict.”

With Lewis sidelined and Brooks already ruled out for Sunday’s game, third-year safety and special-teams standout Brynden Trawick played 21 defensive snaps against the 49ers, easily the most extensive action he’s seen on defense in his NFL career.

Harbaugh did not have an update on Brooks’ thumb, which the second-year safety injured against Cleveland in Week 5. Trawick could be in line to make his first career NFL start if Lewis and Brooks do not improve enough over the course of the week.

“Brynden played well on Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “He was in the right spot, tackled well. He played well and did a good job, which is what you’d expect. He’s practiced well all summer.”


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Pitta makes return to practice with future still unclear

Posted on 21 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — In the midst of the worst start in franchise history, the Ravens received a bit of good news on Wednesday with the return of veteran tight end Dennis Pitta to the practice field.

Whether they will see him play in a game again remains to be seen.

On the reserve physically unable to perform list after suffering two serious hip injuries in the last two years, the 30-year-old has entered a 21-day practice window to determine whether he will return to live-game action in 2015. Pitta is eligible to be activated at any point during the 21 days, but he must be placed on the 53-man roster or remain on the PUP list for the rest of the season by the end of the practice window.

“It’s a start,” said Pitta after his first practice. “This is an assessment period for us — for me, for the trainers and for the coaches — to really see where we’re at. This is just Day 1 of our journey. I think it felt pretty good and I’m encouraged by that, and [it’s] certainly great to be back out there with my teammates. We’ll see where we go from here.”

Pitta was suited up in full pads, running routes and participating in blocking drills during the portion of practice open to media. Needing to adjust to the speed of the game again and even lamenting a dropped pass during hist first practice practice, Pitta said he didn’t anticipate feeling this good at this point.

By drafting tight ends Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle a year after selecting Crockett Gillmore in the 2014 draft, the Ravens planned not to have Pitta moving forward, but a passing game currently lacking weapons would certainly welcome back a player of his ability — at least prior to the hip injuries.

“I know it’s Dennis’ decision along with his family,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s going to see how [the hip] feels out here and how it responds. He’s been working really hard to get himself in position — along with our trainers and our strength and conditioning staff — to prepare for this. We’ll see how it goes. I wouldn’t make too much of it, especially for this week. Don’t get carried away.”

It remains unclear whether Pitta will be able to return this season as he hasn’t played in a game since suffering a second dislocation and fracture of his right hip in Cleveland on Sept. 21, 2014, just 14 months after experiencing the first injury in 2013. The 2010 fourth-round pick did individual work during voluntary workouts in the spring, but he was not cleared to participate in the mandatory June minicamp or training camp this summer.

Pitta says he’s received varying opinions from those close to him over whether to make his latest comeback. The Brigham Young product acknowledged his wife, Mataya, was “not really excited” about his return to the practice field in fear of something going wrong, but he added that she remains supportive over what he’s doing.

“I’ve had people on both ends of the spectrum, certainly people that have discouraged me against it and people that have encouraged me to get back out there,” Pitta said. “I weigh both opinions heavily. Really, I feel good physically, and I’m just excited to continue this process and see where I can get to.”

Signed to a five-year, $32 million contract including $16 million guaranteed prior to last season, Pitta was guaranteed his $4 million base salary for the 2015 season. The veteran tight end has said all along that he wanted to try to make a comeback, but dealing with such a serious injury twice would make anyone ponder his football future as well as his overall quality of life after his career.

Though he’s made no formal decision beyond his current comeback attempt, Pitta indicated that retirement would be a consideration if he’s unable to come back this season.

“I would like to think that if I can’t make it back this year, what’s going to change next year?” Pitta said. “For me, in my mind, I’m working to get back this year. If I can’t, that might be it. That’s certainly undecided, and I don’t really know how to answer that.”

A close friend of quarterback Joe Flacco, Pitta has made 138 catches for 1,369 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career and also caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLVII.

Regardless of whether he ever suits up in a game, the mere sight of a healthy Pitta back on the practice field was a positive development in a season that’s gone so wrong for the Ravens.

“It’s definitely good to see him out there,” said Flacco, who added that will not pressure his friend and teammate to play again. “I think everybody appreciates seeing him in a uniform, and they’re happy for him to be able to get back out there and strap back up.”

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Big plays — or lack thereof — hurting Ravens in 2015

Posted on 19 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Big plays — or the lack thereof — have plagued the Ravens in their nightmarish 1-5 start to 2015.

The league’s 27th-ranked pass defense allowed three pass plays of 50 or more yards in Sunday’s 25-20 loss to San Francisco, bringing the total surrendered for the season to six. In all, Baltimore has given up 12 pass plays of 30 or more yards despite facing a relatively pedestrian list of quarterbacks through the first six weeks of the regular season.

Head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees are beginning to sound like a broken record when discussing the pass defense, but there’s been no apparent improvement as the Ravens are in the midst of the worst start in the 20-year history of the franchise.

“If we stop giving up big plays, we’re playing very good defense,” Harbaugh said. “But that’s how it always works when you give up big plays. That’s where all the yards are. That’s how most of the yards are made in this league — by big plays.

“It’s hard to methodically go down the field every single series and execute perfectly. There’s no margin for error with that, so you have to be able to make big plays. If you can stop big plays, then you’re going to stop an offense.”

After saying only three of Pees’ calls in a total of 90 defensive snaps in last week’s loss to Cleveland were bad decisions, Harbaugh acknowledged a “scheme issue” that resulted in 49ers fullback Bruce Miller’s 52-yard catch late in the first quarter that led to a field goal. The Ravens were in a heavy run defense for a third-and-1 play when Colin Kaepernick connected with a wide-open Miller, a play Harbaugh credited as good scheming on the 49ers’ part.

The Baltimore coach said San Francisco’s other long pass plays — the 76-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and the 51-yard completion to Anquan Boldin — were results of poor coverage technique from cornerbacks Shareece Wright and Jimmy Smith, respectively.

“I didn’t have any problem with any of the [other] calls yesterday,” Harbaugh said, “but there are always calls that you’re going to look at and you’re going to say, ‘Hey, we could be better.’ You’re going to always try to find things that you could do better. There were no major issues with that yesterday.”

Opponents making big plays has been a theme in their five losses, but the Ravens have made very few big plays of their own, failing to recover a fumbled punt or to come away with two potential interceptions against San Francisco on Sunday. Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL with just four takeaways in 2015 and hasn’t come away with one since the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati.

In the 20-year history of the franchise, the Ravens have had six or more takeaways in a single game seven times.

Meanwhile, the Ravens offense continued to struggle to push the ball down the field with only one pass play of 30 or more yards on Sunday — the 34-yard touchdown from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith in the third quarter. Through six games, Flacco has completed seven passes of 30 or more yards and only one of 50 or more.

“Offensively, we need to start making some big plays,” Harbaugh said. “We need to scheme some big plays in. We need to attack some weaknesses in coverages a little bit better, and we need to make some of those plays. We need to make some catches, need to make some throws, need to make some runs, some run blocks. And we have to do a better job of finding those things for our guys, as well as a coaching staff.”

Timeout questions

Facing criticism for the use of two of his second-half timeouts in Sunday’s loss, Harbaugh defended his decisions a day later.

After a 17-yard completion to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to open the second half, the Ravens burned a timeout less than a minute into the third quarter because of a play call that was “going to be a disaster” on a first-and-10 at their own 37-yard line with San Francisco leading 16-6.

“We wanted to get a good play off there,” said Harbaugh, who did not consider taking a delay-of-game penalty in that situation. “A timeout is not always the most important thing, especially when you’re behind. Sometimes we want to keep drives alive. [When] you start backing yourself up with penalties, I think you’d be asking me that question.”

With the 49ers leading 19-13 early in the fourth quarter, Harbaugh elected to challenge the 51-yard completion to Boldin to the Baltimore 25.

Despite no visual evidence from camera replays that the play had a chance to be reversed, Harbaugh rolled the dice and ultimately lost his second timeout of the half when referee John Parry ruled the catch to stand. The 49ers scored a touchdown three plays later.

“I took a shot there, because it was a big play,” Harbaugh said. “You couldn’t get it on the [stadium video board]. We really didn’t have it on TV [in the booth]. I took a shot there, because it was a big play in the game. We thought we had a chance to win it, and we were hoping we could get it. We had nothing definitive, because we didn’t get much on TV, and we got nothing on the screen.”

No update on Lewis

Harbaugh had no news on starting safety Kendrick Lewis, who injured his left knee in the third quarter of Sunday’s game and didn’t return. Lewis exited the post-game locker room on crutches and was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday.

“I don’t have any updates on injuries, I apologize,” Harbaugh said. “I have been grinding away on [game] tape. I haven’t had a chance to get to that yet.”

James back to Houston

After being waived over the weekend to make room on the 53-man roster for running back Terrence Magee, cornerback Charles James was claimed by Houston on Monday.

The Ravens signed James to their practice squad in early September after he was waived by the Texans at the end of the preseason. The 5-foot-9 defensive back was promoted to the 53-man roster last week after spending more than a month on the practice squad.

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Ravens’ deficiencies at key positions costing them dearly

Posted on 19 October 2015 by Luke Jones

It’s too easy to criticize Shareece Wright after the Ravens’ 25-20 loss to San Francisco on Sunday.

The veteran cornerback had the debut from hell for his new team against his old one, twice being burned for touchdowns in pass coverage. But expecting any better from Wright after signing him off the street less than a week ago is akin to wondering why the car you picked out at the junkyard wouldn’t run without extensive work in the garage.

There was a reason Wright had been inactive four straight weeks for the 49ers before he was finally granted his release earlier this month. Despite being signed to a one-year, $3 million contract by San Francisco in March, Wright was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 103rd-best out of 108 cornerbacks to play at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps in 2014.

Head coach John Harbaugh was harsh in his assessment of Wright after the game, but the 5-foot-11 cornerback’s mere presence on the field Sunday was a damning indictment on the state of the 2015 Ravens. And it reflects general manager Ozzie Newsome’s failure to improve one of the most critical positions on the field for a second straight offseason.

Injuries are part of the story, but let’s not pretend that Lardarius Webb has played at a level near what the Ravens envisioned when signing him to a big contract more than three years ago. Will Davis flashed potential in two games before a season-ending knee injury, but he was only acquired when others such as Kyle Arrington and Rashaan Melvin already weren’t cutting it.

After a nightmarish 2014 at the cornerback position, Newsome signed the veteran Arrington — who hasn’t played well — and drafted Tray Walker from Texas Southern to address the problem. To think the fresh-off-the-street Wright was a better option than your fourth-round pick suggests you reached too far in drafting a project you can’t even trust as your No. 4 or No. 5 cornerback on the depth chart.

It doesn’t help that top cornerback Jimmy Smith has been slow to regain his pre-injury form and was burned for a 51-yard reception by the slow-footed Anquan Boldin that set up an eventual touchdown in the fourth quarter. Paid to be a shutdown corner in the offseason, Smith dropped a would-be interception in the first half with plenty of open field in front of him.

A pass rush too dependent on the blitz and suspect safety play — another position that’s struggled the last few years — haven’t done the cornerbacks any favors in 2015, but it’s a position that’s too important in this pass-happy era of the NFL to be this poor. Throwing Wright into such a meaningful role after only a few days to learn the defensive system and with no live-game action under his belt since the preseason was grasping at straws at best. The 49ers knew their former player’s weaknesses and didn’t hesitate to go after him while the Ravens left him on an island with no safety help on Torrey Smith’s 76-yard touchdown catch.

Of course, cornerback isn’t the only position of concern for the 1-5 Ravens as they continue to get little from any receiver not named Steve Smith, who caught seven passes for 137 yards and a touchdown but dropped two other throws in the end zone. Not a single wideout other than the veteran registered a catch in the first half on Sunday as the Baltimore offense started slowly and fell behind 16-3 early.

Kamar Aiken did catch a late fourth-quarter touchdown to make it a one-possession game, but watching Jeremy Ross and Chris Givens — two players who weren’t even with the Ravens in the preseason — playing late in the game again showed the failure that the offseason plan has been in replacing Torrey Smith.

Newsome and the Ravens could not envision first-round pick Breshad Perriman injuring his knee on the first day of training camp, but pushing all of their chips to the middle of the table on a rookie has blown up in their faces in 2015. Drafting Perriman wasn’t the real mistake; not having any semblance of a backup plan to stretch the field was the major error when you acknowledge the history of NFL first-round receivers who haven’t found immediate success on the field.

Watching Joe Flacco stand in the pocket time after time on Sunday — he amazingly wasn’t sacked once despite dropping back 53 times — with no one open to throw to was maddening. The quarterback needs to be better as he threw two inexcusable interceptions leading to six points for San Francisco, but how much can you really expect when he has exactly one reliable option who’s 36 and a collection of castoffs, undrafted free agents, and late-round picks to throw to?

Able to effectively run the ball and stop the run, the current Ravens may be built for success in past eras, but the passing game is more important than ever in today’s NFL. If you can’t throw the football, rush the passer, or play in coverage, you’re not going to win many games and that’s where the Ravens find themselves with only one victory in six weeks.

The problems run deeper — injuries, costly penalties, questionable play-calling on both sides of the ball, and poor clock management are among them — but not having enough talent at wide receiver or in the secondary is a major part of the story.

Before the 2015 season began, Baltimore lacked speed and playmakers on both sides of the ball.

And Wright had nothing to do with that.

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With Forsett in question, Ravens promote Magee from practice squad

Posted on 17 October 2015 by Luke Jones

With starter Justin Forsett’s status in jeopardy due to an ankle injury, the Ravens promoted rookie running back Terrence Magee from the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s game against San Francisco.

To make room for Magee on the 53-man roster, Baltimore waived cornerback Charles James, who had been promoted from the practice squad earlier in the week.

Forsett practiced on a limited basis on Friday and was labeled a game-time decision by head coach John Harbaugh before being designated as questionable on the final injury report. However, the decision to promote Magee isn’t exactly an encouraging sign that the Ravens will have their 2014 Pro Bowl selection in the backfield.

With the Ravens off to a 1-4 start and No. 1 receiver Steve Smith nursing a back injury, the timing of Forsett’s injury couldn’t have been worse after he had rushed for a combined 271 yards in the last two games. The 30-year-old injured his ankle late in regulation of the Week 5 overtime loss to Cleveland.

“Hopefully, some more healing takes place,” Forsett said on Friday afternoon. “I think we’re going in the right direction, so hopefully we’ll be ready to go.”

Should Forsett not be able to play, the Ravens would be forced to depend on the rookie trio of Buck Allen, the recently-claimed Raheem Mostert, and Magee. Saturday marked the second time Magee had been signed to the 53-man roster since the end of the preseason, but the LSU product has seen action in just one game and has yet to play an offensive snap. Because of his familiarity with the offense, Magee would likely serve as the primary backup to Allen if Forsett can’t play.

Needless to say, the running back picture is less than ideal as No. 2 option Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this week after undergoing foot surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury. Taliaferro had been listed as probable on the Week 5 injury report before being deactivated for the Cleveland game.

“It kind of took us by surprise there a little bit, but the foot had been bothering him,” Harbaugh said on Friday. “He tweaked it — maybe it was Oakland or one of those weeks in there — and sat out that week [and] then came back the next week and just wasn’t getting much better.

“We sent him to see the foot specialist; I believe it was Dr. [Robert] Anderson, and he just felt like the Lisfranc had reemerged from last year. They decided not to do surgery on it last year and just let it heal, and in some way, it kind of happened again. They decided to do the surgery right there.”

Taliaferro has played in just 16 games in his NFL career.

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Ravens hope to have Forsett, S. Smith back against San Francisco

Posted on 13 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already 1-4 and dealing with an extensive injury report, Ravens coach John Harbaugh hopes to have at least two of his banged-up stars available against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6.

After injuring his ankle late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s defeat to Cleveland, running back Justin Forsett did not return in overtime as the Browns won in Baltimore for the first time since 2007. The 2014 Pro Bowl selection had rushed for 121 yards on 21 carries and scored his first touchdown of the 2015 season.

Forsett was able to walk without any noticeable limp in the locker room after the game.

“It’s not a high ankle [sprain], I can tell you that,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a good sign, and it gives him a chance, certainly, for this week.”

Backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was already dealing with a foot injury that kept him out of Sunday’s game, leaving the Ravens just one healthy running back (rookie Buck Allen) by the end of the contest. Rookie Terrence Magee remains on the practice squad should the Ravens need another healthy back.

Harbaugh remains cautiously optimistic about the status of No. 1 receiver Steve Smith, who missed his first game since the 2013 season and only his second game in the last five seasons. Smith suffered microfractures in his back in the Week 4 win at Pittsburgh and was listed as doubtful on the final Week 5 injury report last week before being deactivated on Sunday morning.

Smith’s absence has left a major void at wide receiver that’s currently being filled by former undrafted free agents, late-round picks, practice-squad members, and castoffs. Kamar Aiken led all Ravens wide receivers with four catches for 78 yards against the Browns, but Joe Flacco completed only one pass to a wideout in the second half, a fourth-quarter connection to Marlon Brown for no gain.

Getting Smith back would be a major shot in the arm for the struggling Ravens.

“We’ll see. I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “He was in here training hard [on Monday], so that’s a good sign. I’m hopeful.”

The Ravens also remain hopeful that starting tight end Crockett Gillmore can return this week after missing the last two games with a calf injury. He moved around well during a pre-game workout on Sunday morning.

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), and wide receiver Darren Waller (concussion) are also dealing with injuries that forced them out of Sunday’s game. Cornerback Will Davis suffered a torn ACL against the Browns, prompting the Ravens to add veteran cornerback Shareece Wright on Monday.

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Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, and defensive coordinator Dean Pees look on during an NFL football practice at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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Harbaugh not considering any coaching changes

Posted on 12 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens off to the first 1-4 start in franchise history, many fans are clamoring for changes in a season that began with high expectations.

Despite a slew of injuries to key players, fourth-year defensive coordinator Dean Pees has drawn much of the coaching criticism, but Harbaugh made his intentions clear Monday when asked whether he was considering any staff changes at this time.

“No, no way. No, our coaches are doing a good job,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve just got to collectively find a way to finish games and get the job done. We’ve got tough challenges that we’re facing, but we’ve got just the men for the job right here.”

After giving up 33 points and 505 total yards while allowing Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards — the third-highest total allowed in franchise history — in Sunday’s overtime loss, the Ravens now rank 24th in points allowed per game (27.4) and 25th in pass defense (278.2 yards through the air per contest). McCown’s performance was the highest passing yardage total in the long history of the Browns.

In addition to already being without linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) and defensive end Chris Canty (calf) prior to Sunday’s game, the Ravens lost linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) and cornerbacks Will Davis (torn ACL), Lardarius Webb (hamstring), and Kyle Arrington (concussion testing) over the course of the game.

Even with those substantial personnel losses, the Ravens allowing 24 points to Cleveland in a 25-minute span — the Browns had scored 24 in an entire game against Baltimore just once in the previous 12 meetings — is unacceptable to the standards of the organization and fans alike. But Harbaugh believes the answers still lie with the coaches and players already in the building as their four losses have come by a combined 17 points.

“We definitely believe in what we’re doing,” said Harbaugh, who also stated that he’s challenging his coaches to come up with new ideas. “We definitely have confidence in the players that we have and in the coaches that we have and in the schemes that we’re running.

“But you also look for ways to improve and get better, so we’re looking at schemes. We’re looking at things we can teach a little bit differently — the way we’re playing a technique on the defensive line or the way we’re playing a technique in the back end. More importantly, we want to play the things right all the time.”

Poor technique, poor tackling, costly penalties, and miscommunication have all plagued the defense so far in 2015. The Ravens also rank 31st out of 32 teams in third-down defense with opponents moving the chains a staggering 49.4 percent of the time.

Known as the Ravens’ biggest game-changing unit for the better part of two decades, the defense has squandered fourth-quarter leaders in three of four losses this season. It’s the kind of futility that should have everyone on alert — coaches and players.

Harbaugh knows the Ravens need to improve all the way around, but figuring out how is the challenge.

“We don’t need to play harder; we need to play better,” Harbaugh said. “We don’t need to coach harder; we need to coach better. We’ve got to find a way to make the difference. It’s making plays. It’s calling plays that give guys a chance to make plays in critical situations to get you over the hump.”

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Ravens cornerback Davis lost for season with torn ACL

Posted on 12 October 2015 by Luke Jones

A season from hell continues to grow worse for the Ravens as cornerback Will Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns.

The third-year defensive back sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the second quarter of the 33-30 overtime defeat. Acquired from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick last month, Davis suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last November.

The 2013 third-round pick from Utah State had played well in his brief time with the Ravens and had become the No. 3 cornerback over veteran Kyle Arrington and the inexperienced Rashaan Melvin. Davis played seven snaps on Sunday before leaving the game in the second quarter.

“He’ll be out for the season, which is tough for him,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who added that he was “99 percent” that Davis injured the opposite knee this time. “He was playing at a really high level.”

Davis’ knee injury is the latest in the Ravens’ nightmarish run of bad health at the cornerback position dating back to last year. Starter Lardarius Webb also left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury in the second quarter and didn’t return.

Baltimore has two cornerbacks on its practice squad — Charles James and Asa Jackson — and general manager Ozzie Newsome cannot be picky in the search for Davis’ replacement as the Ravens possess less than $2 million in cap space. Currently, the 53-man roster holds just four healthy cornerbacks — Jimmy Smith, Arrington, Melvin, and rookie Tray Walker — but second-year safety Terrence Brooks saw extensive time at the nickel spot on Sunday.

“It’s not that late,” said Harbaugh about the ability to find more help at the position. “When you start getting past this time — close to the midway point — that’s when [the market] kind of dries up on you. But there are some corners out there right now that can play and we’re looking at those guys and we have a couple guys on our practice roster, too.”

Other Ravens players injured in Week 5 included linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), running back Justin Forsett (ankle), and wide receiver Darren Waller (concussion).

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