Tag Archive | "justin forsett"

Flacco turns down invitation to Pro Bowl

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Flacco turns down invitation to Pro Bowl

Posted on 20 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has never made the Pro Bowl, but he’s choosing family over an invitation at the conclusion of his seventh year.

With many fans surprised to see Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton selected to replace the Super Bowl-bound Tom Brady and the injured Aaron Rodgers, it turns out Flacco was invited to participate in Sunday’s game in Arizona. However, the 30-year-old elected to remain with his wife, Dana, who is expecting the couple’s third child this month.

Ravens wide receiver and teammate Torrey Smith broke the news via his official Twitter account after initially questioning why Dalton was chosen for the game instead of Flacco.

 

In his only season under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak — who has now become the head coach of the Denver Broncos — Flacco set career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdown passes (27). His 91.0 passer rating was his highest since the 2010 season, and Flacco completed 62.0 percent of his passes, the third-highest completion percentage of his career.

In addition to head coach John Harbaugh coaching one of the rosters, the Ravens are sending four players to this year’s Pro Bowl including linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley and right guard Marshal Yanda. Initially a first alternate, running back Justin Forsett was added to the game last week after Houston’s Arian Foster bowed out with an injury.

Vinny Testaverde is the only quarterback in franchise history to be chosen for the Pro Bowl, and that selection came in the Ravens’ inaugural 1996 season.

Comments (0)

Forsett added to Pro Bowl roster in place of Houston’s Foster

Tags: , , , ,

Forsett added to Pro Bowl roster in place of Houston’s Foster

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

After completing one of the most surprising seasons in franchise history, Ravens running back Justin Forsett is on his way to his first Pro Bowl.

The 29-year-old was chosen as a first alternate last month and will now replace the injured Arian Foster, his former teammate in Houston. Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns in his first year with the Ravens and led all NFL running backs with a 5.4 yards per carry average.

“I first want to thank all of my teammates and coaches that played a part, especially our offensive line and [fullback Kyle Juszczyk,]” Forsett said. “It is as much credit to them as it is to me.”

Forsett becomes the fourth Ravens player to be on his way to the game, which will be played in Arizona on Jan. 25. Right guard Marshal Yanda and linebackers Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley were selected for the game in late December.

Those players will be joined at the Pro Bowl by head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens staff, who agreed to coach one of the teams after the Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox parted ways on Monday.

“We’re looking forward to doing that,” Harbaugh said. “Right now, we are preparing to put a couple of schemes together and go out there and coach a game.”

The running back’s addition means the Ravens will continue their streak of having at least four players selected to every Pro Bowl since 2005. Baltimore could have more players added to the game as Juszczyk, linebacker Terrell Suggs, punter Sam Koch, and return specialist Jacoby Jones are also first alternates.

 

Comments (0)

Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Examining the Ravens’ 2015 class of free agents

Posted on 13 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is roughly two months away, but the Ravens face a number of important decisions in their efforts to build upon their return to the playoffs in 2014 after a one-year absence.

As is often the case, salary cap space will be a substantial concern as the Ravens entered the offseason with an estimated cap commitment of roughly $138 million, according to Spotrac.com. The 2015 salary cap has not been set, but it is projected to rise from $133 million in 2014 to somewhere between $138 million and $141 million for the new season, which leaves general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens with very tough maneuvering ahead.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to terminate or renegotiate several veteran contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and his $16 million cap figure for 2015 at the top of the list. Baltimore would like to extend Ngata in a way similar to what they did with Terrell Suggs last winter, but cutting him outright would save $8.5 million. Cornerback Lardarius Webb carries a $12 million figure next season, but his release would only save $2 million in space as it would leave $10 million in dead money with the Ravens still needing to replace him.

Other veterans such as defensive end Chris Canty, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, linebacker Albert McClellan, and punter Sam Koch don’t carry lucrative cap numbers but could be released to create moderate savings for 2015.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to re-sign any of the following 14 unrestricted free agents before they can sign with any other team beginning on March 10 at 4:00 p.m.

CB Antoine CasonSigned in early December, the 28-year-old was leapfrogged on the depth chart by former Miami Dolphins practice squad cornerback Rashaan Melvin, telling all you need to know about his standing.

DT Terrence Cody - I was surprised the Ravens brought back the 2010 second-round pick on a one-year deal last offseason, and he was a non-factor after returning from the reserve physically unable to perform list in November.

LS Morgan Cox - The veteran is hitting the point in his career where the Ravens usually want to go cheaper for a snapper, but they had some issues with both Kevin McDermott and Patrick Scales after Cox was lost for the season.

TE Owen DanielsThe 32-year-old had some inconsistent stretches this season, but you’d like to bring back an established option with Dennis Pitta’s status in doubt and 2014 third-round pick Crockett Gillmore still developing.

RB Justin ForsettThe feel-good story of the 2014 campaign will draw interest elsewhere, but his knowledge of Gary Kubiak’s zone schemes as well as his patience and vision make it important for the Ravens to bring him back.

CB Danny GorrerThe journeyman cornerback suffered a season-ending knee injury in December and won’t be a priority, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him re-signed to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

LB Pernell McPheeHis 7 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and 35 quarterback hurries likely price him out of the Ravens’ budget as other teams will throw a lot of money at the rush specialist while envisioning a bigger role for him.

S Jeromy MilesMiles is a good special-teams player and emerged to earn a significant number of snaps in the defensive backfield, so you would think the Ravens would like to bring him back at a reasonable rate.

G Will RackleyThe former Jacksonville Jaguar sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve, making it unlikely the Ravens will bring him back with their offensive line in much better shape now.

OL Jah ReidThe 2011 third-round pick never lived up to expectations to even become a reliable backup, so it would be surprising to see the Ravens bring him back on even a minimum contract for 2015.

CB Aaron RossThe 32-year-old tore his Achilles tendon on the eve of training camp and has dealt with other injuries in recent years, making you think his NFL career could very well be over.

WR Torrey SmithThe Ravens and the University of Maryland product both want to continue their relationship, but will other suitors offer No. 1 receiver money for Smith’s skill set and leave Newsome with a difficult decision?

S Darian StewartThe former St. Louis Ram played better in the second half of the season and wouldn’t be a bad option to bring back to compete with 2014 third-round pick Terrence Brooks for the safety spot opposite Will Hill.

QB Tyrod Taylor - The writing was on the wall for Taylor when the Ravens drafted Keith Wenning in the sixth round of last May’s draft, so it appears unlikely that he’ll be back with Baltimore.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that happens, Baltimore has seven days to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens choose not to match the offer sheet, they would receive compensation based on which tender was initially offered to that player.

There are three different tenders — the values won’t be set until the 2015 salary cap is finalized — that can be made: a first-round tender ($3.113 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($2.187 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s second-round selection, and a low tender ($1.431 million in 2014) would award the competing team’s draft selection equal to the round in which the player was originally chosen. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would simply hold the right to match the offer and would not receive any compensation if they elected not to match the competing figure.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

DL Christo Bilukidi (sixth) - The former Cincinnati Bengal appeared in only four games before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him non-tendered and re-signed to a cheaper deal. 

DE Lawrence Guy (seventh) - Added in late September, Guy emerged as a reliable member of the defensive line rotation and passed DeAngelo Tyson on the depth chart, making it likely the Ravens will want to bring him back.

S Will Hill (undrafted) – The bright spot in an otherwise difficult year for the secondary, Hill could receive the second-round tender to prevent other teams from trying to sign him away as the Ravens clearly want him back.

K Justin Tucker (undrafted) – The Ravens will explore a long-term deal with one of the best kickers in football, but the 2013 Pro Bowl selection would figure to receive a second-round tender to discourage other teams from sniffing around.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. Historically, the Ravens tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the thought that there’s essentially nothing assured beyond a likely invitation to training camp for each.

WR Kamar Aiken
CB Chris Greenwood
CB Tramain Jacobs
OL Ryan Jensen
S Anthony Levine
LS Kevin McDermott
DE Steven Means
CB Rashaan Melvin
LS Patrick Scales
TE Phillip Supernaw
RB Fitz Toussaint
S Brynden Trawick
DT Casey Walker

Comments (0)

Forsett hoping to escape “friend zone” in free agency

Tags: , , , , , ,

Forsett hoping to escape “friend zone” in free agency

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After he expressed gratitude for the Ravens taking a chance on him by turning in a career season, Justin Forsett is looking for a long-term partnership.

Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the league’s eighth-ranked rushing offense and has expressed repeatedly that he’d like to remain in Baltimore. But the Ravens will need to pony up more than the one-year, $730,000 contract they gave the journeyman back last April.

“There’s also a business side of it where, unfortunately, I’ve been in the ‘friend zone’ for most of my career,” the 29-year-old running back said. “Hopefully, we can get into a deeper commitment somewhere down the road and get some stability. But it is what it is. It’s in God’s hands, and I’m at peace with it.”

Determining Forsett’s value could be tricky as it’s no secret the value of running backs has declined dramatically in recent years in the pass-happy NFL. His doubters may credit the improvement of the offensive line and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s history of finding productive running backs as the primary reasons for his success, but Forsett displayed excellent patience and vision in the Ravens’ zone-blocking scheme.

The longest commitment Forsett has received in the NFL was the two-year deal he signed with Jacksonville two years ago, but he was released after one injury-riddled season with the Jaguars.

The Ravens will be hoping for big things from Lorenzo Taliaferro in his second season after he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and rushed for 292 yards as a rookie, but Bernard Pierce was disappointing for a second straight year in running for just 3.9 yards per carry and carrying only 93 times. It’s possible that the Ravens could again look to the draft after selecting Taliaferro in the fourth round last May.

Beyond filling the void left behind by Ray Rice in the backfield, Forsett was strong in pass protection and was praised for his attitude and work ethic by coaches and teammates alike. He hopes to be a part of a Ravens offense that took major strides this season and is seeking further improvement in 2015.

“I would love to be a part of it,” Forsett said. “This is an organization that first gave me my shot, my first real opportunity, and I would love to stay.”

Comments (0)

Snap Counts

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baltimore Ravens – Snap Counts vs Steelers

Posted on 08 January 2015 by Dennis Koulatsos

Here is a break down of the snap count of every offensive and defensive player, in the Ravens’ win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Offense:

57 – LT James Hurst – he played the whole game, and struggled mightily vs James Harrison

57 – LG Kelechi Osemele – had some problems in pass protection, but was an absolute mauler in the run game

57 – C Jeremy Zuttah – got pushed back in to Joe Flacco time and time again. He has to do better against the Patriots

57 – RG John Urshel – graded out well overall. Had a better night pass blocking than run blocking

57 – RT Marshal Yanda – best offensive lineman in the league. Pass blocked well and was a road grader in the run game

57 – QB Joe Flacco – threw 2 TDs, managed the offense well, and didn’t turn the ball over. “January Joe.”

54 – TE Owen Daniels – struggled with pass blocking, but was a factor in the passing game; caught 4 for 70 yards

50 – RB Justin Forsett – didn’t have a great running night running the ball, lost a fumble, but capably blocked blitzing LBs from the A gaps

40 – WR Torrey Smith – caught an 11 yard TD pass from Flacco; missed a certain TD when he didn’t drag his foot in the end zone

39 – TE Crockett Gillmore – caught a 21 yard TD from Flacco; blocked whistle to whistle

35 – WR Steve Smith – made a couple of tough catches in traffic; caught 5 for 101 yards

25 – WR Kamar Aiken – caught just 1 pass for 4 yards

20 – FB Kyle Juszczyk – caught 2 for 16 yards

13 – WR Marlon Brown – caught 1 for 9 yards

5 – WR Jacoby Jones – caught 1 for 9 yards

4 – RB Bernard Pierce – just 1 rushing attempt but it was good for a 5 yard TD

Defense:

76 – ILB Daryl Smith – save for the TD pass given up to Antonio Brown, he was stout vs the pass as well as the run

75 – CB Lardarius Webb – he was targeted a lot by Roethlisberger, and had an ok game overall

74 – ILB CJ Mosley – was solid vs the run but struggled in pass coverage

72 – FS Will Hill – was solid vs the run and even better vs the pass; defended well all night long

66 – CB  Rashaan Melvin – did a really good job in pass coverage, came up in run support

56 – OLB Terrell Suggs – stopped the run, pressured the QB, didn’t get a sack, but got a sick interception

52 – DT Haloti Ngata – looked fresh all game long, collapsed the pocket and applied pressure up the middle, got one sack

49 – SS – Darian Stewart – played one of his best games all season; got the game ending pick

47 – OLB Elvis Dumervil – applied great pressure from the edge consistently; ended up with 2 sacks

46 – OLB Pernell McPhee – had an outstanding game overall; was a force vs the run, and hit the QB a few times

39 – OLB Courtney Upshaw – did a great job setting the edge as usual; defended the pass well

31 – NT Brandon Williams – no one is going to move him backwards; applied consistent pressure through the A gaps; 1 sack

31 – DE Chris Canty – stopped the run and pressured the QB on numerous occassions

31 – CB Anthony Levine – the converted safety struggled in pass coverage; it was clear Roethlisberger was looking for him

29 – FS Jeromy Miles – solid game overall, but had a couple of lapses in pass coverage

29 – CB Matt Elam – yes, the SS played corner most of the night, and played the position well overall; was strong in pass coverage

13 – DE DeAngelo Tyson – was brought in on obvious passing downs; did not have a good night, did not apply pressure

11 – DE Lawrence Guy – did a solid job defending the run in his limited action on the field

6 – CB Antone Cason – came is when Melvin was shaken up; let up a catch during Melvin’s short absence

2 – ILB Albert McClellan – was only in for two plays; obviously not enough field time to analyze performance

1- SS Brynden Trawick – same as McClellan

Special Team notes – Justin Tucker was lights out as usual. The 52 yarder was particularly special, as you don’t see too many successful field goals at Heinz Field over 50 yards. Sam Koch had a good night – save for the blocked punt which was due to blocking assignment breakdowns. He was also directionally kicking it away from Antonio Brown, and that factored in as well. Jacoby Jones did not have a good night. He lost his footing and slipped during his first kick off return, and seemed tentative after that. Michael Campanaro had a couple of fair catches on punt returns. Hope his hamstring has healed to the point where he could be a factor vs the Patriots

Comments (0)

Ravens show their toughness in exorcising Pittsburgh demons

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens show their toughness in exorcising Pittsburgh demons

Posted on 04 January 2015 by Luke Jones

PITTSBURGH — The Ravens surely didn’t need validation before their 30-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.

Beating their fiercest rival in the playoffs for the first time doesn’t trump two Super Bowl titles and a wild-card win wouldn’t appear to register as more than a footnote for a franchise that’s made the postseason 10 times in the last 15 years, but the fans of Baltimore know the truth. After watching Pittsburgh get the best of the Charm City in postseason battles for the better part of four decades, the Ravens exacted a little revenge and it felt good.

It may not have erased the pain of the Ravens’ three prior postseason defeats at Heinz Field, the disappointment of back-to-back playoff losses suffered by the Colts to the Steelers in 1975 and 1976, or the agony of the Orioles’ two Game 7 World Series losses to the Pirates in 1971 and 1979, but Baltimore is entitled to bask in the satisfaction of ending the Steelers’ season.

“This is a very special victory for us, not just because it’s a playoff win,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But because of who it comes against, which is our most respected rival.”

You know how important it was to the Ravens for Harbaugh, a man who loathes making comparisons because it diminishes someone or something in the process, to acknowledge this one meant a little bit more that the typical playoff victory. And it allowed the likes of Elvis Grbac, Daren Stone, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to rest easy knowing the Ravens finally came through against Pittsburgh when it really mattered.

A look at the final statistics won’t overwhelm you as the Ravens failed to reach 300 yards of total offense and averaged just 2.0 yards per carry. Harbaugh labeled Saturday his team’s best game of the season, but the Ravens have scored more and allowed fewer points in other games this season.

More than anything, the performance was the perfect display of the toughness some doubted the Ravens had after an underwhelming month of December. Baltimore was aggressive on both sides of the ball and proved themselves as the more physical team despite the final numbers not blowing you away. A banged-up offensive line allowed only one sack while the pass rush continued to be ferocious in sacking Ben Roethlisberger five times, making life in the shaky secondary much easier as the Steelers were made one-dimensional by the absence of Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell.

But no one showed that toughness more than quarterback Joe Flacco, who picked up where he left off in his historic 2012 postseason by throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns while posting a 114.0 passer rating. He’s now undefeated in his last five playoffs games and has tossed 13 touchdowns without throwing an interception in that span. In his last seven postseason contests, the 29-year-old has 17 touchdown passes and only one pick.

What is it about the postseason that makes Flacco so great?

“I really don’t know. I say that a lot, but it’s a tough question to answer,” Flacco said. “I come out here and do the same thing all the time. The biggest thing is to come out here and play a consistent football game.”

Of course, Flacco would be the first to tell you he wasn’t alone in disposing of the Steelers as the Ravens received spectacular plays such as Steve Smith’s 40-yard reception midway through the third quarter and Terrell Suggs’ legs-aided interception in the fourth that set up a quick score. But there were also a number of under-the-radar contributions that proved critical such as safety Darian Stewart driving Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown out of bounds to prevent a 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter and left guard Kelechi Osemele stymieing rush specialist James Harrison from a potential sack-strip of Flacco on the 11-yard touchdown strike to Torrey Smith that put the Ravens up 20-9 late in the third quarter.

The Ravens weathered adversity after Justin Forsett’s fumble and a quick Steelers touchdown — the kind of sequence that doomed them in previous playoff experiences against Pittsburgh — by responding with 10 points on their next two possessions to put the game away.

Baltimore was simply better than Pittsburgh on Saturday, and it’s been a long time coming for fans who’ve endured plenty of disappointment at the hands of the Steel City over the years. Flacco said earlier in the week that the Ravens weren’t brooding over previous playoff failures in Pittsburgh in the same way that they couldn’t dwell on the struggles of the final month of the regular season.

January brings a new season, and the Ravens certainly responded in the best way possible.

“You have to play these games to win,” Flacco said. “You can’t play not to lose. You have to go out there and you have to let everything go. You can’t worry about the outcome.”

And in not worrying, the Ravens were able to finally exorcise those old Pittsburgh demons.

Comments (1)

Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Saturday night

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Saturday night

Posted on 02 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Here we go again.

Regarded by many as the best rivalry in the NFL, the Ravens and Steelers meet for the third time this season and the fourth time ever in the postseason at Heinz Field on Saturday night. Baltimore and Pittsburgh split a pair of 20-point finals during the regular season with each team winning on its home field.

The weather figures to be a significant storyline as the forecast continues to call for a 90 to 100 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds that could reach 20 miles per hour.

Both teams will be dealing with significant injuries as the Steelers will be without Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell while the Ravens are missing left tackle Eugene Monroe for the second straight game, meaning rookie free agent James Hurst will start in his place. Pittsburgh will rely on rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer as well as newly-signed veteran Ben Tate to pick up the slack in Bell’s absence.

In more positive news, the Ravens will welcome back five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from suspension, which will more than offset the loss of rookie Timmy Jernigan (foot) in Week 17.

Of course, both team will lean heavily on Super Bowl winning quarterbacks to lead the way as Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger both know what it takes to make a meaningful run in January. Roethlisberger owns a 10-4 postseason record while Flacco owns a 9-4 mark in the playoffs.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Steelers meet for the fourth time in postseason history with Pittsburgh holding a 3-0 mark with all previous playoff games being played at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh also leads the all-time regular-season series 21-17, but 13 of the 16 games — including the postseason — played between the Ravens and Steelers in the John Harbaugh era have been decided by one possession.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to beat Pittsburgh for the first time ever in the postseason …

1. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will each collect a sack, but a sloppy field will neutralize some of their ability to wreak havoc. Bell’s absence will put plenty of attention on the Pittsburgh passing game, which will have the Ravens’ rush licking its chops over the possibility of being able to tee off on Roethlisberger. However, the Steelers offensive line is much better than it’s been in several years and the wet surface at Heinz Field will slow the rush for both teams. Suggs and Dumervil often try to jump snap counts to utilize their speed off the edge, but hard counts and a chewed-up field will make things easier for tackles Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert.

2. With the Ravens focused on slowing Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown, rookie Martavis Bryant will beat Rashaan Melvin for a long touchdown. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows Brown is the Steelers’ most dangerous weapon, which will make it even more important to focus on him in coverage with Bell unavailable. The Ravens will shade safety help to where Brown lines up as much as possible, but that could leave Melvin matched up against the 6-foot-4 Bryant. Melvin has played well since being thrown into the mix last month, but this will be his first NFL game against an elite quarterback and he’ll bite on a double move by Bryant for a score.

3. Justin Forsett will be the only running back from either team to find modest success on Saturday night with 70 yards and a touchdown. Considering few have run with any success against the Ravens this season, the Steelers won’t be able to do much without Bell, who will also be missed as a receiver and in pass protection. However, Baltimore has struggled to run consistently in recent weeks and will face the league’s sixth-ranked run defense. The Ravens will run wide and use counters to get the Steelers’ front seven moving laterally — something they also want to do with play-action plays to neutralize the pass rush — and Forsett will do enough to keep the Pittsburgh defense on its toes with the rain falling.

4. Both Flacco and Roethlisberger will throw more than 35 times despite a forecast conducive to running the ball. In the old days of this rivalry, Saturday’s forecast would have meant both sides grinding it out with the rushing attack, but the run defenses are too stout and the secondaries too vulnerable for the game not to be put in the hands of these franchise quarterbacks. The Ravens will mix in more runs than the Steelers, but Roethlisberger has better weapons to throw to in the passing game. As Harbaugh pointed out earlier in the week, both Flacco and Roethlisberger are used to playing in poor weather and the rain won’t prevent them from making some plays through the air.

5. The weather will contribute to another low-scoring tight one, but the Steelers will find a way to prevail in a 20-17 final. The loss of Bell is a major blow to Pittsburgh and could be enough to tip the scale in Baltimore’s favor, but the Ravens haven’t risen to the occasion against good teams, sporting only one win all season against a team that finished with a winning record. Many are pointing to 2012 as enough reason for the Ravens to be able to make a run, but even in the midst of losing four of their last five to close that regular season, there was the Week 16 demolition of the New York Giants that flashed what the offense would be able to do in the postseason. Despite a strong fourth quarter to beat Cleveland in Week 17, the Ravens have failed to inspire on offense for almost a month now, making it too difficult to believe the unit suddenly clicks in January with a banged-up offensive line. And after an admirable run against pedestrian passing games in December, a patchwork secondary isn’t going to hold up as well against the NFL’s second-ranked passing attack. Harbaugh’s group will give a one-dimensional Pittsburgh offense everything it can handle, but Roethlisberger has played the best football of his career this season and will do just enough at home to get by the Ravens yet again in the postseason.

Comments (0)

Ravens preparing for sloppy conditions at Heinz Field

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens preparing for sloppy conditions at Heinz Field

Posted on 01 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After going through an entire season of mild weather, the Ravens are preparing for ugly conditions in Pittsburgh for Saturday night’s playoff meeting with the Steelers.

Forecasts continue to call for a 100 percent chance of rain with winds that could reach 20 miles per hour on Saturday night. It may create a fitting scene for what many consider a throwback rivalry, but which team has the advantage?

With the Steelers possessing the NFL’s second-ranked passing game and Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell’s status up in the air, the Ravens probably don’t mind a rainy forecast at Heinz Field. Head coach John Harbaugh sees drawbacks for each side of the ball if conditions are poor, but he doesn’t envision Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger being dramatically impacted.

“Some days you feel like it’s an advantage to the defense, because maybe [the offense] can’t throw it quite as well,” Harbaugh said. “Other times you think it’s an advantage to the offense, because they know where they’re cutting and braking and things like that. I think both these quarterbacks are good bad-weather quarterbacks. That’s why they’re both successful in the AFC North.”

Despite showing inconsistency on the ground in recent weeks, the Ravens rank eighth in rush offense while Pittsburgh is only 16th and could be without Bell, who rushed for 1,361 yards in his second NFL season. Both teams have questionable depth at the position behind their starters as the Ravens lost rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro for the season and the Steelers had to sign veteran Ben Tate earlier this week.

Coming off the best regular season of his career, Justin Forsett sees nothing wrong with the wet conditions being predicted for Saturday. His impressive ability to change direction and low center of gravity are conducive traits to running effectively in wet conditions.

“As a running back, you love it,” Forsett said. “Usually, it means that you’re running the ball, but you never know. But I’m excited for it, either way.”

Beyond how much the weather itself might impact both teams’ game plans, the field conditions will be under scrutiny as the natural grass at Heinz Field holds up poorly late in the season. The Ravens haven’t played in substantially wet conditions in Pittsburgh since a 38-7 blowout loss suffered in a Monday night game in 2007.

In recent years, many have clamored for Pittsburgh to install an artificial surface at Heinz Field, which also serves as the home of University of Pittsburgh football and high school football playoff games.

“It’s terrible, man. They need to go ahead and put some turf up there or something,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “But you know that’s the case. Apparently the field gets a lot of use, so that’s good for them, but it’s terrible for [the players] playing this late. I’m sure they’ll do a great job prepping it, but if we use our fundamentals, the field shouldn’t matter.”

Versatile Yanda

With right tackle Rick Wagner out for the season and left tackle Eugene Monroe’s status for Saturday in doubt, the Ravens may be forced to use Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda at right tackle for a second straight start.

Of course, Yanda is no stranger to the position after playing the entire 2010 season there, but it’s a testament to the four-time Pro Bowl selection’s preparation and ability that he barely missed a beat in the regular-season finale against Cleveland. It’s another example of the 2007 third-round pick quietly establishing himself as one of the best players in franchise history.

“I told Marshal, ‘You’ll be fine. You could probably play quarterback.’” said offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak of the position change. “That’s the way he is. He’s an amazing player. His attention to detail, his commitment to the football team and what he does is as good as I’ve ever been around. So, [I’m] not surprised at all.”

Yanda’s versatility has allowed the Ravens to insert rookie John Urschel at right guard while rookie James Hurst has played left tackle in place of Monroe.

Taking the late-season change in stride, Yanda denied any ability or interest in lining up under center, but Kubiak has repeatedly said he’s as good as any offensive lineman he’s ever coached. The standout lineman’s focus remains on trying to beat Pittsburgh in the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

“I appreciate it, that’s for sure,” Yanda said. “Right now, you’re worried about playing well, practicing, and getting ready for the Steelers. There will be time to reflect back on the season after the season is over.”

Thursday’s injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Arthur Brown (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle), T Eugene Monroe (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (thigh/ankle), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Le’Veon Bell (knee), LB James Harrison (illness), QB Landry Jones (illness)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Mike Adams (illness), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), TE Michael Palmer (groin), S Troy Polamalu (knee), QB Ben Roethlisberger (non-injury), CB Ike Taylor (shoulder/forearm)

Comments (0)

Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 27 December 2014 by Luke Jones

(Editor’s note: The Browns announced that wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for a team violation after this post was published.)

Needing help in Week 17 is never a comfortable feeling, but it’s reality for the Ravens as they welcome the Cleveland Browns to town for the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Baltimore needs a win coupled with a Kansas City victory over San Diego to advance to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years under head coach John Harbaugh. Should the Ravens win and not receive help from the Chiefs — who will be starting backup Chase Daniel in place of injured quarterback Alex Smith — it would be the first time in franchise history that they’d finish a year with double-digit wins and not make the postseason.

Of course, the Ravens wouldn’t trade their current predicament with the Browns, who are losers of four straight and are forced to start rookie free agent Connor Shaw due to Week 16 injuries suffered by Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. While many in Baltimore are displeased by the possibility of the Ravens missing the playoffs for a second straight year, Cleveland needs a win just to complete its third non-losing season since 1999.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Browns meet for the 32nd time in regular-season history. Baltimore is 12-3 against Cleveland at M&T Bank Stadium and has won 12 of the last 13 over the Browns under Harbaugh. The Browns haven’t beaten the Ravens in Baltimore since 2007.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens hope to extend their season beyond Week 17 …

1. Torrey Smith will catch a touchdown in what could be his final game with the Ravens. The Browns own the league’s seventh-ranked pass defense, but top cornerback Joe Haden is questionable with a shoulder injury that limited him in practice all week. Meanwhile, Smith is facing the possibility of Sunday being his last game with Baltimore. It will be interesting to see what kind of market potentially develops for the 2011 second-round pick as he’s proven himself as a solid — and occasionally spectacular — No. 2 receiver, but the Ravens cannot and should not pay him as anything more than that. Regardless of what happens this offseason, Smith will catch his team-leading 11th touchdown of the 2014 campaign.

2. Browns wideout Josh Gordon will have his best game since his 2014 season debut in Week 12. Draw whatever conclusion you’d like, but Cleveland’s once-promising season crashed right around the time that the talented receiver returned from a lengthy suspension. There’s no doubting Gordon’s immense talent, but he hasn’t provided the shot in the arm the Browns needed as they’ve lost four of the five games in which he’s played. Gordon will have a chance to finish the season on a high note against the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense and even with Shaw under center, the 6-foot-3 receiver will eclipse 75 receiving yards and catch his first touchdown of the year, beating Rashaan Melvin in coverage.

3. Timmy Jernigan and Pernell McPhee will combine for three sacks against a vulnerable Browns interior line. All eyes will be on Elvis Dumervil and his quest to lead the league in sacks, but the Ravens should have few problems exploiting the interior portion of the Cleveland line as Nick McDonald is expected to start at center for the injured Ryan Seymour. The Browns have struggled inside since the loss of Pro Bowl center Alex Mack earlier in the year, and McPhee and Jernigan have had plenty of success as interior rushers in passing situations. While Cleveland will do whatever it can to contain Dumervil and Terrell Suggs off the edges, the Ravens will wreak havoc on the rookie Shaw with pressure right up the middle.

4. Justin Forsett will crack the century mark to complete one of the most surprising seasons in franchise history. The running game has suddenly become a concern over the last couple weeks, but the Browns are dead last in the NFL against the run, which will soften the blow of neither Eugene Monroe or Rick Wagner playing on Sunday. Even without his starting tackles to block for him, Forsett will take advantage of a front seven that will struggle to set the edge and will fail to protect cutback lanes, leading to a couple long runs. Forsett will join Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice as the only running backs in franchise history to post a 1,200-yard season.

5. The Ravens will win 24-13 before learning they will miss the postseason after not receiving the necessary help from Kansas City. Sunday’s game will be one of those contests that’s closer than it should be, but the Browns’ inability to consistently move the ball will allow the Ravens to stay ahead until they put together a fourth-quarter drive to make it a two-score game. Unfortunately, the Chargers will continue their late-season mojo with a win over the Chiefs to clinch the No. 6 spot. Considering the adversity and injuries the Ravens experienced in 2014, a 10-win season looks good on paper, but the memory of late-season losses to San Diego and Houston will lead to the most offseason pressure Harbaugh has felt since coming to Baltimore.

 

Comments (0)

Justin Forsett, Torrey Smith honored with local media awards

Tags: , , , ,

Justin Forsett, Torrey Smith honored with local media awards

Posted on 26 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After completing one of the more surprising seasons in the 19-year history of the Baltimore Ravens, veteran running back Justin Forsett was named the team’s most valuable player on Friday.

The 29-year-old was voted by the local media as team MVP in his first season with the Ravens in which he’s led all NFL running backs with a 5.3 yards per carry average and ranks sixth in the league with a career-high 1,147 rushing yards. His 2014 production currently ranks eighth on the Ravens’ all-time list of single-season rushing totals.

Signed to a one-year, $730,000 contract in early April, Forsett came to the Ravens simply hoping for a chance to make the roster and emerged to earn the starting job after Ray Rice was released on Sept. 8.

“I knew that I probably had one more shot, one more opportunity to show what I could do,” Forsett said. “I just wanted to make the best of it. I promised that if I got another chance, another play, I was going to be my best and put my best foot forward. That’s all I was trying to do, and to receive this award, it’s just another blessing.”

Forsett is tied for second with Dallas running back DeMarco Murray for the league lead in runs of 20 or more yards with 14. He needs just 53 yards in the regular-season finale to join Rice, Jamal Lewis, and Willis McGahee as the only players in franchise history to produce at least one 1,200-yard campaign.

He received AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors twice this season, once against Tennessee in Week 10 and the second coming after a career-best 182-yard rushing effort against New Orleans in Week 12.

The seventh-year running back missed out on being selected to the Pro Bowl but was chosen as a first alternate. He said being chosen as Baltimore’s MVP helped ease the sting of any lingering disappointment from the Pro Bowl announcements made earlier in the week.

“Yes, I’m OK,” said Forsett as he laughed. “Receiving the MVP and being recognized for something you put all the work in during the offseason to come out and perform — and for you guys to give me this honor — I’m happy.”

Linebacker Elvis Dumervil finished second in the team MVP voting after setting the Ravens’ single-season sack record and quarterback Joe Flacco finished third.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith was voted by the local media as the winner of the Good Guy Award, an honor bestowed upon a Ravens player viewed as particularly helpful when it comes to granting interviews and being accessible to the media. The fourth-year wideout hasn’t shied away from answering questions about on-field matters as well as other trying topics such as the Rice ordeal or defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended earlier this month.

“I respect the job you do,” Smith said. “We have to be able to withstand the heat when things aren’t going well, and when we’re successful, be able to talk as well. It’s just all part of the job.”

In the final year of his rookie contract, Smith could be playing his final game with the Ravens on Sunday should they not make the playoffs and elect not to re-sign the University of Maryland product.

Comments (0)