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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-Raiders: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 02 October 2016 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Trying to jump-start the NFL’s 26th-ranked running game, the Ravens have shaken up their backfield for Sunday’s Week 4 meeting with Oakland.

Veteran running back Justin Forsett has been deactivated, meaning Terrance West will make his first start with the Ravens since joining the team midway through last season. Forsett was averaging just 3.2 yards per carry through three games while West gained 45 yards on 10 carries against Jacksonville last week, a sign that he was beginning to gain more trust in the running game.

Second-year running back Buck Allen is active for the first time this season and will serve as West’s backup.

Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was inactive for the fourth straight game after returning to practice on a limited basis this week. Still wearing a brace on his left knee, the 2016 fourth-round pick worked out on the field before the game and continues moving closer to a return.

The revamped backfield will not have the services of rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was deactivated after being listed as doubtful with a lingering foot injury. The first-round pick did not practice all week and is expected to be replaced by James Hurst at left tackle, a concerning development with Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack waiting across the line of scrimmage.

Rookie left guard Alex Lewis is active despite going through the concussion protocol and missing most of the week of practice, but Ryan Jensen was working as the starting left guard during pre-game warmups. Third-year interior lineman John Urschel is also active and will make his 2016 season debut after missing a significant amount of the preseason with a shoulder injury.

As expected, five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil (foot) is active and will make his 2016 season debut. It will be interesting to see how much he plays against the Raiders after missing the entire preseason and the first three games in his return from offseason foot surgery. Rookie outside linebacker Matt Judon was deactivated with Dumervil returning to the mix.

Veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers will also make his 2016 debut after missing the first three games with an ankle injury.

There were no surprises in the list of inactives for the Raiders as safety Nate Allen (quadriceps) and offensive tackles Austin Howard (ankle) and Menelik Watson (calf) had already been ruled out on Friday.

The Ravens and Oakland are meeting for the ninth time ever in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 6-2 advantage and 5-0 mark at home. However, the Raiders won the last meeting between these teams, a 37-33 final in Oakland last season.

Baltimore will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while the Raiders don white tops and silver pants for Sunday’s game.

Sunday’s referee is Ed Hochuli.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore called for cloudy skies with temperatures reaching 70 degrees, calm winds up to four miles per hour, and only a slight chance of precipitation.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
RB Justin Forsett
OT Ronnie Stanley
CB Sheldon Price
RB Kenneth Dixon
CB Will Davis
DT Willie Henry
LB Matt Judon

OAKLAND
QB Connor Cook
S Nate Allen
RB Taiwan Jones
CB Antonio Hamilton
OT Menelik Watson
OL Matt McCants
OT Austin Howard

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 2 win in Cleveland

Posted on 19 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens completing the second-largest comeback in franchise history with a 25-20 victory at Cleveland on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After a quiet performance in the opener, C.J. Mosley came up with the game-saving interception in the closing seconds, but he also added six tackles — two for losses — and a quarterback knockdown. This was the kind of high-impact performance we didn’t see from Mosley last season.

2. You had to feel good for Dennis Pitta having that kind of game in his return to the place where he suffered his second career-threatening hip injury. He took full advantage of the defense respecting the Ravens’ speed and effectively worked underneath against Cleveland.

3. It will be interesting to see how Kenneth Dixon fares when he returns, because the running game hasn’t been getting it done. Averaging 3.0 yards per carry, the Ravens need better blocking from their offensive line, but neither Justin Forsett nor Terrance West looks like a true No. 1 back.

4. His return for a defensive two-point conversion grabbed the attention, but Tavon Young is quietly playing at a high level for a rookie fourth-rounder. Sharing time with Anthony Levine as the slot cornerback, Young made two key open-field tackles on the final defensive series of the game.

5. Never one to shy away from being aggressive, John Harbaugh forgoing a 45-yard field goal try to go for a fourth-and-2 to start the second quarter was a panic move, especially with a running game that’s been abysmal in those spots. Take the points from your high-paid kicker that early.

6. Others have played well, but Timmy Jernigan has been Baltimore’s best defensive player through two games. The 2014 second-round pick leads the team with two sacks, four tackles for a loss, and five quarterback hits and has provided a much-needed interior rush presence.

7. The presence of veterans Steve Smith and Mike Wallace figured to impact the production of Kamar Aiken, but the leading receiver last season has been an afterthought so far with just two receptions on three targets. The Ravens would certainly like to get him more involved.

8. I was impressed with Browns rookie Corey Coleman, who caught two touchdowns and went over 100 receiving yards. With Josh Gordon coming off suspension, Cleveland could have had a fun little passing game if not for the left shoulder injury to Josh McCown that’s believed to be serious.

9. For a team that regularly says it takes pride in being physical, the Ravens sure like to use shotgun formations and run outside in short-yardage situations.

10. It’s no secret that third-down defense was an issue on Sunday, but Dean Pees’ unit deserves credit for settling down midway through the second quarter. After the Browns converted six of their first seven third downs, the Ravens made stops on six of the final eight.

11. Not lost in victory was poor clock management late. First, Forsett ran out of bounds with 3:00 left. The Ravens proceeded to take their final timeout, throw an incompletion, and kick a field goal with 2:53 remaining instead of forcing Cleveland’s final timeout or taking it to the two-minute warning.

12. We always talk about Joe Flacco having an even-keeled personality, but you could tell how fired up he was after the win, complimenting his teammates for being a “bunch of freaking men” in coming back. No matter their deficiencies, the Ravens always have a chance with him at the helm.

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 17 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Winning on the road isn’t easy in the NFL.

Even in John Harbaugh’s first five seasons that included a Super Bowl title, three AFC championship game appearances, and at least one playoff victory each year, a 21-19 road mark in the regular season was solid but hardly sensational. However, an 8-16 record away from M&T Bank Stadium over the last three seasons is a clear reflection of a team having only made the playoffs once over that stretch.

After their Week 1 victory against Buffalo, the Ravens take their show on the road for the first time in 2016 against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore seeks its eighth win in the last nine trips to Cleveland. The Ravens lead the all-time regular-season series with a 25-9 mark and are 12-5 at FirstEnergy Stadium dating back to the year it opened in 1999. The teams split a pair of games in 2015, but the Ravens have won 14 of the 16 games played in the series during the Harbaugh era.

1. The defensive line will pay tribute to the late Clarence Brooks by holding Cleveland to under 3.0 yards per carry. Coming off a 2015 season in which they rushed for an average 4.0 yards per attempt, Cleveland averaged 5.7 yards per rush against Philadelphia, snapping off four runs of 16 yards or more. That said, Brandon Williams and the Ravens front were stout against Buffalo in giving up only 2.7 yards per carry and will surely want to honor the memory of their longtime defensive line coach, who died Saturday. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will find little room throughout the afternoon.

2. An ineffective pass rush will lead to a long touchdown pass to Browns receiver Corey Coleman. The defense will be without Elvis Dumervil and possibly Za’Darius Smith, once again leaving defensive coordinator Dean Pees little choice but to blitz to generate pressure. It won’t be easy for a rusty Terrell Suggs going up against nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, either. The Ravens know they must disrupt Josh McCown in the pocket after he threw for over 450 yards in a game against them last year, but he’ll get too much time at some point and the speedy Coleman will shake free for a big score.

3. The Baltimore running game still won’t click fully, but Terrance West will lead in rushing against his old team. West received more carries than veteran starter Justin Forsett in the opener, but the former found little running room, averaging only 2.7 yards per pop. With a one-possession lead in the second half, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will lean on West to wear down an inexperienced Cleveland front. The average still won’t be where the Ravens want it, but West will run for 65 yards to help protect the lead with Forsett chipping in 50 of his own against the Browns.

4. Dennis Pitta will catch his first touchdown in 33 months. The veteran tight end downplayed his return to the place where he sustained his second hip fracture and dislocation two years ago, but there wouldn’t be a more appropriate place for him to make his first touchdown reception since Dec. 8, 2013. After surprisingly playing 82 percent of the offensive snaps against Buffalo while making a key 27-yard reception, Pitta will build on that solid performance with a red-zone score. Concern about his health will remain in observers’ minds, but you have to be happy for the 31-year-old in his comeback.

5. Joe Flacco will play how he usually does against the Browns in a 23-13 victory. In 15 career games against Cleveland, the 31-year-old has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions while averaging roughly 215 passing yards per game. Trestman won’t ask Flacco to take many chances in this road game, but the quarterback will be efficient while, most importantly, protecting the football. Some will complain about another grind-it-out performance lacking style points, but the Ravens will happily leave Cleveland holding their first 2-0 start since 2009.

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Will committee approach work for Ravens running backs?

Posted on 09 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The dynamics of the running game have certainly changed in the pass-happy NFL in recent years.

Look no further than the Ravens a year ago when they rushed only 383 times, a franchise single-season low and four fewer attempts than Jamal Lewis had by himself in a historic 2003 season. In 2015, only one running back in the NFL — Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson — carried the ball more than 300 times and just 15 backs had as many as 200 carries.

Those realities coupled with the Ravens’ depth at running back have everyone wondering if we’ll see a timeshare approach in 2016. Veteran Justin Forsett is expected to begin the season as the starter, but general manager Ozzie Newsome’s willingness to potentially lose him in the unorthodox roster shuffling this past week reflected confidence in the young trio of Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon, and Buck Allen.

“We are very deep. This is probably the most talented group that we have had since I have been here,” said Forsett, entering his third year with Baltimore. “We push each other, and it is going to take all of us anyway at the end of the day to go out there and perform. I’m confident with all of us.”

But how feasible is the committee approach?

Head coach John Harbaugh used the strategy to perfection in his first season as Le’Ron McClain, Willis McGahee, and Ray Rice each had over 100 carries and combined to run for over 2,000 yards, but Rice quickly emerged as a Pro Bowl running back the following season.

We’ve heard more and more about the committee approach in today’s NFL, but a look at the top 10 rushing offenses in the league last year showed little evidence of that strategy being employed as a feature back on each team averaged at least 15 carries per game at any given stretch in the season with only injuries significantly impacting the carry distribution. The only team in the top 10 that appeared to use more of a timeshare was sixth-ranked Kansas City and that was toward the end of the season after the Chiefs had already lost four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles in October.

The Ravens certainly hope to be more productive on the ground than they were a year ago when they finished 26th in rushing offense, but at least one of their backs will need to emerge to be better than a complementary option. If you only have four No. 2 running backs from an ability standpoint, that’s unlikely to get the job done.

According to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, the workload will largely be determined by third-year running backs coach Thomas Hammock.

“I think our guys expect to be moved around,” Trestman said. “Thomas has a great feel for that, and he really handles that with John and my approval, so to speak. He did a great job with that last year, and I expect that [this year]. He has a good feel for when these guys need to come out, when they need a break, and if there is a play that they need to be in on. And if he feels like [a certain back] can get it done, he will get them in there.”

There’s a delicate balance between wanting to give opportunities to multiple back and making sure the most productive ones have the chance to get into the flow of the game. It’s a challenge that the Ravens could have throughout the season, especially after the talented rookie Dixon returns from a knee injury in a few weeks.

Coaches have downplayed that peril while acknowledging that the proof will be in the results, but at least one member of the Baltimore backfield provided an honest assessment about the difficulty of playing in a committee.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you, it’s tough getting in a rhythm as a running back,” said West, who carried the ball over 400 times in his final collegiate season at Towson in 2013. “A running back’s got to have a good feeling and feel the game out. Right now, I’m just taking advantage of opportunity. When my number’s called, I’m going to make the best of that one play or the three plays I have — however many plays I have.”

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Ravens were prepared to lose Forsett in unorthodox roster shuffling

Posted on 06 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh didn’t try to spin the narrative when asked about the unusual weekend that played out with running back Justin Forsett, who was cut and re-signed two days later.

Harbaugh said it was “self-explanatory” that the organization wanted to temporarily open roster spots for safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Carl Davis before placing them on injured reserve and keeping them eligible to potentially return later in the season. But the move did not come without a real danger of losing Forsett if another team had been willing to make a superior offer to the $3 million salary he will still make with Baltimore in 2016.

“We understood that. You have to take risks,” Harbaugh said. “No guts, no glory. You can’t achieve anything unless you are willing to take some risks, but certainly you take calculated, smart risks. That is what we did there.”

According to NFL Network, the Ravens reinstated the exact terms of his previous deal that runs through next year, but the 30-year-old can now earn an additional $100,000 if he eclipses his 2015 rushing total (641 yards) this season.

All along, there was a trust between the two sides that facilitated such an unorthodox move that grabbed the attention of the football world. Harbaugh expressed his admiration for Forsett, who has been a valuable asset both on and off the field in the post-Ray Rice era.

“I thought Justin handled it exceptionally well,” Harbaugh said. “It was a team move on his part, and it didn’t hurt him in any way, financially or otherwise. We knew what the plan was all along. I thought it was well-executed. Hopefully, it helps us in the end. It is a small thing, but it is not a small thing to those two guys that have a chance to come back on the roster.”

Hester ready for Week 1

It remains to be seen how much four-time Pro Bowl return specialist Devin Hester has left after undergoing toe surgery in January, but the 33-year-old declared himself fully healthy on Tuesday.

Despite only hitting the practice field for the first time with the Ravens on Tuesday, Hester is expected to be the return man against Buffalo to open the season. How much he’ll be involved in the offense — if at all — remains to be seen.

“He seems like he is actually in very good shape,” Harbaugh said. “He looks like he is ready to play. I’m not worried about him being able to handle the job at all. We are excited about him, and we are anticipating him being out there handling kicks and punts for us — at least — on Sunday.”

Powers still in plans

Veteran cornerback Jerraud Powers has been absent since suffering an injury in the second preseason game on Aug. 20, but he remains in the Ravens’ plans despite outside speculation about his future.

“We respect his ability and what he brings to the table for us,” Harbaugh said. “As soon as he’s healthy, which is probably day-to-day right now with an ankle sprain, we’ll see where he goes from there. I’m excited to get him out there, too.”

Should Powers not be able to play against the Bills, rookie Tavon Young or fourth-year cornerback Will Davis could be asked to defend the slot in the nickel package.

Tough conversation

The decision to cut wide receiver Jeremy Butler was one of the more unpopular moves of the weekend after he led the team in receptions during the preseason.

Harbaugh said that Butler “deserved” to make the 53-man roster, but there was a big need to address that made the young wideout the odd man out in the end.

“We needed a returner,” Harbaugh said. “When you looked at who would have to go and stay and to make sure we had enough players at different positions, he was a guy that there wasn’t a chair left for him at the end. That was probably the most — one of the most — two or three [difficult conversations].”

Tampa Bay signed Butler to its practice squad on Sunday after he declined an invitation to be on Baltimore’s for a second straight year.

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Nov 10, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam (26) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

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Ravens’ roster maneuvering reflects new injured reserve rule

Posted on 05 September 2016 by Luke Jones

If you’re still trying to understand exactly what Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome was doing with his 53-man roster this weekend, look no further than a tweaked rule for the 2016 season.

Since 2012, the NFL has permitted teams to choose one player on injured reserve to return later in the season, but teams were previously required to designate that player at the time they were placed on IR. Starting this year, teams no longer have to decide in advance which player they want to pull back from IR, leading to some different strategy such as what the Ravens exhibited over the weekend.

“It gives you some options that you didn’t have before,” said head coach John Harbaugh on Saturday before the roster manipulation began. “You’d like to be able to have more guys available for that, obviously from just a coaching football standpoint. The fact that you can leave it open toward the end of the year to see who gets hurt in the future after the 53-man cut and also who progresses with their injury the best and what your needs are [gives you more roster options].”

The rule still requires the designation to return to be used on a player who was placed on IR after the initial 53-man roster was finalized, explaining why safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Carl Davis made the original roster before being sent to IR on Monday. Instead of potentially subjecting other players to waivers, the Ravens chose to cut veteran running back Justin Forsett on Saturday and waited to sign return specialist Devin Hester, leaving their roster spots open for Elam and Davis to temporarily occupy.

Forsett officially re-signed with the team on Monday afternoon.

Under the old rules, the Ravens may have simply passed on giving either Elam or Davis the designation since neither was projected to be a starting player, but they now have both in play as options to return later in the season. Should Baltimore suffer a serious injury or two at the safety position, Elam suddenly becomes a more attractive option as he continues to work his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. In a similar light, a deep group of defensive linemen would look more vulnerable with a few injuries over the first several weeks of the season, making Davis a more appealing choice after he’s fully recovered from the ankle injury sustained in the preseason finale.

In order to keep Elam and Davis in play to return in past seasons, the Ravens would have needed to carry both on the 53-man roster or designate one for a return and carry the other on the active roster, leaving less roster flexibility in the process. It’s quite possible that both will remain on IR all year if the Ravens sustain a long-term injury to a more significant player in the coming weeks and would then prefer to use the return designation for that individual.

The rule still does not allow a player to return to the active roster until he’s been on IR for at least eight weeks, but that individual may return to practice after six weeks.

You can certainly question whether the modest reward was worth potentially alienating — or even losing — a former Pro Bowl player in Forsett, but the Ravens felt it was worth the risk to give themselves the optimal roster in the present with a couple more options for later in the season.

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Ravens re-sign Forsett to complete strange 48-hour saga

Posted on 05 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The plot thickens indeed.

Speculation began immediately after the Ravens released running back Justin Forsett on Saturday that the veteran would still return. However, the organization did not wait until after Week 1 when the salaries of newly-signed vested veteran players are no longer guaranteed for the entire season.

The Ravens re-signed the 2014 Pro Bowl running back on Monday afternoon, roughly 48 hours after his contract was terminated. Players were off on Sunday and Monday, which means Forsett will not have missed any team activities by the time the team reconvenes for practice on Tuesday.

It’s become obvious that Forsett’s release was just a strange way for general manager Ozzie Newsome to manipulate his initial 53-man roster. Baltimore also announced Monday that safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Carl Davis were going to injured reserve, creating roster spots for the returning Forsett and newly-signed return specialist Devin Hester.

In order for any players on IR to be eligible for the designation to return later in the season, a team is required to keep them on the initial 53-man roster through final cuts, explaining why Elam and Davis were on the original roster. Players already placed on IR such as rookie defensive end Bronson Kaufusi are not eligible for the designation to return later in the season.

Unlike past seasons, teams do not have to designate the one player to return from IR ahead of time and can instead weigh their options as the season progresses and other significant injuries potentially occur.

Head coach John Harbaugh is scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday afternoon, so it will be interesting to hear how he and the organization try to spin this odd roster manipulation. It’s fair to wonder why the Ravens would ask Forsett to do this and why the 2014 Pro Bowl running back would agree unless he’s receiving something in return such as a bonus.

Less significant veterans on the 53-man roster such as linebacker Chris Carter just as easily could have been cut with a similar unspoken agreement to re-sign a few days later and also would not have been required to pass through waivers. Of course, trust can be a significant obstacle with something as delicate as this, and the organization and Forsett have clearly been on good terms, which made Saturday’s news so surprising in the first place.

Of course, Forsett couldn’t resist announcing his return in dramatic fashion using Twitter.

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Plenty of questions stemming from Ravens cutting Forsett

Posted on 04 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With several hours to process the surprise of the Ravens cutting running back Justin Forsett, below are a plethora of questions related to the decision:

1. The possibility of this outcome crossed my mind at a few points during Forsett’s underwhelming summer, but did the Ravens really cut their starting running back who made the Pro Bowl two years ago?

2. Will Baltimore bring him back after Week 1 when vested veteran salaries are no longer guaranteed for the whole season?

3. Would Forsett even want to return under such an arrangement?

4. After holding him out of two preseason games entirely and giving him a total of seven carries this summer, did the Ravens give the 30-year-old a fair chance to keep his job?

5. Given Forsett’s past success in Gary Kubiak’s offensive system, will the Denver Broncos come calling for his services?

6. With just two healthy tailbacks entering the season opener next Sunday, do the Ravens have enough depth at the position?

7. Terrance West shed weight and clearly impressed this summer, but can the Ravens really trust him as their starter with a history that resulted in two bad teams dumping him over the last calendar year?

8. Has Buck Allen shown enough to be a reliable No. 2 running back after his own unimpressive preseason that prompted many to question his job security?

9. Are the Ravens too confident that exciting rookie Kenneth Dixon will come back from a torn MCL in his left knee to pick up where he left off this summer?

10. Why didn’t general manager Ozzie Newsome or head coach John Harbaugh issue statements recognizing Forsett’s important contributions on and off the field in the same way they have for virtually any notable veteran to be released over the years?

11. Am I the only one who thought it was strange that Ravens players weren’t tweeting farewells or their support to Forsett, who has been a popular teammate over the last two years?

12. Was there any cryptic meaning in the tweet Forsett posted shortly after the news broke on Saturday afternoon?

13. Given the veteran’s reputation for having good field vision, are the Ravens really that comfortable with a revamped offensive line and a running game that averaged 3.6 yards per carry this preseason?

14. The Ravens are saving $3 million by cutting Forsett, but will the salary cap space be worth it?

15. Are the young backs ready to pick up the slack in pass protection, an area where Forsett excelled?

16. Will fullback Kyle Juszczyk have a more meaningful role in the offense this year?

17. How much will the backfield miss Forsett’s leadership on the field and in the classroom?

18. Will a trio of tailbacks totaling only 152 more career rushing yards than Forsett had in his 2014 Pro Bowl season alone make Ravens fans forget all about the veteran?

19. Did the Ravens get too wrapped up in summer performance from younger players that can frequently turn out to be a mirage?

20. Will this long-winded list of questions look silly in the next couple days, weeks, or months, or did the Ravens just make a big mistake?

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