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jsmith

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Jimmy Smith practices fully for second straight day

Posted on 01 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear set to welcome back their top cornerback to action as Jimmy Smith practiced fully for the second straight day on Thursday.

Counting down to Sunday’s meeting with the Miami Dolphins, the Baltimore secondary is on track to be at full strength in a pivotal game in the AFC playoff picture. Miami ranks 28th in passing yards per game, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill is eighth in the NFL in yards per attempt, a reflection of how heavily the Dolphins have leaned on their running game this season.

Miami could be without former first-round receiver DeVante Parker (back), but Smith’s return would help greatly in covering 2015 Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and vertical threat Kenny Stills. Smith missed the last two game with a back injury described as “muscular” by head coach John Harbaugh.

“Hopefully, he’s back. I’m not going to say he is or not,” safety Eric Weddle said. “He’s looked good the last couple days, so let’s just hope he doesn’t have a setback. Obviously, you get one of your best corners back, it’s going to help you.”

Guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) were full participants after sitting out Wednesday’s workout. Meanwhile, linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah were given a veteran day off as has become routine in recent Thursday practices.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), running back Lorenzo Taliferro (hamstring), and guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were once again absent from practice. Second-year running back Buck Allen also sat out with what was labeled a non-football injury, but he was seen in the building on Thursday.

In addition to Parker, the Dolphins did not have center Mike Pouncey (hip) or linebacker Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand) on the field for Thursday’s practice. Left tackle Brandon Albert (wrist) and left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) were limited participants for the second straight day and appear on track to return after missing last week’s game against San Francisco.

Miami middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (hamstring) was added to the injury report as a limited participant.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Javorius Allen (non-football injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand), WR DeVante Parker (back), C Mike Pouncey (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Branden Albert (wrist), LB Kiko Alonso (hamstring), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), RB Kenyan Drake (knee), CB Xavien Howard (knee), DT Earl Mitchell (back), G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)

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jimmysmith

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Jimmy Smith returns to Ravens practice after two-game absence

Posted on 30 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens welcomed cornerback Jimmy Smith back to the practice field as they prepare for Sunday’s showdown with the red-hot Miami Dolphins.

After missing the last two games with a back injury, Smith appeared to be working on a limited basis as the Ravens practiced indoors due to Wednesday’s rain. Head coach John Harbaugh described Smith as “close” to returning on Monday, so his presence two days later was a good sign for his Week 13 status.

Despite Smith not taking part in all drills during the open portion of practice, he was listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report.

Five players were missing from Wednesday’s workout, a list that included wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (hamstring), tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring), and guards Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Alex Lewis (ankle). Yanda was given Wednesday off for the second straight week.

Aiken was the only surprise among the nonparticipants, but his head coach downplayed his absence.

“He should be fine for Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “He had a bruise. We will see how it develops.”

A scary moment during Wednesday’s practice occurred when wide receiver Steve Smith appeared to tweak his right leg while going against cornerback Shareece Wright in a 1-on-1 drill. Smith limped off and was laboring on the sideline, but he finished practice without any further issue.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) was present and participating fully after playing in his first game since Week 5 on Sunday. His fourth-quarter strip-sack against Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton helped preserve a 19-14 win for the Ravens.

“I was very excited,” Harbaugh said. “I told you before I’d be happy to see him out there making plays, and right on cue, he did it. He looked like himself. He looked very explosive. I know he’s excited also.”

The Dolphins saw the limited return of left tackle Brandon Albert (wrist) and left guard Laremy Tunsil (shoulder) to practice, but starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) remained sidelined. None of those three starters on their offensive line played against San Francisco in Week 12.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (back)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Kenyan Drake (knee), LB Jelani Jenkins (knee/hand), DT Earl Mitchell (back), WR DeVante Parker (back), C Mike Pouncey (hip)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Brandon Albert (wrist), G Jermon Bushrod (calf), CB Xavien Howard (knee), G Laremy Tunsil (shoulder)

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suggs

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 12 win over Cincinnati

Posted on 29 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens topping Cincinnati in a 19-14 final on Sunday to remain tied for first place in the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I don’t know what else there is to say about the excellence of Justin Tucker, but I sure hope he receives an opportunity one of these days to attempt a 65-yard field goal to set the NFL record. And then gets another chance to kick an even longer one.

2. The Ravens have more field goals (27) than anyone in the NFL, but they rank ahead of only Houston and Los Angeles with 19 touchdowns. That combination has earned them a 6-5 record, but it’s not a formula that will work against upper-tier teams.

3. Coming off his second Achilles injury in a four-year period and currently playing with a torn biceps, Terrell Suggs played a season-high 61 snaps and had two strip-sacks. Though not the consistent force he was in his prime, he’s earned even more respect as a player this season.

4. Don’t forget that Sam Koch’s safety went down as a run for minus-23 yards in the final statistics. Otherwise, the Baltimore running game gained 115 yards on 29 carries, a respectable average of just under 4.0 yards per attempt compared to the official 3.1 mark.

5. It’s difficult to recall a defensive line batting down four passes on a single drive, let alone doing it on the final series of a one-score game. It was a brilliant way to offset an inconsistent pass rush for much of the afternoon.

6. Nothing illustrated the up-and-down nature of the offense more than its third-down conversion rate against the Bengals. After going a strong 5-for-10 in a 16-point first half, the Ravens were 0-for-6 after intermission. Baltimore ranks last in the NFL with a 33.3 percent conversion rate on the season.

7. The decision to call an end-around hand-off to Mike Wallace on the final drive was questionable at best, but I applaud any extra attempts to get him the football otherwise. His explosive speed needs to be utilized as much as possible.

8. It came down to the numbers game with Elvis Dumervil returning, but Za’Darius Smith being a healthy inactive illustrates how much finding an edge pass rusher remains a priority this offseason. Rookie Matt Judon flashes potential, but Smith’s second season has been a disappointment.

9. Kamar Aiken caught a pass to move the chains on a key third down on each of the first two scoring drives and wasn’t targeted again after that. No one expected him to be Baltimore’s leading receiver again this season, but he shouldn’t have fewer receptions than Kyle Juszczyk.

10. I’m still surprised how reluctant some have been to embrace this defense. It may lack much star power, but this has been a top 5 unit all year. If your standard is the 2000 Ravens or you’re waiting for the next Ray Lewis to appear, you’ll never be satisfied.

11. Many are clamoring for the Ravens to use the no-huddle offense even more, but it bogged down after a fast start against Cincinnati. This group hasn’t shown the kind of precision or communication required to run it exclusively, but it can still be used plenty.

12. Coaches always receive criticism when teams lose, but John Harbaugh deserves praise for the way he handled the game-ending safety. He said all teams have that strategy in their special-teams playbook, but I highly doubt that.

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stanley

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Ravens list Stanley as doubtful to play against Oakland

Posted on 30 September 2016 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is the final injury report of the week:

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

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

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Left side of Ravens offensive line uncertain for Sunday

Posted on 29 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing to face one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, the Ravens don’t know what the left side of their offensive line will look like against Oakland on Sunday.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and left guard Alex Lewis (concussion) were absent from practice for the second straight day, leaving their status up in the air for Week 4.

After being spotted in a walking boot in the locker room on Wednesday, Stanley was not wearing one on Thursday despite not talking to reporters. The 2016 first-round pick played in Week 3 despite missing a day of practice, but the foot issue has lingered, a definite concern with 2015 Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack looming on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage on Sunday.

Lewis sustained a concussion late in the fourth quarter in Jacksonville and was replaced by Ryan Jensen at left guard. James Hurst is listed as the primary backup at left tackle on the Week 4 depth chart released by the public relations staff.

“We felt very good about Alex and Ronnie, and we will see what the trainers and doctors say,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. “John [Harbaugh] determines at the end of the week how that goes, but we feel good about the guys we have.”

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) and wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) were full participants on Thursday after missing the opening practice of the week. Running back Kenneth Dixon (knee) was a limited participant for the second straight day.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) practiced fully once again and confirmed that he will make his season debut on Sunday. Veteran teammate Terrell Suggs broke the news on Wednesday that Dumervil would play against the Raiders.

“I guess my guy already said it,” said Dumervil as he laughed. “‘That is what we are shooting for.’ I can’t use that anymore. I’m excited to go out in front of our crowd.”

Meanwhile, the Raiders were without starting right tackle Menelik Watson (calf) for the second consecutive day of practice.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Lewis (concussion), CB Sheldon Price (thigh), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), RS Devin Hester (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), G John Urschel (shoulder)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Nate Allen (quadriceps), OT Austin Howard (ankle), OT Menelik Watson (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Rodney Hudson (knee), RB Taiwan Jones (knee), OT Matt McCants (knee)

 

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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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jernigan

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on Week 1 win over Buffalo

Posted on 12 September 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens kicking off the 2016 season with a 13-7 win over Buffalo on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Joe Flacco easily could have been satisfied with a win in his first game back from knee surgery, but you could tell he wasn’t pleased with the performance and the failure to further exploit “cover 0” looks from Buffalo. I like that kind of attitude in a quarterback.

2. No one envisioned Shareece Wright as the Week 1 defensive MVP after a rough preseason, but he was outstanding against the run with three tackles for a loss and 11 tackles overall. His confidence can be fleeting — as it is for many cornerbacks — but he played with plenty of it.

3. Much was made about 10 different Ravens players making catches, but you wonder if offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s attempt to get so many players involved led to the clunky showing in the second half. Thirteen points were enough on Sunday, but this offense remains a work in progress.

4. It wasn’t surprising since he essentially took Carl Davis’ roster spot, but Michael Pierce being on the field with Brandon Williams gave the Ravens plenty of beef inside against a Buffalo running game that tried to avoid running between the tackles. That should really help in short-yardage situations.

5. After starting all last season, Kamar Aiken and Crockett Gillmore saw a total of three targets on Sunday. You can debate whether that’s a good thing or not, but it does illustrate how much deeper this group of pass catchers is.

6. The time is now for Timmy Jernigan to elevate his game as a third-year player. He collected a sack and had a tackle for a loss as a disruptive force up front. Improved discipline and health are the only factors holding him back from being an above-average starter.

7. The entire offensive line was less than stellar, but the struggles of Jeremy Zuttah stood out as a cadence issue led to a lost fumble on a snap and he whiffed blocking Jerry Hughes on a sack that ended another drive in the first half.

8. He’s received much criticism, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees put together an excellent game plan that left Tyrod Taylor confused and guessing as to who was rushing and who was dropping into coverage. The challenge will now be effectively disguising fronts and coverages every week.

9. You had to feel great for Steve Smith being back on the field after a horrible Achilles injury, but I’m sure he’d like to have more than 19 receiving yards on nine targets. It will be interesting to see how his role evolves with improved overall talent at receiver.

10. The whiff on a potential sack leading to Buffalo’s longest offensive play was ugly, but Albert McClellan played well against the run in Courtney Upshaw’s old spot. His tackle of Reggie Bush for a loss derailed Buffalo’s opening drive of the second half that ended with a missed field goal.

11. Mike Wallace offered the line of the day on his 66-yard touchdown catch when he said, “If you have a safety on me, he’s dead every time.” You have to love that kind of speed — and swagger — that was sorely lacking in this passing game a year ago.

12. It’s difficult to evaluate the pass rush as the Ravens wanted to keep Taylor in the pocket, but edge rushers didn’t generate consistent disruption against backup offensive tackles. Getting Elvis Dumervil back will certainly help, but Terrell Suggs will hopefully show more as he knocks off rust.

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flacco

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Ravens offense trying to turn potential into production in 2016

Posted on 07 September 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — This Ravens offense looks promising on paper.

Some observers have even dared to say this is the most talented collection of skill players in the history of the franchise. Of course, we know that bar isn’t all that high with Baltimore being much more known for its defense over the last two decades.

But that doesn’t mean ninth-year quarterback Joe Flacco is ready to call this the deepest group he’s had around him, either.

“I think that has yet to be seen,” Flacco said. “We have to go out there and prove that we’re weapons and that we can do it in live games on Sundays. I think it’s a very promising group and I’m very excited about it, but we have to go out there and prove it.”

It’s easy to be excited about the healthy returns of Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, and Dennis Pitta as well as the additions of veteran free agent Mike Wallace and rookie fourth-rounder Chris Moore, but the most critical factor will be how well the offensive line performs with two new pieces on Flacco’s blindside. From the moment he arrived in Owings Mills this spring, first-round pick Ronnie Stanley has looked the part of a starting left tackle, but the regular season brings an even faster speed to which he’ll need to adjust.

Fellow rookie Alex Lewis may join him in the starting lineup after third-year guard John Urschel missed much of the summer with a shoulder injury. For either option at left guard, replacing the accomplished Kelechi Osemele won’t be easy and will make life for Stanley even more challenging.

That left side of the offensive line is sure to be tested right away by a Buffalo defense that looks undermanned but will try to throw the kitchen sink at inexperienced linemen. Bills head coach and former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was very complimentary of both Stanley and Lewis on Wednesday, but he’s also aware of their inexperience and will try to exploit it.

“I’ve never seen it before where two [rookies] start on the offensive line because that is tough,” Ryan said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. “There’s so much to it. But those two guys I’m sure have done a great job studying and things. But it’s not easy, that’s for sure.”

The offensive line protecting Flacco in the pocket is a nonnegotiable prerequisite for success, but opening holes in the running game proved to be a problem last season as the Ravens rushed for an underwhelming 3.9 yards per carry. An offense regularly trailing in most of its games a year ago was predictably going to lean more on the pass, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman struggled to commit to the ground attack even when opportunities were there.

We know Flacco is at his best as a passer when he has the support of a strong running game, and head coach John Harbaugh has made it clear that improving in that area is a must.

Trying to figure out how the carries will be distributed will be interesting as veteran Justin Forsett is still expected to begin the year as the starter, but both Terrance West and the presently-injured Kenneth Dixon figure to factor more heavily into the equation as the season progresses. It sounds fine to say you’ll use a by-committee approach, but there’s a fine line between giving multiple backs opportunities and allowing the right one to get into a rhythm.

That trio of backs along with 2014 fourth-round pick Buck Allen all have their strengths and weaknesses, but at least one will need to prove capable of being a No. 1 kind of talent when it matters most.

“In the end, wisdom is in the results,” Harbaugh said. “We will all be judged how well we run the ball as a group. My goal is for all those guys to have success running the ball. I think they all bring something different to the table, style-wise [and] ability-wise.”

The same general thought process applies at wide receiver and tight end where health is clearly a factor for the 37-year-old Smith coming off an awful Achilles injury last November and for the 31-year-old Pitta, who hasn’t played in a game in nearly two years and missed most of training camp with a broken finger this summer. Even if those two stay healthy to go along with the rest of the bunch, the challenge is there for Trestman and Flacco to spread the ball around in a way that’s most productive for the overall offense.

More options in the vertical passing game will ideally open up the short-to-intermediate portion of the field for Smith, Pitta, Kamar Aiken, and Crockett Gillmore, but that comes with the understanding that there will be times when the Ravens want to best utilize that speed with certain substitution packages.

Whether you’re a talented first-year player or a 16th-year receiver with Hall of Fame credentials, there’s no room for ego when trying to bounce back from a 5-11 season.

“You know you are going to get your plays, but you are also ecstatic to be able to clear it out and open it up for other guys,” Smith said. “[If] I go down and run a route to open it up for Mike and Mike catches it, then I’m on the hunt. I get to peel back on somebody and knock the s–t out of them. That is what I am excited about, so I can play my role for Mike and Mike can play his role.

“Anyone can catch the ball, but can you be a team player to clear it out and understand the integrity of the play and what you are supposed to be doing for the other guy? That is the ultimate team player right there.”

The Ravens signed Wallace to provide an established speed presence on the outside that the offense sorely lacked a year ago, but the wild card for the aerial attack is Perriman, who is finally healthy after two different knee injuries and flashed his ability in the preseason finale last week.

With a 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and blinding speed, Perriman is the type of talent at the wide receiver position that the Ravens have lacked throughout their history. We still have no idea whether his talent and size will translate to NFL success, but general manager Ozzie Newsome selected him in the first round last year to help take this offense to a different level.

Patience will be key, but the Ravens hope Perriman can eventually be a major factor in transforming a solid offense into a great one.

“We haven’t had a ton of work together, but [we] just have to keep it simple,” Flacco said. “Hit him in the chest and give him the chance to make plays. I think the more plays that he’s given the chance to make, the more he’s going the make and the more his confidence is going to go up.”

It all sounds great and looks promising a few days out from the season opener, but the Bills will be the first team to give the Ravens offense a real idea of how good it is. Potential is there, but questions exist wherever you look, including with Flacco as he comes back from the first serious injury of his entire career.

The schedule sets up for a potential fast start with only one playoff team from last year on the docket before the Ravens hit their bye in Week 8. But how quickly will it all come together for an offense with several new pieces as well as familiar faces returning from injury?

“I think I know what to expect from these guys,” Flacco said. “I’m really just excited about getting out there and doing it and making sure that we do it — not just go out there and play around. I want to go out there and I want to play well. That’s what I expect from our guys, and I think that’s what everybody else expects, too.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts on preseason win over Indianapolis

Posted on 21 August 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens continuing the preseason with a 19-18 win over Indianapolis, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Ravens didn’t give up any first-half touchdowns, but the starting defense struggling again against the opposing first unit was disappointing as Andrew Luck completed all eight of his passes. The group tightened up in the red zone, but surrendered three long drives and missed too many tackles.

2. The second of those long drives was halted thanks to a forced fumble by Albert McClellan, who continues to make a good case to be Baltimore’s strong-side outside linebacker in early-down situations. He set the edge well and finished with three tackles.

3. John Harbaugh was displeased with 11 penalties for 91 yards, including three defensive pre-snap penalties in the first half that resulted in first downs. When you have a shortage of play-makers, it’s even more critical to play smart and disciplined football, something the Ravens failed to do last year.

4. After a terrible first quarter, the offense came alive with Kamar Aiken drawing a 41-yard pass interference flag and catching a 14-yard touchdown on a beautiful crossing route. I’m interested to see what Aiken’s role looks like with Steve Smith’s return, but he deserves his share of targets.

5. The Ravens re-signed Shareece Wright this offseason to be a starting cornerback and he was solid down the stretch of a lost 2015 season, but he remains shaky in coverage — even against the Colts’ second offense — and is the logical target for opponents to test in this secondary.

6. He has plenty of stickers on his suitcase as a journeyman, but Josh Johnson has performed better than anyone expected and has outplayed Ryan Mallett for much of the summer. Harbaugh acknowledged it now being a competition for the backup job, but I’d still be surprised if Mallett is unseated.

7. It was interesting to see Will Davis play quite a bit at slot cornerback in the nickel, especially after Jerraud Powers struggled for the second straight week. Normally an outside corner, Davis made some plays inside and finished the game with five tackles and a sack.

8. Despite being a versatile backup, center Ryan Jensen had arguably the most embarrassing play of the evening when he was completely pancaked back into running back Kenneth Dixon on a third-and-goal play from the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Not a good look.

9. Rookie edge rusher Matt Judon impressed for the second straight week, collecting another sack and showing a promising combination of strength and quickness. The Grand Valley State product is still raw, but you can see why the Ravens were so happy to land him in the fifth round.

10. Known for his deep-threat ability at Cincinnati, Chris Moore ran crisp routes and showed strong hands in catching three passes for 20 yards after missing the preseason opener with a foot injury. With Breshad Perriman’s Week 1 status remaining in doubt, Moore becomes more interesting in this offense.

11. Credit the NFL last year for adopting the college rule allowing the defense to run back a conversion try for two as Anthony Levine did to win the game. It’s a rare play that might occur only once or twice a year around the league, but what excitement it brings.

12. Sitting Joe Flacco again was probably the right move, but the third preseason game now carries more importance than normal for the Ravens. With so many starters playing so little this summer, it’s hard to get a feel for just how good this team will be in 2016.

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It’s unwise to count out and easy to root for Steve Smith

Posted on 18 August 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Steve Smith did it all in his first day back at practice for the Ravens.

On the field, he made a touchdown catch and spun the football in the end zone, adding his trademark flavor to what was an otherwise bland walk-through session. Displaying his veteran leadership and his willingness to learn despite being in his 16th NFL season, Smith talked at length with rookie — and roster long shot — Darius White and said he even picked up a new route-release technique from former CFL wideout Dobson Collins, another player unlikely to make the 53-man roster.

Speaking to local reporters for the first time since mid-June, he got choked up explaining why he had decided to return, chastised media “jackasses” for doubting his 2016 prospects, and warned defensive backs that their vacation was over with the “bully” back on the field. Smith wouldn’t say directly whether this will be his final season, only acknowledging it was his last year “contractually” and that he’s only focused on playing this season.

The veteran then spent time posing for pictures and signing autographs with young Ravens fans and military personnel attending practice. He did make a point to say he’s going to smile more and have fun in what most assume to be his final season.

We know that conventional thinking says a 37-year-old can’t and won’t be the same player after a ruptured Achilles tendon, but what has ever been that conventional about Steve Smith?

A wide receiver standing 5-foot-9 and hailing from the University of Utah isn’t supposed to rank 15th on the NFL’s career receptions list, but he is one of the all-time greats when it comes to surprising people. Guys in their mid-30s aren’t supposed to play like a top 10 receiver, but that’s exactly what he was doing last year before the injury, catching 46 passes for 670 yards and three touchdowns in only seven games.

Of course, these feats aren’t surprising to Smith, who thrives on — arguably even obsesses over — proving his critics wrong. He was asked Thursday about the possibility of having more left in the tank than even he can imagine right now.

“Than I imagine?” Smith replied. “I’ve been rehabbing for nine months. I know exactly what’s left.”

It’s never been easier to doubt Smith than it is right now, but doing so feels no less unwise if you’ve paid attention to his career. General manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens made contingency plans by signing veteran Mike Wallace and drafting Chris Moore in the fourth round to fortify their wide receiver group that also includes Kamar Aiken and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but they’re not viewing Smith’s return solely through the lens of nostalgia, either.

The Ravens demanding him to be an 1,000-yard receiver this season would be unfair, but no one should be shocked if he turns out to be. It would be just like Smith to spike the ball and laugh in the face of Father Time once more before finally calling it a career.

Such a competitor is easy to root for and impossible not to respect.

“All I’m going to do is play ball,” Smith said. “You all worry about all of the wrong things, and all the good things that happen, you glance over. We’re going to have a good time. We’re going to have some fun, and we’re going to make some plays.

“Oh yeah, and I happen to be 37 years old while I’m doing it.”

It was anything but an easy rehabilitation process for Smith, who acknowledged there were a few different points along the way when he thought he might be done. We don’t have a clear picture of what he will do against younger opponents — some of whom were in kindergarten when he was a rookie with Carolina in 2001 — but Smith made it clear that this isn’t just a feel-good farewell tour.

As he so eloquently worded it, he still plans to rip his opponents to shreds.

Who are we to say he won’t?

If nothing else, it will be a blast watching him try to prove us “jackasses” wrong again.

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