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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 6-1 loss to Kansas City

Posted on 24 April 2016 by Luke Jones

What went wrong in the Orioles’ 6-1 defeat to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon?

In trying to identify the top three losing factors with the addition of home plate for any not-so-honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 17th game of the 2016 season.

1st — The Orioles managed just one hit in Yordano Ventura’s final six innings of work after grabbing an early 1-0 lead. The Kansas City right-hander threw 28 pitches in an opening inning that included a Mark Trumbo RBI single, but the Orioles made Ventura throw a total of 25 in the next three frames and pushed only one runner into scoring position after the first. The lineup simply couldn’t handle Ventura’s effective off-speed stuff to go along with his fastball and were retired in order a total of six times on Sunday afternoon. You knew it wouldn’t be an easy day against the talented 24-year-old, but the inability to even make him work set up the Orioles for a long day at Kauffman Stadium.

2nd — After pitching well through six innings, Mike Wright couldn’t handle a long leash in the seventh and suffered his second loss. It’s a shame that many will look at the final numbers and just assume that the Orioles right-hander was lousy, but Wright effectively mixed in his off-speed and breaking stuff to compete against a lineup that included five lefty bats. That said, he left a 92 mph sinker up and over the outer half of the plate on Alex Gordon’s fourth-inning homer and hung a curve on Eric Hosmer’s long ball in the sixth, showing lefties are still problematic for him. To be clear, Wright doesn’t receive a pass as he entered the seventh at only 87 pitches, but Buck Showalter could have had a reliever loosening in a 2-1 game as the inning began. Even if it had been a clean inning, you wouldn’t have loved the Orioles’ chances with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis looming in a 2-1 game, which could explain why Showalter tried to push it a little more than normal with Wright instead of going to the bullpen at the first sign of trouble. Right or wrong, that’s a choice that sometimes needs to be made when thinking of the long-term status of a bullpen that’s working behind a poor starting rotation in 2016.

3rd — You never know if the seventh would have been different for Wright if not for Chris Davis’ misplay of a Gordon chopper down the first-base line to open the inning. The Orioles made a handful of shaky plays defensively like the Royals did in Saturday night’s contest, but Davis would be the first to tell you that he should have turned that into the first out — even if catcher Caleb Joseph thought the ball was foul. Instead, it opened the floodgates to transform a close game into a blowout. Yes, Wright needs to be able to shake it off and not give up doubles to two of the next three hitters, but Baltimore’s stellar defense can’t bend like that when you’re asking a young starter to work into the seventh inning of a one-run game.

Home — Dylan Bundy wasn’t able to keep the Orioles in it after the deficit had grown to 4-1 in the seventh. He allowed three of the first four hitters he faced to reach as the Royals busted it wide open with a five-run advantage and allowed two more hitters to reach in the eighth. … Manny Machado saw his 16-game hitting streak come to an end as he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Only Davey Johnson had a longer hitting streak (17 games) to begin a season in Orioles history. … Pedro Alvarez went 0-for-3 and is now hitting .108 to begin the season. … Trumbo collected his club-leading 16th RBI, but all have amazingly come on the road. … Kevin Gausman will be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make his 2016 debut against Tampa Bay ace Chris Archer on Monday night.

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Gallardo leaves Friday’s start with shoulder discomfort

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Luke Jones

Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo left Friday’s start against the Kansas City Royals with right shoulder discomfort.

Manager Buck Showalter said on MASN after Baltimore’s 4-2 loss that the right-hander would travel back to Baltimore where he’ll be examined by team doctors. Gallardo allowed four runs, five hits, a home run, and a walk in just two innings before being replaced by T.J. McFarland to begin the bottom of the third inning.

With left-handed reliever Brian Matusz set to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, it remains unclear whether Gallardo would be a candidate to be placed on the DL. Right-hander Kevin Gausman is set to be activated to start Monday’s game against Tampa Bay.

According to FanGraphs, Gallardo’s average fastball velocity entering Friday’s game was just 87.4 miles per hour over his first three starts of 2016, down from an average of 90.4 last season. It was no secret that his velocity and strikeout rate had declined over the last few years, but his dramatic drop in pitch speed this spring had prompted many to wonder about the health of his arm in his 10th major league season.

Of course, the Orioles restructured the original three-year, $35 million agreement with Gallardo in February after concerns arose about his shoulder during his physical and the sides eventually settled on a two-year, $22 million contract. Baltimore gave up the 14th overall pick of the 2016 amateur draft to sign Gallardo, making Friday’s news even more concerning beyond the short-term ramifications of potentially needing to fill his rotation spot.

In four starts this season, Gallardo is 1-1 with a 7.00 ERA over 18 innings and has struck out just nine while walking seven.

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Ravens-related thoughts from wild-card weekend

Posted on 11 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Some have perceived a softer culture for the Ravens since Super Bowl XLVII, but Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict reminded us Saturday that there’s a fine line between attitude and recklessness.

Baltimore may lack the big personalities and swagger that it once had on the defensive side of the football, but the Bengals linebacker has proven time and time again that you simply can’t trust him. His personal foul on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown on Saturday was just the latest example of a player lacking any regard for others on the field and playing too recklessly in a critical spot. This came after replays showed him driving his knee into the right shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger on the sack that took the Steelers quarterback out of the game.

The Ravens are no strangers to Burfict’s antics as offensive lineman John Urschel pointed out the hit on rookie tight end Maxx Williams in Week 17 on Sunday. Former Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith called Burfict a “dirty” player last season, and ex-Ravens Ray Rice and Bobbie Williams had issues with the Bengals linebacker in his rookie season.

To be clear, the Ravens would benefit from having more attitude on the defensive side of the ball. They certainly would like to have the play-making ability demonstrated by Burfict on his late interception that looked like it would seal the Bengals’ first playoff win in a quarter-century before Jeremy Hill’s fumble.

But the famous rant from Mike Singletary describes Burfict perfectly: “It is more about them than it is about the team. Cannot play with them, cannot win with them, cannot coach with them. Can’t do it. I want winners.”

Intimidation and ferocity have been traits of many great players over the years, but only when those qualities can be harnessed, something Burfict was incapable of doing when it mattered most.

Was Mallett watching?

A fake Ryan Mallett Twitter account garnered some attention during the Houston Texans’ embarrassing 30-0 loss to Kansas City on Saturday, but you hope that the real Mallett did reflect as Brian Hoyer turned in one of the worst playoff performances by a quarterback in recent memory.

It’s fair to point out that Hoyer posted a solid 91.4 passer rating this season, but Mallett had a golden opportunity in Houston that he completely squandered as he’s more physically gifted than the Texans’ current starter. There’s no way to know for sure if Mallett would have fared any better against the Chiefs, but Houston was a much better opportunity for him than Baltimore in terms of playing time if he’d simply been more of a professional.

To his credit, Mallett has done all of the right things since signing with the Ravens, but Saturday should have been a reminder to him of what might have been. Now, he plays for a team that strictly views him as a backup behind an entrenched franchise quarterback.

He’ll be lucky to receive another opportunity like the one he had in Houston, but you hope he’s learned his lesson if that day does come.

Thankful for Tucker

While many thought of Billy Cundiff when Minnesota’s Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard chip shot that would have won the game for the Vikings, the reliability of Justin Tucker also came to mind.

To be fair, Walsh is a former Pro Bowl kicker and had missed just one kick inside 30 yards in his four-year career, but the 2012 sixth-round pick had also failed to convert four extra points this year, showing he hadn’t been as reliable from shorter distances. Meanwhile, Tucker has never missed from inside 30 in his NFL career and has missed just one field goal try inside 40 yards in his four seasons.

A miss such as Walsh’s could happen to anyone — these guys are human, after all — but Sunday likely reminded general manager Ozzie Newsome how lucky he’s been to have Tucker and how the Ravens can’t afford to let him go this offseason despite his issues from beyond 50 yards this past year.

Winning trumps all 

With John Harbaugh and the injury-ravaged Ravens speaking so much about their heart and resiliency at the end of the season, you hope that they take some notes from the Chiefs as they won their 11th consecutive game on Saturday.

At one point, the Chiefs were 1-5 and had lost their best player — four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles — to a season-ending knee injury in October, but Andy Reid’s team did more than just to keep fighting and to play teams close every week. Of course, the Ravens weren’t as talented as Kansas City and lost the likes of Joe Flacco and Steve Smith as the season progressed, making a turnaround of that magnitude virtually impossible.

But you also don’t want players to take too much satisfaction from a 5-11 record, no matter who was on the field by season’s end.

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Harbaugh explains Ravens’ new pants

Posted on 21 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Even after the Ravens had suffered a 34-14 defeat to Kansas City on Sunday, many fans were still discussing it on social media.

What the heck was with the new gold-yellow-mustard pants John Harbaugh’s team was wearing?

“That was a nod to the tradition a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “The players like it. They like something different. I don’t know. I didn’t take a vote to see who liked them or who didn’t like them, but they were excited to be out there in a little different look.”

A simple search on Twitter shows that the new looked was panned by virtually all fans and observers. It was the first time in franchise history that the Ravens had worn uniform pants that weren’t white or black.

Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders always liked to say, “If you look good, you feel good; if you feel good, you play good.” If that’s the case, the Ravens may have never stood a chance against the Chiefs.

Many had speculated that the look make have been mandated by the NFL and Nike, but Harbaugh said the new pants were in the works since last season and likely would have been worn earlier in the year had the Ravens gotten off to a better start.

“Maybe we should do a contest for our third pant-color combination with the fans, so we can have them weigh in and we could wear them,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s fun. Uniforms are fun. They should be fun. We want to be traditional. We have a look that we’re proud of in Baltimore. It stands out, and we want to build on that. But if we can be creative in there somewhere, hey, I’m all for it.

“I want to play well. It doesn’t really matter what color the pants are to me. If the players like it, I like it.”

If I were to make my own uniform suggestions, I would adjust the Ravens’ black uniform pants by adding a white and purple stripe on the sides, which would be similar to what the team wore in 1997. Some say the Ravens look like they’re wearing tights or pajamas when sporting the solid-black pants, and this change would help remedy that.

As for a third set of pants — to ensure that Sunday’s pants never again see the light of day — I’d suggest purple ones to be worn with the black alternate jerseys to replace the tired “blackout” look that many teams now have. College programs such as TCU and Northwestern have pulled off this look quite effectively in recent years.

Have no fear, I’ll go back to the occasional #FashionTweets hashtag on Twitter and stick to football now.

 

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Gillmore to IR, J. Smith has “good chance” to return Sunday

Posted on 21 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ injured reserve list grew once again on Monday as tight end Crockett Gillmore will officially miss the rest of the season.

The 2014 third-round pick was in his first season as a starter and had been sidelined with a back injury since Dec. 6. Gillmore also missed two games earlier this year with a calf injury, meaning he will have missed a total of six games in 2015.

Head coach John Harbaugh said last week that Gillmore appeared unlikely to play again this season.

“It’s not working out. His back flared up again,” Harbaugh said last Wednesday. “He also has the [sore] shoulder. It’s not looking good for Crockett right now.”

The Ravens now have 19 players on IR, which doesn’t include tight end Dennis Pitta being on the physically unable to perform list or linebacker Zach Thompson, who was released from IR after receiving an injury settlement earlier this month.

While many fans lamented the free-agent loss of Owen Daniels, pondered the status of Dennis Pitta, and looked forward to the arrival of rookie draft picks Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle in the offseason, Gillmore immediately grabbed hold of the No. 1 tight end job over the summer and caught 33 passes for 412 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games. Used mostly as a blocking tight end as a rookie, the Colorado State product proved he was capable of being a reliable target as a pass-catcher.

Able to break tackles with a massive 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame, Gillmore has drawn comparisons to former New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro with his impressive physicality.

The loss of Gillmore was expected, but the Ravens hope to have No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith back in action against Pittsburgh this coming Sunday. Smith injured his hamstring on the opening series of Sunday’s loss to Kansas City and did not return.

With the postseason-hopeful Steelers sporting the league’s fifth-ranked passing game, the struggling Ravens will need all the help they can get in the secondary.

“Jimmy has a good chance,” Harbaugh said. “I just talked to him and I think he’s got a good chance to play, so we’ll see how it goes this week.”

To take Gillmore’s place on the 53-man roster, the Ravens signed former Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Chris Carter. Also a former member of the Steelers, Carter is a five-year NFL veteran who had 10 tackles in 13 games for the Bengals this season before being waived last week.

Carter was selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Fresno State.

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Ravens lose cornerback Jimmy Smith to thigh injury

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a thigh injury on the opening series of their 34-14 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

The fifth-year defensive back appeared to hurt his hamstring chasing after Chiefs running back Charcandrick West on his 38-yard touchdown run. Minutes after going to the Baltimore locker room for further examination, Smith was declared out for the remainder of the game.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not have an update on Smith after the Ravens’ 10th loss of the season.

“I don’t have an update on that. I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “I knew he was out for the game, but that’s the last I’ve talked to the doctors about that.”

Intending to use Lardarius Webb exclusively as a nickel back and at safety this week, the Ravens instead moved the veteran back outside — opposite of Shareece Wright — in the base defense after Smith’s injury.

Smith’s exit created an opportunity for the recently-promoted Jumal Rolle to play cornerback in the nickel package for the remainder of the game. After appearing in 18 games for Houston over the last two seasons, Rolle was signed to the Baltimore practice squad after being cut by the Texans last month.

Harbaugh said earlier in the week that he wanted to give Rolle a chance to play over the final three weeks of the season.

“We had guys to come in and step it up,” Webb said. “Jumal Rolle came in, played good. We’ve got Shareece here. I thought he came in and did an awesome job when Jimmy went down.”

Should Smith not be able to return to play in Week 16, a high-octane Pittsburgh passing game will face even less resistance in a Baltimore secondary that has struggled all season.

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Allen’s benching a head-scratcher in lost season for Ravens

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens’ performance on Sunday matched their new uniform pants.

Ugly.

Of course, we’re used to this by now as the 4-10 Ravens clinched just the fifth campaign of double-digit losses in franchise history with the 34-14 defeat against Kansas City. For the second straight week, it was a Buck Allen fumble in the first half transforming a close game into a lopsided affair.

This time, however, head coach John Harbaugh had seen enough and benched the rookie fourth-round pick for the remainder of the game after Chiefs safety Tyvon Branch returned the fumble 73 yards for a touchdown late in the first quarter.

“You play the best players. At running back, the best players don’t fumble,” said Harbaugh, who added that the benching “probably” won’t continue next week. “Fumbling — it is what it is. You have to hold on to the football. He knows that. I have a lot of love and respect for Buck. No way is Buck going to be banished by any stretch. He has done a lot for us. He has a great future for us.”

Allen took the demotion in stride and said himself that fumbling is unacceptable, but what is really accomplished by benching him for the rest of the game, especially when you’re 4-9 and in evaluation mode for the rest of 2015? If you’re still in playoff contention and are afraid of him putting the ball on the turf again, then, fine, go in a different direction if you have a better option.

But what did Harbaugh hope to gain by keeping Allen out for the remainder of the game with just two weeks remaining in a lost season?

Benching him for the rest of the first half and using Terrance West — a former third-round pick with his upside of his own — as the No. 1 option would have been a reasonable punishment, but making the rookie sit for nearly 48 minutes of action and giving former practice-squad member Terrence Magee his playing time only created a bigger headline and more embarrassment for the lone bright spot of a disappointing rookie draft class in 2015.

Ball security is of the utmost importance — no one is saying it isn’t. But even the best running backs fumble sometimes as the great Adrian Peterson has seven this year. Allen has fumbled twice all season, hardly making this an epidemic despite one in each of the last two weeks.

“You have to hold on to the football,” Harbaugh said. “That football belongs to everybody in the organization, every fan, everybody that cares about the Ravens, and it’s a precious commodity. You don’t win football games when you turn the ball over.”

The eighth-year coach is correct, but you don’t win when players commit foolish penalties, either.

That begs the question why second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan wasn’t disciplined in a harsher manner for an inexcusable late hit on Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith on a third-and-11 play that extended Kansas City’s opening drive. Instead of punting from their own territory, the Chiefs scored on a 38-yard run by Charcandrick West three plays later to give them a 7-0 lead.

In Week 2, Jernigan committed a senseless roughing-the-passer penalty on Oakland’s game-winning touchdown drive with less than two minutes to go, proving his talent has been overshadowed by a lack of discipline on more than one occasion. He was also flagged for unnecessary roughness in last week’s loss to Seattle.

“I took him out for a play and put him back in,” said Harbaugh when asked about Jernigan’s penalty after he had just explained Allen’s benching. “I don’t need to justify that. Timmy Jernigan is a guy that I’ve talked to about that. He understands where we’re at. I made the decision to keep him in the game.”

But has the 2014 second-round pick gotten the message?

It didn’t sound that way after the game.

“If he’s going to run along the sideline, I’m going to hit him every time,” Jernigan said. “I’m not going to apologize for that one any time. I was running to the ball, and I saw the quarterback running along the sideline.

“To me, it doesn’t look like the guy is noticeably slowing down and running out of bounds. If you’re along the sideline, I’m going to hit you. I don’t care who you are unless you make it obvious that you’re going out of bounds. If you’re running along the sideline, and you don’t go out, I’m going to have cameras in my face asking me why I didn’t hit you. And then the quarterback runs for an 80-yard touchdown. I feel like I’m just doing what I can to help the team.”

You’d really like to give Jernigan the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t see a replay of his obvious infraction before talking to reporters. But if he did see it and failed to recognize that Smith was obviously out of bounds when he hit him, it just reinforces the lack of discipline the Ravens have shown all season as they entered Week 15 ranked 25th in penalties and 29th in penalty yards.

Either way, benching Allen for the remainder of the game was excessive, especially after Jernigan came away with what amounted to barely a slap on the wrist. It’s not as though the latter is an established veteran or multi-time Pro Bowl selection beyond reproach.

The Ravens repeatedly hurting themselves on Sunday was nothing new in this disappointing season.

But Harbaugh abruptly sending a rookie to the doghouse was a head-scratcher.

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Ravens-Chiefs: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen are both active, but mystery still surrounds the quarterback position for the Ravens as they host the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.

After missing last week’s loss to Seattle with a chest ailment, the 34-year-old Schaub practiced all week and was listed as probable on the final injury report. However, head coach John Harbaugh left himself wiggle room earlier in the week when he complimented Clausen’s play against the Seahawks and expressed belief that he had two good options at quarterback.

Based on pre-game work, Clausen appeared to be preparing to make his second straight start as he was far more active and taking the starting reps over Schaub, but the Ravens did not make an official announcement regarding a change to the projected starting lineup.

That uncertainty at quarterback wasn’t even considering the signing of Ryan Mallett, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game but is already signed for next season. The former Houston Texan would appear to be a decent bet to see the field before the 2015 season concludes.

Despite being listed as questionable with a calf injury, No. 2 running back Terrance West is active. The newly-promoted Terrence Magee is also active as the third-string back behind starter Buck Allen.

Young cornerbacks Tray Walker and Jumal Rolle are active along with defensive lineman Carl Davis after Harbaugh pledged earlier in the week that they all would receive more opportunities over the final three weeks of the season.

As expected, linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and cornerback Kyle Arrington (back) were all deactivated after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs will not only be without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), but they will be without starting left guard Jeff Allen (ankle). Houston was ruled out on Friday while Allen had been listed as questionable.

The Ravens and Chiefs will be meeting for the seventh time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first six. However, Baltimore has won the last four overall meetings against Kansas City, which includes a 30-7 win at Arrowhead Stadium in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies with a high of 43 degrees and winds up to six miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Jeff Triplette.

For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens will be wearing gold pants to go along with their purple jerseys, and the reaction on social media wasn’t favorable. Kansas City will don its white tops with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Ryan Mallett
WR Marlon Brown
CB Kyle Arrington
LB Albert McClellan
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

KANSAS CITY
QB Aaron Murray
WR De’Anthony Thomas
S Husain Abdullah
LB Justin Houston
G Jeff Allen
DL David King
DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The questions run rampant for the Ravens’ Week 15 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Who’s starting at quarterback?

What will the secondary look like?

Does Sunday represent the Ravens’ last best chance to win another game before the most disappointing season in franchise history mercifully comes to an end?

Meanwhile, Kansas City comes to town having won seven in a row to erase a 1-5 start and enter Sunday holding the first of two wild-card spots in the AFC. Simply put, the Chiefs are exactly what the Ravens wanted to be after the worst start in franchise history, but it simply hasn’t happened for the latter.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Kansas City for the seventh time in their regular-season history with the series tied 3-3. Baltimore has lost three of the four meetings between the teams at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens won the last of those home contests back in 2009. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have won their last four meetings with the Chiefs.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid the first five-loss home schedule in the 20-year history of the franchise …

1. The Chiefs will hold a plus-two turnover advantage in a microcosm of the season for both teams. Though their list of injuries isn’t quite as extensive, the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in October and has been without All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston since late November. Andy Reid’s team has kept ticking by forcing turnovers on defense and committing few with an efficient offense. Meanwhile, the Ravens rank 30th in takeaways (11) and 24th in giveaways (23). Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith won’t wow you with ability, but he’s thrown just four interceptions all year. Baltimore will be turning to Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen, who both struggle to protect the football. If both teams follow their 2015 scripts, the Chiefs will capitalize on the Ravens’ mistakes.

2. Elvis Dumervil will exploit former teammate Jah Reid for two quarterback sacks. As bizarre as it was to read that Reid received a three-year contract extension earlier this week, Pro Football Focus has graded the former Raven 73rd of 77 offensive tackles in the NFL this season. On top of that, the first overall pick of the 2013 draft, left tackle Eric Fisher, has graded only 37th overall, according to PFF. This should help Dumervil, who has been limited to just six sacks without a viable edge rusher playing on the opposite side. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to run some stunts to take advantage of an offensive line that’s allowed 41 sacks, fourth worst in the NFL. The Ravens defense ranks 20th in the league with only 28 sacks, but Dumervil will turn in a 2014-like performance on Sunday.

3. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will catch a touchdown pass and collect over 80 receiving yards. Kansas City sports the league’s 27th-ranked passing game, but Smith has effectively used his tight end to the tune of 59 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season. Whether trying to use linebackers or safeties, Baltimore has struggled to cover tight ends and Kelce will effectively move the chains to continue drives for the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens try to cover Kelce as inside linebacker Daryl Smith has been replaced more and more by Zach Orr in the nickel in recent weeks. And with Lardarius Webb now factoring into the rotation at safety, you wonder if even more communication issues are inevitable. Kelce will be ready to take advantage on Sunday.

4. The Baltimore secondary will offer new looks, but Alex Smith will throw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that it was time for young defensive backs such as 2015 fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker, second-year safety Terrence Brooks, and former Houston Texans cornerback Jumal Rolle to receive more opportunities. While it will be important to evaluate the aforementioned players in the final three weeks of the season, the results probably won’t be pretty for a defense that has repeatedly failed to be on the same page even with veterans on the field. Smith carries the dreaded “game manager” label, but he will take advantage of Baltimore mistakes to find Kelce and top receiver Jeremy Maclin for several big plays on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will rebound cosmetically from the Week 14 blowout loss, but Kansas City won’t provide enough help in a 23-14 defeat. Even while carrying a louder tone of resignation this week following an embarrassing loss to Seattle, Baltimore will return to its pattern of competing more like it did in the first 12 games of the season that were all decided by one possession. However, the injury-ravaged Ravens aren’t talented enough to beat a quality team without substantial help from the opposition. The Chiefs won’t figure to provide that assistance as they’ve committed just 12 turnovers all season, third fewest in the NFL. Either Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub will facilitate a couple scoring drives against the NFL’s 15th-ranked pass defense, but a couple Ravens mistakes will be the difference.

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Schaub probable, but Harbaugh mum on starter for Sunday

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked if he could settle a bet among reporters about whether he’d name his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against Kansas City, Ravens coach John Harbaugh answered in predictable fashion on Friday.

“There are probably high odds in one direction,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I’m probably not going to name a quarterback today. That’s probably all I have to say on the matter.”

After practicing fully on Thursday and Friday, veteran Matt Schaub was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week, but it remains to be seen whether he will resume starting duties. Harbaugh stated earlier in the week that he felt the Ravens had two good options in Schaub and Week 14 starter Jimmy Clausen.

The latter took at least half of the starter reps on Wednesday and Thursday, according to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. Though Schaub appeared to be laboring at a couple different points during the viewing portions of practices this week, the “probable” designation makes it clear that Harbaugh’s decision over who starts will be more about performance than health for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

“He looked good,” Harbaugh said. “I won’t say he’s 100 percent, but by Sunday he has a chance to be 100 percent. He looked good. He’s a tough guy. He worked hard this week.”

To no surprise, starting tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) was officially ruled out for Sunday’s game after Harbaugh said he wouldn’t be able to play this week and could be lost for the rest of the season. Linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle), cornerback Kyle Arrington (back), and wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) were all listed as doubtful to play after missing all three practices this week.

After being limited by a calf injury on Thursday, running back Terrance West missed Friday’s workout and is questionable to play. The Ravens added rookie Terrence Magee to the 53-man roster earlier this week, and he would serve as the No. 2 running back behind Buck Allen if West cannot play.

Four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is probable to play despite missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle issue. He was a full participant in the final workout of the week.

With Schaub listed as probable, it would seem highly unlikely that the newly-signed Ryan Mallett would receive any playing time on Sunday, but he has made a good first impression with the organization, according to his offensive coordinator.

“He’s taking this very seriously,” Trestman said on Thursday. “He has been here 24-7 the last three days doing everything he can to soak up as much of the offense as he can, and what has impressed me most — and we all see his assets, his physical ability — but he has football intelligence. He has picked up some verbiage very quickly. We’ve thrown him in there in practice the first days he was here; we put him in there. He has had six to 12 plays working with the guys.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs officially ruled out All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), but fellow Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) is probable to play.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Jeff Triplette.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds up to five miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (back)
DOUBTFUL: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Albert McClellan (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Terrance West (calf)
PROBABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)

KANSAS CITY
OUT: S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Jeff Allen (ankle), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
PROBABLE: QB Chase Daniel (toe), DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), LB Tamba Hali (knee), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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