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Ranking the Ravens’ offensive needs for 2016

Posted on 21 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Trying to assess the 2015 Ravens offense isn’t easy.

Even if you weren’t always pleased with his play-calling and the lack of commitment to the running game, new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman was without his franchise quarterback, two of his top three wide receivers, his starting running back, his starting center, his starting left tackle, and his starting tight end for large chunks of the season. In some ways, you have to be impressed that the Ravens finished 14th in total offense, but finishing 25th in points per game (20.5) reflects how much they lacked playmakers.

How can you fairly judge Trestman’s work with a starting offense in the second half of the season that resembled one you’d see in the fourth preseason game?

The good news is that the Ravens will begin consecutive seasons with the same offensive coordinator for the first time since Cam Cameron’s five-year run that concluded in 2012. That continuity will be critical with Joe Flacco spending the offseason rehabbing from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee.

With free agency set to begin in less than two months — March 9 at 4 p.m. — and the draft set for April 28-30, the Ravens are currently evaluating their biggest needs in all three phases of the game. In the first of a three-part series — with defense and special teams to follow — I offer my thoughts on the offensive side of the football and rank the positions of greatest need.

1. Left tackle

Considering Eugene Monroe is under contract for three more years, some could still argue that receiver is a bigger need, but surely no position on either side of the ball is more complicated right now for the Ravens.

I’m not completely convinced that Monroe is a goner since Kelechi Osemele will be an unrestricted free agent and the former’s release would leave $6.6 million in dead money on a salary cap that is already way too tight. Monroe’s performance over the last two years certainly doesn’t reflect the five-year, $37.5 million contract he was awarded, but his play has mostly still been solid when he has been on the field.

Can you count on Monroe to stay healthy after starting just 16 games over the last two years? Is the organization simply finished with him after he reportedly refused a simple restructure of his contract last offseason?

Osemele figures to be in high demand as either a guard or a left tackle, making it difficult to predict whether the Ravens can be a serious contender to sign him. Their best strategy might be to keep Monroe until the 2016 draft when they could potentially come away with a top left tackle such as Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick and then part ways with the veteran. If it’s not a first-round talent, perhaps the Ravens draft a tackle in the second or third round and ride the roller coaster with Monroe for one more season.

2. Wide receiver

It’s a broken record at this position, but it was reassuring for Ravens fans to hear general manager Ozzie Newsome say at the season-ending press conference that he needs to add at least one more receiver.

There’s no reason to think Baltimore wouldn’t keep restricted free agent Kamar Aiken, but he is the group’s only fully-known commodity at the moment. No one doubts Steve Smith’s determination to return from an Achilles injury at age 37, but you can’t just bank on him being his old self, either. And even if the Ravens are confident that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman will be 100 percent for the offseason conditioning program, he has yet to complete as much as a full-contact practice in the NFL.

The Ravens averaged a league-worst 10.4 yards per catch in 2015, reflecting their inability to stretch the field with any success. Perriman can still be viewed as the primary option to provide that skill next season, but Newsome can’t be without a backup plan this time around.

Whether it’s a free agent or a pick in the first three or four rounds of this spring’s draft, the Ravens need another speed receiver with upside to add to the passing game for 2016.

3. Reserve offensive tackle

This is a need that will be based on what the Ravens ultimately do at left tackle, but they probably shouldn’t count on James Hurst as the primary backup tackle, especially if Monroe is retained.

The former undrafted free agent from North Carolina is a hard worker and a favorite of offensive line coach Juan Castillo, but he graded 78th out of 81 qualified offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus and was simply overwhelmed for large stretches of playing time. He was also the one who fell into Flacco’s left knee to cause the season-ending injury against St. Louis on Nov. 22.

Starting right tackle Rick Wagner will also be an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season, so the Ravens need to be prepared to address that position a year from now.

Undrafted free agent De’Ondre Wesley finished the season on the 53-man roster, but it’s unclear whether he would be ready to step into a primary backup tackle role next year.

4. Reserve interior lineman

John Urschel is projected to take Osemele’s place as the starting left guard in 2016, but the Ravens would probably like to add another interior lineman to the roster mix if they can.

Reserve guard Ryan Jensen played well when Osemele moved to left tackle, but the organization lost rookies Kaleb Johnson and Robert Myers to other teams late in the season. Adding another interior lineman in the late rounds of the draft to develop for the future would make sense.

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What’s going on with Terrell Suggs?

Posted on 05 January 2016 by Luke Jones

Among the many interesting topics expected to be covered when the Ravens’ brass gathers for Thursday’s season-ending press conference will be the status of Terrell Suggs.

Lost for the year after tearing his left Achilles tendon in the Sept. 13 opener, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker spent very little time at the team’s Owings Mills training facility this season and was still wearing a walking boot as he watched the Week 16 upset victory over Pittsburgh from the sideline. In contrast, Suggs was out of a boot a little over two months after tearing his right Achilles tendon in the spring of 2012 — he amazingly returned to action in less than six months to play that season — and 36-year-old wide receiver Steve Smith shed his walking boot on Monday and suffered his Achilles injury seven weeks after the 33-year-old linebacker did.

Asked on Monday if he sought advice from his teammate who has been through a similar rehabilitation process twice, Smith made a cryptic remark that could be taken any number of ways.

“Suggs is a little vulnerable right now, so I’m not going to talk to Suggs about it,” said Smith, who announced last week that he would return for another season after previously planning to retire. “He’s not a ray of sunshine like he usually is.”

It’s worth noting that Smith’s comments were made as he smiled, but the veteran receiver can occasionally be sly with the media, making one wonder if there was more to it than Suggs simply having a bad day.

Suggs hasn’t spoken with reporters since suffering the injury in Denver.

Head coach John Harbaugh said in early November that the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year told him at the time of the injury that he intended to return in 2016, but Suggs was more reflective than usual about his career this past spring and struggled to cope with the departure of his longtime teammate and friend Haloti Ngata, who was traded to the Detroit Lions last March. Suggs wore a hat with No. 92 on it — Ngata’s jersey number for nine years in Baltimore that isn’t currently worn by a Ravens player — as he cheered on his teammates during the Steelers game on Dec. 27.

General manager Ozzie Newsome holds a unique relationship with the 2003 first-round pick, so it will be interesting to hear where the veteran stands in terms of his health and status for next season.

Suggs is under contract through 2018 and is scheduled to carry a $7.45 million salary cap figure for next season.

Hindsight with Osemele

With much discussion centering around the left tackle position, it’s fair to wonder why the Ravens didn’t try Kelechi Osemele at left tackle before the acquisition of Eugene Monroe a few years ago.

Following the win in Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore considered the possibility of moving Osemele to left tackle as Bryant McKinnie hit the free-agent market, but Newsome ultimately re-signed the veteran later that spring. Of course, McKinnie did not perform well and the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville in exchange for Monroe in early October of 2013.

Had Osemele not been dealing with a chronic back issue at the time that eventually required season-ending surgery, he could have been a real option to move outside, but it’s difficult to fault the Ravens for not wanting to try it when he was already struggling just to perform at his regular left guard position. Instead, Monroe arrived and played so well over the remainder of the season that the Ravens rewarded him with a five-year, $37.5 million contract.

If the 2012 second-round pick had been healthy, perhaps he would have gotten his chance then and become Baltimore’s long-term left tackle a few years ago.

Complicated Webb

Following the season-ending loss to Cincinnati, veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb told reporters he viewed himself as a safety moving forward, but how the Ravens elect to handle that remains to be seen.

Webb and the Ravens already reworked his contract last offseason, but he is still scheduled to carry a $9.5 million salary cap number for 2016, which would put him among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Of course, that would come with a very limited sample of Webb playing the position.

The 30-year-old may very well be an upgrade from recent options such as Kendrick Lewis and Darian Stewart, but the Ravens would need Pro Bowl-quality play to justify that price tag. There’s just no way of knowing he can do that, making it likely that Webb will be cut if he isn’t willing to further adjust his contract that expires after the 2017 season.

Need for speed

Asked whether the passing game needs more speed next season, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t answer with a definitive yes, but he was quick to point out how much it helps an AFC North rival.

“It does a lot for football teams,” said Flacco, who discussed the need to be able to push the ball down the field more at different times this past season. “You see what the Steelers are doing with the speed that they’ve added over the last couple years. It definitely makes a difference out there. I’m not saying that it’s something that we need, but when we’ve had it here, it’s definitely made a little bit of a difference.”

Should the Ravens re-sign restricted free-agent receiver Kamar Aiken, they would have the trio of Aiken, Smith, and 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but the latter two have questions about their health and only Perriman brings impact speed. The roster would benefit greatly from another speed option with upside.

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Ravens thoughts on winning vs. draft pick, 2016 opponents, more

Posted on 29 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens took great satisfaction in sweeping the Pittsburgh Steelers and putting their playoff hopes in serious danger, but the 20-17 win didn’t do any favors to Baltimore’s 2016 draft positioning.

Entering Week 16 holding the third overall pick in the first round of next year’s draft, the Ravens dropped all the way to eighth after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in franchise history. And it only added more fuel to the ongoing debate over whether it’s better for the Ravens to win now or to lose with an eye toward April.

To be clear once again, this isn’t a question of whether the Ravens themselves should be trying to win. The sheer number of injuries they’ve suffered has already cut John Harbaugh’s team off at the knees in the second half of the season, but many players and coaches are still fighting for their jobs and their efforts were rewarded on Sunday by completing the third season sweep of Pittsburgh in team history.

This also isn’t about the pointless debate of what it means to be a “true” fan, a concept that sounds elitist and is impossible to define. It’s perfectly acceptable to root for the instant gratification that the Ravens experienced against the Steelers on Sunday or to be thinking about the future of your favorite team and wanting a larger talent pool from which general manager Ozzie Newsome can choose in every round of this spring’s draft.

Ultimately, fans want to see their team win every Sunday and also win championships, right?

Harbaugh as well as some media and fans have spoken about the value of finishing the season on a high note, but that’s difficult to quantify when you’re considering the patchwork roster currently playing and how many of those players will either be gone or will have diminished roles next season. Winning these final two games would provide a short-term emotional boost, but that doesn’t equate to success in 2016 without some marked upgrades to the roster.

What isn’t as difficult to quantify, however, is how many draft prospects will be unavailable to the Ravens over the course of a seven-round draft should they finish 6-10 as opposed to 5-11 or 4-12. And that’s where the win over Pittsburgh followed by a potential upset at Cincinnati would leave fans with a hollow feeling in the offseason.

Even with potential wins over the Steelers and the Bengals to wrap the season, Baltimore will still be sitting at home watching the playoffs like the rest of us next week.

Good players can be found in every round of the draft if your talent evaluation is sound and you have some luck along the way. You can whiff picking at any spot in the draft, but you are improving the chances of landing better players the earlier you select.

It’s true that a better draft pick won’t guarantee that the Ravens land a future Pro Bowl player, but you won’t convince me that winning games when you’re playing out the string is all that valuable to the future, either. This is the equivalent of September baseball for a losing club, something Orioles manager Buck Showalter always warns can fool you when evaluating players.

The reality lies somewhere in between. It’s perfectly acceptable to be happy with a win over the Steelers, but you can also choose not to be distraught if the Ravens lose to the Bengals to wrap up the season. And I won’t accuse you of not being a “true” fan no matter what.

Brown done?

It was two years ago Tuesday when wide receiver Marlon Brown caught his seventh touchdown of his rookie season in a season-ending loss at Cincinnati.

Despite the Ravens missing the playoffs at 8-8 a year after winning the Super Bowl, the rookie free agent out of Georgia was one of the bright spots of 2013 and caught 49 passes for 524 yards. Since then, however, Brown has made just 38 receptions for 367 yards and no touchdowns in 24 games.

“Marlon is one of my favorite guys, and he works really hard at it, has a great attitude and, to my eyes, is very talented,” Harbaugh said. “But it just hasn’t worked in the last two years like we all expected after his rookie year, especially how Marlon expected to continue to improve. It’s going to be a really important offseason for him, and it’s going to be a critical season for him when he comes back.”

Brown’s back injury that cost him the final six games of 2015 doesn’t mask the disappointing of his last two seasons. And with the 6-foot-5 wideout scheduled to become a restricted free agent this winter, you wonder if he’s played his final game with the Ravens.

It’s remarkable to think that Brown was catching touchdowns for the Ravens two years ago while Kamar Aiken was on the practice squad and to see how different their careers have gone since then.

2016 opponents

Having clinched third place in the AFC North on Sunday, the Ravens officially learned their full slate of opponents for the 2016 season. The schedule itself is typically released in late April.

Below is a look at those opponents:

HOME: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington, Oakland
AWAY: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New England, New York Jets, Dallas, New York Giants, Jacksonville

It’s too soon to know what the Ravens or any of these opponents will look like from a talent standpoint  — only five of their 13 opponents in 2016 enter Week 17 with a winning record — but the travel schedule will lighten considerably with just one game (Dallas) played outside the Eastern time zone. After the Ravens played four games out west in the first seven weeks of the 2015 season, that should be a pleasant change as they try to bounce back from the first losing season of the Harbaugh era.

Good shape at guard

It remains to be seen what the Ravens will do at left tackle moving forward, but the last couple weeks make you think that the interior offensive line will be in good shape without Kelechi Osemele.

The organization has long been confident in John Urschel’s ability to play guard, but 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen has improved substantially over the last couple weeks and earned high marks for his blocking against Pittsburgh on Sunday. With starting center Jeremy Zuttah under contract for next season, the Ravens could elect to have Urschel and Jensen compete for the starting left guard spot in training camp.

Even if Osemele is re-signed, he won’t be playing left guard, but the Ravens should feel confident about their options to replace him.

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Ravens continue chasing ghost at left tackle position

Posted on 15 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has used high draft picks, made trades, and even handed out long-term contracts, but the same pursuit continues beyond a stopgap or two.

He’s still chasing the on-field ghost of Jonathan Ogden, the Hall of Fame left tackle and the first player selected in the history of the franchise with the fourth pick of the 1996 draft. With every passing year, appreciation grows deeper for what Ogden did for more than a decade as they complete their eighth season since his retirement at the end of the 2007 campaign.

Finding a future Hall of Famer at the position is one thing, but Newsome and the Ravens would settle for a guy who they can pencil into the lineup for the next four or five years and be able to sleep well at night.

Not counting backups filling in due to injuries, there’s been Jared Gaither, Michael Oher, Bryant McKinnie, and Eugene Monroe, none holding down the position for more than a season or two before concerns resurface. Fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele has become the latest man to receive a shot as he started his first NFL game at left tackle in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Osemele will remain at left tackle for the final three games of 2015, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

“I thought he looked good. There are some things that he can do better,” Harbaugh said. “Sometimes the sets and the angles and the timing the movement, sometimes it’s something that he’ll get a feel for more and more as he plays. But he had lots of good blocks [in] pass protection and the run game. I thought he was a bright spot.”

A left tackle at Iowa State before being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft, Osemele expressed his enjoyment for the position after Sunday’s 35-6 loss, but the Ravens may only be enhancing the lineman’s value on the open market instead of finding a long-term solution for themselves. With a less-than-enviable salary cap situation going into the offseason, Newsome signed four-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda to a four-year extension earlier this fall, leading many to believe that Osemele will receive a big payday elsewhere.

Even if the above-average guard looks the part of a long-term left tackle over these final three games, there’s still the matter of what the Ravens will do with Monroe, who is only in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that clearly hasn’t worked out. Placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury over the weekend, Monroe has started just 17 games over the last two seasons and finished only three of the six contests he started this season.

Though he’s generally been solid when he’s played over the last two years, his performance still hasn’t been as strong as it was in 2013 when the Ravens traded fourth- and fifth-round draft picks to Jacksonville to acquire him in early October of that season. After concluding that Oher, their 2009 first-round pick, wasn’t suited for the blind side and having concerns about McKinnie’s commitment to the game, the Ravens felt Monroe would finally be the long-term answer they had sought from the time that Ogden retired.

After missing only four games in his first five seasons in the NFL, Monroe has missed 17 starts in the last two years, including two playoff games last season. After he left the Nov. 22 game against St. Louis with a shoulder injury, backup James Hurt rolled into quarterback Joe Flacco’s left knee, causing a season-ending injury.

In addition to Monroe reportedly refusing a simple contract restructuring that would have provided some salary-cap relief this past offseason, his inability to stay on the field at such an important position has frustrated the organization.

“It’s just disappointing, because here’s a guy that you’re counting on, we trade two picks for him, and he has played well,” Harbaugh said. “As he said, he was playing the best football of his career this year when he came back for two or three weeks or whenever he was back. I think that was the most crushing thing for him, because he felt like he was really playing really good football.

“It’s not what we hoped for. We hoped that he’d be in the lineup and playing, and that’s not what he hoped for [either]. Nobody works harder. This guy trains like you can’t believe, so it’s a tough deal.”

Many fans are clamoring for Monroe to be released in the offseason as he is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and carry an $8.7 million figure for 2016. Cutting him with a pre-June 1 designation would save $2.1 million in cap space while leaving $6.6 million in dead money, a sizable chunk considering the many weaknesses Baltimore will need to address on both sides of the ball before next season. A post June-1 designation would push most of that dead money to 2017, but the Ravens would not be able to take advantage of that cap space until most free-agent activity would long be over.

Even if Newsome and the Ravens elect to move on from Monroe, it remains unclear whether Osemele would be within their price range, making it possible that they could turn to the draft to find their answer. Currently set to pick in the top five of April’s draft, the Ravens may find Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley as attractive — and more affordable — options at left tackle with their first pick.

Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the Ravens find themselves back in an all-too-familiar position.

They’re still trying to replace No. 75.

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Ravens-Seahawks: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It’s 65 degrees in mid-December and Jimmy Clausen is the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.

Thanks a lot, climate change.

Yes, Clausen will start against the two-time defending champion Seattle Seahawks, becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start twice against the same opponent in the same season while playing for two different teams. Playing for an injured Jay Cutler in Week 3, Clausen and the Chicago Bears were shut out in a 26-0 defeat on Sept. 27.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report and missing practices all week, Matt Schaub is inactive with what was listed as a chest injury. The 34-year-old veteran was banged up significantly in last week’s loss to Miami, slamming his head against the ground and finishing the game with knee and shoulder soreness.

Promoted to the practice squad on Saturday, Bryn Renner will serve as the backup quarterback to Clausen. Renner spent the entire offseason and summer with the Ravens before being released from the practice squad in mid-December.

Perhaps an even more intriguing development than the quarterback situation is the Baltimore offensive line where Kelechi Osemele lined up at left tackle during pre-game warm-ups. Eugene Monroe was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder ailment on Saturday, but it appears that the Ravens have seen enough from second-year lineman James Hurst at the position.

Osemele is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, so it appears that the Ravens want to at least explore the possibility of him playing left tackle, the position he played at Iowa State before he was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. This would be his first NFL start at left tackle.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) is inactive, meaning rookie Maxx Williams moves to the top of the depth chart. Despite sitting out last Sunday’s game with a concussion, Williams is active and will start with Gillmore out and fellow rookie Nick Boyle suspended for the rest of the season. Former practice-squad member Konrad Reuland will serve as the No. 2 tight end.

Former Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews is active for the Ravens after being promoted from the practice squad on Saturday. Third-year receiver Marlon Brown will miss his third straight game with a back injury.

The Ravens and Seahawks will be meeting for the fifth time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first four contests. Seattle is visiting M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but the Seahawks have won the last two games played between these teams.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to four miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Coleman.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Seattle dons its white tops with blue pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Matt Schaub
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

SEATTLE
WR B.J. Daniels
CB Tye Smith
FS Steven Terrell
RB Marshawn Lynch
OL Kristjan Sokoli
DE Demarcus Dobbs
DT Jordan Hill

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Ravens preparing to go with Clausen if Schaub can’t play

Posted on 10 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Veteran quarterback Matt Schaub failed to practice for a second straight day as the Ravens continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

That meant backup Jimmy Clausen received the lion’s share of the practice reps on Thursday as he could face Seattle for the second time this season. Clausen filled in for injured Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in Week 3, a 26-0 loss in which he threw for just 63 yards against the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman says Schaub continues to prepare mentally in their meeting room, but the Ravens are doing everything they can on the practice field for Clausen to prepare to make the start at M&T Bank Stadium if needed. Of course, Clausen only joined the Ravens on Nov. 24, making his learning curve a challenging one.

“We have a menu of things that we can run,” Trestman said. “Last night, we sat down after practice and went over the things we feel really good about. We’ll continue to pare it down and get to the things that he feels the best with — both running and throwing the football — and that’s what we’ll do on Sunday.

“But we have enough in [the game plan] that we can stretch the field vertically and horizontally. We have a run game in where we have an adequate menu of runs and things that he can do. I think we feel good about that.”

Should Clausen start on Sunday, he would become just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start two games against the same opponent in a season while playing for two different teams.

“I’ve been through this with Jimmy before in Chicago where we had to get him ready quickly as well,” Trestman said. “I think it’s something that we’ll do well with.”

Offensive line shuffling?

Right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday, but the Ravens practiced without either starting tackle a day earlier, leading some to believe whether they might do some shuffling along the offensive line.

James Hurst has started six games in place of left tackle Eugene Monroe this season — including the last two — but Pro Football Focus has graded the second-year lineman 75th out of 76 offensive tackles this season. In the past, Baltimore has used guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda at tackle, and offensive line coach Juan Castillo regularly cross-trains his players to be able to play multiple positions in an injury pinch.

“If you’re out here for an entire practice, you see that we move people around,” Trestman said. “Juan does a nice job of giving everybody opportunities to get work at different places because of our injury situation. Everybody has to be ready to do different things. We move people around during practice.”

Pees sounds off

Asked if he could ever recall coaching a defense that hadn’t received an offensive holding call in its favor for 10 consecutive games, defensive coordinator Dean Pees couldn’t help but take the bait despite knowing the NFL’s policy to not criticize officiating.

“Am I allowed to comment on lousy officiating?” said Pees as he laughed. “No, probably not. I don’t even know if I had that [coaching] at Elmwood High School in 1975. Hey, it is what it is. They see what they see. They don’t see what they don’t want to see.”

Injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), DE Chris Canty (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder), QB Matt Schaub (chest), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Rick Wagner (ankle), DT Brandon Williams (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), TE Maxx Williams (concussion)

SEATTLE
OUT: RB Marshawn Lynch (abdomen)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Michael Bennett (non-injury), Demarcus Dobbs (concussion), DT Jordan Hill (toe), DE Cliff Avril (non-injury)

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 06 December 2015 by Luke Jones

In search of a win in Miami for the third consecutive season, the Ravens are trying to keep their microscopic postseason hopes alive in taking on the Dolphins in Week 13.

As expected, Baltimore will be without left tackle Eugene Monroe, who was officially declared out after being listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury on the final injury report. Counting the playoffs, Monroe has now missed 12 games in the last two seasons and has started and finished just three games all season.

Second-year tackle James Hurst will start in Monroe’s place, but the Ravens will welcome back starting left guard Kelechi Osemele after a two-game absence because of a knee injury.

The Ravens will be without tight end Maxx Williams (concussion) and wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) for Sunday’s game.

Veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn will make his Ravens debut after being inactive in each of the last two games.

Meanwhile, Miami has activated both center Mike Pouncey (foot) and wide receiver Kenny Stills (ankle) after they were listed as questionable on the final injury report. The Dolphins will be without starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), starting receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), and starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf) after all three were declared out on Friday.

The Ravens and Dolphins will be meeting for the 11th time in the regular season with the teams tied 5-5 but Baltimore owning a 2-0 postseason edge. In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 5-0 against the Dolphins, which includes a postseason win in Miami in 2008 and a 28-13 victory at Sun Life Stadium last season.

The forecast for Sunday’s game calls for temperatures in the high 70s, a 15 percent chance of precipitation, and winds up to 17 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Miami dons its white tops with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
OT Eugene Monroe
G Kaleb Johnson
TE Maxx Williams
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

MIAMI
WR Rishard Matthews
CB Jamar Taylor
LB Chris McCain
C Jacques McClendon
OL Ulrick John
OT Ja’Wuan James
DT Earl Mitchell

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Ravens left tackle Monroe doubtful to play against Miami

Posted on 04 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A season of disappointment continues for Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe, who is listed as doubtful to play against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

After re-aggravating a shoulder injury in the second half of the Week 11 win over St. Louis on Nov. 22, Monroe has yet to return to practice and missed Monday’s game in Cleveland. Second-year lineman James Hurst is expected to make his sixth start of the season at left tackle, which would equal Monroe’s number of starts in 2015.

After missing just four games in his first five seasons in the NFL, Monroe is likely to miss his 12th game of the last two seasons (counting the playoffs). The 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman has finished just three games in the second season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed.

In better news for the Baltimore offensive line, left guard Kelechi Osemele practiced fully all week and is probable to make his return against the Dolphins. Osemele missed the last two games with a lingering knee issue while Ryan Jensen made the first starts of his NFL career at left guard.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams was officially ruled out after sustaining a concussion against the Browns and missing practice all week. Third-year wide receiver Marlon Brown was listed as doubtful with a lingering back injury that kept him sidelined against the Browns.

Right tackle Rick Wagner was absent from the final practice of the week due to a non-injury issue, but the third-year lineman is not in danger of missing Sunday’s game. He was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week.

“Not a concern,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s fine.”

Meanwhile, the Dolphins officially ruled out starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), starting receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), and starting defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf). Starting center Mike Pouncey (foot) and starting wideout Kenny Stills (ankle) are questionable to play against the Ravens.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast for Miami calls for temperatures in the low 80s with a 60 percent chance of thunderstorms and winds up to 12 miles per hour.

On Friday, the Ravens re-signed safety Nick Perry to their practice squad and cut offensive lineman Marcel Jones.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Maxx Williams (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: WR Marlon Brown (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder)
PROBABLE: DE Chris Canty (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), OT Rick Wagner (non-injury)

MIAMI
OUT: OT JA’Wuan James (toe), WR Rishard Matthews (ribs), DT Earl Mitchell (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: C Mike Pouncey (foot), WR Kenny Stills (ankle)
PROBABLE: RB Jay Ajayi (shoulder), OT Brandon Albert (non-injury), S Shamiel Gray (foot), LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle), WR Jarvis Landry (knee), LB Chris McCain (hip), LB Koa Misi (abdomen), DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring), TE Dion Sims (neck)

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Osemele back at practice as Ravens prepare for Miami

Posted on 02 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Coming off a thrilling win over Cleveland on Monday night, the Ravens began making preparations for Sunday’s trip to Miami with a key member of the offensive line back at practice.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) was present and working during a light practice on Wednesday that appeared to be little more than a walk-through. The fourth-year lineman has missed Baltimore’s last two games, but his presence was a good sign as the Ravens look to win a road game against the Dolphins for the third straight year.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and tight end Maxx Williams (concussion) were not present on Wednesday. Monroe missed his fifth game of the season while the rookie Williams sustained a concussion against the Browns.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) observed practice, but he did not participate after missing his first game of the season in Week 12.

Preparing his team for temperatures that could reach 80 degrees in Miami on Sunday, head coach John Harbaugh turned the heat up in the Ravens’ Owings Mills field house as the Ravens practiced inside on Wednesday. Baltimore will be playing in Miami for the third consecutive year after winning road games the previous two seasons.

“We started cranking it last night, so it works its way up. But you noticed?” said Harbaugh as he laughed when asked how players reacted to the temperature. “Everybody seems comfortable. They mentioned it. Muggy, stuffy, hard to breathe — those are all the words that were used. I don’t know if there’s any science behind it, but it makes sense to me.”

The Ravens re-signed running back Terrence Magee and wide receiver Chuck Jacobs to the practice squad. Harbaugh also confirmed that the Ravens worked out former Texans quarterback Ryan Mallet, but he would not comment on how it went.

Mallet wore out his welcome with the Texans after missing a team flight in October and previously showing up late for a training camp practice, which he blamed on an alarm clock issue. The Arkansas product has a strong throwing arm, but he has never been able to put it together on the field to go along with the immaturity.

“It’s something I don’t think I’m allowed to comment on, but he was here working out,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see where those things go as we move forward.”

The Dolphins released a crowded injury report on Wednesday as right tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), wide receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (foot), and center Mike Pouncey (foot) all missed practice.

Below is the full injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (back), OT Eugene Monroe (shoulder), TE Maxx Williams (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Kelechi Osemele (knee)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Branden Albert (non-injury), OT Ja’Wuan James (toe), WR Rishard Matthews (ribs), DT Earl Mitchell (calf), C Mike Pouncey (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Jelani Jenkins (ankle), WR Jarvis Landry (knee), LB Koa Misi (abdomen), DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Jay Ajayi (shoulder), S Shamiel Gray (foot), LB Chris McCain (hip), LB Kelvin Sheppard (hamstring), TE Dion Sims (neck)

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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 30 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Once upon a time, Matt Schaub was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but the 34-year-old hasn’t made a start in nearly two years and has long since been forgotten by much of the football world.

After losing Joe Flacco to a season-ending knee injury last week, the Ravens have no other choice but to turn to Schaub against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. Not only does Flacco’s streak of 137 consecutive starts (counting the postseason) officially come to an end, but Schaub will become the first not named Flacco to start at quarterback for the Ravens since Troy Smith on Dec. 30, 2007, which marked the final game for both Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden and Super Bowl XXXV winning coach Brian Billick.

Of course, Flacco headlines a list of season-ending injuries to key Baltimore starters that includes wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Terrell Suggs, running back Justin Forsett, and center Jeremy Zuttah. To make matters worse, the Ravens will be without starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) against the Browns after both were listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

James Hurst will start at left tackle while Ryan Jensen will receive his second straight start in place of the injured Osemele, leaving little experience protecting Schaub’s blindside in his first start since Dec. 29, 2013, his final game with the Houston Texans.

Former Browns running back and Towson standout Terrance West is active and will play in his first game for his hometown team. The 2014 third-round pick is expected to back up rookie Buck Allen, who is making his first NFL start in place of the injured Forsett.

As expected, second-year defensive end Brent Urban will make his NFL debut after being activated from the injured reserve list late last week. Urban suffered a torn biceps in early August and was placed on IR with the designation to return at the start of the season. The 2014 fourth-round pick missed his entire rookie season due to a knee injury suffered early in his first training camp.

With Urban active, rookie defensive lineman Carl Davis is a healthy scratch for the first time this season after seeing his playing time decrease in recent weeks.

Rookie wide receiver Daniel Brown and rookie guard Kaleb Johnson are also active after being promoted to the 53-man roster from the practice squad earlier in the day.

As expected, third-year receiver Marlon Brown was deactivated with a back injury.

The Browns are dealing with their own share of injuries as cornerback Joe Haden, starting guard Joel Bitonio, and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel were among their inactives. The recently-demoted Johnny Manziel is active, however, and will serve as Cleveland’s No. 3 quarterback behind new starter Josh McCown and backup Austin Davis.

Monday night’s referee will be Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Monday night forecast in Cleveland calls for cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-40s with winds up to nine miler per hour.

Baltimore will wear white jerseys with black pants while the Browns sport brown jerseys with orange pants for their rare nationally-televised home game.

Monday marks the 34th overall meeting between these AFC North foes with Baltimore holding a 24-9 advantage. However, the Browns are seeking their first season sweep of the Ravens since 2007, which also happened to be Baltimore’s last losing season.

Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Flacco are arguably the best — or at least the most important — players in franchise history, but Monday marks the first time the Ravens ever play a game without any of them on the field.

Below are Monday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
CB Cassius Vaughn
OT Eugene Monroe
G Kelechi Osemele
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

CLEVELAND
WR Andrew Hawkins
WR Taylor Gabriel
CB Joe Haden
CB Pierre Desir
S Don Jones
G Joel Bitonio
DL Randy Starks

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