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Ravens-Lions: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 02 December 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens don’t own a victory over a team currently holding as much as a .500 record.

Five of their six wins have come against a rookie or backup quarterback.

Baltimore has the opportunity to fight back at both of those criticisms Sunday when Matthew Stafford and Detroit come to town. More importantly, the Ravens can improve their playoff chances as they enter Week 13 holding the No. 6 seed in the AFC.

John Harbaugh’s team is eyeing its first three-game winning streak since the first three weeks of the 2016 season while the 6-5 Lions are trying to stay in the hunt in a much tougher NFC playoff race. Detroit enters the weekend one game behind Atlanta for the final spot in the conference.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the first time since 2013 with the Ravens having won the last two meetings and owning a 3-1 advantage in the all-time regular-season series. The Lions are seeking their first win in Baltimore since defeating the Colts 13-10 at Memorial Stadium in 1977.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Detroit’s Golden Tate will lead both teams in receiving yards. The Lions own the 30th-ranked running game in the NFL, but no one has found room on the ground against the Ravens over their last four games anyway, making Tate much more critical. The slot receiver ranks sixth in the league in yards after the catch and 51 of his 63 catches have come on throws 10 or fewer yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Baltimore’s pass defense has mostly been superb, but nickel corner Lardarius Webb has had his issues in coverage and the middle of the field has been a vulnerable area that Tate can exploit.

2. Terrell Suggs will register a strip-sack for the third consecutive game. Harbaugh labeled the 35-year-old “Ponce de Leon” for seemingly finding the Fountain of Youth after his performance against Houston, and few would argue with Suggs registering two-sack efforts in both games since the bye week. He’s one-half sack away from reaching double digits for the seventh time in his career and will be lining up against Taylor Decker, a talented left tackle who has struggled since returning last month from offseason shoulder surgery. This matchup is one of the biggest swing factors of the game.

3. Stafford will throw two touchdown passes against a tough secondary. As I wrote earlier this week, the Ravens shouldn’t apologize for the opponents they’ve faced, but it’s fair to wonder just how good this secondary will be against tougher competition, which is what Stafford and the league’s 10th-ranked passing game will offer. The Ravens defense leads the NFL with 18 interceptions, but the Lions quarterback has tossed only six in 395 attempts. If Baltimore can’t sustain pressure against an offensive line that’s been pretty solid after a slow start, Stafford will be able to make some plays at every level.

4. Joe Flacco will toss a touchdown and two interceptions as his 2017 struggles continue. The Lions have had substantial issues stopping the run in recent weeks, but any defense not loading the box against Baltimore to force the ball in Flacco’s hands is crazy. It’s no secret this passing game is a total mess that hasn’t produced against even below-average pass defenses, and Detroit is tied for fifth in the NFL in takeaways despite ranking 23rd against the pass. Flacco’s comments after the Houston win reflect the frustration for the veteran, who’s eclipsed 200 passing yards only once since Week 5.

5. The lack of offensive balance and turnovers will catch up with the Ravens in a 20-16 loss. These teams are fairly equal in quality, but Baltimore is coming off a short week and its passing game is a much bigger weakness than anything the Lions are dealing with. Stafford isn’t going to totally pick the defense apart, but there will be some shock going up against a top quarterback that will put the Ravens behind and take them out of their formula of running the ball and being aggressive on defense to force turnovers. The Ravens have won the turnover battle in all six of their wins this season and have enjoyed at least a plus-2 margin in five of those. Short of that happening, they’ll drop a close one.

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Ravens-Texans: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 27 November 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For the first time since the 2012 season opener, Monday Night Football has come to Baltimore with the Ravens trying to move above the .500 mark against Houston.

Much has changed for John Harbaugh’s team since that last Monday home game as just six players on the current 53-man roster took part in that contest, but the Ravens have no time for nostalgia with fellow AFC wild-card contenders Buffalo, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Oakland all winning in Week 12. Baltimore is trying to secure back-to-back wins for the first time since Weeks 1 and 2 in September while the Texans are hoping to avoid a fourth defeat in five games and keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

There were no injury-related surprises on the list of scratches, but maligned wide receiver Breshad Perriman is active after being a healthy scratch for the first time in his career in Green Bay last week. The 2015 first-round pick has been a major disappointment this season with just seven catches for 54 yards in eight games, but Harbaugh made it clear during the week that the organization still has high hopes for Perriman.

To seemingly make room for Perriman on the 46-man game-day allotment, the Ravens surprisingly deactivated wide receiver and return specialist Michael Campanaro, who was not on the injury report this week and had a 28-yard punt return in Green Bay last week. Campanaro ranks second in the NFL among qualified players in punt return average, but that apparently wasn’t enough to play against the Texans.

Veteran Lardarius Webb is listed behind Campanaro on the team’s official depth chart and is expected to handle punts from seven-time Pro Bowl selection Shane Lechler.

As expected, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (ankle) and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (concussion) are both active and will start despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Mosley deemed himself ready to go after returning to practice Saturday while Stanley cleared concussion protocol Friday after a one-game absence. Stanley’s return will allow James Hurst to return to his normal left guard position after he struggled mightily at left tackle in Green Bay.

Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (ribs) is inactive after officially being declared out on Saturday.

Monday’s referee is Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Monday forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 40s with winds up to 15 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their all-black uniforms for the second time this season and will look to improve their all-time mark to 16-7 when wearing their alternate black tops. Houston will wear white jerseys with navy blue pants.

Monday marks the first meeting between these teams since 2014 with Baltimore holding a 6-2 advantage in the regular-season series and a 4-0 mark at M&T Bank Stadium that includes a 20-13 victory in the 2011 postseason. The Ravens will also aim to continue their league-best nine-game winning streak in prime-time home games.

Below are Monday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Michael Campanaro
RB Terrance West
CB Jaylen Hill
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
OL Maurquice Shakir
DE Bronson Kaufusi
DE Chris Wormley

HOUSTON
WR Will Fuller
WR Cobi Hamilton
RB Andre Ellington
LB Lamarr Houston
OL Greg Mancz
OT Julien Davenport
DT Chunky Clements

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Ravens-Packers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 18 November 2017 by Luke Jones

Sunday presents an important opportunity for the Ravens as they make their first trip to Lambeau Field since 2009.

Many have labeled it a “must-win” game for a 4-5 team coming off its bye, but a simple look at the underwhelming AFC wild-card picture makes that notion hold less weight from a mathematical standpoint. Of course, the Ravens could certainly use a road win from a psychological standpoint as they try to get on a roll to both secure their first trip to the playoffs since 2014 and show they have the potential to morph into some semblance of a threat in January.

Baltimore couldn’t ask for a much better situation on the side of the Green Bay Packers, who continue to be without six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers and are now missing their top two running backs due to injuries. Versatile safety Morgan Burnett will also miss Sunday’s game for the Packers defense.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens try to get back to the .500 mark by securing their first ever win in Green Bay. The Packers have a 4-1 advantage in the all-time regular-season series and have won all three meetings in their home stadium.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Danny Woodhead will lead the Ravens in catches while Jeremy Maclin will be tops in receiving yards. The return of the diminutive Woodhead is a major headline, but part of me wonders if his presence could be somewhat counterproductive for a passing game needing to push it down the field more consistently. Meanwhile, Maclin is coming off his best game of the year and will have a favorable matchup against slot corner Damarious Randall. These two veterans will be key as a Ravens offense without Ronnie Stanley faces a defense ranking ninth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed.

2. Packers edge rushers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews will combine for two sacks and a forced fumble. The offensive line has been a house of cards that’s held up OK when the starting five are healthy, but it’s frequently fallen apart when less than 100 percent. That will hold true again with Stanley likely to miss Sunday’s game with a concussion. This group can’t afford to be without its best player, and James Hurst being Stanley’s likely replacement means a backup left tackle and backup left guard will be protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside. That’s a frightening proposition, especially on the road.

3. Tony Jefferson will grab his first interception as a Raven. Several defensive players were very complimentary of Packers backup Brett Hundley, but no one is buying the notion of him being the second coming of Rodgers. The third-year quarterback has shown some modest improvement, but he figures to continue relying on short passes, which should give Jefferson opportunities when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The Ravens defense leads the NFL in interceptions and will grab one for the fourth consecutive game to assist an offense struggling to move the football.

4. Randall Cobb will have 75 total yards and a touchdown to lead the Green Bay offense. It’s been a quiet year for the slot receiver, but the absences of running backs Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery will force Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to get creative with Cobb, who can line up virtually anywhere in a formation. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens defense accounts for him as Maurice Canady took away most of Lardarius Webb’s snaps at the nickel against Tennessee. With Baltimore’s outside corners being so strong this year, Cobb will be featured in the middle of the field.

5. The offense will once again hold the Ravens back in a 16-13 loss to the Packers. Green Bay has cracked the 20-point mark just once since Rodgers broke his collarbone in mid-October, and the Baltimore defense will do plenty to make life difficult for an inexperienced quarterback. However, the loss of Stanley is a major blow for an offense that hasn’t been productive enough even with the 2016 first-round pick in the lineup. Don’t believe the sentiment that the Ravens are “finished” if they drop to 4-6 since four of their last six games come at home against less-than-imposing teams, but a loss will surely reinforce major doubts about this team’s ability to stack wins and gain momentum for the stretch run.

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Wallace out of concussion protocol, poised to return against Tennessee

Posted on 02 November 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace has passed concussion protocol and is on track to play against Tennessee despite a lingering back issue.

In fact, the veteran wideout could have played in last week’s win over Miami instead of missing only the second game of his nine-year career. Wallace revealed Thursday that he was medically cleared to play against the Dolphins, but he didn’t feel comfortable doing so just four days after taking a penalized hit from Minnesota safety Andrew Sendejo, who was suspended one game by the NFL.

The 31-year-old said he wanted to play, but the risk of taking another blow to the head in such a short period of time prompted him to err on the side of caution after much deliberation.

“It’s always a possibility when you step on the field, and I don’t want to be out there second-guessing anything,” said Wallace, who also cited his family’s concerns about returning to action so soon after sustaining a concussion. “I want to feel comfortable, feel like myself. I just went with that decision. Coach [John Harbaugh] supported me and we won 40-0, so that’s always great.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco practiced fully for the second straight day and will start against the Titans after passing concussion protocol earlier this week. Defensive back Lardarius Webb also practiced fully Thursday after apparently suffering a concussion against the Dolphins.

Tight end Nick Boyle (toe) remained absent Thursday, making it unclear whether he will play Sunday. He played 55 of 65 offensive snaps in Week 8 and finished the game without any visible incident, but missing two days of practice after the three-day break last weekend creates cause for concern.

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce has also missed two practices in a row with an undisclosed illness.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles) was back on the practice field after receiving a day off as the Ravens continue to give their top defensive back rest for lingering tendinitis. The 29-year-old is arguably having the best season of his career despite being hampered with the ailment. Smith has scored two defensive touchdowns this season, and Pro Football Focus has graded him as the NFL’s seventh-best cornerback through Week 8.

“He has always had that type of big-play mentality,” inside linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “He’s made those plays over the years, but the injuries kind of just lingered on him, whether it caused him to miss some games or he just played through it. That is kind of the mentality he has. No matter what it is, he always is going to try to play through it.”

The Titans were without tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) for the second straight day, creating more concern about his availability for Sunday coming off their bye week.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), WR Chris Matthews (thigh), DT Michael Pierce (illness), RB Terrance West (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Ryan Jensen (shoulder), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), TE Vince Mayle (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), WR Mike Wallace (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Joe Flacco (concussion), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), DB Lardarius Webb (concussion), TE Maxx Williams (ankle), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

TENNESSEE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Jack Conklin (illness), LB Nate Palmer (ankle), G Quinton Spain (toe), WR Taywan Taylor (non-injury), TE Delanie Walker (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Jonathan Cyprien (hamstring), WR Corey Davis (hamstring)

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Ravens-Raiders: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 08 October 2017 by Luke Jones

After going winless in October last season, the Ravens don’t want history to repeat itself after getting off to a bad start last week with a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh.

Now they take their struggling show on the road against an Oakland Raiders team that will indeed be without Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, who is officially inactive after suffering a a transverse process fracture in his back in Denver last week. Carr’s status turned into a bit of a roller coaster over the course of the week as he practiced on a limited basis two days and was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but backup EJ Manuel will start in his place.

As head coach John Harbaugh indicated Friday, top cornerback Jimmy Smith is active and will start after missing two practices this week because of an Achilles tendon issue. The ailment has bothered him for some time, which explains why rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey was rotating in for Smith over the course of last Sunday’s game.

Defensive back Lardarius Webb (thigh) and tight end Benjamin Watson (calf) are also active after missing some practice time this week and being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) was deactivated after being listed as doubtful and only practicing on a limited basis this week.

After starting last week, second-year defensive end Bronson Kaufusi is a healthy scratch as rookie Chris Wormley will make his NFL debut against the Raiders. Baltimore is still searching for someone to stabilize the 5-techique spot after the season-ending foot injury to Brent Urban two weeks ago.

The Raiders are dealing with injuries beyond the quarterback position as starting right guard Gabe Jackson (foot) and cornerbacks David Amerson (concussion) and Gareon Conley (shin) are all out.

Sunday’s referee is Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Oakland calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-70s with winds up to 11 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with white pants while the Raiders don black tops with silver pants.

Sunday marks the 10th all-time meeting in the regular season between these teams with Baltimore enjoying a 6-3 advantage in addition to a victory in the only postseason encounter in the 2000 AFC championship game. However, Oakland has defeated the Ravens in each of the last two years with both contests being decided in the final minute.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DE Bronson Kaufusi
WR Chris Moore
CB Jaylen Hill
OL Tony Bergstrom
OL Dieugot Joseph
TE Maxx Williams
DT Brandon Williams

OAKLAND
QB Derek Carr
CB David Amerson
CB Gareon Conley
G Gabe Jackson
DL Jihad Ward
OT Jylan Ware
RB DeAndre Washington

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Ravens-Raiders: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 07 October 2017 by Luke Jones

The details may differ, but the Ravens and the Oakland Raiders find themselves in a very similar position.

Both have lost two straight and are in danger of losing ground to the leaders in their respective divisions. The Baltimore defense and the Raiders offense were expected to be elite units, but each has underperformed so far this season, contributing to the overall struggles for both teams.

The most intriguing story entering Sunday might be the status of Oakland starting quarterback Derek Carr, who surprisingly practiced on Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable on the final injury report despite having suffered a fracture in his lower back last week. It’s still assumed that backup EJ Manuel will start in his place, but Carr was reportedly taking Friday practice reps ahead of No. 3 quarterback Connor Cook, perhaps an indication that he could at least serve as the backup in Week 5.

His availability would certainly change expectations in this contest as Carr has thrown for 550 yards and seven touchdowns in his two games against the Ravens.

It’s time to go on the record as these AFC teams meet for the third consecutive season with the Raiders having won the last two meetings including a last-minute 28-27 win at M&T Bank Stadium last October. Baltimore holds a 6-3 advantage in the all-time regular-season series and won the only playoff encounter in the 2000 AFC championship game. The Ravens’ last win at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum came in Week 17 of the 2009 season when they clinched a trip to the playoffs.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Joe Flacco will throw an interception for the 11th consecutive game. What we’re seeing from the 10th-year quarterback is his own regression magnified by a lack of commitment to improve the variables around him for years. Not only as he tossed picks in 10 straight games, but he’s thrown at least one in 13 of 15 games with Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator and 23 of 30 with him as the quarterbacks coach, a stretch that followed the best regular season of his career in 2014. Suspect coaching, an injury-ravaged offensive line that wasn’t very good to begin with, average skill-position players, and Flacco’s own weaknesses result in a broken offense.

2. Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree will continue his recent success against the Ravens with a touchdown catch. Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are both expected to play despite missing practice time this week, but the secondary will need to be ready as Crabtree has produced four touchdowns and 199 receiving yards in his last two games against Baltimore. The Ravens front must generate more pressure than it has the last two weeks to force Manuel into mistakes in the pocket as he’ll likely be looking for Crabtree and tight end Jared Cook as his security blankets. With former first-round pick Amari Cooper struggling to catch the ball consistently, Crabtree is a big key to the Raiders’ success.

3. Alex Collins will run for a season-high 85 yards and a touchdown — without a fumble. It speaks volumes about the Ravens that a street free agent signed to the practice squad in early September has been their best offensive playmaker, but that doesn’t mean that Collins hasn’t impressed with an 8.2 yards per carry average. Head coach John Harbaugh has bristled over his two fumbles on 25 carries, but this struggling offense has little choice but to continue giving him the ball while hoping that running backs coach Thomas Hammock can help rectify the issue. The Ravens offensive line has done a solid job in run blocking and should find room against an Oakland front allowing 4.3 yards per carry.

4. Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack will collect two sacks and force a fumble. After having a brutal day against Jacksonville edge rusher Dante Fowler in London two weeks ago, right tackle Austin Howard is really going to have his hands full with his former teammate, who is one of the NFL’s best defensive players. Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. likes to move Mack around to create matchup problems, meaning left tackle Ronnie Stanley will also need to be ready. As if Mack weren’t enough, defensive end Mario Edwards also creates problems as an interior rusher on passing downs and it’s no secret that the Ravens have struggled mightily at the guard position without Marshal Yanda.

5. The Ravens offense fails to score 14 points for the third straight game in a 19-13 loss. I fully expect the run defense to bounce back after a poor performance last week, but the Ravens will have trouble generating pressure against Pro Football Focus’ most efficient pass-blocking line in the league, which will limit their opportunities for takeaways to put the offense on a short field. Since a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin in the season opener, Flacco hasn’t completed a single pass for even half as much yardage as that in 105 attempts. That’s simply not a winning formula, especially on the West Coast where Baltimore hasn’t fared well in recent years. Until this offense shows otherwise, the Ravens aren’t a good bet to win any road game — even one against a backup quarterback.

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Ravens offense not even talking a good game at this point

Posted on 06 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco acknowledged this week that the Ravens offense isn’t playing with as much confidence as it needs to.

It was an honest assessment considering the quarterback and the unit rank near the bottom of the NFL in numerous categories, but how do you go about raising that confidence level in hopes of it carrying over to Sundays? Do coaches add new wrinkles to the playbook, invite more player input during meetings, or even try something as simple as having a little more fun during practices to put minds at ease?

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was posed that simple question on Thursday.

“Just a little juice, you know? Hey, we’ve got proud men here,” Mornhinweg said. “We talked about this the other day. We’ve got a lot of proud men and a lot of confident guys. When you go through a couple weeks like this, confidence is a great weapon. I think it’s the best weapon known to mankind. Confidence is at an all-time high.”

Not only does Mornhinweg not answer the original question, but he contradicts the starting quarterback’s opinion by saying the group’s confidence is greater than ever. That’s not exactly a good look when media and fans are demanding answers from one of the worst offenses in the league through the first month of the season.

Now in his third season as the quarterbacks coach, Mornhinweg is doubly responsible for Flacco ranking 32nd in passing yards, last among qualified quarterbacks with a career-worst 5.1 yards per attempt, and 31st of 32 qualified quarterbacks with a 65.0 passer rating. So, what is he having the 10th-year veteran work on during practices?

“There’s a lot of specific things, and that goes with every position,” Mornhinweg said. “These more than a handful of plays last ballgame — details. It’s really every position, you know? Details, and then you end up getting those four, five, six, seven plays in a game that may make a little bit of a difference.”

Again, what?

To be clear, talking to the media is far from Mornhinweg’s primary job responsibility and he’s never been an eloquent speaker, something the team’s official website has even had fun with on occasion. However, failing to answer fair questions with any substance isn’t amusing when many fans are calling for a coordinator change and already weren’t thrilled with John Harbaugh’s decision to retain him in January.

Is there any sign the offensive coordinator is seeing that a breakout could be coming?

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Mornhinweg said. “You keep working hard, you keep preparing, good things tend to happen.”

You can only hope he’s a better communicator with his players than he is with the media or there truly is no hope for an offensive turnaround.

Pees blames himself for run defense issues

A week after suggesting the Ravens’ problems in London stemmed from a lack of intensity, defensive coordinator Dean Pees took the blame for Pittsburgh gaining 173 rushing yards on 42 carries in Week 4.

The Ravens’ outside linebackers did a poor job setting the edge, but Pees said he didn’t have his defense prepared for the type of pulling the Steelers employed with their interior linemen on outside runs.

“It’s not the players fault. It’s my fault,” Pees said. “The Steelers — I give them credit — [offensive line coach Mike Munchak] and those guys did a different scheme on some of their pullers than what we had ever seen. They did. It was different than what I’ve seen the Steelers run. But it’s my job to get it adapted and fixed and corrected and put the guys in a better position than what they were put in.”

Pees did try to cherry-pick the final numbers by saying that the Ravens held the Steelers to 2.3 yards per carry on 36 of their 42 attempts — any defense is going to look much better when you remove the top six plays — but at least he took responsibility for a run defense needing to be better than it’s shown so far. The Ravens currently rank 26th in rushing yards allowed per game (127.3) and 20th in yards per carry allowed (4.2).

Secondary shuffling

We’re unlikely to see any notable changes if cornerback Jimmy Smith misses Sunday’s game in Oakland, but the Ravens secondary could stand to benefit from a facelift in the near future.

With nickel corner Lardarius Webb struggling in coverage and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey looking like the real deal, the Ravens should look to move the latter into the starting lineup and continue experimenting with Brandon Carr at the nickel spot as they’ve done on a few occasions this year. Impressive rookie free agent Jaylen Hill could also be in the nickel mix once he gets back into football shape from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for over a month.

Webb’s best role at this point is at the safety position, which gives the Ravens an opportunity to be more creative with their sub packages while also keeping the veteran involved in the defense.

Safety Tony Jefferson hasn’t made a major impact so far, but one could question whether he’s being used properly. His strength is playing closer to the line of scrimmage against the run and in pass coverage against tight ends, but Pees has used him as more of a traditional safety so far. Sliding Jefferson down to a hybrid dime position in many passing situations would allow the Ravens to take the weak-side inside linebacker off the field — a position that’s been an issue — and to move Webb to the back end of the defense where he played next to Eric Weddle last year.

Anything that maximizes their $34 million investment in Jefferson and gets Humphrey on the field should be on the table.

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Webb returns to Ravens practice while J. Smith remains sidelined

Posted on 06 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens defensive back Lardarius Webb returned to practice Thursday while top cornerback Jimmy Smith remained sidelined with an Achilles issue.

It remains unclear whether Smith will be ready to play against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed great confidence in rookie Marlon Humphrey stepping into a starting role if necessary. Humphrey was periodically filling in for Smith throughout the Week 4 loss to Pittsburgh, an indication that the veteran wasn’t right physically.

“He is fast, physical, big, he uses his hands, and he is into the game plan,” said Pees about the Ravens’ 2017 first-round pick from Alabama. “He has all those things that you want a [defensive back] to possess. I think that he is just a really good player, a really good talent, and I think we have done a good job of bringing him along and not throwing him in there too fast.

“Kind of each week, he gets more and more plays, and now he has himself in a little bit of a rotation-type thing.”

Tight ends Benjamin Watson (calf) and Maxx Williams (ankle) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) remained absent from practice. The latter two are almost certain to miss their third straight game.

Meanwhile, the Raiders surprisingly welcomed starting quarterback Derek Carr back to the practice field just days after he suffered a fracture in his back in Denver. He is still not expected to play against Baltimore, but Oakland will take satisfaction knowing he is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

Starting wide receivers Amari Cooper (knee) and Michael Crabtree (chest) and starting defensive end Mario Edward (back) were upgraded to full participation after sitting out on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), TE Benjamin Watson (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Jeremy Maclin (hand), DB Lardarius Webb (thigh)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Gabe Jackson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB David Amerson (concussion), QB David Carr (back), CB Gareon Conley (shin), RB DeAndre Washington (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Amari Cooper (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (chest), DE Mario Edwards (back)

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Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith dealing with Achilles issue

Posted on 04 October 2017 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:15 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were missing two members of their secondary while welcoming back another as they continued preparations for a Week 5 trip to Oakland.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon) and nickel corner Lardarius Webb (thigh) were both absent from Wednesday’s practice while rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill returned to the field for the first time in five weeks. Smith was replaced by rookie Marlon Humphrey on Pittsburgh’s final touchdown drive in the fourth quarter Sunday, but he didn’t appear to suffer a serious injury and never went to the ground during his final play of the afternoon, Le’Veon Bell’s 21-yard run to the Baltimore 21 with under five minutes remaining.

Smith played 52 of 76 defensive snaps against the Steelers as Humphrey replaced him for a few series over the course of the contest, something the rookie also did the previous week. Smith’s history of frustrating injuries is no secret as the Ravens defense collapsed down the stretch last season when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 14. The seventh-year defensive back is off to one of the best starts of his career this season and has been one of Baltimore’s best players on either side of the ball

Hill, a rookie free agent from Jacksonville State, was one of the best stories of the preseason as he played at a high level to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Though he’ll likely need some time to get back into football shape and prove he’s fully recovered from a long-term hamstring injury, Hill could be a potential fit at the nickel spot with Webb having struggled in pass coverage over the last couple weeks.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) and tight ends Benjamin Watson (calf) and Maxx Williams (ankle) were also absent from Wednesday’s practice. It’s appearing more likely that the standout defensive lineman will miss his third straight game on Sunday. Watson missed two practices last week before ultimately playing against the Steelers.

Defensive back Anthony Levine (thigh) was a limited participant.

On Tuesday, the Ravens signed tight end Gabe Holmes and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste to their practice squad, placed fullback Ricky Ortiz on practice squad injured reserve, and waived cornerback Josh Thornton.

The Raiders were without three starters during their Wednesday workout as quarterback Derek Carr (back), right guard Gabe Jackson (foot), and defensive end Mario Edwards (back) were listed as non-participants. Carr was ruled out by head coach Jack Del Rio at the beginning of the week and will be replaced by former Buffalo first-round pick EJ Manuel.

Oakland starting wide receivers Michael Crabtree (chest) and Amari Cooper (knee) were both limited.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), TE Benjamin Watson (calf), DB Lardarius Webb (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Jeremy Maclin (hand)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: QB David Carr (back), CB Gareon Conley (shin), DE Mario Edwards (back), G Gabe Jackson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB David Amerson (concussion), WR Amari Cooper (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (chest), RB DeAndre Washington (hamstring)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 26-9 loss to Pittsburgh

Posted on 03 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens suffering their first home defeat to Pittsburgh since 2012 in a 26-7 loss, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. From being shut out in the first half and Mike Wallace’s drop of a possible touchdown to the poor offensive line play and the all-too-slow tempo of the no-huddle attack in the fourth quarter, this Ravens offense is broken. And it’s tough to trust Marty Mornhinweg to fix it.

2. Even acknowledging the injuries and the poor offense, Dean Pees’ defense ranks 14th in points allowed per game, 21st in total yards per game, 16th in passing yards per game, and 20th in yards per carry allowed. That’s not nearly good enough considering the many resources used on this defense.

3. The running game has been the offense’s only redeeming quality, but 73 of the 82 rushing yards came on two plays while the other 13 carries produced a total of nine yards. It’s difficult staying on schedule without gaining at least a few yards each on those other plays.

4. Those wondering if the Ravens were wise to spend so much to re-sign Brandon Williams have seen a defensive line lacking a consistent push. Even in those short-yardage situations where the Ravens front appeared to make a stop, the Steelers were still able to get enough to move the chains.

5. It’s difficult to recall too many games when Ravens outside linebackers were so abysmal against the run. Pittsburgh gained most of its big yards on outside runs while Baltimore consistently failed to set the edge.

6. Alex Collins has lost two fumbles on just 25 carries, but the Ravens have no choice right now but to give him opportunities when he’s been their best offensive playmaker. He clearly needs to protect the football, but the risk-reward ratio remains in his favor — for now.

7. Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward might as well have changed his address to the Ravens backfield on Sunday. He absolutely dominated an undermanned and inexperienced offensive line.

8. John Harbaugh has received plenty of fair criticism for his use of challenges over the years, but give him credit for being on top of the Eric Weddle interception that followed a non-catch from Antonio Brown. If only the whistle hadn’t blown before an easy return for a touchdown.

9. Marlon Humphrey was immediately challenged upon entering the game and ran right with Brown on a long incompletion in the second quarter. I’m surprised that he’s mostly subbed in for Jimmy Smith, but the rookie continues to make a strong argument for a starting role opposite Smith.

10. He had a rough game against Jacksonville, but I didn’t quite get Tyus Bowser playing only eight defensive snaps against the Steelers. It’s not as though the other young outside linebackers have established themselves as consistent options and he was very good against Cleveland in Week 2.

11. I couldn’t help but think Harbaugh’s expressed frustration over Jaylen Hill’s slow-healing hamstring injury Monday had something to do with the struggles of Lardarius Webb at the nickel spot. There’s certainly a role for Webb in this defense, but he’s being exposed in pass coverage.

12. The poor throw from high-priced quarterback Joe Flacco and the inability of former first-round receiver Breshad Perriman to corral it in the third quarter epitomized how inept this offense has been. Even when the Ravens had a golden opportunity for a touchdown, they wasted it.

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