Tag Archive | "lorenzo taliaferro"

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Ravens position battles to watch this summer

Posted on 24 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens possess one of the deepest rosters in the NFL entering the 2015 season, but a number of key position battles will headline the summer as they seek their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

After losing the likes of Haloti Ngata, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, and Pernell McPhee, general manager Ozzie Newsome has done a remarkable job reloading, but several questions must be answered before the season begins in Denver on Sept. 13.

Below is an early look at each competition with the first full-squad workout of the summer set for July 30:

Starting wide receiver
The candidates: Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown
Why to be optimistic: The 26th overall pick in the draft, Perriman was projected to go in the middle of the first round by some and is a faster and bigger version of Torrey Smith on paper while Aiken and Brown are still developing and contributed a season ago.
Why to be concerned: Beyond the 13,000-plus receiving yards from 15-year veteran Steve Smith, the Ravens’ other returning wide receivers made a combined 55 catches last year, making you pray that Perriman is ready to contribute immediately.
The favorite: Aiken is the leader in the clubhouse following minicamp and has developed an impressive rapport with Joe Flacco, but Perriman’s skills are too enticing to pass on him as the favorite to start.

Starting tight end
The candidates: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta
Why to be optimistic: Even if we assume Pitta will not be cleared to play in 2015, the Ravens invested a 2014 third-round pick in Gillmore and a second-round pick in Williams this spring for a reason.
Why to be concerned: Gillmore caught just 10 passes as a rookie while Williams did not stand out during spring practices and is still trying to adjust to Marc Trestman’s offensive system.
The favorite: After showing improvement late in his rookie year, Gillmore was a surprise of the spring with a better physique and improved ability to make catches in traffic while Williams was very quiet.

Starting defensive end
The candidates: Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban
Why to be optimistic: Canty and Guy were effective holding down the 5-technique position a year ago despite Urban’s knee injury that derailed his anticipated role in the rotation as a rookie.
Why to be concerned: Canty is entering his 11th year and the Ravens deemed him expendable before bringing him back at a cheaper rate while Urban has been unable to shake injuries going back to his collegiate days.
The favorite: Urban was very active during spring practices and could push the veteran starter, but it’s too tough to pick against Canty, who has started 119 games in his NFL career.

Starting safeties
The candidates: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks
Why to be optimistic: Hill proved capable in handling a starting job in the second half of 2014 while Lewis was signed for his ability to play deep center, something the Ravens lacked in coverage a year ago.
Why to be concerned: Elam was a clear disappointment in his first two seasons while Brooks is still recovering from a torn ACL, creating legitimate depth concerns going into training camp.
The favorites: The Ravens gave Elam some reps with the starting defense this spring, but it would take substantial improvement for the 2013 first-round pick to overtake Hill or Lewis for starting spots.

Return specialist
The candidates: Michael Campanaro, DeAndre Carter, Asa Jackson, Fitz Toussaint, Lardarius Webb, Steve Smith
Why to be optimistic: Campanaro and Jackson have shown flashes in the return game in very limited opportunities while Webb and Smith bring experience to the equation.
Why to be concerned: It’s difficult to buy either Webb or Smith as a serious candidate to handle the job because of their importance, leaving the real competition to players lacking experience or facing questions about their durability.
The favorite: There isn’t one as this competition lacks candidates to really feel good about at this point, making you wonder if the man to handle the job is even on the current roster.

Backup running back
The candidates: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
Why to be optimistic: The Ravens feel very good about Justin Forsett in a starting role for a second straight year and have invested fourth-round picks in running backs in each of the last two drafts.
Why to be concerned: Taliaferro and Allen have a combined 68 carries in the NFL and are the primary backups behind a 29-year-old back who has one year of experience as a full-time back since college.
The favorite: Last month, Allen would have been my choice because of the versatility he showed in college, but a slimmed-down Taliaferro moved well this spring and has an experience edge for now.

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Which 2014 Ravens draft pick breaks out in second season?

Posted on 01 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The 2014 draft class offered one of the better immediate returns for the Ravens in recent memory.

First-round pick C.J. Mosley became the first rookie in franchise history to make the Pro Bowl, an impressive feat considering general manager Ozzie Newsome’s impeccable track record with selections in the first round over the last two decades. It will be difficult for Mosley to gain much more notoriety than he received in his first year, but a number of other 2014 draft picks appear primed for a breakout second season.

Below are my thoughts on four breakout candidates from last year’s draft and you can vote in our poll:

Which 2014 draft pick is primed to break out for the Ravens in his second year? (Select up to two)

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Favorite: DT Timmy Jernigan
Skinny: The Ravens are expecting the 2014 second-round pick to lead the way in filling the large shoes left behind by Haloti Ngata, but Jernigan dealt with injuries that limited him to 12 games as a rookie. Rookie third-round pick Carl Davis will factor into the Ngata equation as well, but Jernigan should offer plenty as a pass rusher and showed he could be stout against the run in his college days at Florida State. With a 6-foot-2, 300-pound frame, he doesn’t have an overwhelming physical presence, but Jernigan used his strength, leverage, and quickness to fill in admirably when Ngata was suspended last December.

Underrated: TE Crockett Gillmore
Skinny: The Ravens traded up in the second round last month to select Minnesota’s Maxx Williams, but that doesn’t mean Gillmore won’t be counted on to contribute in the passing game after catching only 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season. At 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, Gillmore has the frame to not only be a terrific blocker, but he should be more of a factor inside the red zone in his second season. Williams will receive the attention, but it isn’t always easy for a rookie to adjust quickly to the NFL, which could leave a few more opportunities for Gillmore than most expect, especially early on.

Falling back: RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
Skinny: The Ravens spent a fourth-round pick on a running back for the second straight year when they selected Buck Allen with the 125th overall selection. Taliaferro appeared slimmer and in excellent shape during last week’s voluntary workouts, but he didn’t look fully comfortable last year in Gary Kubiak’s one-cut zone schemes that are expected to be used again under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. He will continue to be a strong option in short-yardage situations, but many consider Allen the favorite to be the primary backup behind veteran starter Justin Forsett.

Sleeper: DE Brent Urban
Skinny: A forgotten man after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training camp, Brent Urban would have factored heavily into the defensive line rotation as a rookie. Veteran Chris Canty is back with the Ravens, but Urban appears to be a prime candidate to eventually start at the 5-technique defensive end position if he can prove he’s healthy. Because the injury occurred late July, Urban has had plenty of time to recover and should be fully cleared for training camp. The coaching staff will probably bring him along slowly, but the Virginia product is a player to watch this summer.

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Forsett hoping to escape “friend zone” in free agency

Posted on 12 January 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After he expressed gratitude for the Ravens taking a chance on him by turning in a career season, Justin Forsett is looking for a long-term partnership.

Forsett rushed for a career-high 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the league’s eighth-ranked rushing offense and has expressed repeatedly that he’d like to remain in Baltimore. But the Ravens will need to pony up more than the one-year, $730,000 contract they gave the journeyman back last April.

“There’s also a business side of it where, unfortunately, I’ve been in the ‘friend zone’ for most of my career,” the 29-year-old running back said. “Hopefully, we can get into a deeper commitment somewhere down the road and get some stability. But it is what it is. It’s in God’s hands, and I’m at peace with it.”

Determining Forsett’s value could be tricky as it’s no secret the value of running backs has declined dramatically in recent years in the pass-happy NFL. His doubters may credit the improvement of the offensive line and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s history of finding productive running backs as the primary reasons for his success, but Forsett displayed excellent patience and vision in the Ravens’ zone-blocking scheme.

The longest commitment Forsett has received in the NFL was the two-year deal he signed with Jacksonville two years ago, but he was released after one injury-riddled season with the Jaguars.

The Ravens will be hoping for big things from Lorenzo Taliaferro in his second season after he averaged 4.3 yards per carry and rushed for 292 yards as a rookie, but Bernard Pierce was disappointing for a second straight year in running for just 3.9 yards per carry and carrying only 93 times. It’s possible that the Ravens could again look to the draft after selecting Taliaferro in the fourth round last May.

Beyond filling the void left behind by Ray Rice in the backfield, Forsett was strong in pass protection and was praised for his attitude and work ethic by coaches and teammates alike. He hopes to be a part of a Ravens offense that took major strides this season and is seeking further improvement in 2015.

“I would love to be a part of it,” Forsett said. “This is an organization that first gave me my shot, my first real opportunity, and I would love to stay.”

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Ravens place Taliaferro on IR, sign former Patriots defensive tackle Walker

Posted on 16 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens officially sent three players to injured reserve on Tuesday with rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro joining injured defensive backs Asa Jackson and Terrence Brooks.

Head coach John Harbaugh had already confirmed Jackson and Brooks would miss the rest of the season, but the news of Taliaferro’s status is disappointing after he rushed for 292 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries, often serving as the primary backup behind starter Justin Forsett. Taliaferro suffered a foot injury in the Week 14 win over Miami and missed this past Sunday’s game against Jacksonville after the Ravens promoted rookie running back Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad.

Taliaferro had originally been described as “day-to-day” by Harbaugh on Dec. 8.

To fill two of the three spots vacated on the 53-man roster, Baltimore promoted offensive lineman and 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen from the practice squad and signed defensive tackle Casey Walker away from New England’s practice squad. Walker appeared in five games for the Patriots earlier this season, collecting 11 tackles and a sack.

The 6-foot-1, 335-pound undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma started his career with the Carolina Panthers in 2013 before he was signed by the Patriots in late September of this season. He had been on New England’s active roster until late last month when he was waived to make room for running back LeGarrette Blount and then re-signed to the practice squad.

Jensen spent his entire rookie season on the 53-man roster without appearing in a game, but the Colorado State-Pueblo product did not make the team at the end of the 2014 preseason, agreeing to join the practice squad after being waived.

As of Tuesday afternoon, one spot had yet to be filled with many expecting the Ravens to add a defensive back in the wake of the season-ending injuries to Jackson and Brooks.

With Jensen and Toussaint promoted in recent days, the Ravens signed defensive end Zach Thompson and cornerback Quinton Pointer to the practice squad. Thompson is a Wake Forest product and previously spent time with the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos.

Pointer is in his third NFL season and appeared in eight games with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 and 2013. He was most recently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Ravens-Jaguars: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 14 December 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens aim to move a step closer to the playoffs in welcoming the Jacksonville Jaguars to Baltimore for Week 15.

Baltimore is assured of a postseason berth with three straight wins to conclude the regular season, and the 2-11 Jaguars wouldn’t figure to offer much resistance, especially with this week’s news of starting running back Denard Robinson being out for the rest of the season with a sprained foot. Veteran Toby Gerhart will start in Robinson’s place and has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry this season.

Despite doubts earlier in the week about the availability of Torrey Smith after he was limited to just 15 snaps in last Sunday’s win over Miami, the fourth-year wide receiver is active and will start, continuing his streak of never missing a game in his NFL career — or his collegiate run at the University of Maryland. Smith suffered a sprained right knee in the loss to San Diego two weeks ago, but he appeared to be moving well in pre-game warmups.

As expected, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was deactivated after missing practices all week with a sprained foot. The Ravens promoted rookie free agent Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad Saturday to give them a third healthy running back for Week 15. Taliaferro’s absence likely means a heavier workload for veteran backup Bernard Pierce, who rushed for 50 yards in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins last week.

After being signed earlier this week, veteran cornerback Antoine Cason is inactive as the Ravens elected to activate young cornerback Rashaan Melvin instead. Baltimore lost veteran cornerback Danny Gorrer to a season-ending knee injury last week in Miami, but Asa Jackson is once again expected to start opposite veteran Lardarius Webb at cornerback.

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore is active for Sunday’s game despite being limited with a back injury most of the week. It’s worth noting that No. 3 tight end Phillip Supernaw is also active in case Gillmore’s back is an issue.

Neither Terrence Cody nor DeAngelo Tyson were activated for Sunday’s game, which shows how much confidence the Ravens have in rookie Timmy Jernigan filling in for the suspended Haloti Ngata. Veteran Lawrence Guy will serve as a primary backup in the defensive line rotation.

Despite not being listed on the injury report this week, rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro is once again inactive and hasn’t played in a game since injuring his hamstring against Cincinnati on Oct. 26. Joining Campanaro among the healthy inactives is second-year linebacker Arthur Brown as he’s only been active three times all season.

Rookie safety Terrence Brooks is active after not playing against the Dolphins last week.

The Ravens will be playing the Jaguars for the 18th time in franchise history and own a 7-10 record against their old AFC Central foe. The Jaguars won the last meeting between the teams, a 12-7 final in Jacksonville on Oct. 24, 2011. Jacksonville still seeks its first road win of the year while Baltimore looks to improve to 5-2 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching 50 degrees and winds up to 11 miles per hour.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Tony Corrente.

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

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Michael Campanaro
CB Antoine Cason
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Arthur Brown
DT Terrence Cody
OL Gino Gradkowski
DL DeAngelo Tyson

JACKSONVILLE
RB Denard Robinson
CB Teddy Williams
CB Jeremy Harris
LB A.J. Edds
LB Khairi Fortt
G Tyler Shatley
DE Andre Branch

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Ravens promote running back Toussaint, move offensive lineman Reid to IR

Posted on 13 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens promoted rookie running back Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad to the active roster ahead of Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro listed as questionable and unlikely to play after being sidelined with a foot injury suffered in last week’s win in Miami, Toussaint gives Baltimore a third healthy running back behind starter Justin Forsett and backup Bernard Pierce. To make room on the 53-man roster, offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand) was placed on injured reserve.

Toussaint, a rookie free agent from the University of Michigan, gained 123 rushing yards on 21 carries in the preseason and has spent most of the season on the practice squad. He was on the active roster in Weeks 1 and 3 but has yet to appear in a regular-season game.

Reid being moved to IR likely brings his disappointing career in Baltimore to end after he never lived up to expectations as a third-round pick in the 2011 draft. The Central Florida product appeared in just four games this season.

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Torrey Smith listed as probable to play against Jacksonville

Posted on 12 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens move closer to Sunday’s meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receiver Torrey Smith is expected to be a game-time decision despite being listed as probable on the final injury report of the week.

The fourth-year wideout returned to practice on Friday after sitting out the previous two days, but he still appeared to be feeling the effects of a sprained right knee that limited him to just 15 snaps in last Sunday’s win over Miami, making his official game designation surprising.

The 2011 second-round pick says he hasn’t missed a game since his junior year of high school, and he played through a high ankle sprain for much of his final season at the University of Maryland in 2010. Smith injured his knee in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 loss to San Diego.

“Sometimes it’s better for coach to save me from myself,” said Smith when asked how much he’ll lobby to play against the Jaguars. “I’ve never had to make a call like that. I can play through pain, but it’s just a matter of weighing if it’s worth lingering for a few weeks or is it going to be ready on Sunday. I don’t know the answer yet.”

Smith was limping while running routes during the portion of practice open to reporters Friday, and it would appear to make little sense for him to play against the 2-11 Jaguars if he isn’t close to 100 percent and would benefit from more rest. Kamar Aiken handled the bulk of the workload in Smith’s place against the Dolphins, catching six passes for 65 yards and a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The 25-year-old continues to receive treatment and acknowledged he’s feeling much better now than he did earlier in the week. Smith told reporters Friday that he plans to go through an on-field workout Sunday morning before a decision is made on his availability.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to activate Smith and adjust his playing time based on how he’s feeling during the game.

“We’ll see how it goes. He practiced [Friday],” Harbaugh said. “He looked pretty good, so we’ll see how [the knee] is Sunday.”

Veteran wideout Steve Smith missed his second straight practice and was listed as probable for the Jaguars game, but Friday’s absence was due to an illness after he took his typical Thursday off. Harbaugh did not seem concerned about the 35-year-old’s availability for Sunday’s game after he felt well enough to watch the final practice of the week.

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, but he was listed as questionable after he missed the first game of his career last Sunday.

Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) was once again absent from practice and is expected to miss Sunday’s game despite being designated questionable. The Ravens could promote rookie Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad Saturday if Taliaferro cannot play against the Jaguars.

“He comes out here and he goes against our defense, and they get after him pretty good,” said Harbaugh about the rookie free agent from Michigan. “He plays the game pretty much on Wednesday and Thursday as much as you can simulate it. He’s ready to go, and we have a lot of confidence in him if he’s needed.”

Harbaugh confirmed that cornerback Anthony Levine has been cleared after going through the NFL concussion protocol and is fine to play against Jacksonville after he was a full participant in the final two practices of the week. Levine was listed as probable and left last Sunday’s game with the head injury in the first quarter.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Tony Corrente.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 47 degrees and winds at 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: TE Crockett Gilmore (back), OL Jah Reid (hand), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot)
PROBABLE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), S Anthony Levine (concussion), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (illness), WR Torrey Smith (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)

JACKSONVILLE
OUT: DE Andre Branch (groin), LB Khairi Fortt (hamstring), RB Denard Robinson (foot)
PROBABLE: QB Blake Bortles (right shoulder), DE Chris Clemons (knee), S Josh Evans (finger), RB Toby Gerhart (ankle), LB Geno Hayes (rest), DT Sen’Derrick Marks (rest), WR Tommy Streeter (abdominal), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle)

 

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Torrey Smith, two others sit out Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 10 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hitting the practice field for the first time since their crucial win in Miami, the Ravens were only missing one starter from Wednesday’s practice as they turn their attention toward the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith (right knee), tight end Crockett Gillmore (back), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) were not working during the portion of practice open to media. Smith and Taliaferro were not present as the Ravens practiced on the turf field in their field house, but Gillmore was observing from the sideline.

With Smith still recovering from a sprained knee suffered two weeks ago that limited him to just 15 snaps in the 28-13 win over the Dolphins, his status is up in the air as the Ravens face 2-11 Jacksonville at M&T Bank Stadium.

The good news was the presence of running back Justin Forsett (knee) and cornerback Anthony Levine (concussion) during Wednesday’s practice. Forsett only practiced one day last week leading into the Miami game while Levine left Sunday’s contest with a head injury in the first quarter. Levine was a limited participant on Wednesday, making it unclear if he’s yet been cleared after entering the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Newly-signed veteran cornerback Antoine Cason was present after signing with the Ravens on Tuesday. He will wear No. 23, a jersey number last worn by cornerback Chykie Brown earlier this season.

Wednesday brought much worse news for the Jaguars as starting running back Denard Robinson was ruled out for the rest of the season with sprained foot. Former Ravens wide receiver Tommy Streeter (abdominal) was a limited participant.

Below is Wednesday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Crockett Gilmore (back), WR Torrey Smith (knee), RB Lorenzo Talliaferro (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Anthony Levine (concussion)

JACKSONVILLE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Andre Branch (groin), LB Khairi Fortt (hamstring), RB Denard Robinson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Toby Gerhart (ankle), WR Tommy Streeter (abdominal)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Blake Bortles (right shoulder), DE Chris Clemons (knee), S Josh Evans (finger), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle)

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Ravens cornerback Gorrer lost for season after suffering knee injury

Posted on 08 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens secondary has taken another hit with the season-ending knee injury suffered by cornerback Danny Gorrer in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Monday that the 28-year-old suffered tears to the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee that will require surgery. Gorrer will become the fourth Ravens cornerback to be placed on injured reserve this season, joining starter Jimmy Smith (foot), veteran Aaron Ross (Achilles tendon), and rookie Tramain Jacobs (thigh). Asa Jackson was activated from IR-designated to return on Saturday following a two-month absence due to a turf toe injury.

Gorrer was in the midst of his second tenure with the Ravens after being claimed off waivers from Detroit on Nov. 4. The 28-year-old played in four games with Baltimore, recording 17 tackles and an interception, while primarily playing in the nickel package.

“Danny came in there and just did a heck of a job, and your heart goes out to him,” Harbaugh said. “He’s playing better and better every week. He’s playing as a starter, and he played really well. He was only getting better.”

The Ravens are in better position to absorb Gorrer’s loss with Jackson returning to action after missing seven games. The 2012 fifth-round pick started against the Dolphins and played 40 of 57 defensive snaps.

Jackson recorded one tackle in his first game since Oct. 5.

“He was good and solid,” Harbaugh said. “He’d get a little over-reactive at times. He jumped a few thing and got a little overanxious — he’d be the first to tell you that — but that’s a good thing because he was moving around so well. He’ll slow himself down a little bit this next game, but he played well.”

Cornerback Anthony Levine remains in the concussion protocol after suffering a head injury early in Sunday’s game and not returning. With his status uncertain, the Ravens will likely offer more reps to young cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who was signed last month but has yet to be active for a game.

Harbaugh said a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed no structural damage to rookie Crockett Gillmore’s back, calling the injury “muscular” after the third-round pick missed his first game of the season in Miami.

The head coach also said starting running back Justin Forsett “seemed good” after being slowed by a knee injury last week and carrying 13 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. However, rookie back Lorenzo Taliaferro is dealing with a sprain in the foot and ankle area and is considered “day-to-day” in Harbaugh’s words.

 

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Sunday night

Posted on 01 November 2014 by Luke Jones

No strangers to meeting in the national spotlight, the Ravens and Steelers will meet in prime time for the 13th time in the series history on Sunday night.

Baltimore will be looking for its first regular-season sweep of Pittsburgh since 2011 while the Steelers aim for their third straight win overall. Both teams enter the weekend right on the heels of the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.

Sunday marks the 38th time these teams have met in the regular season with the Steelers owning a 20-17 advantage. The Ravens are 7-11 in regular-season games played in Pittsburgh, but they’ve won three of the last four played at Heinz Field.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 6-3 in a very competitive AFC North …

1. Steelers wideout Antonio Brown will catch a long touchdown in the first quarter as a reshuffled secondary tries to get its bearings. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to be creative with coverages as top cornerback Jimmy Smith is out. The timing couldn’t be much worse as Brown has been arguably the best receiver in the NFL this season and is tied for the league lead with 10 catches of 25 or more yards. Pees will likely entrust Lardarius Webb to cover Brown, which is a daunting task for a cornerback working his way back to top form after a lengthy absence due to a back injury. A miscommunication will allow Brown to break free for a long score as the Ravens defense tries to get in sync.

2. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro will score a touchdown for a second straight game and lead the Ravens in rushing. Baltimore ran for 157 yards in the first meeting against the Steelers in Week 2, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the running game really wore down a tired Pittsburgh front. This defense is softer than the typical Steelers unit and ranks 11th against the run, and the physicality of Taliaferro will be a strong change of pace from shifty starter Justin Forsett. With concerns in their own secondary, the Ravens will want to control the clock and limit the Steelers’ opportunities for possessions and Taliaferro will get plenty of carries in the second half with Bernard Pierce now third on the depth chart.

3. The Baltimore defense will limit Le’Veon Bell’s production on the ground, but the Pittsburgh running back will lead his team in receptions. The Ravens are allowing only 3.7 yards per carry and rank seventh in the NFL in run defense as they’ve slowed opposing running backs all season. However, the Steelers are finding more and more ways to get the ball to the 244-pound back as a receiver as he’s second on the team in receiving yards. With the Ravens trying to account for not having Smith, they’re going to be content with giving cushion and allowing throws underneath to prevent the big play. Pittsburgh will use this to its advantage by getting the ball to Bell in the passing game.

4. Terrell Suggs will collect two sacks to pick up 100 for his career. There’s no downplaying how crucial it will be for the Ravens to generate pressure as they’ll be depending on the pair of Dominique Franks — who was on the street at this time a month ago — and Chykie Brown — who spent the last two weeks on the inactive list — at the cornerback position opposite Webb. Much like he’ll mix and disguise coverages in the back end, Pees will move Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Pernell McPhee around to confuse an improving offensive line and harass Roethlisberger. Suggs needs two sacks for 100 in his career, and nothing would be more fitting than doing it against the quarterback he’s sacked more than any other rusher has.

5. Pittsburgh will win a 26-23 game that goes back and forth for much of the night. Admittedly, when trying to break down Ravens-Steelers, it’s probably best to put aside the numbers and simply remember that 11 of the 15 total meetings in the John Harbaugh era — counting the postseason — have been decided by four or fewer points. However, the loss of Smith hurts more than any player on the current roster beyond quarterback Joe Flacco and the Steelers offense is playing at a high level at the wrong time for Baltimore. Both offenses will move the ball effectively, but the Steelers will do a little too much damage in the passing game for the Ravens to overcome.

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