Tag Archive | "lorenzo taliaferro"

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Offensive line becoming major asset for Ravens at quarter mark

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Offensive line becoming major asset for Ravens at quarter mark

Posted on 28 September 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — On a day in which Steve Smith and Joe Flacco understandably owned the spotlight in the Ravens’ dominating 38-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, John Harbaugh was asked after the game how rookie free agent James Hurst fared in his first start at left tackle.

The head coach’s answer applied as an appropriate assessment of the entire offensive line through the first quarter of the season. After a nightmarish 2013 in which the group stood out on a weekly basis for all the wrong reasons, the Baltimore offensive line hasn’t been a major topic of discussion because of how consistently well it’s played.

Even after losing standout left tackle Eugene Monroe to knee surgery, the Ravens didn’t appear to miss a beat with Hurst, an offensive lineman many didn’t think would make the 53-man roster at this time a month ago.

“I didn’t notice him, so that must be a good thing, right?” Harbaugh said. “I can’t wait to see it on tape, but it seemed like he played well. We ran the ball well. We did a good job across the board, I think, blocking as a group. The unit has played exceptionally well. We have to keep building, but it’s nice to have some depth in there.”

It’s no secret that veteran members of the offensive line took last year’s criticism to heart after the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda made it clear during organized team activities last spring that he had no interest in rehashing the struggles of a running game that averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry in 2013.

In the eyes of the offensive line, it was a different year with a new system installed by new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. There was also new personnel, including the arrival of veteran center Jeremy Zuttah and the promotion of second-year lineman Rick Wagner to the starting right tackle spot. Of course, the improved health of left guard Kelechi Osemele and Yanda also figured to pay major dividends after both dealt with ailments last season.

And it’s led to the previously-loud criticism of offensive line coach Juan Castillo becoming all but silent at this point.

“It’s obviously going to be different with a new offense,” said Zuttah, who’s stabilized the middle of the line that struggled with Gino Gradkowski at center a year ago. “Coach Kubiak is one of the better offensive minds in this league. You watch that Houston Texans running game for years, and they were at the top of the league every year. I think guys came in with a chip on their shoulder and an attitude and a willingness to get better.”

The Ravens’ improvement with the zone-blocking system starts inside where Zuttah said he’s flanked by the “best set of guards in the NFL” in Osemele and Yanda. Through the first four weeks of the season, the two have played at a Pro Bowl level, earning the highest cumulative grades of any Baltimore offensive players, according to Pro Football Focus.

Whether opening lanes for the running back trio of Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Bernard Pierce or protecting quarterback Joe Flacco, the offensive line continues to make the 2013 season a distant memory as the Ravens are off to a 3-1 start.

Since Flacco was sacked three times in the season-opening loss to Cincinnati, the offensive line hasn’t allowed one in three straight contests. It’s the first time the Ravens have done that since the 2006 season in which they finished 13-3.

“Those guys have been holding up big time when we do the play-action, when teams come after us, and when we’re dealing with really good defensive lines,” Flacco said. “I think we’ve got a lot of good guys up front, and they’re communicating very well, and they’re being really physical. We’re allowing them to play very physical and get really confident, so it’s been a good run.”

That physicality has paid major dividends in the running game as Forsett and Taliaferro combined to run for 127 yards on 30 carries against the Carolina defense. Averaging 4.5 yards per carry through their first four games, the Ravens have followed through on the promise to return to their roots as a physical, run-first team.

That success has led to a more-efficient Flacco, who is currently on pace to throw a career-high 28 touchdowns and is completing 63.4 percent of his pass attempts. The arrival of the veteran Smith and the revamped running game have allowed Flacco to play more like the signal-caller we saw in the 2012 postseason and less like the man who had to try to do it all by himself last year.

He can thank his offensive line for not only keeping him clean but opening running lanes for whichever running back is carrying the ball. The cohesiveness has impressed the 28-year-old Forsett, who had plenty of experience running in zone-blocking systems in Seattle as well as in his one season with Kubiak in Houston.

Behind a revamped line, the Ravens have rushed for at least 125 yards in three straight games, a feat they hadn’t accomplished since the first three weeks of the 2009 season. Through four games, they’ve also collected six runs of 20 or more yards, one more than they had all last season.

“The offensive line has been gelling really fast,” Forsett said. “I’ve been in this scheme for a while now and to be doing this well this early, it’s a good sign.”

As encouraging as the start to the season has been, the Ravens will now enter a daunting stretch of four road games over the next five weeks. They’ll need that strong offensive line play we’ve seen at M&T Bank Stadium to continue against the likes of Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.

Even with the early-season success, members of the offensive line haven’t expressed any sense of satisfaction or an air of “I told you so” after hearing last year’s criticism and the doubts leading into this season.

Averaging 25.75 points per game, the Ravens still offer the impression that they can get even better upfront.

“We did pretty good today, but there were some yards we left out there,” Zuttah said. “I think we’re going to go back in there and be tough on ourselves in the film and see what we can do to get all the yards that we think we missed.”

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Ravens-Panthers: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Panthers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 27 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens hope to hit the quarter pole of the season on a winning note when they welcome the Carolina Panthers to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.

Most focus has understandably centered around wide receiver Steve Smith playing against his former team this week, but the Ravens will be playing their first game since losing tight end Dennis Pitta for the season and left tackle Eugene Monroe for at least the next few weeks. And they face an imposing stretch of four of their next five games on the road following Sunday’s contest at M&T Bank Stadium, making this a game the Ravens would desperately like to win.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are trying to recover from an embarrassing home loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday night while overcoming a number of injuries in their offensive backfield. Expected to have one of the more potent rushing attacks in the NFL this season, the Panthers currently rank 29th in run offense with just 72.3 rushing yards per contest.

Sunday marks the fifth meeting between these teams as Carolina holds a 3-1 edge. However, the Ravens won the only game against the Panthers of the John Harbaugh era, a 37-13 final in Charlotte in 2010.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their first ever home game against the Panthers …

1. Steve Smith will catch a touchdown pass and be flagged for a 15-yard penalty against his old team. The 35-year-old has tried to downplay the significance of playing the Panthers after spending the first 13 years of his career in Charlotte, but there’s no escaping the prediction of “blood and guts” he made shortly after signing a three-year contract with the Ravens in March. To say Smith will be fired up is an understatement considering how fiery he is on game days anyway, but he’ll bring a little extra passion that will draw a 15-yard penalty for either unnecessary roughness or taunting at some point. He’ll make up for it, however, with a touchdown catch to beat Panthers cornerback Antoine Cason.

2. James Hurst will struggle as a run blocker, but his pass blocking, with help from tight end Crockett Gillmore and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, will keep Joe Flacco clean. If you’re looking for the silver lining with the left tackle situation, Monroe wasn’t playing well before undergoing knee surgery this week, meaning there may not be much of a drop-off with the undrafted rookie. The overall impression of his play in the preseason was that Hurst was a capable pass blocker with good technique, but his blocking ability in the running game left much to be desired. Baltimore will use help on his side to help contain the pass rush from the likes of Charles Johnson, Mario Addison, and Wes Horton and keep Flacco safe. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will also call more running plays inside and to the right to stay away from Hurst’s struggles whenever possible.

3. With Jimmy Smith locked on rookie Kelvin Benjamin, veteran Jerricho Cotchery catches a touchdown from Cam Newton against the Baltimore secondary. The 6-foot-5 Benjamin will pose a problem for any Ravens cornerback other than Smith, so defensive coordinator Dean Pees will have his top defensive back mirror him as much as possible. Veteran Lardarius Webb wasn’t listed on this week’s injury report, so he’s expected to have a bigger workload than the four defensive snaps he took in Cleveland, but it’s still difficult projecting what to expect from him in terms of performance. Carolina’s weapons in the passing game aren’t imposing beyond Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, but the savvy Cotchery is familiar with the Ravens defense from his days with Pittsburgh and will shake free against zone coverage for a red-zone touchdown.

4. Bernard Pierce will start in the backfield, but rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro will lead the Ravens in rushing for the second straight week. A national audience watched the Steelers gash the Panthers defense for 264 rushing yards in a 37-19 final in Charlotte last Sunday night, which continued the early-season trend of Carolina struggling to stop the run. Kubiak will look to run early and often to control the tempo of the game and will defer to the returning Pierce at the start of this one. However, the jury is still out whether the 2012 third-round pick is a great fit in the Ravens’ zone-blocking scheme as he’s often looked indecisive in hitting running lanes. The Ravens will lean heavily on Taliaferro in the second half to wear down the Panthers’ front and the rookie will make another emphatic statement that the starting job belongs to him.

5. The injuries to Pitta and Monroe are concerning, but the Ravens will still have enough to handle Carolina in a 26-17 final. The Panthers are still trying to find their bearings on the offensive side of the ball with Newton still not 100 percent and the backfield in disarray with the long-term injury to fullback Mike Tolbert and the uncertain status of Jonathan Stewart. On top of that, the Carolina defense hasn’t been the imposing unit it was last year without defensive end Greg Hardy in the picture. The Ravens will use an effective running game and an improved defensive effort to win in relatively comfortable fashion to begin the season 3-1 before starting what looks to be the most difficult stretch of their regular-season schedule with only one home game over the next five weeks of action.

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 23-21 win over Cleveland

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Five numbers behind Ravens’ 23-21 win over Cleveland

Posted on 23 September 2014 by Luke Jones

After every Ravens game this season, we’ll take a look at five numbers that help explain the outcome …

2 — The number of field goals missed by former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff
Skinny: The Ravens were fortunate to come away with a win in Cleveland, and they can thank their former kicker for another wide-left try that brought back a not-so-pleasant memory. Cundiff’s second kick was blocked by Asa Jackson, but the Ravens defensive back acknowledged after the game that the attempt came out lower than normal. Both sides made mistakes that could have cost them the game, but Cundiff’s fourth-quarter misses were pivotal in keeping the Ravens within striking distance.

3 — The number of incompletions thrown by Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer on the final two drives
Skinny: Overall, it was a brutal day for the Ravens secondary as Hoyer completed 19 of 25 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown, but three of those six incompletions came on the Browns’ final two drives of the game when they simply needed some first downs to run out the clock. Instead, the Browns went three-and-out each time and the Ravens finally cashed in on their final drive to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. As poorly as the defense played for long stretches of Sunday’s game, the group was able to come up with two big stops when the Ravens needed them.

3.1 — The yards per carry allowed by the Ravens defense
Skinny: Baltimore’s outside linebackers still need to do a more consistent job of setting the edge, but a stout Cleveland running game found little room to work save for a handful of plays. Even though Hoyer played well, the Browns would have likely been able to put the game away had they ran with any consistency. Over Cleveland’s final two offensive drives, the Ravens gave up six rushing yards on three carries and forced two punts to keep their hopes alive. The front seven may not be getting enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but playing the run hasn’t been too large of a problem through three weeks.

75 — The number of receiving yards produced by Steve Smith in the fourth quarter
Skinny: Through three quarters, the 35-year-old wide receiver had caught just one pass for 26 yards on three targets, but that changed when Joe Flacco began looking his way often in the final 15 minutes. Targeted four times in the fourth quarter, Smith made four receptions and was the only receiver the Ravens quarterback trusted in crunch time. With Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones struggling to get acclimated in Gary Kubiak’s offense and Dennis Pitta exiting in the second quarter, Steve Smith’s ability to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden for the 32-yard reception on the final drive was obviously the biggest play of the game.

157 — The number of rushing yards reached by the Baltimore offense for the second straight week
Skinny: The Ravens finished with 160 yards on 33 attempts, but hitting the 157-yard plateau in two straight games illustrates how far the running game has come under Kubiak. Baltimore ran for that many yards in a game just once (against Chicago) all last year, but a productive running game makes Flacco that much more efficient when he goes to the air. The Cleveland rush defense has been a mess this season, but it was nice to see the Ravens commit to the run despite starter Bernard Pierce being out and they learned Lorenzo Taliaferro can be a major contributor sooner rather than later.

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