Tag Archive | "Marlon Brown"


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Givens aiming to be “explosive” catching passes from Flacco

Posted on 07 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Buried on the St. Louis depth chart at the start of his fourth NFL season, Chris Givens became suspicious when he heard from an old college teammate a couple weeks ago.

Ravens wide receiver and fellow Wake Forest product Michael Campanaro had reached out to the speedy wideout to tell him that the Baltimore coaching staff had been asking about him, a sure sign that general manager Ozzie Newsome was interested in acquiring the Rams’ 2012 fourth-round pick. With rookie Breshad Perriman sidelined since the start of training camp with a knee injury, the Ravens were in need of a vertical threat in their passing game.

“I just thought it was talk,” said Givens, who was acquired from the Rams in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick on Saturday. “But once things started getting weird around Rams Park, I knew something was up. I basically just didn’t practice [last] Tuesday through Friday, so I knew something was up.”

When an NFL player is acquired in the middle of a season, there’s generally an acclimation period of a week or two to learn a new system before being thrown into the fire of competition. But the Ravens don’t have that luxury with both No. 1 receiver Steve Smith (back) and Perriman expected to miss Sunday’s game against Cleveland.

Baltimore hopes Givens can provide the ability to stretch the field in the passing game while potentially providing another option to replace the injured Campanaro at kick returner. Barring other roster moves, the Ravens will need him to serve as no worse than the No. 4 receiver against the Browns with quarterback Joe Flacco missing so many other pass-catching targets.

Averaging 16.3 yards per catch in his career, Givens expressed confidence in his ability to learn a new offense, saying the biggest challenge was adjusting to new terminology after picking up the passing concepts of offensive coordinator Marc Tresetman.

“He’s going to be out there on Sunday,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “How much he plays depends on how well he does. I’m really hopeful that he plays a lot. It’ll be up to him and how well he can learn what we’re doing.”

The 6-foot wideout only had one reception in the Rams’ first three games this season, but his 1,433 career receiving yards are more than Baltimore’s other healthy receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Darren Waller — have combined (1,303). Givens, a 2012 fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest, enjoyed his best season as a rookie when he caught 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns.

However, the 25-year-old’s numbers had declined every year since as he struggled to catch the football consistently and other St. Louis receivers leapfrogged him on the depth chart. Givens quipped that he now has a “potato” — not a chip — on his shoulder coming to Baltimore.

“It was very frustrating,” said Givens about his last couple seasons with the Rams. “I knew I was a guy that could complement the team and play well. I don’t know if it wasn’t the right fit or they liked other guys or whatever the case may be, because after the first year, my opportunities just went down.”

The Ravens certainly hope he can recapture the success he found early in his career with St. Louis.

Not lacking confidence, Givens will be given every opportunity to carve out a meaningful role with the banged-up Ravens as he praised the talents of Flacco. The pair will be challenged to build a rapport in a short period of time, but Flacco said the receiver’s speed jumped out immediately in their first couple practices together.

“It can be explosive,” said Givens of the chance to catch deep passes from Flacco. “It’s one of those things that you’ve just got to take advantage of the talents and opportunities. I’m just looking forward to doing that.”

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Chances should be there for Ravens to throw downfield in Oakland

Posted on 17 September 2015 by Luke Jones

The failures of the Ravens’ passing game were a collaborative effort in Week 1, but the peripheral numbers will still make you shudder as the attention has shifted toward Sunday’s meeting with the Oakland Raiders.

In the first half in Denver, Joe Flacco threw exactly one pass more than eight yards beyond the line of scrimmage through the air. It came on a pass he threw away on the final play of the second quarter.

The eighth-year quarterback had just two throws of that variety through the first three quarters. Of Flacco’s 32 pass attempts in the 19-13 loss to the Broncos, just eight traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage through the air. Seven other passes were either at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Even with lousy pass protection and receivers lacking speed, the Ravens needed to pose some semblance of a threat to throw the ball down the field to keep the opposition honest. And that responsibility largely falls on the shoulders of new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, a sentiment that Flacco gently alluded to when addressing reporters in California on Wednesday.

“We didn’t ever really attempt to do it and we’ve talked about that. We need to take our shots,” Flacco said. “If nothing else, at least let teams know that we’re going to do that and have the confidence in ourselves in doing that. As far as confidence goes, I think that also translates to us. If we’re going to call those things and get them going, I think it’ll give us the confidence to go out there and execute plays and have some explosiveness to us.

“It’s tough to maintain 15-play drives consistently and score points, so we’re going to have to have that as part of our game. To start off, I would say that and then we just have to make sure that we protect and I find the soft zone in the pocket and put the ball where it needs to be.”

In fairness, Trestman lacks the luxury of having ex-Raven Torrey Smith or even speedy rookie Breshad Perriman on the outside, but the Ravens must find a way to push the ball downfield in Week 2. It will begin with improved pass protection against an Oakland front seven that isn’t as imposing as Denver’s, but the Raiders’ pash-rushing trio of Justin Tuck, Khalil Mack, and Aldon Smith will try to tee off on Flacco in a similar fashion.

If the offensive line can bounce back in Week 2, opportunities should be there to take a few shots against an Oakland secondary that is likely to be without either of its starting safeties from Week 1. Nate Allen suffered a season-ending knee injury and Charles Woodson suffered a shoulder injury in the lost to Cincinnati.

Larry Asante and Taylor Mays could be their respective replacements with the latter having just been re-signed this week. They would join starting cornerbacks T.J. Carrie — a 2014 seventh-round pick — and 2013 first-round selection D.J. Hayden, who hasn’t shown much at the NFL level.

Those realities should spell trouble for a pass defense that finished 16th in the NFL a year ago and allowed Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton to throw for 269 yards last week.

Of course, speed will remain a weakness for the Ravens as Perriman isn’t expected to play in Week 2, but Flacco said that’s no excuse for a passing game that produced fewer yards than any in the league last week. Trestman must incorporate his young tight ends against suspect safeties while seizing a few opportunities to test them deep, even if it only leads to more breathing room underneath.

“It’s about exploiting weaknesses in defenses and just a combination of things and hitting them at the right time,” Flacco said. “It’s not about coming over there and running a 4.2 [40-yard dash] running by guys; you seldom see that. I don’t think we’re going to have that guy right now that’s going to run by guys five times a game, but we definitely have guys that can run crossing routes and be hit 30 yards downfield and can run double moves downfield — things like that.

“That’s what we’re going to have to do.”

If the Ravens offense is unable to do those things against a banged-up Oakland secondary, it could be time to panic.

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Ravens-Broncos: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 12 September 2015 by Luke Jones

Beginning their eighth season with head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco leading the way, the Ravens once again have high expectations as they travel to Denver on Sunday.

Playing the Broncos in Week 1 for the second time in three years, Baltimore hopes to wipe out the memory of the 2013 opener in which Peyton Manning threw an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 loss. Of course, much has changed for both teams since then with players coming and going and former Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak taking over as head coach of the Broncos this season.

It’s time to go on record as the Ravens play Denver for the 11th time in the all-time regular-season series and each team owns five wins. Baltimore carries a 1-4 regular-season record in Denver, but Harbaugh’s team did win its only playoff game against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Ravens are 2-0 against Denver in their playoff history.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens open their 20th season and try to improve to 6-2 in season openers under Harbaugh …

1. Steve Smith catches a long touchdown pass to exploit former teammate Darian Stewart in coverage. Knowing how underwhelming the ex-Ravens safety was playing the deep ball in 2014, Baltimore would love to have rookie Breshad Perriman’s speed to stretch the field against the weak link in the Broncos secondary, but the first-round pick hasn’t even practiced since spraining his knee on July 30. The Ravens will try to go vertical using the 36-year-old Smith, who is still capable of using a double move to blow past his man and catch a long bomb from Flacco against the right coverage. He’ll do exactly that against Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and Stewart will be late with over-the-top coverage.

2. Lardarius Webb will not be able to keep up with Emmanuel Sanders while Jimmy Smith does his best to lock down No. 1 wideout Demaryius Thomas on the opposite side. It’s fair enough to wonder what we’ll see from Smith coming off last October’s season-ending foot injury, but at least the 27-year-old was able to play in the preseason. Webb has practiced for the last couple weeks and Harbaugh said he looks like the “old” Webb after dealing with a hamstring injury in August, but you can only hope the coach meant a better version than what we witnessed a year ago. Webb has a lot to prove and Sanders was a 2014 Pro Bowl selection. He’ll be good for a touchdown catch and 85 receiving yards.

3. Terrell Suggs will collect two sacks and get the best of Denver rookie Ty Sambrailo off the edge, but pressure up the middle will be scarce. The 13th-year rush linebacker should be licking his chops going against the second-round pick, but the key to disrupting Manning is pressure up the middle, making the expected absence of Timmy Jernigan problematic. Last year, the Ravens used a combination of Pernell McPhee, Haloti Ngata, and Jernigan for their inside rush, but none of them will be on the field for Sunday’s game, putting a lot on rookie Za’Darius Smith and run-stopping nose tackle Brandon Williams. Broncos center Matt Paradis is inexperienced, but the Ravens won’t have enough to exploit him in passing situations, leaving space for Manning to get the ball away quickly.

4. Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown will struggle to gain separation as the Broncos bring heat off the edges to disrupt Flacco’s timing. While Stewart might be a liability, the Broncos have a stout trio of cornerbacks in Talib, Harris, and the young Bradley Roby. Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can use either Harris or Roby inside, which gives their defense the ability to show different looks in coverage. The Ravens have expressed confidence in Aiken as a starter, but I’m not convinced that he’s ready to be more than a No. 3 option, especially without a deep threat on the field. He and Brown will only combine for 50 receiving yards as the Broncos play tight man coverage and relentlessly try to bring outside linebackers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware off the edges.

5. The Denver defense will be the biggest factor as the Ravens offense struggles to move the ball consistently in a 26-16 loss to the Broncos. As much as Manning has dominated the pre-game conversation, Denver’s real strength is its defense with few weaknesses at any level. Baltimore will do a decent job establishing the run, but Flacco will be too dependent on Smith to make plays through the air, which will stall a couple promising drives. Ultimately, I see the Broncos taking a step back this season, but they’ll be too much to handle with a top 5-caliber defense and a healthy Manning early in the season. If this one were to be played later in the year, I’d like the Ravens’ chances a lot more, but Denver will score late to put a close one out of reach.

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Five questions pondering Ravens hype, running backs, pass rush, more

Posted on 04 September 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or is Sports Illustrated picking the Ravens to win the Super Bowl a reflection of an AFC without a dominant team? Before you call me Lambasting Luke, I’m still betting on John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco to lead Baltimore to its seventh postseason appearance in eight years and I’ll buy that the Ravens could be very dangerous come January. But this is also a football team that lost a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, starting wide receiver, starting tight end, and impact pass rusher in the offseason, and their replacements are currently injured, unproven, or a combination of both. The secondary still lacks depth to make you feel comfortable and the return game is an absolute mess. To be clear, all teams have issues and question marks every season, but starting the season with five of their first seven games on the road isn’t a comfortable proposition with so much early uncertainty. Looking at it objectively, Ravens fans have no reason to feel slighted by the national media this summer.

2. Is it just me or should we probably not be surprised about the concern at the wide receiver position beyond Steve Smith? I’m as guilty as anyone for buying into the hype of a young group of receivers competing for roster spots this summer. No one predicted the knee injury to first-round rookie Breshad Perriman to linger so long, but the receivers behind him failed to quell concerns that Smith would be Flacco’s only trusted target entering the year. Perhaps we need to be more realistic in looking where these players came from when projecting how much impact they can bring. Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and Jeremy Butler were all undrafted, and Michael Campanaro (seventh) and Darren Waller (sixth) are late-round picks. Yes, teams are uncovering more and more gems who are drafted late (Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown in the sixth round) or undrafted entirely (Victor Cruz of the New York Giants), but the Ravens have always struggled to draft and develop useful receivers.

3. Is it just me or could the Ravens’ consideration for giving Brent Urban the designation to return reflect vulnerabilities with their pass rush? The organization remains high on the 6-foot-7 defensive end’s potential, but we’re still talking about someone who’s never played as much as an NFL preseason game. The Ravens hope that rookie Za’Darius Smith can step into the hybrid role formerly occupied by Pernell McPhee, but they were hoping Steven Means could bring pass-rush impact before a groin injury ruined his summer. Teams do often use their I.R.-designated to return spot for role players — Asa Jackson received it last year, for example — but that typically occurs a few weeks into the season when you’re getting to a point where you won’t be able to use it waiting any longer. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are still forces off the edge and Timmy Jernigan shows rush ability when healthy, but the Ravens may view Urban as a high-ceiling — and necessary? — wild card later this year.

4. Is it just me or is it scary to think the Ravens’ only sure thing at running back is currently Justin Forsett? Rookie fourth-round Buck Allen has shown good hands catching passes out of the backfield, but the USC product averaged just 2.5 yards per carry in the preseason and is now the No. 2 running back with Lorenzo Taliaferro out with a sprained MCL. Terrence Magee and Fitz Toussaint had a few solid moments this summer, but neither are the type of back who inspires confidence, making you wonder if Ozzie Newsome needs to explore the market for a veteran addition in the coming days. Taliaferro’s injury was the last thing the Ravens needed with so many questions at receiver and tight end, but the good news is that they should feel confident in finding a veteran to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Still, who would have imagined a year ago that Forsett would not only be coming off a Pro Bowl season, but he would represent the only sure thing in the backfield entering 2015?

5. Is it just me or are halftime interviews completely worthless? Harbaugh drew plenty of criticism for his halftime interview in the third preseason game and rightly so as he needs to be better than that with both media and — more importantly — the fans with which he’s indirectly speaking in the process. The coach’s unkind words for Comcast SportsNet’s Brent Harris prompted many to compare him to brother Jim, who is clearly viewed as the more surly Harbaugh. With those sentiments understood, can you recall a time when a halftime interview brought anything memorable besides similar meltdowns by coaches or players? We live in an age where we want as much access as possible, but it seems counterintuitive to ask a coach or player to reflect meaningfully in the midst of competition. Perhaps a compromise would be to interview a coach just before the start of the second half after he’s addressed his team and has calmed his emotions from the first half, but the next halftime interview I hear bringing anything but bland coach speak or an unflattering exchange will be the first one.

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Beyond Smith, Flacco taking leap of faith through air entering 2015

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As bizarre as it was seeing Steve Smith sit in the stands during Saturday’s 31-13 preseason loss to Washington, the Ravens secretly had to be pleased knowing their top receiver was out of harm’s way.

Of course, head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t thrilled with Smith being ejected from the game for his part in a brawl late in the first quarter, but the 36-year-old hardly played like a man retiring at the end of the season. In less than 15 minutes of action, Smith caught four passes for 95 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown in which he made the Washington secondary look like a junior-varsity unit.

The early exit — which eliminated any risk of Smith getting injured in a meaningless preseason game — may have been a blessing in disguise for the Ravens as their pass-catching group lacks a sure thing behind him. Without his No. 1 wideout, Joe Flacco completed just 2 of 6 passes for 24 yards before giving way to backup Matt Schaub late in the first half.

With all meaningful preseason action now in the books — it’s all but guaranteed that Harbaugh will sit most of his starters in Atlanta on Thursday — the Ravens still haven’t answered the questions at wide receiver and tight end that they faced entering the summer. And it’s becoming clear that Flacco will be taking a leap of faith when it comes to the rest of his targets entering the 2015 regular season.

Yes, potential is there as we saw with Crockett Gillmore’s negated 33-yard touchdown catch in which he broke three tackles on his way to the end zone. But the second-year tight end finished the night with just one catch for seven yards and has only made four receptions in the first three preseason games.

Unfortunately, much of the passing game’s upside wore street clothes on Saturday as rookies Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams could only catch passes from reserve quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Bryn Renner on the sideline late in the first half. Perriman’s status for the season opener remains in question as he continues to recover from a sprained knee suffered on July 30, and Williams has had a disappointing summer, missing some practice time and performing inconsistently when he’s been on the field.

Second-year slot receiver Michael Campanaro has flashed his ability this summer, but he missed his second straight game on Saturday as his durability remains a real concern.

The other receivers who were on the field Saturday didn’t inspire much confidence, either.

Kamar Aiken caught two passes for 29 yards, but it was his offensive pass interference penalty that wiped out Flacco’s touchdown to Gillmore late in the first quarter. Currently penciled in as the starter opposite Smith, Aiken profiles better as a No. 3 receiver at this point and has struggled to gain separation in the preseason.

Entering his third year, Marlon Brown should be getting better, but his disappointing play this summer would probably have his roster spot in jeopardy if it weren’t for the current injuries and the lack of established options behind him.

Jeremy Butler was the surprise of spring workouts, but he’s looked like just another guy matching up against second- and third-team defenses. Rookie Darren Waller may show intriguing upside as a 6-foot-6 target, but the sixth-rounder is still more project than receiving threat at this point.

To be fair, better performances from these individuals in the preseason wouldn’t have fully eliminated the questions facing a passing game that’s trying to replace Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels — it is only the preseason, after all — but the Ravens would have felt a lot better about beginning the season with five of their first seven contests away from M&T Bank Stadium if they’d seen a little more to this point. As it stands, Flacco will be leaning heavily on the ageless Smith, but opposing defenses will be aware, which will likely lead to double teams and bracketed coverage until someone else emerges as a viable threat.

It’s clear that the Ravens need a healthy Perriman, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and Flacco still don’t know what that looks like beyond his college tape and spring workouts that can only carry so much weight. Without their first-round pick, the Ravens lack speed on the outside, which should prompt secondaries to clamp down with tight man coverage to limit short-to-intermediate passing.

The Ravens need their young receivers and tight ends to grow up quickly with the season opener in Denver just two weeks away, but there just hasn’t been a lot of evidence to suggest that’s right around the corner.

I wouldn’t bet against Flacco making it work as he enters his eighth year and the Ravens are still built around their running game — making it critical that left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are healthy after sitting out Saturday’s game — but it’s fair to feel uneasy with real games rapidly approaching.

So many questions and few answers in the passing game beyond Flacco zeroing in on Smith as the calendar turns to September this week.

The Ravens can only pray that their veteran receiver stays healthy while taking a leap of faith that the rest of their young wideouts and tight ends heal up and catch up quickly.

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Five questions pondering Arrieta, 2015 Ravens draft, Gonzalez

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or did Thursday bring a cruel juxtaposition with ex-Oriole Jake Arrieta earning his 15th win while T.J. McFarland was mopping up in a blowout loss? More than two years later, it’s painfully obvious that Dan Duquette’s decision to trade Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger was the wrong move. The long man spot in the bullpen occupied by the then-Rule 5 pick McFarland would have been the perfect role for Arrieta, who would flash brilliance with Baltimore but was clearly struggling to establish himself with a 5.46 ERA in 69 career games (63 starts) and was out of minor-league options in 2013. Having blossomed into one of the best pitchers in the National League, Arrieta may never have found that success with the Orioles, but seeing McFarland toil as no better than a fringe reliever two years later just reinforces the organization’s strange obsession with the Rule 5 draft and how it’s often hurt them while providing little return.

2. Is it just me or is the perceived difficulty of this year’s training camp preparing the Ravens for a brutal start to the regular season? More than a few players have talked about the challenge of this camp compared to past years even though John Harbaugh already owned a reputation for working his players hard. That reality and the trip to Philadelphia to practice with the Eagles for three days ahead of Saturday’s preseason game have to be considered the tuneup for the start of the regular season that features five of the first seven on the road and two long-term road trips out west in which the Ravens will cut down on travel time between games. Harbaugh loves the expression “iron sharpens iron” and his team will need to be tough early to avoid an uphill climb to the postseason in the second half. If the Ravens can start no worse than 4-3, they should be in good shape for the rest of the season that features three consecutive home games in November and three of the last four at M&T Bank Stadium.

3. Is it just me or does the Miguel Gonzalez situation need to be handled delicately if you’re Buck Showalter? Many disagreed with Showalter stating Friday that the right-hander remains the club’s “best option” for the rotation and there’s little defending a 6.48 ERA since his return from the disabled list in late June, but this is a different situation than the one with Bud Norris when Kevin Gausman was ready and waiting earlier this year. With Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright both sidelined with injuries, there isn’t an alternative beyond bringing up a non-prospect type like Chris Jones just for the sake of doing it. Even if the Orioles do remove Gonzalez from the rotation, it would be wrong to completely bury him for the long haul as he not only has a remaining minor-league option, but he is under club control for a couple more seasons. Unlike Norris who was a pending free agent and little more than an average starting pitcher before 2014, Gonzalez pitched at a strong level for three full years before the struggles of the last two months and that shouldn’t be forgotten when looking toward the future.

4. Is it just me or is the Ravens’ 2015 draft class standing on its head right now? With first-rounder Breshad Perriman injured and second-round tight end Maxx Williams still working to establish himself, you do wonder how quickly the Ravens’ top two choices from this year’s draft will be ready to contribute. However, a pair of late-round picks have earned attention this summer as fifth-round tight end Nick Boyle and sixth-round wideout Darren Waller continue to make plays in practices. Boyle has dropped passes at times, but the football continues to be thrown his way as he turned heads during the practices in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-6 Waller is ahead of where most thought he’d be in his development after playing in a triple-option attack at Georgia Tech. Neither player is going to start, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Waller and Boyle involved more in the passing game — particularly in the red zone — than most would have predicted for their rookie seasons.

5. Is it just me or is Marlon Brown a player who needs to be careful not to land himself on the bubble? While Waller has established himself as a viable option for the 53-man roster, the 6-foot-5 Brown has battled back and hamstring injuries this summer and hasn’t done much to stand out when he has been on the practice field. Even in the spring, I thought Brown needed to have a strong camp to be a roster lock and that simply hasn’t happened, making you wonder if his spot could be in some jeopardy with other young receivers such as Waller, Jeremy Butler, and DeAndre Carter jockeying for roles. The University of Georgia product did improve as 2014 progressed, but he finished his second NFL season with just 24 receptions and no touchdowns after a 49-catch, seven-touchdown rookie campaign. For now, I’d still bet on Brown making the team, but he needs to pick up his play over the next couple preseason games to put a slow start behind him.

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Ravens receivers continue shuffling in and out of practice

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Health at the receiver position continues to be one of the Ravens’ biggest concerns of the summer with players shuffling in and out of workouts.

Monday brought the return of Kamar Aiken (foot) and Marlon Brown (back) to the practice field while second-year wideout Michael Campanaro (undisclosed) joined rookie Breshad Perriman as an absentee. Of course, the most pressing issue has been with Baltimore’s first-round pick, who hasn’t practiced since sustaining a knee injury on July 30.

Head coach John Harbaugh said over the weekend that he still expects Perriman to return during the preseason, but he has missed extensive practice time, making you wonder how prepared he’ll be to play a meaningful role by Week 1. Projected to be the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, Brown has also missed extensive practice time during training camp and only worked on a limited basis on Monday.

Those absences have led to more prominent looks for Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller, but the Ravens know Perriman is the only wideout on the roster likely to be a high-ceiling threat in the vertical passing game.

“We’re disappointed for him, No. 1, that he can’t be out there to work,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Perriman’s extended absence. “There’s nothing we can do [about] it. We have to turn it into a positive, and the guys do so by understanding they have a great opportunity here to have another rep, another opportunity. We’ve got to continue to work to develop the guys we’re with, and that’s the positive side of it.

“That’s all we can control in this moment. We can’t control Breshad being out there. We’ll just go from there, and we’re very, very hopeful that he’ll be with us soon.”

Monday also brought the return of defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, who primarily worked on an individual basis after missing a week with what Harbaugh described only as a strain.

In addition to Perriman and Campanaro, the Ravens were missing several other key players on Monday including left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker Steven Means (knee), and reserve offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Jah Reid (undisclosed). Jackson injured his knee in the preseason opener after he was given the first opportunity to return punts and kickoffs against New Orleans.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was pleased with the performance of both Jackson and Campanaro returning punts as the former returned two for 17 yards and the latter registered a 10-yard return. However, both players have dealt with injuries too often in their young careers.

“It’s a long way to go; we have a lot of practice [to go],” Rosburg said. “We get good opportunities again this week against Philadelphia in practice. Then, hopefully, we’ll make them punt a lot and get some more opportunities in the game. We can’t control the injuries; they are what they are. Hopefully, we get them back soon.”

Several players dealt with heat-related challenges throughout Monday’s practice as rookie wide receiver Darren Waller and tight end Maxx Williams both left the field early and did not return. Wideout Jeremy Butler left the field during practice but later returned.

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Ravens relish Smith’s final season with unproven receivers behind him

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will gladly reap the benefits of Steve Smith’s final NFL season while knowing the clock is officially ticking for the young group of receivers behind him to grow up.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection’s announcement came as no surprise to the organization after he had contemplated his future following the divisional playoff loss to New England in January. The news may not have any real bearing on the Ravens’ chances for 2015, but it does create a greater sense of urgency for the likes of first-round rookie Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, and Marlon Brown to take significant steps forward by the end of the season.

With Smith being one of just 12 players in NFL history to record 900 catches, 13,000 receiving yards, and 70 touchdown receptions, the group couldn’t have a better example from which to learn.

“If they’re paying attention – it has to rub off, right?” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’d like to think — especially in that receiver room, but really on our whole team — watch Steve really closely and they watch his competitiveness. The guy has been in this league for so many years at such a high level; he’s doing a lot of things right. How can you not try to learn from him?”

From the moment he arrived in Owings Mills last spring, Smith lived up to the reputation he earned as a fiery competitor with the Carolina Panthers for 13 years. Whether reining in passes from Joe Flacco, mentoring young wideouts, or challenging Baltimore cornerbacks during practices, the 36-year-old instantly made the Ravens a better team and is doing so again this summer, regularly looking like one of the best players on the field despite having nothing to prove after the eighth 1,000-yard receiving season of his career in 2014.

While Baltimore’s young receivers will try to act as sponges absorbing Smith’s lessons as he prepares to walk away from a career that will earn him Hall of Fame consideration, the veteran doesn’t plan to do anything differently in his 15th and final season.

“No sense of urgency. Anything I do, it’s not anything underlining,” Smith said. “I still teach those guys, still talk to them, [and] we still have fun.”

As if the pressure wasn’t great enough on the rookie Perriman to establish himself as a vertical threat in the passing game to replace ex-Raven Torrey Smith, Baltimore will now hope he’s ready to step into a No. 1 kind of role by season’s end knowing that Steve Smith won’t be around as a safety net in 2016. For now, Baltimore will settle for Perriman simply getting back on the practice field as he’s been nursing a knee injury since July 30.

Smith’s announcement doesn’t carry the same magnitude as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis revealing his intentions to retire just before the start of the 2012 postseason, but the Ravens hope to provide him a similar ending with a Super Bowl championship as a retirement gift.

“We want to go out and let him go out the right way,” said outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, who was a rookie in Lewis’ final season. “The way he’s so hyped, why wouldn’t you want to play hard for that guy? We want to come together. Let him go out the right way.”

Flacco falters

Monday was Flacco’s worst practice of the summer as he tossed an interception to top cornerback Jimmy Smith during a 7-on-7 drill and was picked off by safety Anthony Levine during a full-team period of practice.

Levine was filling in for starting free safety Kendrick Lewis, who sat out Monday’s practice with a leg issue. The hybrid defensive back broke sharply on a pass over the middle intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore.

Flacco appeared out of sync with many of his throws on Monday while backup Matt Schaub had one of his better practices, a sharp contrast from what we’ve seen through much of the first two weeks of camp.

The eighth-year quarterback did redeem himself with a long strike to rookie Darren Waller, who blew past veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb in coverage during an 11-on-11 period of practice.

Return roulette

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg has said he hopes to see as many return opportunities as possible in the preseason as the Ravens seek kickoff and punt returners to fill the void left behind by Jacoby Jones, who was released in the offseason.

In the Ravens’ first depth chart released last week, Michael Campanaro was listed as the No. 1 punt returner and Asa Jackson as the starting kick returner, but both positions remain wide open.

Campanaro, Jackson, Smith, Webb, rookie free agent DeAndre Carter, and wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Tom Nelson all took reps returning punts on Monday. Several of those players as well as rookie running back Buck Allen were also fielding kickoffs.

Rosburg has said the preseason games will hold the most weight in determining who will return kicks for the Ravens this season.

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Webb leaves Monday’s practice with hamstring issue

Posted on 10 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb left practice early with a hamstring issue on Monday.

The 29-year-old veteran pulled up after being beaten in coverage by rookie receiver Darren Waller for a long touchdown. A few minutes later, Webb left the field under his own power after stopping to say hello to ex-Ravens cornerback and former teammate Chris Carr, who was a visitor to Monday’s practice.

“Webby had a little grab in his hamstring,” head coach John Harbaugh confirmed after practice, “so we pulled him out.”

Webb missed the first full-squad workout of the summer after initially failing his conditioning test, but he had practiced every day since then. Projected to start opposite No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, Webb has struggled in pass coverage at times this summer as he tries to rebound from a disappointing and injury-riddled 2014 campaign.

Rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman was once again absent as he missed his ninth consecutive practice with a knee sprain. The first-round pick is not expected to play in Thursday’s preseason opener against New Orleans.

The Ravens originally projected Perriman to only miss a day or two when he injured his knee during the first full-squad practice of training camp on July 30. Harbaugh joked that he was set up by the training staff when acknowledging the rookie’s longer-than-expected absence.

“I’ve found that it’s impossible to give you any idea when guys are going to be back, OK?” Harbaugh said. “I’ve been wrong on every single guy so far, and I just want you to know — for the fans out there — I repeat what I’m told by the medical people. I’m not doing any diagnoses here. I’m not doing any examinations. I don’t decide or determine [when] we think they’re going to come back.”

In addition to Perriman, safety Kendrick Lewis (leg), defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan (foot) and DeAngelo Tyson (undisclosed), offensive linemen John Urschel (head) and Robert Myers (head) did not take part in Monday’s practice. Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform list.

The Ravens saw several players return to practice on Monday, including left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), tight end Maxx Williams (eye), cornerback Tray Walker (hamstring), and linebacker Zach Thompson. Brown had missed six of Baltimore’s previous seven practices.

Harbaugh also said veteran defensive end Chris Canty sat out the latter portion of Monday’s workout due to fatigue.

In their last “aggressive” practice before their first preseason game, the Ravens held out center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Rick Wagner from 11-on-11 drills, an indication that the pair might not play against the Saints. Both missed spring workouts due to health reasons as Zuttah underwent offseason hip surgery and Wagner was still recovering from a foot injury suffered last December.

The Ravens said they would be conservative with the two starting offensive linemen to begin the summer.

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Twenty Ravens players missing from Friday’s practice

Posted on 07 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were missing 20 players from their 90-man preseason roster as they practiced in shells and shorts on Friday afternoon.

A handful of veterans appeared to be awarded the day off as head coach John Harbaugh periodically does, but several notable players continue to nurse injuries.

Wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back) remain sidelined as the Ravens offense has worked without two of its top four wideouts for most of training camp. The first-round pick Perriman has missed seven straight practices after injuring his knee in the final 20 minutes of the first full-squad practice of the summer while Brown has now sat out five of the last six workouts.

Tight end Maxx Williams was also absent on Friday after being poked in the eye and leaving Thursday’s workout early.

Baltimore continues to deal with injury problems at the guard position with starter Kelechi Osemele (foot) and backups John Urschel (head) and Robert Myers (head) all out. Urschel and Myers both left Thursday’s practice with concussions, according to Harbaugh.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson and Brent Urban were new absences due to unspecified reasons. Cornerbacks Tray Walker and Chris Greenwood remain out with hamstring strains.

Outside linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) was also missing again.

The list of veterans believed to be receiving a day off on Friday included wide receiver Steve Smith, running back Justin Forsett, cornerback Lardarius Webb, linebackers Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs, and defensive end Chris Canty.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

Already out for the season with a biceps tear, safety Matt Elam rounded out the collection of 20 players not participating in Friday’s workout.


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