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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bills

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Bills

Posted on 01 October 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Robert Woods 42 yard touchdown catch from EJ Manuel (2nd quarter)

4. Joe Flacco pass intended for Torrey Smith incomplete on 3rd & 10 from Buffalo 17 (4th quarter)

3. Joe Flacco pass intended for Ray Rice incomplete on 3rd & 5 from Buffalo 6 (4th quarter)

2. Kiko Alonso intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Dallas Clark at Buffalo 36 (4th quarter)

1. Kiko Alonso intercepts Joe Flacco pass intended for Marlon Brown at Buffalo 46 (3rd quarter)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Webb, D. Thompson leave Sunday’s loss with injuries

Posted on 30 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The sting of a 23-20 loss to the Bills wasn’t the only pain the Ravens endured Sunday as cornerback Lardarius Webb and wide receiver Deonte Thompson each left the game with injuries.

Webb suffered what was described as a thigh injury, and coach John Harbaugh said they will know more about its severity on Monday. He left the game in the first half but was able to run and backpedal on the sideline, indicating that it shouldn’t keep him out for an extended period of time despite being held out for the remainder of the afternoon.

Making his 2013 debut, Thompson performed well offensively as he caught four passes for 50 yards on five targets from quarterback Joe Flacco. However, the second-year wideout suffered a concussion while making a 33-yard reception in the fourth quarter when Bills safety Jim Leonhard was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver.

It was Thompson’s first action since spraining his foot in the preseason opener on Aug. 8.

Linebacker Albert McClellan injured his shoulder and will undergo magnetic resonance imaging testing on Monday. He underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown was dealing with a thigh injury at the end of the game, according to Harbaugh.

The good news for the Ravens was the ability of running back Ray Rice to make it through Sunday’s game without aggravating the left hip flexor strain that kept him sidelined in Week 3. Rice was held to just 17 yards on five carries against the Bills.

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Rice practices for second straight day; Marlon Brown returns to field

Posted on 26 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ injury picture continued to improve on Thursday as running back Ray Rice practiced for the second straight day and starting wide receiver Marlon Brown returned to the field after a one-day absence.

Rice (hip flexor strain) worked on a limited basis Wednesday and was moving very well during the open portion of Thursday’s practice, making it very likely that the Pro Bowl running back will return to action Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The 26-year-old missed his first game since his 2008 rookie season this past Sunday.

“Anytime that you have Ray [Rice] on the field … He’s a game-breaker. Not only in terms of being able to run the ball, which we all know and understand, but also in the passing game. He’s like lighting in a bottle. Having him certainly opens things up. You have to be concerned about him, and he feels good right now, so things are going well.”

Brown did not participate on Wednesday and is dealing with a neck injury, but he was a full participant during Thursday’s practice as he’s filled a significant role in the offense with the absence of speedy wide receiver Jacoby Jones. Third-string running back Shaun Draughn (ankle) also returned to practice a day after sitting out but was moving slowly as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 3.

In addition to Rice, defensive end Chris Canty (groin), linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral), and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) all practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day after missing this past Sunday’s game against Houston.

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), rush specialist Pernell McPhee (knee), defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee), and Jones (knee) did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Of those four, only McPhee would appear to have any real chance to play against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie appeared to be moving around much better than he did on Wednesday when he took fewer reps than normal, but the veteran lineman wasn’t listed on Wednesday’s injury report.

After 10 Buffalo players did not practice on Wednesday, the Bills upgraded five of the sidelined to limited participant as wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (Achilles), and defensive end Mario Williams (ankle) were all working on Thursday.

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot), LB/DE Pernell McPhee (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Arthur Brown (chest), DE Chris Canty (thigh), RB Ray Rice (hip), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe), RB Shaun Draughn (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (neck)

BUFFALO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DB Ron Brooks (foot), DT Alex Carrington (quad), CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist), WR Marquise Goodwin (hand), K Dustin Hopkins (R. groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: FS Jarius Byrd (foot), DT Marcell Dareus (ankle), WR Stevie Johnson (hamstring), CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), G Kraig Urbik (knee), DT Kyle Williams (Achilles), DE Mario Williams (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Doug Legursky (knee), RB C.J. Spiller (quad)

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Torrey Smith 23 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 6 (3rd quarter)

4. Marlon Brown 10 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 7 (3rd quarter)

3. Brandon Stokley 11 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 8 (3rd quarter)

2. Marlon Brown 5 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (4th quarter)

1. Brandon Weeden deep pass intended for Chris Ogbonnaya incomplete (3rd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Ravens still trying to figure out who they are after narrow win over Cleveland

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Ravens still trying to figure out who they are after narrow win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Ravens coach John Harbaugh was speaking about the decision to insert Matt Elam and Jimmy Smith into the defensive starting lineup on Sunday, but he might as well have been describing the state of his entire team following an underwhelming 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns.

“You’re always going to chase, especially early in the year, trying to figure out who you are.”

Trying to figure out who the Ravens are after a blowout defeat at Denver and an uninspiring first-half showing at home against the Browns isn’t an easy task. You’re always happy with a win, especially one that brings your record to 1-1 and lands you in first place in the AFC North after the first two weeks of the 2013 season.

The Ravens know they have a great quarterback and a number of talented players on each side of the ball. Their defense rebounded from allowing a franchise-record 49 points and seven touchdown passes in the season opener to hold the Browns to six points and sack quarterback Brandon Weeden five times while hitting him 12 times in the game.

But, it was only the Browns, who appear to be continuing their yearly pattern of shooting themselves in the foot with the keystone play being a Weeden incompletion to a wide-open Chris Ogbonnaya down the sideline that could have been the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. It’s not uncommon for these teams to play ugly affairs over the years — even in Baltimore — but the Ravens appeared as vulnerable as ever in the Browns’ bid to end their winless streak against their AFC North foe in the Harbaugh era.

Even kicker Justin Tucker missed a pair of field goals, adding at least a slight hint of doubt at a position where the Ravens believed they were set all offseason.

The sum of the parts looks like they should be enough for the Ravens to be a playoff team this year, but the deficiencies make that an uncertain proclamation. The Ravens appear to have a chance to be pretty good, but it’s difficult to figure out just how good.

And most of that concern rests with the offense despite some questions still remaining in the Baltimore secondary moving forward. Even through all the years of complaining about Cam Cameron running the Baltimore offense, the Ravens were a much better offensive unit at M&T Bank Stadium, making their scoreless performance through the first 30 minutes that much more concerning on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens were held to just 122 yards on 32 plays and had only seven first downs before halftime.

They should be commended for scoring 14 points and going 7-for-9 on third down in the second half, but the offense simply doesn’t pass the eyeball test at this early stage of the season when it comes to throwing the ball or grinding out yards on the ground.

On the day that his second son was born, quarterback Joe Flacco was solid despite his wide receivers and tight ends letting him down for the second straight week. Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown dropped what would have been touchdowns in the first half while Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark were complete non-factors all afternoon.

The tight end spot is so bad right now for the Ravens that No. 3 option Billy Bajema was their leading receiver at the position when he made an 18-yard reception in the first quarter. Dickson dropped a pass over the middle on the first play of the game and wasn’t targeted again while Clark made just one catch for eight yards.

Smith and Brown atoned for their first-half drops with solid performances overall. Smith capably worked the short-to-intermediate portion of the field to the tune of seven catches for 85 yards, and Brown caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

It’s clear that Smith’s ability as a vertical threat has been hindered by the injury to Jacoby Jones, but he is still the most reliable target Flacco has by far. The 6-foot-5 Brown appears to be emerging as the red-zone target Flacco desperately needs after the long-term hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta.

After being shut out in the first half, Brandon Stokley made four receptions for 36 yards on third down as three moved the chains for the Ravens offense, but his ability is limited to third-and-manageable situations at this stage of his career.

With so much concern over the Ravens’ ability to pass, there has been plenty of clamoring for offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to run the ball, but Baltimore averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against a formidable Cleveland front seven on Sunday. The Browns deserve some credit for their ability to keep Rice and backup Bernard Pierce in check for most of the afternoon, but you have to wonder if there’s enough physicality from this offensive line — particularly from second-year center Gino Gradkowski — to warrant an increased focus on running the football other than a pure need to do it.

The Ravens expressed optimism following the game that they don’t believe Rice’s hip flexor injury is serious, but it only adds to the sinking feeling of uneasiness accompanying the 1-1 start as the undefeated Houston Texans will come to Baltimore next Sunday. The defense made strides against a Cleveland offense that couldn’t get out of its own way, but the lackluster Baltimore offense still makes you wonder if the Ravens will have what it takes to beat the better teams in the AFC this year.

Harbaugh and the Ravens continue to try to figure out who they are just like the rest of us.

On Sunday, they were good enough to beat the lowly Browns, but that’s not saying very much for the weeks ahead.

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Arthur Jones

4. Elvis Dumervil

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Daryl Smith

1. Torrey Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens offense looking for instant improvement in friendly surroundings

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Ravens offense looking for instant improvement in friendly surroundings

Posted on 11 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Every meeting with the Cleveland Browns draws the predictable kind words from the Ravens despite the fact that Baltimore hasn’t lost to the AFC North foe in their last 10 meetings.

The final outcomes haven’t always been convincing or overly impressive, but the Ravens have beaten Cleveland every time they’ve played since coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco arrived on the scene in 2008. The words of flattery aren’t exactly convincing when considering the opposite ends of the spectrum on which these teams have stood over the last five seasons.

“It’s a challenge. It always is in the division,” Harbaugh said. “We are very impressed with what we see on tape, and it’s a very important week for us.”

The Browns may not pose an overwhelming threat after a 23-10 home loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but the final part of Harbaugh’s statement rings true for the Ravens after a humbling 49-27 loss of their own in Denver. It was the first season-opening defeat of the Harbaugh era and a painful reminder that the euphoria of last year’s Super Bowl title is long gone.

Running back Ray Rice called it a reality check as the Ravens now shift their attention to the home opener and an opportunity to improve their record to 1-1. Much attention has been paid to the Baltimore defense allowing a franchise-record 49 points, but the Ravens offense has been under the microscope since the start of the offseason. The decision to send wide receiver Anquan Boldin to San Francisco in a move that provided $6 million of salary cap space created concern in the passing game that transformed into a full-blown crisis with the long-term hip injury suffered by tight end Dennis Pitta at the start of training camp.

There are still no clear answers to quell those concerns as the Ravens failed to significantly address the wide receiver position after Boldin’s departure, erroneously depending on a young group of holdover receivers that wasn’t up to the task.

Graybeards Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark and rookie free agent Marlon Brown have emerged — out of attrition and because of the latter’s impressive skill set — as critical pieces in the passing game. And the Week 1 injury to speedy receiver Jacoby Jones puts a dent in the vertical passing game, the one area of the field in which the Ravens could really feel confident in throwing the football.

To make matters worse, the Ravens couldn’t run the football as they averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and were limited to just five carries in the second half after falling behind big in a disastrous third quarter. Many have pondered whether that running game will need to be leaned upon more heavily this season despite having a franchise quarterback to throw the football.

The pressure on the offense to show instant improvement falls on the shoulders of Flacco, who attempted a career-high 62 passes for 362 yards but was picked off twice against a Denver defense lacking Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller and future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. Without Boldin or Pitta on which to depend, life suddenly isn’t as easy for the franchise quarterback.

“That’s the name of the game when you’re a quarterback in this league,” said Flacco, who acknowledged that working with so much new personnel has caused the little things such as timing to take more time to perfect. “You want your organization to be able to [make changes], and you have to prove that you can adapt to whatever is necessary to win football games, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The challenge this week will be a talented Cleveland front seven that will only get stronger with the return of first-round linebacker Barkevious Mingo from a bruised lung. He, former Raven Paul Kruger, and Jabaal Sheard form an imposing pass rush on paper, but the Ravens will the expected return of right tackle Michael Oher, who missed the entire second half against Denver with a right ankle injury.

Browns cornerback Joe Haden will draw the assignment of covering No.1 receiver Torrey Smith, who dealt with bracketed coverage against Denver after Jones’ exit with a knee injury. Jones’ absence means Stokley and Brown will need to keep the rest of the secondary honest enough to give the speedy Smith some opportunities in one-on-one matchups against Haden.

Flacco certainly needs more help from Clark, who dropped a sure touchdown pass right before halftime in Week 1 and struggled to gain separation, and fellow tight end Ed Dickson, who couldn’t rein in a number of catchable passes. The quarterback took the high road when asked to address the high number of drops on Wednesday, but the sense of urgency is there to limit unforced errors with the overall talent level of the wide receivers and tight ends coming into question.

“If that’s all we have to worry about is a couple of guys that have very sure hands not coming up with a couple really tough catches, then I think we’re going to be OK,” Flacco said. “Over the long run, we’re going to make a lot of those catches, and it’s going to lend itself to a lot of good things.”

The Ravens hope those good things begin coming to fruition quickly against the Browns, who aren’t nearly the opponent that Denver was but have played them closer than expected at M&T Bank Stadium in each of the last three seasons. Baltimore needs its $120.6 million man to be on his game to elevate the play of a pedestrian group of pass catchers as much as he can — he can’t catch it, too, of course.

Flacco’s 99.0 quarterback rating at home last season only continued his career-long trend of thriving against defenses on his home turf, and it’s the kind of precision the Ravens will need this year to make the offense click. The Ravens have made it a point this week to emphasize that the running game must improve — it’s the truth with two talented running backs at their disposal — but the offense will only go as far as Flacco can take them.

His 92.5 quarterback rating in 10 career games against the Browns and the first contest of the year in Baltimore are the perfect combination for a bounce-back performance. A win is never a guarantee, but the setting doesn’t get much better than this, especially with the backdrop of 71,000 fans stoked to see a Super Bowl championship banner unveiled.

The bad taste from the second-half debacle in Denver will have lingered for 10 days by the time kickoff arrives on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re not going to overreact, but we are going to react and respond where we need to,” Harbaugh said. “The first game is always a good barometer. The old saying is true: It’s never as good or it’s never as bad as what you initially feel.”

And the Ravens hope they’ll be feeling much better about themselves on both sides of the ball by 4:15 p.m. on Sunday.

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

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Flacco excited to see what rookie receivers bring to table

Posted on 01 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It wasn’t long ago that Joe Flacco joked about not knowing the names of most new teammates on the Ravens roster after an offseason filled with changes.

However, the Ravens quarterback isn’t saying that any longer about a pair of rookie receivers who could factor heavily into the Baltimore passing attack as early as Thursday’s opener against the Denver Broncos. Undrafted free agent Marlon Brown and seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette began the summer in relative anonymity in Flacco’s eyes but grabbed his attention after the pair combined to make 19 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns in four preseason games.

“They’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re physical,” Flacco said. “They obviously have some talent. I think they are going to be guys that help us out a lot — in the short term [and] long term. We still have to go out there and play and feed them the ball and see what they can do.”

Mellette entered training camp as the bigger household name among Ravens fans after being taken with a seventh-round pick back in April. Playing for FCS school Elon, the 6-foot-2 receiver made an astonishing 304 catches for 4,254 yards and 44 touchdowns in his college career and grabbed 97 passes for 1,398 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior year alone.

The 6-foot-5 Brown didn’t live up to expectations as a prized recruit at the University of Georgia but could be an attractive option in the red zone with his statuesque frame. The Ravens have lacked a wide receiver of his height during Flacco’s career after 2012 sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter failed to pan out.

Brown finally appeared to be realizing his potential in his senior season with the Bulldogs when he caught 27 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns before tearing the ACL in his left knee in a game against Ole Miss on Nov. 3, 2012. The 22-year-old is still working his way back to full strength — missing spring organized team activities and even a handful this summer — but his ability began to shine as he became more comfortable physically and mentally in the Ravens offense.

“I have a mindset where I wanted to make the team and ultimately make a difference on the team, whether it’s on special teams or offense,” said Brown, who was in the weight room when coach John Harbaugh personally informed him that he’d made the team. “That’s what I’m trying to do. They haven’t really told me my primary role or anything. I’m going to go out there and work hard and if they tell me to go in, I’m going to go in.”

The biggest compliment paid to both Brown and Mellette is the amount of polish they showed in practices and preseason games despite their lack of experience. Unlike an array of other young receivers that failed to show marked improvement over the course of the summer, Brown and Mellette climbed from the third-string offense and working with third quarterback Caleb Hanie to eventually receive opportunities with Flacco and the starters over the final two weeks of the summer.

It was this climb that contributed to the likes of Tandon Doss, David Reed, and LaQuan Williams being let go.

“They don’t feel like rookies out there,” Harbaugh said. “Marlon has had the advantage of playing at a big program in the Southeastern Conference, and I think that shows. Aaron has had the advantage of having caught hundreds of balls in his college career.”

With Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Brandon Stokley ahead of the rookies on the depth chart, it remains to be seen how big of a role each will play in the early stages of the season. During Sunday’s practice, Brown and Mellette were wearing No. 87 and 88 jerseys, which appeared to be a product of the pair playing the scout-team roles of Denver wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in preparation for Thursday’s opener.

The Ravens only hope that Mellette and Brown will one day make their mark in a way similar to that talented pair with the Broncos, forcing opponents’ scout-team receivers to wear their No. 13 and 14 jerseys in preparation.

But a simple continuation of the improvement they showed over the course of the preseason would be an encouraging start for the Ravens.

“I would anticipate that those two guys will be a factor here going forward,” Harbaugh said. “How much they’ll play early, or how much they’ll be a part of the game plan and those kinds of things are really, really hard to say.”

Webb ready to go

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

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Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

Posted on 26 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens are less than a week away from making final decisions for their 53-man roster with no position currently in more flux than wide receiver.

After an offseason full of discussion around a young but unproven group of wide receivers, the preseason has provided little knowledge in projecting how the Ravens plan to flourish in the passing game without 2012 key targets Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. The decision to sign 37-year-old Brandon Stokley and 34-year-old tight end Dallas Clark after the preseason opener was all you needed to know about the level of concern general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh felt after an underwhelming start to the summer for the passing game.

Just days away from the preseason finale that’s likely to feature very few starters, the Ravens have three locks to make the roster at the wide receiver position: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Stokley. Smith remains the only option at the position with which you feel comfortable while Jones’ speed and Stokley’s ability to move the chains from the slot receiver position are specialized skills that will work well in different formations.

After that? Unknown commodities and unfulfilled promise fill out the rest of the pack.

Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown? A 2013 seventh-round pick and a rookie free agent respectively.

LaQuan Williams? A solid special-teams player but inconsistent as a wide receiver in both practices and preseason games.

Deonte Thompson? Injured since the preseason opener.

And Tandon Doss? He’s become the whipping boy of a concerned fan base after a very disappointing summer.

The discussion over who stays and who goes has heated up over the last couple weeks as fans and media alike try to predict how many receivers will make the regular-season roster.

“I’m not quite certain of what the numbers will be,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “That’s John and Ozzie — they take care of that. They look at it and determine [and] look at the entire team.”

While many fixate on a given number of receivers to make the final roster — five, six, even seven? — the Ravens look at the roster from a global view in determining which 53 players will be the best fit to win games in 2013. As unlikely as it might be, all eight receivers could make it through final cuts if Harbaugh and his staff determine they contribute enough both offensively and through special teams.

Caldwell has even suggested that strength in numbers might be the unit’s best bet while also providing more time to determine which receivers build the best rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco in the early weeks of the season. Eight receivers would certainly be a stretch, but it’s not difficult envisioning scenarios in which seven wideouts crack the 53-man roster without too much trouble.

It comes down to special-teams play, team health, and positional needs — or the lack of needs — elsewhere.

“There could be a situation where we’re using quite a few guys at the wide receiver position, which I think is a plus for us because it helps us mix up personnel packages,” Caldwell said. “We do have some versatility because we have a number of guys who can play multiple positions.”

With that in mind, it’s time to make the case for and against each of the five wide receivers projected to be on the roster bubble.

Each receiver’s career NFL regular-season numbers are noted in parentheses.

Tandon Doss (seven catches, 123 yards, 20 targets)

The case for: The Ravens typically don’t give up on their high draft picks easily and the 2011 fourth-round pick has practiced well at different points over the last three years despite a very underwhelming preseason performance of just two catches for 10 yards and a touchdown in three games this summer. He hasn’t stepped up in the manner the Ravens had hoped in filling Boldin’s shoes as the slot receiver, but the rest of the bunch hasn’t outperformed him so dramatically to make him out to be the slam-dunk cut that some critics have made him out to be over the last few days. Another factor helping Doss’ case for a roster spot is the lack of a healthy option behind Stokley as a slot receiver in the passing game with Thompson currently injured. He’s shown good hands and route-running ability in practices, which still counts for something despite magnified mistakes in preseason games.

The case against: It never speaks well for your future when two rookies appear to have leapfrogged you on the depth chart after Brown and Mellette saw playing time before Doss against Carolina in the third preseason game. His inability to recognize a blitz led to a Flacco interception against the Panthers, and the third-year wideout didn’t exactly come across as a player trying to take accountability in his explanation after the game. Doss can serve as a backup punt returner, but his ability to play special teams is very limited beyond that. Of the five players currently on the bubble at the position, he has received the greatest number of opportunities and has done very little with them, making you wonder how much patience the Ravens have left. Expectations were high for him, but he’s performed poorly in the preseason.

Marlon Brown (rookie)

The case for: The undrafted product did what no other young receiver had done all summer last Thursday when he took advantage of an opportunity to work with the starting offense by making four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. You can’t teach 6-foot-5 height, and Brown has shown the potential to be the tall red-zone target the Ravens envisioned with the selection of the recently-cut Tommy Streeter in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Brown runs solid routes and has shown consistent hands for much of the summer in both practices and games while working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last fall. His performance in a nationally-televised preseason game makes it highly unlikely that he will clear waivers to allow the Ravens to sign him to their practice squad as they may have planned a couple weeks ago.

The case against: It’s important to remember one preseason performance means very little in the big picture as the Ravens aren’t exactly sure how Brown will fit in the short-term future or whether he will pan out in the long term. Despite being a five-star recruit for the University of Georgia, he didn’t exactly live up to expectations playing in the SEC, the greatest stage college football has to offer. Brown has occasionally missed some practice time this summer while working his way back to 100 percent, so that will be something to watch in his first season in the NFL where rookies can often hit the proverbial wall late in the 16-game schedule.

Aaron Mellette (rookie)

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Some clarity offered despite Ravens’ ugly offensive showing

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Some clarity offered despite Ravens’ ugly offensive showing

Posted on 23 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — To harp on the negatives of an ugly offensive performance in the Ravens’ 34-27 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers would be stating the obvious.

Turning the ball over three times in the first half is a recipe for losing to any team in the NFL and certainly didn’t make coach John Harbaugh and his coaching staff happy about the starting unit’s performance in the third preseason game that’s typically viewed as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. The Ravens know they have plenty of progress to make with their offense and little time to do it before traveling to Denver for the opener on Sept. 5.

“We obviously turned the ball over and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “With what we did tonight, we’re not going to win a lot of football games doing that. At the same time, it was just a lot of miscommunication, and I felt like we did a lot of really good things, too.”

The sixth-year quarterback contributed to the woes, tossing two first-half interceptions, but he’s right about the big picture stemming from Thursday’s game. Unlike last week’s performance against the Atlanta Falcons in which the only tangible positive from the starting offense was a 77-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith, the Ravens can feel encouraged by a few developments against the Panthers.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda returned to action and felt no ill effects from the offseason shoulder surgery that sidelined him through the first half of the preseason. The offensive line looked markedly better with him at right guard, evident by a nine-play, 69-yard opening drive that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown by running back Ray Rice. The line once again struggled when the veteran departed after the first couple series of action, which is a concerning statement about its overall depth.

Despite the shaky performance of the offensive line, second-year center Gino Gradkowski appeared to play solidly and it looks as though the 2012 fourth-round pick has all but locked up the starting job in the competition against A.Q. Shipley, who was relegated to playing time only after the starting offense was removed.

Slot receiver Brandon Stokley was targeted three times, making three catches for 43 yards and moving the chains with two of those receptions. Questions remain whether the 37-year-old can gain the necessary separation to make consistent contributions, but Stokley ran crisp routes and showed the consistent hands he’s had throughout his 15-year career.

His ability to work in the slot appears to be a godsend following the long-term hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta at the beginning of training camp and the disappointing preseason of third-year receiver Tandon Doss, who was responsible for one of Flacco’s two interceptions when he failed to make the proper site adjustment on a coverage. It was apparent Thursday that Stokley has leapfrogged Doss on the depth chart as the first option in the slot and has solidified a spot on the 53-man roster.

“He runs great routes,” Harbaugh said of Stokley. “He does a great job of getting loose and getting open against pretty much every coverage. It was good to see.”

Perhaps even more encouraging — and definitely more surprising — was the performance of rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown, who led the Ravens with four catches for 59 yards and reined in a 24-yard touchdown catch in heavy traffic. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia, Brown suffered a torn ACL in his final season with the Bulldogs and was unable to participate in the scouting combine or pre-draft workouts, which contributed to him going undrafted in April.

Despite a rookie camp tryout with the Houston Texans, Brown eventually signed with the Ravens and was limited in spring workouts as he is still in the process of working his way back to where he was prior to the knee injury suffered last November.

“We really liked him from the beginning,” Harbaugh said. “When we first saw him on tape — I saw him — he jumped off the tape, but he had the ACL [injury]. He’s come back from that thing quickly, and he’s playing well.”

Recently receiving more practice time with the first-team offense due to his own improvement as well as the failure of other young receivers to distinguish themselves this summer, Brown and seventh-round rookie Aaron Mellette received extensive first-half action after veterans Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones were pulled earlier than expected. It was clear the Ravens were in more of an evaluation mode than you’d expect for the third preseason game, but Brown didn’t squander the chance.

Catching all four passes thrown his way by Flacco, Brown showed solid route-running ability in sitting down in the window of a zone coverage for a first-down completion early in the first half and showed excellent timing with the starting quarterback on a deep out route early in the third quarter. However, the play that had everyone excited was his ability to use his 6-foot-5 frame to haul in a high throw in tight coverage over the middle of the field before taking it the rest of the way for the touchdown midway through the third quarter.

Truthfully, it would still be a stretch to view Brown as one of the Ravens’ top receiving options — it was only one preseason game, mind you — but you can’t teach his type of height and the Ravens have to be salivating about the possibility of using the big rookie as a red-zone target. Regardless of how Brown will ultimately fit, it’s become highly unlikely that the Ravens can sneak him onto the practice squad and he’s produced more than other young receivers fighting for roster spots anyway.

“It’s just that I know the offense a lot better,” Brown said. “I’m able to understand the calls and I’m more in sync with the quarterback. I’m working every day with him. Last week was the first week I went with the ones. I feel like the more practice and the more reps I get with them, the better it will be for me.”

Beyond Stokley and Brown, the Ravens saw an uneven performance from their veteran tight ends as Dallas Clark dropped a pass and looked uncomfortable working in the offense while Visanthe Shiancoe turned in his strongest performance of the preseason with two catches for 21 yards on three targets. Harbaugh even went out of his way to compliment Shiancoe’s blocking, which has come under scrutiny throughout his career and could be a factor in determining whether he makes the 53-man roster.

The tight end position remains nearly as difficult to figure out as wide receiver with Ed Dickson still working his way back to full strength from a partially-torn hamstring and Shiancoe and Clark trying to prove they can be real factors in the effort to replace Pitta’s production.

The Ravens offense emerged from Thursday’s performance with still far too many questions than you’d like at this late stage of the summer. Flacco has struggled to build chemistry with a revolving-door group of pass-catchers, the offensive line hasn’t performed well without Yanda, and it’s impossible to trust anyone beyond Smith and Rice as productive receiving targets at this point.

Three turnovers in the first half only augmented the concerns that were already there with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s unit, but the Ravens will point to the performances of Stokley and Brown as possible pieces to the offensive puzzle. And it’s important to remember that the Ravens didn’t exactly game-plan for the Panthers after remembering Smith was targeted only once before his early departure.

As we already thought before the third preseason game, the Baltimore offense remains a major work in progress with time running out before the games start to matter and three-turnover first halves are excruciatingly unacceptable.

“We’ve just got to execute better,” Stokley said. “We moved the ball well, [but] we just shot ourselves in the foot, committed turnovers and drive-killers. We’ve got to get back to practice, work on those types of things, and get them corrected. If we do that, I think we’ll be alright.”

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