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Forsett, Yanda return as Ravens continue preparing for Arizona

Posted on 22 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Running back Justin Forsett and right guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice Thursday as the Ravens count down to a Monday night meeting with Arizona.

Both sat out Wednesday’s workout with ankle ailments after playing in the 25-20 loss to San Francisco this past Sunday. Forsett was not even listed on the first injury report of the week while Yanda was a limited participant on Thursday.

Defensive end Lawrence Guy also returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out a day earlier for an undisclosed reason. With veteran end Chris Canty (calf) returning to practice this week after a four-game absence, the Ravens are practicing with their full allotment of defensive linemen for the first time since Week 2.

Seven players were absent from Thursday’s practice with linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith, safeties Kendrick Lewis (knee) and Terrence Brooks (thumb), tight end Maxx Williams (knee/ankle), cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh), and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) not taking part. Having missed the San Francisco game, Brooks walked out to the practice field to watch the workout with his left hand and wrist heavily wrapped.

Smith and Dumervil received the day off on Thursday.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), rookie receiver Darren Waller (concussion), and tight end Dennis Pitta (physically unable to perform list – hip) were all practicing for the second straight day.

After missing just one game with micro fractures in his back, wide receiver Steve Smith returned to action against San Francisco and is no longer listed on the injury report. On Wednesday, the 36-year-old revealed the secret of how he’s dealing with the pain.

“I have a great nutritionist I’m sleeping with, which is my wife,” said Smith, drawing laughter from media. “She does a good job of doing her research and all that stuff. She has me on a lot of things — vitamins and stuff — that I probably should be taking at my age anyway.”

Meanwhile, the Cardinals were without starting tight end Darren Fells (shoulder) and outside linebacker Alex Okafor (calf) for their Thursday practice. Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald received a day off while speedy wideout John Brown was a limited participant due to a lingering hamstring issue.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), CB Asa Jackson (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (knee), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), TE Maxx Williams (knee, ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (calf), CB Lardarius Webb (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Darren Waller (concussion)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Darren Fells (shoulder), WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury), LB Alex Okafor (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Justin Bethel (foot), WR John Brown (hamstring), DT Cory Redding (shoulder), DT Frostee Rucker (foot), LB LaMarr Woodley (chest)

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Ravens continue shuffling players in and out of practice

Posted on 21 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day the Ravens welcomed back four players to the practice field, eight others were absent as they continued preparations for a Week 7 trip to Arizona.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), defensive end Chris Canty (calf), rookie wide receiver Darren Waller (concussion), and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) returned to practice on Wednesday. Canty has missed four straight games with a calf injury suffered in Week 2 while Webb and Waller missed Sunday’s loss to San Francisco after sustaining injuries in Week 5.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), safeties Kendrick Lewis (knee) and Terrence Brooks (thumb), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), defensive end Lawrence Guy, cornerback Asa Jackson, and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) were all missing from Wednesday’s workout. Forsett and Yanda both played against the 49ers despite practicing just once last week with their respective ankle ailments.

With the Ravens playing the Cardinals on Monday night, the first injury report of the week will not be released until Thursday.

Lewis left Sunday’s game with a left knee injury and didn’t return, but head coach John Harbaugh said a magnetic resonance imaging exam did not reveal any serious damage.

“Nothing serious with Kendrick — a bone bruise — and that’s a very good sign,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see where it goes throughout the course of the week. He was feeling pretty good today, but those things are hard to predict.”

With Lewis sidelined and Brooks already ruled out for Sunday’s game, third-year safety and special-teams standout Brynden Trawick played 21 defensive snaps against the 49ers, easily the most extensive action he’s seen on defense in his NFL career.

Harbaugh did not have an update on Brooks’ thumb, which the second-year safety injured against Cleveland in Week 5. Trawick could be in line to make his first career NFL start if Lewis and Brooks do not improve enough over the course of the week.

“Brynden played well on Sunday,” Harbaugh said. “He was in the right spot, tackled well. He played well and did a good job, which is what you’d expect. He’s practiced well all summer.”


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Ravens list five starters as questionable for Sunday

Posted on 16 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Working out for the final time before traveling to California for Sunday’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens saw three Pro Bowl players return to practice before listing five total starters as questionable.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle), and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin) were all listed as questionable after returning to practice on Friday. Forsett and Dumervil left Sunday’s loss to Cleveland with their respective ailments while Yanda has appeared on the injury report with an ankle issue for the last two weeks.

Head coach John Harbaugh suggested that Forsett and Dumervil would be game-time decisions against the 49ers.

“I feel good. I feel a lot better than I did earlier in the week,” Forsett said. “It’s been progressing every day. As far as Sunday, it’s still a work in progress. Hopefully, we get some more progress in the ankle coming up before that day.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (back) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) were listed as questionable after practicing for the third consecutive day, which would make one think the two are likely return to action in some form against the 49ers. However, Smith did not present an optimistic outlook regarding his Week 6 status a little over two weeks after suffering multiple microfractures in his back.

“To be honest, my expectancy of playing is very low,” Smith said after Friday’s practice. “I went out there Wednesday, it was alright. Thursday, tried to open up a little bit [and] couldn’t open up too much. I didn’t really go too much today, so I’m just trying to be smart. I’m not really sure what I’m really going to do.

“How I feel today, it doesn’t look like I can go as much as I would like to. I’m just trying to look at the long-term health.”

Five players were missing from Friday’s practice as cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), safety Terrence Brooks (thumb), wide receivers Darren Waller (concussion) and Breshad Perriman (knee), and defensive end Chris Canty (calf) were absent. Webb was listed as doubtful while the other four were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Of course, the Ravens are not only trying to fix their 25th-ranked pass defense, but they will be facing former teammates and talented 49ers receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Familiarity helps in preparing to match up, but that doesn’t make the challenge much easier for a group that’s struggled to stop anybody this season.

“You go up against Anquan, you’re in for a battle,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “He’s going to be physical. He’s going to be tough. He’s going to play hard. And if that ball is anywhere in his vicinity, he’s going to catch it. I still remember all those catches on the sideline at the Super Bowl that he probably shouldn’t have made.

“And Torrey can take the top off of anybody’s defense. We know what those guys are. We’re looking forward to it.”

John Parry will be the referee for Sunday’s game at Levi’s Stadium.

According to Weather.com, the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s with winds 10 to 20 miles per hour in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday afternoon.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

OUT: S Terrence Brooks (thumb), DE Chris Canty (calf), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), WR Darren Waller (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: CB Lardarius Webb (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (thigh), RB Justin Forsett (ankle), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Chris Givens (ankle), WR Steve Smith (back), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Daryl Smith (non-injury)

DOUBTFUL: RB Reggie Bush (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder), TE Vernon Davis (knee), WR Bruce Ellington (calf), LB Eli Harold (knee), RB Carlos Hyde (foot), G Brandon Thomas (ankle)
PROBABLE: G Alex Boone (shoulder), LB Navarro Bowman (NIR), TE Vance McDonald (chest), OT Joe Staley (knee)

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Gillmore out, S. Smith doubtful for Cleveland game

Posted on 09 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite head coach John Harbaugh saying last weekend that Steve Smith wouldn’t play in Sunday’s AFC North battle with the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens receiver hasn’t been officially ruled out.

Smith was designated as doubtful on the final injury report of the week, meaning he officially has no better than a 25 percent chance to be active. The 36-year-old isn’t expected to play after injuring his back in Pittsburgh, but the Ravens remain hopeful that he could return for next week’s game in San Francisco.

“Very optimistic,” Harbaugh said. “He’s working hard. He’s in there with the different equipment working really hard to get himself ready and making, I would say, good progress.”

The Ravens coach said early in the week that tight end Crockett Gillmore had “a chance” to play against Cleveland after missing the Week 4 contest, but he was officially ruled out along with defensive end Chris Canty (calf) and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) after the trio missed all practices this week. Rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle will once again fill in for Gillmore.

Canty hasn’t practiced since injuring his calf in Oakland in Week 2. Lawrence Guy is once again expected to fill in for him at the 5-technique defensive end spot.

Linebackers Albert McClellan (abdomen) and Daryl Smith (non-injury) were listed as probable after returning to practice on Friday. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro is also probable after missing Wednesday’s workout with a lingering foot issue.

Meanwhile, Cleveland will be without starting free safety Tashaun Gipson, who missed his third straight practice with an ankle injury and was officially ruled out on Friday. Gipson was wearing a walking boot at the Browns’ practice facility this week.

Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden is questionable for Sunday’s game as he continues to deal with a broken finger.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Jeff Triplette.

Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the high 60s and light winds, according to Weather.com.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

OUT: DE Chris Canty (calf), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Breshad Perriman (knee)
DOUBTFUL: WR Steve Smith (back)
PROBABLE: LB Albert McClellan (abdomen), OT Eugene Monroe (concussion), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)

OUT: DB Tashaun Gipson (ankle), LB Craig Robertson (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: RB Shaun Draughn (back)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Desmond Bryant (shoulder), LB Karlos Dansby (ankle), CB Joe Haden (ribs/finger), WR Brian Hartline (ribs/thigh), LB Scott Solomon (ankle), RB Robert Turbin (ankle)
PROBABLE: DB Johnson Bademosi (elbow), RB Duke Johnson (ankle), QB Johnny Manziel (right elbow), OT Mitchell Schwartz (thumb), S Donte Whitner (illness), DB K’Waun Williams (concussion)

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Gillmore, S. Smith remain sidelined from Thursday’s practice

Posted on 08 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — While the wide receiver position remains in flux due to injuries, the Ravens are once again facing the possibility of being without their starting tight end against Cleveland on Sunday.

Crockett Gillmore missed practice again on Thursday as he continues to recover from a calf injury suffered in the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati. Rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle would fill bigger roles in the offense for a second straight week if Gillmore is unable to play.

Williams and Boyle combined to make five catches for 29 yards in the 23-20 overtime win at Pittsburgh.

Wide receivers Steve Smith (back) and Breshad Perriman (knee), defensive end Chris Canty (calf), and linebackers Albert McClellan (abdomen) and Daryl Smith were also absent from Thursday’s practice. McClellan was a new addition to the injury report while Daryl Smith received a veteran day off as he often does during Thursday practices.

After being listed as a limited participant with an ankle issue on Wednesday, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was a full participant, removing any concern regarding his status against the Browns. Left tackle Eugene Monroe remains on track to receive his first game action on Sunday since suffering a concussion on the first series of the season opener on Sept. 13.

Backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro returned to practice on a limited basis after resting a lingering foot issue.

Meanwhile, the Browns were without starting free safety Tashaun Gipson (ankle) for a second straight day and starting wide receiver Brian Hartline was a new addition to the injury report after sitting out Thursday’s workout with rib and thigh injuries.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

DID NOT PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (calf), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), LB Albert McClellan (abdomen), WR Breshad Perriman (knee), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (back)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Eugene Monroe (concussion), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)

DID NOT PARTICIPATION: RB Shaun Draughn (back), S Tashaun Gipson (ankle), WR Brian Hartline (ribs/thigh), LB Craig Robertson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Desmond Bryant (shoulder), LB Karlos Dansby (ankle), CB Joe Haden (ribs/finger), LB Scott Solomon (ankle), RB Robert Turbin (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DB Johnson Bademosi (elbow), RB Duke Johnson (ankle), QB Johnny Manziel (right elbow), T Mitchell Schwartz (thumb), DE Randy Starks (non-injury), OT Joe Thomas (non-injury), S Donte Whitner (illness), CB K’Waun Williams (concussion)

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Harbaugh “gets a little crazy” during tough practice on Thursday

Posted on 06 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nobody was safe from John Harbaugh on Thursday as the Ravens held their toughest practice of the first week of training camp.

After the practice officials were slow to blow the whistle on one particular play, the eighth-year head coach chastised them from the middle of the field, screaming, “Get your [stuff] together! You’re getting lunch and you’re getting paid!”

Of course, they weren’t alone as Harbaugh challenged his young defensive linemen to be tougher and quicker firing off the ball during 11-on-11 short-yardage drills during the first half of practice. The coach singled out rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis and second-year defensive end Brent Urban at different points, but the coach said the ranting was calculated in trying to challenge young players the Ravens figure to count on heavily this season.

“It was a very physical, very tough practice,” Harbaugh said. “The guys fought through it really well. It’s always the one where — at least in my case — this coach gets a little crazy, because it’s a tough step to take from the hitting level of intensity to this level of intensity.

“For me, it’s more of a feel thing than anything. If I think I go too far, then I try to let them know I went too far. If I don’t go far enough, I have to grab them again. You always circle back and try to have communication.”

The motivational tactics appeared to work as the defense dominated the trenches by taking advantage of an offensive line without starting left guard Kelechi Osemele or reserve guards John Urschel and Robert Myers.

Second-year inside linebacker Zach Orr and rookie safety Nick Perry had tackles for losses in run support, standout plays for two players fighting for roster spots this summer. In Orr’s case, his emergence as more of a factor at linebacker could put former second-round pick Arthur Brown’s roster spot in jeopardy. After Matt Elam’s season-ending injury, the Alabama product Perry figures to have a better chance to enter the conversation for a reserve safety spot with a strong summer.

On a day with few offensive highlights, quarterback Joe Flacco’s long touchdown pass to Jeremy Butler was a bright spot as Butler beat cornerback Quinton Pointer in coverage.

Thursday was another difficult day for veteran backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw an interception returned for a touchdown and also fumbled a snap.

Rookie tight end Nick Boyle has shown more ability as a receiver this summer than many anticipated, but he had two bad drops.


Walking wounded

The Ravens had an extensive list of injured players missing from the practice field at the start of the session before three more left with injuries.

Harbaugh said Urschel and Myers were being evaluated for potential concussions suffered during practice and they will be conservative with both linemen. Urschel’s injury was particularly concerning as he was down on the field for several minutes before ultimately walking to the locker room with assistance.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams also left practice early after being poked in the eye.

Harbaugh said Osemele was given Thursday off after having his foot stepped on a day earlier and veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington was given the day off to rest.

Players missing at the start of practice included wide receivers Breshad Perriman (knee) and Marlon Brown (back), cornerbacks Tray Walker (hamstring) and Chris Greenwood (hamstring), and linebackers Steven Means (ankle) and Zach Thompson (undisclosed). Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks remain on the active physically unable to perform list, but both watched portions of Thursday’s practice.

Hands-on Harbaugh

In addition to trying to light a fire under his younger players, Harbaugh took a hands-on approach to test Asa Jackson as a returner, trying to distract the fourth-year cornerback by bearing down on him while trying to field a punt.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was particularly amused by the coach’s activity as he yelled to Jackson, “Run his ass over!”

Have a catch

During a special-teams portion of practice, top cornerback Jimmy Smith took some time out to play catch with a handful of young fans in attendance Thursday’s practice.

It was a nice way for a standout player to spend a period of practice in which he wasn’t participating anyway.

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High expectations replace distractions for this year’s Ravens

Posted on 30 July 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A year ago at this time, the Ravens were in the midst of the most trying season in the 20-year history of the franchise with the dark cloud of the Ray Rice saga and four other player arrests hanging over their heads.

So you’ll forgive them for relishing the relative peace since three former players — Terrence Cody, Bernard Pierce, and Victor Hampton — were arrested and promptly released early this offseason. The focus was solely on football Thursday as the Ravens officially began training camp with their first full-squad practice.

“We’re happy with it, because last year, it was very uncomfortable,” veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “A lot of us [haven’t] been in that type of situation like that before, but it’s good to come into camp with no major negative storyline concerning us. We’re just ready to get after it. We’re ready to capitalize on things we did great last year and definitively get rid of some of the things we didn’t do so [well].”

This summer, the distractions have been replaced by higher-than-usual expectations for the Ravens despite parting ways with five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, starting receiver Torrey Smith, rush specialist Pernell McPhee, starting tight end Owen Daniels, and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Those losses would have many teams rebuilding and being forced to look toward the future, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens are equipped to deal with change immediately after consecutive draft classes that they feel really good about.

The rest of the football world has taken notice with many praising the Ravens’ deep roster and considering them a top contender to win the Super Bowl despite significant personnel changes.

“They do a great job of bringing good guys in and continuing to build the team every year,” said four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda about the front office. “We try to get better and better. That’s what the Ravens do, and it seems like it this year again. We’re all excited to be out here.”

Of course, many questions must be answered as the Ravens try to replace the aforementioned names with players primarily in their first or second year in the NFL.

How will defensive coordinator Dean Pees mix and match to fill the massive void left behind by Ngata?

Is rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman ready to become Joe Flacco’s new deep threat?

Can new offensive coordinator Marc Tresetman pick up where Kubiak left off a year ago?

Those are just to name a few.

Head coach John Harbaugh’s team will be tested early with five of their first seven regular-season games on the road, the kind of stretch where success could put them in prime position to secure a home playoff game — or better — and failure could create a treacherous climb in the second half of the season to simply make the playoffs.

Why are the Ravens so confident in their rookies and veteran newcomers to pick up the slack left behind by departing players on an annual basis?

Six playoff appearances in the last seven years goes a long way in setting expectations for anyone walking into the building.

“They know what’s expected, because they’ve watched this team in January so much,” Harbaugh said. “I mentioned to [former Ravens linebacker and current scouting intern] Jarret Johnson last night that we’ve had some bad-ass teams around here. That’s what these guys have to understand — what the standard is.”

Even if thankful not to be dealing with the turmoil of last season, returning players — particularly the ones not involved in any off-field transgressions — can take pride in the way they handled the adversity to still go 10-6 and win a playoff game before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Perhaps that memory is one veterans will share with newcomers joining an organization with championship aspirations every year.

But for now, the Ravens are just glad to be back to the business of football with little else entering the conversation.

“When you’re in training camp, it’s tough to think about too many other things,” Flacco said. “I know we had a little bit of a distraction last year, but I thought we did a good job of putting that behind us and taking it for what it was. I guess it’s nice, but I think that [football] was our main concern last year, too.”

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2015 Ravens training camp preview: Offensive line

Posted on 27 July 2015 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.

As veterans report to Owings Mills on Wednesday and the first full-squad workout takes place the following on July 30, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.

July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists

Below is a look at the Baltimore offensive line:

LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel
BUBBLE: Robert Myers, James Hurst, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Marcel Jones, Nick Easton, Leon Brown, Kaleb Johnson, Darryl Baldwin, Blaine Clausell, De’Ondre Wesley

Synopsis: It was only a year ago that concerns were abundant about an offensive line that battled injuries and played poorly during the 2013 season, but much has changed since then. Regarded by most as the best position group on the roster, the offensive line returns returns its top seven players as the Ravens plan to maintain the same zone schemes with new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman that they used so effectively last year under Gary Kubiak. The strength of this group begins with its guards as Marshal Yanda is the best in the NFL and Kelechi Osemele is rapidly rising to a Pro Bowl level. The question for this group early in training camp will be health as center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Rick Wagner both missed spring workouts and will be brought along slowly to begin the preseason.

One to watch: Wagner was arguably the Ravens’ biggest question mark entering last season before the 2013 fifth-round pick put together an above-average season at right tackle, solidifying a scrutinized offensive line that ultimately excelled in the running game. All signs point to Wagner being ready to go in plenty of time for the start of the season, but offensive line coach Juan Castillo will carefully watch his footwork coming back from last December’s season-ending Lisfranc injury. Assuming he’s healthy, Wagner and Yanda could form the best right side of an offensive line in the entire NFL this season. 

One on notice: Signed to a five-year, $37.5 million contract last year, Eugene Monroe appeared to be Baltimore’s left tackle for the long haul, but a knee injury cost him five games and his play suffered when he was on the field in 2014. To be clear, there is no left tackle controversy as James Hurst isn’t ready to seriously challenge Monroe, but the Ravens need to see better from the veteran to justify an $8.7 million cap figure next year. If the former Jacksonville Jaguar doesn’t bounce back from a rough 2014 campaign, the Ravens could be back in a position where they’re looking for a left tackle sooner rather than later.

Sleeper: There doesn’t figure to be much room for a sleeper to make his mark this summer with Hurst, John Urschel, and fifth-round rookie Robert Myers projected to lock up roster spots as reserves, but Kaleb Johnson of Rutgers was a priority rookie free agent and has the foot quickness that Castillo desires with his blocking schemes. Projected to play guard at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds, Johnson will be someone to keep an eye on as the Ravens know they are unlikely to be able to re-sign both Yanda and Osemele and are looking for developmental depth at the guard position.

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Ravens conclude spring preparations with mandatory minicamp

Posted on 16 June 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens conclude nearly two months of spring preparations for the 2015 season this week with their three-day mandatory minicamp.

With training camp roughly six weeks away, head coach John Harbaugh will get his first look at his full 90-man training camp roster this week as veterans who have not attended voluntary organized team activities will be back in Owings Mills. That list includes the likes of linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil as well as four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda.

On Tuesday, Suggs is scheduled to meet with the media for the first time since longtime teammate and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was traded to the Detroit Lions at the start of free agency in March. It will be interesting to hear what the 32-year-old has to say about being the last man standing of the old guard of Baltimore defense that also included future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

Yanda is also scheduled to answer questions at the podium and will surely be asked about his future as the 30-year-old enters the final season of a five-year contract signed in 2011.

The Ravens will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before players enjoy their final weeks of downtime before the first full-squad training camp practice is held on July 30. Rookies will begin reporting to Owings Mills on July 22 as Baltimore seeks its seventh postseason berth in eight seasons under Harbaugh.

All three minicamp practices will be open to the media.

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Five questions pondering Flacco, Webb, Monroe, Ravens guards

Posted on 05 June 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 should the Cam Newton contract put all discussion to rest about the deal Joe Flacco received two years ago? To some degree, criticism we heard about Flacco’s contract is now being thrown Newton’s way as he received an extension that pays him an average yearly salary of $20.8 million. We spend so much time ranking quarterbacks and determining which ones are “elite” when it really comes down to a very simple question for NFL teams. Can your quarterback win you a Super Bowl with a reasonable supporting cast around him or not? If the answer is yes, you pay him — plain and simple. Of course, determining the line of demarcation is the challenge as Miami recently paying Ryan Tannehill was an example of that. In terms of average annual salary, does Newton deserve to be the fourth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL? No, but it was his turn in line and Carolina has enough reason to think he can eventually lead the Panthers to the promised land. That’s all that matters.

2. Is it just me or does the Ravens’ current guard situation remind you of the 2011 season? Most assume Baltimore will ultimately re-sign Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda while fourth-year left guard Kelechi Osemele will likely depart via free agency after this season, but I do wonder if that would be the best path for the Ravens. Yanda is a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the best guard in the NFL, but he’ll also be 31 in September. If his demands are through the roof, can you justify giving lucrative money to a player who will be approaching his mid-30s during the life of the contract? Meanwhile, Osemele turns just 26 later this month is likely to get even better over the next couple years. The situation isn’t identical, but it reminds me of 2011 when Ben Grubbs and Yanda were both scheduled to become free agents. Many thought the Ravens should sign Grubbs, but Yanda received an affordable extension that summer and the 2007 first-round pick departed the following winter. I’ll still assume that the Ravens keep Yanda, but it would be tough allowing a much younger player to depart.

3. Is it just me or should Lardarius Webb and Eugene Monroe be attending voluntary organized team activities after injury-plagued campaigns last season? Any veteran player has the right to skip voluntary spring practices, but I can’t help but think the Ravens aren’t thrilled to see Webb and Monroe missing OTA workouts — at least the ones that have been open to media thus far. Counting the playoffs, injuries forced Monroe to miss seven starts last season and the left tackle’s contract is structured in a way that the Ravens could release him next offseason if they’re not thrilled with his performance, as was the case last year. Meanwhile, Webb may have restructured his current contract this offseason, but Baltimore could easily cut the veteran cornerback next winter if his play doesn’t improve substantially from 2014. It’s one thing for established veterans to skip spring workouts, but those with question marks from the previous year are taking a chance to further fall out of good graces when they’re not around in the spring.

4. Is it just me or could a healthy Brent Urban be a difference-maker for a revamped defensive line? Much attention has been paid to the interior part of the line following the trade of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, but the 5-technique defensive end spot is a position of interest as veteran Chris Canty was cut and re-signed at a cheaper rate earlier this year. Canty has been mostly solid in his two years with Baltimore, but he will also be 33 in November and contemplated retirement this past winter. Urban has been quite active during spring workouts and appears fully recovered from last summer’s knee injury. Not only could he challenge Canty for his starting spot, but the 6-foot-7 University of Virginia product could be an intriguing option to replace Pernell McPhee as an interior pass rusher on third down. Urban will need to prove himself this summer, but it was no secret that the 2014 fourth-round pick was going to be a big part of the rotation as a rookie. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a key contributor for the Ravens’ front this season.

5. Is it just me or are the Ravens getting more than enough love this offseason? I’ve made no secret about how impressed I was with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s work in the 2015 draft and the savvy signing of slot cornerback Kyle Arrington last month, but I was surprised to see Sports Illustrated’s Peter King list the Ravens first in his preseason power rankings. Looking at it objectively, Ravens fans would be incensed if Pittsburgh were ranked No. 1 after losing a starting wide receiver, a starting tight end, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, an impact pass rusher, and a good offensive coordinator. Make no mistake, I expect the Ravens to be a playoff team in 2015 and they could very well be poised to make a championship run if wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams are ready to make meaningful contributions as rookies. Everything the Ravens have done looks strong on paper, but that doesn’t always mean it comes to fruition on the field as quickly as you’d like, especially when relying on unproven players. For the fans who like to play the disrespect card in terms of how the national media views their team, King is taking a leap of faith to put Baltimore at the top of the list.

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