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Mallett to make first Ravens start against Pittsburgh

Posted on 27 December 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 11:35 a.m.)

BALTIMORE — A new wrinkle will be added to an already-bizarre season for the Ravens on Sunday.

Ryan Mallett will become the fourth quarterback to start a game for Baltimore in 2015 as the Pittsburgh Steelers come to M&T Bank Stadium for a Week 16 tilt. The Ravens have never started more than three quarterbacks in the same season in the 20-year history of the franchise.

The news was originally reported by NFL Network early Sunday morning.

Despite being signed less than two weeks ago, Mallett has been praised for his effort in learning the offense. Head coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about who his starting quarterback would be earlier in the week, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman made it clear Thursday that the former Houston Texans quarterback had learned enough of the offense to be ready to play if called upon.

Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen have started two games apiece since franchise quarterback Joe Flacco suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 22. After working him out earlier in the month, the 4-10 Ravens signed Mallett to a contract through the 2016 season, making it preferable to take a look at him in live-game action before going into an offseason in which Flacco will be rehabbing his surgically-repaired left knee and isn’t expected to be ready before training camp.

“He has had enough reps that if John decides to play him, and we decide to go that way, we feel he could manage the game,” Trestman said. “The most significant part of the week has been the way the three of them have handled the situation and worked together to try to optimize the understanding of our game plan and getting it accomplished.”

Jettisoned from Houston for missing a team flight in late October after concerns already existed about his maturity and committment, Mallett would be making his seventh career start and has thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 53.1 percent of his passes. He was originally a third-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2011 and served as a backup to Tom Brady for his first three seasons before being traded to the Texans prior to the 2014 season.

Mallett, 27, was already familiar with Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken, who spent parts of two seasons with the Patriots.

“I’ve been catching balls with him when I was in New England, so I’m pretty comfortable with him and everybody else,” Aiken said on Wednesday. “He’s a really talented guy. He has to get the offense. I guess whoever’s out there is out there.”

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Groundhog Day continues for Ravens at quarterback

Posted on 22 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If you listened closely, you can almost hear the strains of “I Got You Babe” in the background as Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about his starting quarterback for Week 16.

Groundhog Day continues for the Ravens as Harbaugh wouldn’t even commit to veteran Matt Schaub being his starter if healthy enough to play, a departure from the last two weeks that were already filled with uncertainty. With the 34-year-old dealing with a chest injury, Jimmy Clausen has started each of the last two games for Baltimore.

Who will be under center for the 4-10 Ravens against Pittsburgh on Sunday is anyone’s guess.

“I just don’t want to put any parameters on it right now,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a unique situation right now that we’re in, obviously. It’s different than normal. We’ll see how it plays out. We’re probably not going to say anything. We’ll see who the guy is. I don’t know who the guy is going to be right now at this stage, so we’ll see.”

As if there wasn’t enough discussion about whether Schaub or Clausen would start the previous two weeks, the recently-signed Ryan Mallett figures to now enter the discussion over these final two games of 2015. Signed through next season on a contract that doesn’t include any guaranteed money, the troubled Mallett is an obvious candidate to be a healthy Joe Flacco’s backup in 2016.

In addition to finding out if the 27-year-old has learned from the mistakes that led to his dismissal in Houston, the Ravens would probably like to see Mallett play before the season concludes if he’s up to speed with the offense to a reasonable degree.

“We’ll see how that goes. He has done a good job,” Harbaugh said. “He has been here since Tuesday, so he has done a good job. He has been here practically 24-7 learning the offense. We’ll see where it goes this week. Obviously, the clock is ticking. If we want to see him this year, we’re going to have to put him out [there] pretty quick, but that’s a matter of whether he’s ready to play. We also want to do justice to our chances to win the game, too.”

Given the lack of a supporting cast on offense, none of their three options at quarterback would appear to give the Ravens a good chance to beat either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. But at the very least, Clausen’s performance should propel him into the conversation for the backup job next season, especially considering he’s spent just a month with the organization. In two games with the Ravens against quality defenses, Clausen has completed 57.6 percent of his pass attempts for 555 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.

A solid backup quarterback should give a team a chance to win a couple games in the short term if he has a good supporting cast around him. Of course, it’s only been two games, but Clausen has played well enough to make you think he could do that if the Ravens weren’t already so depleted on offense.

With Flacco expected to be sidelined until training camp — and not guaranteed to be ready for those first practices in late July — the Ravens would be wise to have two viable backup options for the spring and summer. Why not allow Clausen and Mallett to battle it out for the backup job in the preseason?

Many have already anointed Mallett the backup for 2016 without knowing whether he’s learned his lesson and is finally committed to putting his talents to good use and realizing his potential. With Mallett’s contract guaranteeing nothing but a chance, Clausen should also be re-signed if he doesn’t receive a more attractive opportunity elsewhere.

But given the lack of starting quarterbacks around the league, let alone backups, other quarterback-needy teams may come calling with an opportunity to potentially compete for a starting job, something that wouldn’t happen in Baltimore.

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Ravens thoughts on Aiken, Pittsburgh, injuries, Pro Bowl

Posted on 22 December 2015 by Luke Jones

Kamar Aiken is one of the last men standing in the Ravens offense.

In a lost season on so many levels, the Central Florida product has established himself as a productive NFL receiver and an important piece moving forward. His 62 catches for 802 yards — already the 24th-highest single-season receiving yardage total in franchise history — and five touchdowns would make for a good season without accounting for the two games he still has to add to those totals.

In the six games since Steve Smith suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 8, Aiken has caught 37 passes for 469 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers put the 6-foot-2 receiver on pace for a 98-catch, 1,250-yard season over a full 16 games. Of course, the Ravens currently don’t have a whole lot besides Aiken in terms of viable pass-catching targets — Torrey Smith’s production similarly ballooned in 2013 — but he’s also played with three different quarterbacks including the last two games with Jimmy Clausen, who’s been with Baltimore for all of a month.

It’s been impressive work from the former practice-squad receiver who had never made an NFL reception before last season. But Aiken’s emergence shouldn’t make general manager Ozzie Newsome feel he’s set at wide receiver this offseason.

Reports persist that Steve Smith is likely to return if his rehabilitation goes well, but he will also be 37 next year and coming off a serious injury that impacts explosiveness. It’d be foolish to doubt such a fierce competitor’s desire to return and be productive in 2016, but expecting him to come back as a No. 1 option like nothing ever happened would be unrealistic — and unfair.

Breshad Perriman will be back, but the Ravens haven’t seen their 2015 first-round pick play as much as a snap in a preseason game. He will need to prove his knee is healthy and that he can contribute as an NFL wide receiver before anyone signs off on him as the No. 1 receiver of the future.

With a plethora of needs on both sides of the ball, the Ravens may not need to draft a receiver in the first round this spring, but another wideout should firmly be on Newsome’s radar in the first few rounds of the draft. Otherwise, Baltimore will once again enter a season with too many questions at a position that’s been an Achilles heel for much of the 20-year history of the franchise.

At the very least, Aiken is shaping up to be a dependable possession receiver — a poor man’s Anquan Boldin — and the one commodity at the position that the Ravens can really trust while shaping their 2016 roster this offseason.

Bracing for Pittsburgh

Based on the number of Seattle and Kansas City fans that made their way to M&T Bank Stadium over the last two weeks, Steelers fans may make Sunday’s game feel like it’s being played at Heinz Field, which would be a disheartening conclusion to a home schedule that has already included five losses — most in franchise history.

I’ll never judge fans for selling their tickets — personal seat licenses and season tickets are a heck of a financial commitment for mere entertainment — but you’d like to see Ravens fans protect their home turf against their biggest rival if at all possible. I wrote about this topic earlier this season, but I also won’t fault fans trying to make some money around the holiday season as the injury-ravaged hometown team is barely recognizable at this point.

To add insult to injury, the Steelers can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a New York Jets loss against New England on Sunday. And, oh yeah, Pittsburgh has scored 30 or more points in six straight games and will be facing a pass defense that has offered little resistance all season.

Optimists will call it a rivalry game in which anything can happen, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for Ravens fans to brace themselves for it to get ugly two days after Christmas.

Injury excuse

With the preseason feel of recent games that have followed the loss of quarterback Joe Flacco, the narrative surrounding the 2015 Ravens — particularly from a national perspective — now centers around their numerous injuries.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore became the 21st Ravens player to officially be lost to a season-ending injury when he was placed on injured reserve with a back ailment on Monday, but many of the significant names on that list went down after the season was already in the dumpster. Below is a look at the Ravens’ Week 8 starting lineup when they sported a 1-6 record and welcomed San Diego to Baltimore:

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My point?

Injuries are certainly part of the story — particularly the early losses of Terrell Suggs and Perriman — but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that’s the only — or even the most — significant explanation for the team’s failures this year. It was apparent early in the season that a number of problems unrelated to injuries contributed to this nightmare season.

The loss of players like Flacco, Smith, and Justin Forsett merely turned a lost year into a punchline with players now on the field whom fans have needed to google on a weekly basis.

Pro Bowl picks

The NFL will announce its Pro Bowl selections Tuesday night and while no Ravens players won the fan vote, coaches and players account for two-thirds of the voting.

My picks would be guard Marshal Yanda, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, and punter Sam Koch.

Yanda has shown no signs of slowing down as he should be in line for his fifth straight Pro Bowl invitation. Meanwhile, Williams has proven himself as the top run-stopping nose tackle in the NFL and has steadily received more praise around the league this season, leading you to believe he has a solid chance to have his name called. But even as Haloti Ngata learned several years ago, players are sometimes deserving of the Pro Bowl a year or two before they are finally recognized to go.

I’m pulling for Koch to finally earn a trip to the Pro Bowl as he is leading the NFL in net punting for the second straight year and is the longest-tenured Ravens player behind only Suggs. Now in his 10th season in Baltimore, Koch has routinely been one of the better punters in the NFL and has brought innovation to the position that should be recognized with a trip to Honolulu.

Interception perspective

Not only do the Ravens rank last in the NFL with just four interceptions, but 10 players around the league have more than four this season. The previous franchise low for interceptions in a season was 11 set in 2005 and matched last season.

Future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed collected more than four picks in a season seven different times in his career.

Baltimore has just one interception in its last 11 games.

Where have you gone, Ravens defense of old?

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Ravens-Chiefs: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen are both active, but mystery still surrounds the quarterback position for the Ravens as they host the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.

After missing last week’s loss to Seattle with a chest ailment, the 34-year-old Schaub practiced all week and was listed as probable on the final injury report. However, head coach John Harbaugh left himself wiggle room earlier in the week when he complimented Clausen’s play against the Seahawks and expressed belief that he had two good options at quarterback.

Based on pre-game work, Clausen appeared to be preparing to make his second straight start as he was far more active and taking the starting reps over Schaub, but the Ravens did not make an official announcement regarding a change to the projected starting lineup.

That uncertainty at quarterback wasn’t even considering the signing of Ryan Mallett, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game but is already signed for next season. The former Houston Texan would appear to be a decent bet to see the field before the 2015 season concludes.

Despite being listed as questionable with a calf injury, No. 2 running back Terrance West is active. The newly-promoted Terrence Magee is also active as the third-string back behind starter Buck Allen.

Young cornerbacks Tray Walker and Jumal Rolle are active along with defensive lineman Carl Davis after Harbaugh pledged earlier in the week that they all would receive more opportunities over the final three weeks of the season.

As expected, linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and cornerback Kyle Arrington (back) were all deactivated after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs will not only be without Pro Bowl outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), but they will be without starting left guard Jeff Allen (ankle). Houston was ruled out on Friday while Allen had been listed as questionable.

The Ravens and Chiefs will be meeting for the seventh time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first six. However, Baltimore has won the last four overall meetings against Kansas City, which includes a 30-7 win at Arrowhead Stadium in the first round of the 2010 playoffs.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for sunny skies with a high of 43 degrees and winds up to six miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

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

For the first time in franchise history, the Ravens will be wearing gold pants to go along with their purple jerseys, and the reaction on social media wasn’t favorable. Kansas City will don its white tops with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Ryan Mallett
WR Marlon Brown
CB Kyle Arrington
LB Albert McClellan
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

KANSAS CITY
QB Aaron Murray
WR De’Anthony Thomas
S Husain Abdullah
LB Justin Houston
G Jeff Allen
DL David King
DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The questions run rampant for the Ravens’ Week 15 meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Who’s starting at quarterback?

What will the secondary look like?

Does Sunday represent the Ravens’ last best chance to win another game before the most disappointing season in franchise history mercifully comes to an end?

Meanwhile, Kansas City comes to town having won seven in a row to erase a 1-5 start and enter Sunday holding the first of two wild-card spots in the AFC. Simply put, the Chiefs are exactly what the Ravens wanted to be after the worst start in franchise history, but it simply hasn’t happened for the latter.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Kansas City for the seventh time in their regular-season history with the series tied 3-3. Baltimore has lost three of the four meetings between the teams at M&T Bank Stadium, but the Ravens won the last of those home contests back in 2009. Counting the postseason, the Ravens have won their last four meetings with the Chiefs.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid the first five-loss home schedule in the 20-year history of the franchise …

1. The Chiefs will hold a plus-two turnover advantage in a microcosm of the season for both teams. Though their list of injuries isn’t quite as extensive, the Chiefs lost star running back Jamaal Charles for the season in October and has been without All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston since late November. Andy Reid’s team has kept ticking by forcing turnovers on defense and committing few with an efficient offense. Meanwhile, the Ravens rank 30th in takeaways (11) and 24th in giveaways (23). Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith won’t wow you with ability, but he’s thrown just four interceptions all year. Baltimore will be turning to Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen, who both struggle to protect the football. If both teams follow their 2015 scripts, the Chiefs will capitalize on the Ravens’ mistakes.

2. Elvis Dumervil will exploit former teammate Jah Reid for two quarterback sacks. As bizarre as it was to read that Reid received a three-year contract extension earlier this week, Pro Football Focus has graded the former Raven 73rd of 77 offensive tackles in the NFL this season. On top of that, the first overall pick of the 2013 draft, left tackle Eric Fisher, has graded only 37th overall, according to PFF. This should help Dumervil, who has been limited to just six sacks without a viable edge rusher playing on the opposite side. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to run some stunts to take advantage of an offensive line that’s allowed 41 sacks, fourth worst in the NFL. The Ravens defense ranks 20th in the league with only 28 sacks, but Dumervil will turn in a 2014-like performance on Sunday.

3. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will catch a touchdown pass and collect over 80 receiving yards. Kansas City sports the league’s 27th-ranked passing game, but Smith has effectively used his tight end to the tune of 59 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns this season. Whether trying to use linebackers or safeties, Baltimore has struggled to cover tight ends and Kelce will effectively move the chains to continue drives for the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens try to cover Kelce as inside linebacker Daryl Smith has been replaced more and more by Zach Orr in the nickel in recent weeks. And with Lardarius Webb now factoring into the rotation at safety, you wonder if even more communication issues are inevitable. Kelce will be ready to take advantage on Sunday.

4. The Baltimore secondary will offer new looks, but Alex Smith will throw for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week that it was time for young defensive backs such as 2015 fourth-round cornerback Tray Walker, second-year safety Terrence Brooks, and former Houston Texans cornerback Jumal Rolle to receive more opportunities. While it will be important to evaluate the aforementioned players in the final three weeks of the season, the results probably won’t be pretty for a defense that has repeatedly failed to be on the same page even with veterans on the field. Smith carries the dreaded “game manager” label, but he will take advantage of Baltimore mistakes to find Kelce and top receiver Jeremy Maclin for several big plays on Sunday.

5. The Ravens will rebound cosmetically from the Week 14 blowout loss, but Kansas City won’t provide enough help in a 23-14 defeat. Even while carrying a louder tone of resignation this week following an embarrassing loss to Seattle, Baltimore will return to its pattern of competing more like it did in the first 12 games of the season that were all decided by one possession. However, the injury-ravaged Ravens aren’t talented enough to beat a quality team without substantial help from the opposition. The Chiefs won’t figure to provide that assistance as they’ve committed just 12 turnovers all season, third fewest in the NFL. Either Jimmy Clausen or Matt Schaub will facilitate a couple scoring drives against the NFL’s 15th-ranked pass defense, but a couple Ravens mistakes will be the difference.

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Schaub probable, but Harbaugh mum on starter for Sunday

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked if he could settle a bet among reporters about whether he’d name his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against Kansas City, Ravens coach John Harbaugh answered in predictable fashion on Friday.

“There are probably high odds in one direction,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I’m probably not going to name a quarterback today. That’s probably all I have to say on the matter.”

After practicing fully on Thursday and Friday, veteran Matt Schaub was listed as probable on the final injury report of the week, but it remains to be seen whether he will resume starting duties. Harbaugh stated earlier in the week that he felt the Ravens had two good options in Schaub and Week 14 starter Jimmy Clausen.

The latter took at least half of the starter reps on Wednesday and Thursday, according to offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. Though Schaub appeared to be laboring at a couple different points during the viewing portions of practices this week, the “probable” designation makes it clear that Harbaugh’s decision over who starts will be more about performance than health for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

“He looked good,” Harbaugh said. “I won’t say he’s 100 percent, but by Sunday he has a chance to be 100 percent. He looked good. He’s a tough guy. He worked hard this week.”

To no surprise, starting tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) was officially ruled out for Sunday’s game after Harbaugh said he wouldn’t be able to play this week and could be lost for the rest of the season. Linebacker Albert McClellan (ankle), cornerback Kyle Arrington (back), and wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) were all listed as doubtful to play after missing all three practices this week.

After being limited by a calf injury on Thursday, running back Terrance West missed Friday’s workout and is questionable to play. The Ravens added rookie Terrence Magee to the 53-man roster earlier this week, and he would serve as the No. 2 running back behind Buck Allen if West cannot play.

Four-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is probable to play despite missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle issue. He was a full participant in the final workout of the week.

With Schaub listed as probable, it would seem highly unlikely that the newly-signed Ryan Mallett would receive any playing time on Sunday, but he has made a good first impression with the organization, according to his offensive coordinator.

“He’s taking this very seriously,” Trestman said on Thursday. “He has been here 24-7 the last three days doing everything he can to soak up as much of the offense as he can, and what has impressed me most — and we all see his assets, his physical ability — but he has football intelligence. He has picked up some verbiage very quickly. We’ve thrown him in there in practice the first days he was here; we put him in there. He has had six to 12 plays working with the guys.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs officially ruled out All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston (knee), but fellow Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) is probable to play.

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

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds up to five miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (back)
DOUBTFUL: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Albert McClellan (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Terrance West (calf)
PROBABLE: LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)

KANSAS CITY
OUT: S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Jeff Allen (ankle), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
PROBABLE: QB Chase Daniel (toe), DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), LB Tamba Hali (knee), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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Schaub returns to practice, Clausen takes most reps

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — An ever-changing quarterback situation is likely to remain a mystery all week as the Ravens continue preparations for their Week 15 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Veteran Matt Schaub (chest) returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday while Week 14 starter Jimmy Clausen continued to take most of the first-team reps, according to head coach John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the newly-signed Ryan Mallett will spend the week working with the scout team while he’s brought up to speed in learning the Baltimore offense.

“He was in meetings pretty much all day yesterday with [quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg] and then studying on his own trying to learn our offense and learn this game plan to be ready in case he’s needed,” said Harbaugh, who added that there was “absolutely a chance” that Mallett could play before the 2015 season is over. “I think that’s where we’re at for the rest of the year. Obviously, he’s a guy that has had a certain amount of success in the NFL, has a lot of talent.”

The Ravens were missing a number of players from Wednesday’s practice including guard Marshal Yanda (knee), linebackers Elvis Dumervil (non-injury) and Albert McClellan (ankle), cornerback Kyle Arrington (back), wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (back). Harbaugh has already ruled out Gillmore for Sunday’s game.

Dumervil and McClellan were both shaken up at different points during Sunday’s loss to Seattle before returning to action.

Promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday, running back Terrence Magee and cornerback Jumal Rolle were also present and working as official members of the 53-man roster. With return specialist Raheem Mostert no longer on the roster, Magee as well as punt returner Kaelin Clay could receive opportunities to return kickoffs against the Chiefs.

“Both those guys work back there. You see it in practice,” Harbaugh said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “Those are both possibilities, and the way the roster goes, Raheem is going to be back here [on the practice squad] practicing unless something happens unexpected. He could be out there Sunday as well.”

The “unexpected” did happen with Mostert, however, as the Cleveland Browns claimed the rookie running back and returner off waivers on Wednesday afternoon. This came just two days after Cleveland was awarded former Ravens offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson off waivers.

Meanwhile, Kansas City’s impact push rushers were missing from Wednesday’s workout as outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston both sat out with knee injuries. The pair have combined to collect 14 sacks this season.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Kyle Arrington (back), WR Marlon Brown (back), LB Elvis Dumervil (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), Albert McClellan (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Kelechi Osemele (knee), QB Matt Schaub (chest)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Tamba Hali (knee), S Husain Abdullah (concussion), LB Justin Houston (knee), WR De’Anthony Thomas (concussion), RB Spencer Ware (rib)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OL Jeff Allen (ankle), DE Mike DeVito (concussion/shoulder), TE Travis Kelce (groin/quad)

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Ravens quarterback situation remains cloudy entering Week 15

Posted on 14 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Is a quarterback controversy brewing for a 4-9 football team?

Or at least something like as the Ravens play out the string.

Following Jimmy Clausen’s better-than-anticipated start — albeit one that did not include a touchdown for the Ravens in a 35-6 loss to Seattle — head coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism that veteran Matt Schaub would be able to return to play against Kansas City on Sunday. However, the eighth-year coach then indicated that Clausen may continue as the starting quarterback for Week 15.

“If he’s at 100 percent, and he’s ready to go — or close to it — and you feel like he can go out there and win for us, then he will play,” said Harbaugh about the 34-year-old Schaub, who threw three touchdowns and four interceptions in two starts filling in for the injured Joe Flacco. “If we feel like it’s a better option to go with Jimmy, then we’ll do that. Jimmy played well. Jimmy didn’t do anything to hurt his chances of playing next week, so I feel like we have two good options there.”

Claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears three weeks ago, Clausen completed 23 of 40 passes for a career-high 274 yards while throwing one interception against a Seattle pass defense that entered Week 14 ranked fourth in the NFL. The 2010 second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers lacks Schaub’s track record, but the Ravens may view Clausen as having more upside as the backup to Flacco in 2016.

Whoever is serving as the No. 2 quarterback next year will need to work as the starter for spring organized team activities and perhaps even the start of training camp as Flacco rehabilitates a surgically-repaired left knee. That’s why the Ravens might be evaluating the current quarterback picture with more scrutiny than usual for a team that was officially eliminated from postseason contention in Week 14.

According to an ESPN report on Monday, the Ravens were set to sign former Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett, but Harbaugh wasn’t ready to make it official during his Monday press conference. Mallett made six starts for Houston over the last two seasons, but inconsistent play as well as questions about his dedication led to him being cut earlier this season.

“No, I can’t confirm it. I haven’t been informed of that [signing],” Harbaugh said. “We worked him out a couple weeks ago. He had a good workout, and he had some personal things that he had to work through. If that happens in the near future, that’d be great. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But that’s nothing I’ve been told that we’ve done, to date.”

Baltimore currently has three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster after promoting practice-squad member Bryn Renner over the weekend to serve as Clausen’s backup against the Seahawks. Schaub was deactivated after being listed as questionable to play with a chest ailment on last week’s injury report.

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Ravens-Seahawks: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It’s 65 degrees in mid-December and Jimmy Clausen is the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.

Thanks a lot, climate change.

Yes, Clausen will start against the two-time defending champion Seattle Seahawks, becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start twice against the same opponent in the same season while playing for two different teams. Playing for an injured Jay Cutler in Week 3, Clausen and the Chicago Bears were shut out in a 26-0 defeat on Sept. 27.

After being listed as questionable on the final injury report and missing practices all week, Matt Schaub is inactive with what was listed as a chest injury. The 34-year-old veteran was banged up significantly in last week’s loss to Miami, slamming his head against the ground and finishing the game with knee and shoulder soreness.

Promoted to the practice squad on Saturday, Bryn Renner will serve as the backup quarterback to Clausen. Renner spent the entire offseason and summer with the Ravens before being released from the practice squad in mid-December.

Perhaps an even more intriguing development than the quarterback situation is the Baltimore offensive line where Kelechi Osemele lined up at left tackle during pre-game warm-ups. Eugene Monroe was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a shoulder ailment on Saturday, but it appears that the Ravens have seen enough from second-year lineman James Hurst at the position.

Osemele is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, so it appears that the Ravens want to at least explore the possibility of him playing left tackle, the position he played at Iowa State before he was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft. This would be his first NFL start at left tackle.

As expected, tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) is inactive, meaning rookie Maxx Williams moves to the top of the depth chart. Despite sitting out last Sunday’s game with a concussion, Williams is active and will start with Gillmore out and fellow rookie Nick Boyle suspended for the rest of the season. Former practice-squad member Konrad Reuland will serve as the No. 2 tight end.

Former Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews is active for the Ravens after being promoted from the practice squad on Saturday. Third-year receiver Marlon Brown will miss his third straight game with a back injury.

The Ravens and Seahawks will be meeting for the fifth time in the regular season with the teams splitting the first four contests. Seattle is visiting M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but the Seahawks have won the last two games played between these teams.

Sunday’s forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to four miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Walt Coleman.

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

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Matt Schaub
WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
TE Crockett Gillmore
TE Richard Gordon
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

SEATTLE
WR B.J. Daniels
CB Tye Smith
FS Steven Terrell
RB Marshawn Lynch
OL Kristjan Sokoli
DE Demarcus Dobbs
DT Jordan Hill

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Ravens-Seahawks: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Luke Jones

We’ve officially reached the silly season for the disappointing 2015 Ravens.

Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe became the latest to be placed on injured reserve on Saturday.

Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore is doubtful to play with a back injury and rookie Nick Boyle was suspended for the rest of the season, prompting the signings of tight ends Konrad Reuland and Richard Gordon earlier this week.

And Jimmy Clausen — who hasn’t even been a Raven for three weeks — is likely to start at quarterback against two-time defending NFC champion Seattle on Sunday. The Seahawks have won three straight games by a combined 56 points and sport a defense ranking fourth or better in virtually any significant category you can find.

You’ll excuse me if I’m having a difficult time taking these predictions seriously anymore.

Alas, it’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Seahawks for just the fifth time ever with the teams having split the first four contests. Seattle is playing at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2003, but has won each of the last two meetings with Baltimore.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to avoid clinching their first losing season since 2007 …

1. Clausen will not be shut out again against Seattle, but his performance won’t be pretty. The promotion of Bryn Renner to the 53-man roster on Saturday said everything you need to know about the Ravens’ confidence level in Matt Schaub being able to start against the Seahawks. Considering the depleted offensive cast, it doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback. Clausen is set to become the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start two games against the same team while playing for two different teams in one season. Sunday’s performance will go better than his Week 3 start for Chicago, but Clausen won’t throw for more than 150 yards and will commit two turnovers in an almost-impossible spot.

2. Buck Allen will lead the Ravens in receiving for the second straight week. Kamar Aiken has played respectably since becoming the de facto No. 1 receiver in place of Steve Smith, but he won’t be able to find room against Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, which will force Clausen to check down repeatedly to Allen out of the backfield. The rookie running back has been a bright spot, particularly with his ability to catch passes, and he will follow his 12-catch, 107-yard performance against Miami with 70-plus receiving yards. He won’t find much room between the tackles against the NFL’s third-ranked run defense, but Allen will still be Baltimore’s best option to move the chains on Sunday.

3. Russell Wilson will throw for two touchdowns and run for another. The Ravens defense has shown improvement in recent weeks, but that came against an underwhelming list of offenses. In addition to having the league’s top-ranked rush offense, Wilson has thrown a whopping 11 touchdown passes over his last three games without tossing an interception. Much like the dilemma they face every year when playing Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens must find ways to make Wilson uncomfortable while still keeping him in the pocket. The defense will play well for stretches, but second-half fatigue will ultimately lead to Wilson making big plays with his arm and his legs.

4. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will combine to collect 3 1/2 sacks against an overwhelmed offensive line. Second-year tackle James Hurst has started six games in place of Monroe this year, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman acknowledged that the Ravens have shuffled the offensive line during practices this week, making it possible that we see a new look on Sunday. Unfortunately, it won’t matter as Seattle’s pair of defensive ends will be too tough in addition to Clausen being indecisive in the pocket. Even if the Ravens had a full and healthy offense on the field, the Seahawks’ front would be a lot to handle. At this point, it almost seems unfair.

5. The Ravens will break their streak of 12 consecutive games being decided by one possession in a 29-10 loss. It’s the NFL, so anything could happen. A few turnovers and a special-teams score or two can dramatically change the outlook of any game, but the Ravens are just too undermanned to objectively think they have much of a chance to win on Sunday. Considering the heart with which John Harbaugh’s team has competed throughout a trying season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Ravens make it closer than most expect. But this one is far more likely to turn ugly than for the Ravens to pull off an upset, even playing at home.

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