Tag Archive | "Matt Schaub"


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Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 30 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Once upon a time, Matt Schaub was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but the 34-year-old hasn’t made a start in nearly two years and has long since been forgotten by much of the football world.

After losing Joe Flacco to a season-ending knee injury last week, the Ravens have no other choice but to turn to Schaub against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night. Not only does Flacco’s streak of 137 consecutive starts (counting the postseason) officially come to an end, but Schaub will become the first not named Flacco to start at quarterback for the Ravens since Troy Smith on Dec. 30, 2007, which marked the final game for both Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden and Super Bowl XXXV winning coach Brian Billick.

Of course, Flacco headlines a list of season-ending injuries to key Baltimore starters that includes wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Terrell Suggs, running back Justin Forsett, and center Jeremy Zuttah. To make matters worse, the Ravens will be without starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) against the Browns after both were listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

James Hurst will start at left tackle while Ryan Jensen will receive his second straight start in place of the injured Osemele, leaving little experience protecting Schaub’s blindside in his first start since Dec. 29, 2013, his final game with the Houston Texans.

Former Browns running back and Towson standout Terrance West is active and will play in his first game for his hometown team. The 2014 third-round pick is expected to back up rookie Buck Allen, who is making his first NFL start in place of the injured Forsett.

As expected, second-year defensive end Brent Urban will make his NFL debut after being activated from the injured reserve list late last week. Urban suffered a torn biceps in early August and was placed on IR with the designation to return at the start of the season. The 2014 fourth-round pick missed his entire rookie season due to a knee injury suffered early in his first training camp.

With Urban active, rookie defensive lineman Carl Davis is a healthy scratch for the first time this season after seeing his playing time decrease in recent weeks.

Rookie wide receiver Daniel Brown and rookie guard Kaleb Johnson are also active after being promoted to the 53-man roster from the practice squad earlier in the day.

As expected, third-year receiver Marlon Brown was deactivated with a back injury.

The Browns are dealing with their own share of injuries as cornerback Joe Haden, starting guard Joel Bitonio, and wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel were among their inactives. The recently-demoted Johnny Manziel is active, however, and will serve as Cleveland’s No. 3 quarterback behind new starter Josh McCown and backup Austin Davis.

Monday night’s referee will be Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Monday night forecast in Cleveland calls for cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-40s with winds up to nine miler per hour.

Baltimore will wear white jerseys with black pants while the Browns sport brown jerseys with orange pants for their rare nationally-televised home game.

Monday marks the 34th overall meeting between these AFC North foes with Baltimore holding a 24-9 advantage. However, the Browns are seeking their first season sweep of the Ravens since 2007, which also happened to be Baltimore’s last losing season.

Ogden, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Flacco are arguably the best — or at least the most important — players in franchise history, but Monday marks the first time the Ravens ever play a game without any of them on the field.

Below are Monday night’s inactives:

WR Marlon Brown
CB Tray Walker
CB Cassius Vaughn
OT Eugene Monroe
G Kelechi Osemele
DT Carl Davis
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore

WR Andrew Hawkins
WR Taylor Gabriel
CB Joe Haden
CB Pierre Desir
S Don Jones
G Joel Bitonio
DL Randy Starks

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Ravens make roster moves hours before Monday night game

Posted on 30 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens made changes to their 53-man roster hours before their Monday night game in Cleveland.

Offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson and wide receiver Daniel Brown were promoted to the 53-man roster while wide receiver Chuck Jacobs was cut and tight end Chase Ford (shoulder) was placed on injured reserve on Monday morning.

With starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) both listed as doubtful on the final injury report, the Ravens were facing the prospects of having just six healthy offensive linemen for Monday’s game against the Browns. A Rutgers product signed as a rookie free agent in the spring, Johnson played well in the preseason and had spent the entire season on the Ravens’ practice squad.

The 6-foor-4, 316-pound guard was set to serve as the primary interior line backup in his first game on the active roster.

Meanwhile, Brown was a bit of a preseason standout who caught second-half touchdown passes against Philadelphia and Atlanta. Entering training camp, the 6-foot-5 James Madison product was considered an intriguing developmental project and had spent a sizable portion of the regular season on the practice squad.

Jacobs had been signed to the practice squad on Nov. 4 and had been promoted to the 53-man roster last week, but he did not appear in a game for the Ravens.

With rookie tight end Nick Boyle missing last week’s game with a foot injury, the Ravens had signed Ford as extra depth earlier in the month, but he was added to the injury report on Friday with a shoulder injury.

The Ravens now have 17 players on IR before hitting the month of December, and that doesn’t include veteran tight end Dennis Pitta, who has spent the entire 2015 season on the physically unable to perform list.

Schaub on verge of being paid

Though the Ravens never envisioned Matt Schaub playing when they signed him in March, the 34-year-old is set to make an additional $1 million if he plays 10 percent of Baltimore’s snaps, something that now looks like a formality with starter Joe Flacco out for the season.

It’s difficult envisioning Schaub having too much success with the depleted offense around him, but the playing time he’s now on track to receive will eat up $1 million of Baltimore’s 2016 salary cap since bonuses and incentives aren’t applied until the following season. Schaub is also being paid a $2 million base salary for the 2015 season.

The Ravens probably wouldn’t be too disappointed if Schaub is unable to lead them to many wins down the stretch — it would help their 2016 draft positioning, after all — but they’d like to see him show enough to feel confident in re-signing him as a backup who could step in for Flacco during spring organized team activities and training camp if the franchise quarterback isn’t fully recovered from his knee injury.

Canty in ominous position in locker room

The Baltimore locker room in Owings Mills holds a 2015 injury “graveyard” as the lockers of Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, and Justin Forsett are next to each other. Not only are those four individuals out for the year, but they’ve been placed on IR in the order of their lockers from right to left, beginning with Suggs in mid-September and continuing most recently with Forsett last week.

So, who lockers to the left of Forsett?

It’s defensive end Chris Canty, who has noticed the same trend. The 33-year-old missed four games earlier this season with a calf injury.

“Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby,” said Canty, quoting the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s character in the comedy Talladega Nights. “I see where you’re going with that, and I’m going to stay prayed up.”

Next up

In Week 13, the Ravens travel to Miami to take on the disappointing Dolphins, who suffered an abysmal 38-20 loss to the New York Jets in Week 12.

Having already parted ways with head coach Joe Philbin in early October, Miami fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and promoted quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to the position on Monday. Entering the season expecting to compete for a playoff spot, the Dolphins are in last place in the AFC East with a 4-7 record.

The Dolphins ran the ball just nine times against the Jets while quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw 58 passes and was sacked three times in Sunday’s loss.

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 29 November 2015 by Luke Jones

What do two bad teams with headaches at the quarterback position need more than anything?

A national audience for Monday Night Football?

Much to the chagrin of ESPN and NFL executives, the Matt Schaub era begins Monday night with the 3-7 Ravens traveling to Cleveland to take on the 2-8 Browns. It’s never a good thing when a primetime game holds far more draft implications than influences on the playoff race, but head coach John Harbaugh will try to navigate his team to a win in his first-ever regular-season game without Joe Flacco under center.

Of course, Flacco is just one of many injuries that have gutted a team that entered the 2015 season with Super Bowl aspirations. Now, it remains to be seen whether the Ravens will even win another game over their final six weeks.

Meanwhile, the Browns are rested coming off their bye week, but controversy surrounds their football team with the latest off-field concerns leading to second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel being benched.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Cleveland meet for the 34th time in their regular-season history and the Browns look for their first regular-season sweep of Baltimore since 2007. The Ravens hold a 24-9 advantage in the all-time series and are 11-5 playing in Cleveland.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to win its second road game of the season …

1. Buck Allen will surpass 135 total yards in his first NFL start. The rookie is the most compelling Ravens player to watch for the remainder of the season, and he’ll be facing the NFL’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Of course, Baltimore is far from 100 percent along its offensive line, and the Browns are likely to use eight men in the box to try to take away the run and force Schaub to make plays through the air. This will keep Allen from piling up huge numbers on the ground, but he’ll be a favorite receiver out of the backfield for his 34-year quarterback making his first start in almost two years.

2. Paul Kruger and Armonty Bryant will combine for three sacks against a battered Baltimore offensive line. As if life wasn’t difficult enough for Schaub without Steve Smith and Justin Forsett, Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele are doubtful to play and James Hurst and Ryan Jensen will be entrusted to protect his blindside. This spells trouble for someone who is already going to be readjusting his live-game clock after minimal playing time over the last two years. For all of the justified complaints about Monroe’s durability, Hurst is a major liability and Flacco paid the price for it last week.

3. Gary Barnidge and Crockett Gillmore will each catch touchdowns for their respective teams. The Browns tight end had eight catches for 139 yards and a touchdown in Cleveland’s Week 5 win over the Ravens and will follow that with another strong performance on Monday. Meanwhile, Gillmore will make the Browns pay for using a strong safety in the box by beating man coverage for a red-zone touchdown. Considering Schaub doesn’t have a particularly strong arm and his receivers have little experience, Gillmore will now become an even bigger part of what the Ravens do through the air.

4. Brent Urban will bat down a pass and collect a tackle in his NFL debut. Not even the Ravens know exactly what to expect from Urban, who has yet to play as much as a preseason game snap in his two years in the NFL. But this is the time for the organization to start to find out about the 2014 fourth-round pick. At 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, Urban should be an intriguing inside rusher in passing situations and will provide another option at the 5-technique defensive end spot. The Ravens thought enough of Urban to use the designation to return, so it will be interesting to finally watch him play.

5. Josh McCown will outplay Schaub in a listless 20-16 win for Cleveland. Neither of these teams are any good, but you generally side with the team who has the better quarterback and the Ravens likely would have preferred Manziel to start instead of McCown, who threw for over 450 yards in the Week 5 game at M&T Bank Stadium. Unless the Schaub from circa 2010 shows up — not the guy who has struggled mightily since 2013 — the Ravens just aren’t going to be a great bet to beat anyone for the rest of the season. There’s always a very real chance that the Browns self-destruct at a critical point in the game, but the Ravens have been just as guilty of doing that in this nightmare season.

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Clausen claimed by Ravens to back up Schaub at quarterback

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Needing a backup quarterback for new starter Matt Schaub, the Ravens were awarded veteran Jimmy Clausen off waivers from the Chicago Bears on Tuesday.

The injured Joe Flacco (knee) was officially placed on injured reserve to make room on the 53-man roster for the 28-year-old Clausen, who now reunites with former Chicago head coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. The 2010 second-round pick from Notre Dame had spent the last two seasons with the Bears after beginning his career with the Carolina Panthers.

Trying to add a No. 2 quarterback on short notice, the Ravens preferred someone with knowledge of Trestman’s offensive system, which would accelerate the learning curve with only several days to get ready for Monday night’s game in Cleveland.

“I think that would be a plus if we had that guy available,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the search for a new backup quarterback on Monday. “Someone who has some experience would be a plus.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Clausen has played in 19 games (12 starts) in his six-year career with most of that coming in his rookie season with Carolina. He has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 1,965 yards, five touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his career.

On Monday, Schaub will become the first player other than Flacco to start at quarterback for the Ravens in a regular-season game since Troy Smith on Dec. 30, 2007. Counting the postseason, Flacco had started 137 consecutive games for the Ravens.

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Cleveland benches Manziel ahead of Monday’s game with Ravens

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens won’t be the only team with a different starting quarterback for Monday’s game in Cleveland.

After videos and photos surfaced of Johnny Manziel partying over his bye week, the Browns announced Tuesday that veteran Josh McCown would start against the Ravens in a prime-time game featuring two of the worst teams in the AFC. A 2014 first-round pick and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, Manziel had recently been filling in for an injured McCown, who began the season as the Cleveland starter.

Browns head coach Mike Pettine had only announced last week that the 22-year-old would start the final six games in an effort to evaluate whether he could be the starting quarterback moving forward, but Manziel now becomes the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind McCown and Austin Davis.

The Ravens would have likely preferred to face the inexperienced Manziel on Monday night after McCown threw for a whopping 457 yards and two touchdowns in Baltimore in Week 5. The Browns won 33-30 in overtime to win their first game at M&T Bank Stadium since 2007.

Of course, the Ravens now have quarterback problems of their own after losing eighth-year starter and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco to a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s win over St. Louis. Veteran Matt Schaub will make his first start since the 2013 season on Monday night after serving as Flacco’s backup for the first 10 games of 2015.

On Tuesday, Baltimore claimed former Chicago quarterback Jimmy Clausen off waivers to back up Schaub.

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Ravens indicate Flacco could be ready for start of training camp

Posted on 23 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, MD. — A magnetic resonance imaging exam confirmed Joe Flacco suffered two torn ligaments in his left knee in Sunday’s game, but the Ravens remain hopeful that their franchise quarterback will be ready for the start of next year’s training camp.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Monday that surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments won’t take place until after the swelling subsides in Flacco’s knee over the next week or two. However, the early prognosis suggests the Ravens won’t need to drastically alter their plans for the quarterback position in 2016.

“It’s probably way early and, obviously, speculative,” Harbaugh said. “But my indications that I’ve been given would be that he would be back for the start of training camp and that it wouldn’t be an issue. However, as we well know, those are always things that get determined based on how the rehab goes.”

Conventional projections suggest a recovery period of nine to 12 months for tears to the ACL and MCL, but some athletes have made it back sooner depending on a variety of factors including how rigorously they rehab. Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 9, 2014 and was fully cleared to participate in the Cardinals’ minicamp this past June, a recovery that took only seven months. Palmer knew what to expect after suffering the second ACL tear of his career, but he is also five years older than Flacco, who said Sunday that he’d never suffered more than a MCL sprain before.

Though his mobility and speed are underrated, Flacco isn’t a quarterback who has relied heavily on his legs as he ran the ball just 13 times in 10 games this season. The rehabilitation process isn’t quite as challenging for a quarterback compared to a skill position player like a wide receiver or cornerback who depends on constant changes in direction and quick lateral movement.

“Joe can run and he’s athletic, but if there is some drop-off, that’s not the main thing for the quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “He’s certainly going to have plenty enough athleticism, even if there is some drop-off there. The way technology is, guys bounce back from these things really well and I have every expectation that he’ll bounce back 100 percent and be stronger than ever and be ready to roll next year and be in great shape like he always is. That’s a long way away, but right now, there’s no reason to think he won’t come back better than ever.”

While the Ravens look forward to having Flacco return next season, they will now face the reality of playing a regular-season game without him for the first time since Dec. 30, 2007 when he was still a senior at the University of Delaware. His streak of 137 consecutive starts (counting playoff games) will officially come to an end Monday night when veteran Matt Schaub starts against Cleveland.

For his head coach and most of his teammates, it will be uncharted territory not having Flacco under center. The 34-year-old Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowl selection with Houston, will become only the second starting quarterback of the Harbaugh era.

It won’t be an easy chore for a 3-7 team that was already highly unlikely to move back into the playoff race, but the Ravens will still try to push through their biggest injury to date.

“I don’t know how many coaches have had that kind of a run with their quarterbacks,” Harbaugh said. “It’s definitely been a great blessing and something I’ve been very grateful for over the years — all of us here. Not just the [head] coach but all the coaches and all the players and the organization have had that remarkable run with a quarterback that just has really stayed healthy. He’s been an iron man.

“This will be a change for all of us and something that will be a big challenge for us. It’s a challenge I wouldn’t say we’re looking forward to — we’d rather it not be the case — but we’re not going to shy away from it.”

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Ravens couldn’t be further from “paradise” right now

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Upon being inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime on Sunday, former Ravens safety Ed Reed ended his brief speech by belting out the refrain from “Two Tickets to Paradise,” conjuring memories from the franchise’s victory in Super Bowl XLVII.

The Ravens couldn’t be further from that paradise almost 34 months later after losing Joe Flacco — the MVP 0n that memorable night in New Orleans — to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the final drive of the 16-13 win over St. Louis. Of course, Baltimore’s 2015 playoff hopes were all but officially gone long before Flacco and 2014 Pro Bowl running back Justin Forsett suffered season-ending injuries on Sunday, but losing your franchise quarterback to a serious injury rocks an organization from top to bottom.

The season from hell continues.

“I’m probably still in shock a little bit,” said Flacco, who started the Ravens’ last 137 games counting the playoffs and will now miss the first action of his eight-year career. “You play football and you play as long as I have and you play as hard as we do out there, then stuff like this happens. You have to just stand tall and be tough about it.

“That’s all you can do.”

At 3-7 and now preparing for the final six games with veteran backup Matt Schaub at the helm, the Ravens will play out the string with eyes pointing squarely toward the future and an unsettling offseason. In addition to improving a roster lacking game-changing talent on both sides of the ball, general manager Ozzie Newsome will need to renegotiate Flacco’s contract that carries a $28.55 million salary cap figure in 2016 while not knowing for sure if the veteran signal-caller will be ready for the start of next season.

Until Flacco is healthy and back under center, the Ravens won’t be able to help but feel there’s a black cloud hanging over their heads.

In the meantime, the Ravens and their fans will receive a glimpse of life without their franchise quarterback. Troy Smith was the last quarterback not named Flacco to start a regular-season game for the Ravens when Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden was playing in his final game and Brian Billick was coaching his last contest on Dec. 30, 2007.

Jettisoned by Houston and Oakland in the last two years, Schaub will now be asked to compete without the Ravens’ top two receivers (Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman), top two running backs (Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro), and starting center (Jeremy Zuttah) entering training camp. Frankly, it’s a near-impossible situation for a 34-year-old many feared had already reached the end of the road as an NFL quarterback before signing a one-year deal to back up the durable Flacco.

The Ravens may be fortunate to win another game the rest of the way, which would at least help their position in the 2016 draft after the most disappointing season in franchise history. From that perspective, the ugly win over the Rams on Sunday felt more like a loss, especially after learning of Flacco’s injury minutes after Justin Tucker’s game-winning 47-yard field goal.

Anyone watching the Ravens play in 2015 knows the problems run deeper than a slew of injuries to impact players such as six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, tight end Dennis Pitta, Smith, and now Flacco and Forsett, but it’s difficult to recall too many NFL teams suffering such a number of injuries to high-impact players in recent memory. At least an already-poor record numbs the disappointment of losing Flacco compared to if the Ravens had been 7-3 and just seen their Super Bowl aspirations crushed on Sunday like Arizona experienced losing Carson Palmer to a torn ACL last November.

But you still can’t help but feel like the Ravens are snakebitten.

“I guess when it rains it pours,” outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “We’ve been dealing with it all year, from Suggs to Steve. It’s tough. … Nobody feels sorry for us. We’ve got to make sure we come out and prepare hard.”

What’s next?

Many wondered how the Ravens would respond to last week’s gut-wrenching loss to Jacksonville and if they would continue to compete in the way they have all season with one-possession outcomes in every game. Baltimore flirted with the wheels completely falling off the cart for much of Sunday’s game with more than 100 yards in penalties in the first half and scoring just three points through three quarters.

Receiving plenty of help from the sloppy Rams, the Ravens managed to pull out their third victory of the season by making fewer mistakes than their opponent in the end. But without Flacco — or Forsett — for the rest of the season on top of their many other injuries, when will enough finally become enough physically, mentally, and emotionally?

“It’s tremendously disappointing for those [injured] guys,” said John Harbaugh, who will coach his first game without Flacco under center next Monday night in Cleveland. “We’ll be fine as a football team. We’ll bounce back — that’s what you do. Matt Schaub can play quarterback, and he’s going to come in [and] he’s going to play very well.”

If only it were that simple, but what else can the Ravens coach really say at this point?

The Ravens were reminded on Sunday that it wasn’t that long ago that they reached paradise in raising the second Vince Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

But less than three years later, that memory feels a universe away.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens move a step closer to beginning their 20th season in Baltimore by welcoming the New Orleans Saints to M&T Bank Stadium in their preseason opener on Thursday night.

Most starters figure to receive little more than a cameo of one or two series as head coach John Harbaugh traditionally removes most starters by the end of the first quarter. Select veterans will play less — or not at all — while younger starters could see playing time into the start of the second quarter.

“It’ll be similar. We have a way that we like to do it here,” Harbaugh said. “It’s individualized to a great extent, but it’ll be similar to what you’ve seen in the past.”

Thursday may not mean much for the likes of Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Terrell Suggs, but the preseason presents a critical opportunity for young players to establish themselves as trustworthy contributors and for relative unknowns to leave impressions garnering roster consideration.

With heavy competition at a number of positions, many players will be looking to shine on Thursday, but Harbaugh warns that he and his coaching staff are looking for consistency in both practices and games. There are typically few surprises in their eyes despite fans and media still trying to become familiar with the 90-man preseason roster.

“The games are big, because that’s when the lights are on,” Harbaugh said. “Rarely do you see a guy that doesn’t do anything in practice and all of a sudden it comes out, and [he] lights it up in the game. If you had a guy who did that, you’d be suspicious of that. Is this guy for real? Was it a fluke situation? It’s the guy that does it every day in practice and then goes out and does it again in the game, that’s the guy who really gets your interest.”

Thursday marks the second straight year in which the Ravens will play the Saints in the preseason after they traveled to New Orleans for the 2014 preseason finale. The teams then met again at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the regular season with Baltimore prevailing in a 34-27 final on Nov. 24, 2014.

The Ravens are 2-0 against the Saints in the all-time preseason series and 5-1 against them in their regular-season history.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday night’s game against New Orleans.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. The Ravens could also elect to hold out select veterans such as No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith and starting offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Rick Wagner, who have not missed practice time this summer but are coming off health concerns that sidelined them in the offseason.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (hip), S Terrence Brooks (knee), S Matt Elam (biceps), DE Brent Urban (biceps)
DOUBTFUL: G John Urschel (concussion), G Robert Myers (concussion), DE DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (foot), WR Marlon Brown (back), DE Christo Bilukidi (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), S Kendrick Lewis (leg)

Five players to watch Thursday night

CB Lardarius Webb

It’s been a rocky start to training camp for the veteran cornerback after he failed his conditioning test upon reporting to Owings Mills. The 29-year-old passed the next day and missed only the first practice, but he has looked slower in coverage and doesn’t have the same explosiveness in changing direction as he once showed. The Ravens will be patient with Webb, but the memories of the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was in 2011 continue to fade, making you wonder if Rashaan Melvin and Kyle Arrington could push for his starting job as the season progresses.

“He has to go out and play and play well and make plays and get back to that level,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Then he’ll feel good about himself. If anybody has played any kind of ball at all, the only way to feel good about yourself is if you do something right. There’s nothing anybody can dream up for you.”

TE Crockett Gillmore

With there still being no real sign that Dennis Pitta will play this season and Maxx Williams developing slowly as most rookie tight ends do, the Ravens are going to need Gillmore to step up quickly. The organization is quietly expecting a good season from the 2014 third-round pick after he caught only 10 passes as a rookie. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound target has clearly established himself as the leader in a very young group of tight ends, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman would rest easier if Gillmore can be productive in the passing game during the preseason.

“I have high hopes for Crockett Gillmore,” Harbaugh said. “I really don’t want to shy away from that. I believe in him. I believe he’s going to be a really special player in this league. Now, it’s up to him to go do it.”

LB Za’Darius Smith

The comparisons to Pernell McPhee began immediately after Smith was selected in the fourth round of this spring’s draft, but the Ravens need him to be able to lend a hand as a pass rusher to fill that void. Whether he lines up on the edge or is moved around in sub packages, Smith figures to pick up many of McPhee’s valuable reps in passing situations and in spelling Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Kentucky product still has room to improve, but he’s flashed strength and impressive quickness in his first NFL training camp and will be someone to watch throughout the month.

“He’s so gifted, he’s talented. I think he’ll do it all, honestly,” Dumervil said. “He can play the run some inside, so I don’t want to cap him. The sky is the limit for him. Whatever he can retain as a rookie, I’m sure the coaches will do a great job using him.”

WR Jeremy Butler

Fans have heard coaches, players, and media sing the praises of Butler since the spring when he seemingly caught everything thrown his way and he’s carried that over with a good start to camp. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Butler originally turned heads last summer before the Ravens took advantage of his shoulder injury to give him a “redshirt” season. With Perriman and Brown missing extensive time, Butler has received a nice share of first-team reps when the Ravens use three- or four-wide sets and he’s held his own, but now you want to see him carry over that performance against outside competition.

“Jeremy has done well. He shows some great body control going up and making plays on the sideline,” Harbaugh said. “You always look for that in a receiver. Guys that can do that are very valuable — for him and for everybody else. Other guys are making plays, too. It’s just, can you sustain it? Can you stack it from one day to the next? I know he’s going to be determined to do that.”

QB Matt Schaub

Outside observers have seen the new Ravens veteran backup struggle in the spring and summer, but Harbaugh and his coaching staff have gone out of their way to stick up for the 34-year-old whenever asked. To no surprise, there’s a dramatic drop-off in watching Schaub throw compared to Flacco, but the Ravens were drawn to his similar style of play and felt the former Houston Texans quarterback would give them a better shot to win in the event of an injury than former backup Tyrod Taylor did. Needless to say, that assessment remains up for debate based on how he’s practiced.

“There’s no concern about that,” said quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg about Schaub’s ability to fill in for Flacco if necessary. “He had the one [tough year] in Houston, and then last year in Oakland, things didn’t go quite the way [he hoped]. He’s a very good quarterback, he has an awful lot of strengths, he’s very consistent and he knows much of this offense already. He’s just an excellent leader.”



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Ravens’ depth equipped to endure disappointing Urban injury

Posted on 09 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were intrigued with defensive end Brent Urban’s upside for 2015, but a deep defensive line appears equipped to overcome his second serious injury in a little over a year.

As was the case last summer prior to Urban tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the Ravens anticipated the 2014 fourth-round pick being an important part of the rotation with the potential to eventually move into the starting lineup. However, the presence of veterans Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson makes the injury easier to stomach despite the disappointment for the talented 6-foot-7 defensive end.

“That’s why coaches [always talk about] the next person to come up and execute and step up,” nose tackle Brandon Williams said. “We’re ready to go. We definitely wish him the best going in with his biceps and all, but the show must go on.”

A pair of offseason decisions now carry more significance in the aftermath of the Urban injury as the Ravens elected to re-sign both Canty and Guy after they hit the open market. After starting 24 games for Baltimore over the last two seasons, Canty was cut to save salary cap space this offseason before eventually being re-signed at a cheaper rate.

Some had believed the Ravens were prepared to get younger at the position before deciding to reunite with the 32-year-old. Now, they’ll need Canty to hold off Father Time a little longer after he contemplated retirement over the winter.

“Chris Canty is playing like a kid. He’s running around out there,” Harbaugh said. “I saw him chasing down a crack toss. He came under a block and was picking up his knees and chasing the thing down the line of scrimmage like he was 23 years old again. He looks good.”

Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks stresses the importance of his players being versatile enough to line up at multiple positions, but the Ravens’ biggest strength will be their sheer numbers in the trenches as there are eight linemen who project to have a reasonable chance to make the 53-man roster. The likes of Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Christo Bilukidi now see their roster chances likely improve with Urban’s injury.

Harbaugh didn’t give any indication that the Ravens would actively seek defensive line help after losing Urban, who has yet to play in even a preseason game in an injury-riddled start to his career. The group’s ceiling is likely lower without Urban, but the Ravens defensive line remains in good shape.

“We’re really deep in the [defensive] line, so I like the guys we have,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a deep group, and I’m really confident those guys will step up.”

Receiver concerns continue

The Ravens could be inching closer to getting rookie Breshad Perriman and the 6-foot-5 Marlon Brown back from injuries, but they continue to be hamstrung at the wide receiver position in the meantime.

In addition to the pair being sidelined, veteran starter Steve Smith was excused from Saturday’s practice due to a family matter and Kamar Aiken was given the day off due to being “fatigued,” according to Harbaugh.

With Baltimore’s top four receivers missing from the workout, Jeremy Butler, Michael Campanaro, and Darren Waller took most of the reps with the starting offense. Overall, the trio struggled to get consistent separation when competing against the starting defense.

The receiver absences created an opportunity for under-the-radar wideouts to make a statement, and rookie free agent DeAndre Carter caught a touchdown pass from backup Matt Schaub with cornerback Cassius Vaughn in coverage. Meanwhile, former Washington Redskin Aldrick Robinson was the opposite of impressive, dropping several passes over the course of the afternoon.

Harbaugh wouldn’t rule out Perriman for the preseason opener just yet, but it appears highly unlikely that the first-round pick will be ready to play on Thursday with only one partial practice under his belt to this point in the summer.

Meanwhile, Brown appears closer to returning as Harbaugh said his back is feeling better, but the Ravens are still waiting for his hamstring to improve, meaning he is unlikely to play against New Orleans, either.

Mosley in coverage

One of the more encouraging developments early in the summer has been the improved pass coverage from second-year inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

In what was an otherwise standout Pro Bowl season as a rookie, Mosley struggled in pass coverage a year ago, but he’s been much sharper covering tight ends and running backs so far in training camp.

Early in Saturday’s practice, Mosley broke perfectly on a Joe Flacco throw to Crockett Gillmore in the flat, intercepting the pass from the starting quarterback. However, the starting tight end got the best of Mosley later in practice, catching a touchdown during an 11-on-11 red-zone period.

Injury report

In addition to their top four receivers being absent, the Ravens were without offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion) and Robert Myers (concussion), cornerback Tray Walker (hamstring), and linebacker Zach Thompson (undisclosed) due to injuries on Saturday. Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) both observed parts of practice while remaining on the physically unable to perform list.

Tyson missed his second straight practice, but Harbaugh said he was unsure of there being an injury, adding that “something must have cropped up.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and right guard Marshal Yanda were given the day off, according to Harbaugh.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot) suited up to practice before leaving the field early in the session. He missed two days of practice after being stepped on during Wednesday’s workout. Tight end Maxx Williams practiced for a brief time after sitting out Friday, but he was still feeling the effects of being poked in the eye on Thursday.

With Yanda and Osemele both absent, Ryan Jense and Jah Reid worked as the first-team guards.

Free safety Kendrick Lewis tweaked his leg early on Saturday and observed the rest of practice from the sideline, an indication that the injury was unlikely to be serious.

Cornerback Chris Greenwood (hamstring) returned to practice.

Suggs on Schaub

Saturday was another difficult day for Schaub, who was repeatedly off-target with a number of throws.

At one point in practice, veteran outside linebacker Terrell Suggs took notice of Schaub’s errant passing before finally yelling, “Hey, Matt, your guys are the guys in purple!”

The offense dons purple jerseys while defensive players wear white during practices.

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Aiken making most of chances and other early Ravens observations

Posted on 03 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens continue to have high hopes for rookie first-round pick Breshad Perriman, but Kamar Aiken has made the most of his early opportunities in training camp.

Already expected to share starting reps with Perriman opposite veteran Steve Smith this summer, Aiken has caught mostly everything thrown his way, including impressive catches on consecutive Matt Schaub passes thrown behind him during Saturday’s workout. Aiken may not impress you with his speed, but all he needs is a hint of daylight to make plays, an encouraging trait for an NFL wide receiver.

With Perriman missing three straight practices due to a minor knee injury, Aiken has looked the part of a starting-caliber wide receiver in this very early stage of camp. I’ve heard more than one person compare Aiken’s skill set to that of Anquan Boldin, which is unfair but it shows how much the Ravens like the young 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver.

Aiken has also developed a really strong rapport with Joe Flacco, which always helps in any competition.

* Speaking of wide receivers, the Ravens could have an interesting decision on their hands with sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.

Upon being drafted, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Waller was certainly viewed as a project after playing in Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack at Georgia Tech, but he shows better route-running ability than you’d expect and looks like a promising red-zone target. It would be a stretch to expect him to play an extensive role as a rookie, but his jump-ball ability might be too appealing to pass up.

In a perfect world, the Ravens would probably like to stash Waller on the practice squad since they have an extensive list of young receivers in camp. But a strong preseason might make him difficult to hide, which could force the organization to keep him on the 53-man roster or find a way to stash him on injured reserve as teams around the league are known to do with developmental players from time to time.

* The Ravens lacked quality depth at cornerback long before a slew of injuries turned a problem into a full-blown crisis in 2014, but the state of the position is much improved a year later.

It goes without saying that Baltimore needs starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb to stay healthy, but the addition of veteran Kyle Arrington and the presence of young corners such as Rashaan Melvin, Tray Walker, and Quinton Pointer make the Ravens better equipped to endure some health issues than they were a year ago.

Despite his reputation for being a cornerback who should strictly operate in the slot, Arrington has performed well in outside coverage, which could allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to use Webb at the nickel spot where he’s excelled in the past. The Ravens could also use the 6-foot-2 Melvin — who they really like despite his poor showing against Tom Brady in the playoffs — outside if they’re matching up against an opponent with taller wide receivers.

It’s a far cry from a year ago when the Ravens were hoping that the combination of Asa Jackson and ex-Raven Chykie Brown would be enough depth behind Webb and Smith. Now, Jackson is firmly on the bubble with other young cornerbacks showing intriguing upside.

* It probably should come as no surprise after registering 41 receptions out of the backfield in his final season at USC, but rookie running back Buck Allen looks very smooth catching the football in Marc Trestman’s offensive system.

He has made some rookie mistakes, but Allen should find a way to get on the field in some passing situations if he can improve his pass blocking. A simple look at Matt Forte’s numbers over the last two years in Chicago shows how much Trestman likes throwing to running backs, so Allen would appear to be a good fit as a backup and potentially a starter down the road.

Justin Forsett is the clear starter, but the Ravens appear to have two viable options behind him in Allen and second-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.

* The depth along the defensive line was no secret entering training camp, but it’s remarkable to see how many NFL-caliber players are competing in this unit.

Expected to start with Haloti Ngata now in Detroit, Timmy Jernigan showed much ability as a pass rusher last year, but he’s played the run effectively early on in camp, even getting the best of the great Marshal Yanda on more than one occasion. He and rookie Carl Davis should eventually form a potent 1-2 punch at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot once occupied by Ngata.

Defensive end Brent Urban has returned from last year’s season-ending knee injury and looks like someone who could wreak havoc in sub packages and even push for Chris Canty’s starting job before the season is over.

The Ravens believe they have 10 defensive linemen in camp who are all capable of playing in the NFL, which will lead to some interesting decisions at the end of the summer.

* Rookie tight end Maxx Williams has looked better in the first week of training camp than he did in the spring, but he still has a lot of work to do to beat out Crockett Gillmore for the starting job.

Gillmore has gotten bigger and has shown improved ability as a receiver while continuing to be a superior blocker. In contrast, Williams needs to get stronger and hasn’t matured physically as he just turned 21 this spring.

Williams will have his opportunities to make plays in the passing game — he made a nice catch on a sideline pass on Saturday as safety Bryden Trawick bounced off him — but he may not be ready to be an every-down player as a rookie. The good news is Gillmore appears poised to take on a much larger role in his second season.

* Schaub has had his moments here and there, but there’s a dramatic drop-off watching him throw compared to Flacco, only confirming that the Ravens will pray that their franchise quarterback remains healthy.

The idea behind signing Schaub was that the offense wouldn’t need to change dramatically in the event of a Flacco injury compared to when Tyrod Tayor was the backup, but his physical tools just aren’t at a level where he needs them to be. In contrast, the Ravens may have been able to steal a win or two with the element of surprise in unleashing Taylor in the right situation at any point over the last few years.

You hope it’s a moot point and that Flacco continues his streak of never missing a game, but Schaub hasn’t inspired much confidence with his play in practices.

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