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Ravens right tackle Wagner earning attention in ways few expected

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Ravens right tackle Wagner earning attention in ways few expected

Posted on 05 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coaches offered similar sentiments over and over as second-year right tackle Rick Wagner was trying to secure his spot as a starter during spring organized team activities and summer training camp.

They’d say they hadn’t really noticed him on tape and not much was being said about him, which are compliments to a young offensive lineman in the same way you prefer an umpire or a referee to not stick out while officiating a game. But plenty of doubt was expressed from everyone else as the Ravens needed to replace right tackle Michael Oher after he departed in the opening days of free agency to sign a four-year, $20 million contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Instead of drafting an offensive tackle in the early rounds of May’s draft or adding a veteran familiar with Gary Kubiak’s system such as Eric Winston, the Ravens appeared content with Wagner competing against other in-house options such as Jah Reid and Ryan Jensen to take Oher’s place. The rest would be up to the 2013 fifth-round pick to prove them right.

“After I found out he was leaving, that was the first thing on my mind: ‘I have a great opportunity to take over the right side,’” Wagner said. “I was just thankful that the coaches trusted in me.”

That trust has certainly paid off with Wagner not only taking full control of the job but blossoming into an above-average right tackle who’s now garnering attention for his strong play instead of simply trying to blend in. In fact, Wagner has outperformed the man he replaced as he’s graded out as the best right tackle in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Oher has struggled in his first year with the Titans, ranking 49th among the 51 tackles who’ve played at least 443 offensive snaps this season, per the same website.

Wagner has also committed only one penalty all season — a false start in Week 8 — after infractions were a frequent issue with Oher in his five years with Baltimore.

In the last week, Wagner was named to mid-season All-Pro teams by CBSSports.com and PFF, a reflection of how he’s more than just holding the job for the Ravens’ improved offensive line and how he’s slowly turning heads around the league. Head coach John Harbaugh said he had no idea when asked whether Wagner was playing at a Pro Bowl level, but the question alone reflects what great strides the second-year tackle has made in 2014 after playing just 131 snaps as a rookie when he was primarily used as an extra blocking tight end in the jumbo package.

After a 2013 season in which offensive line coach Juan Castillo drew plenty of criticism for the play of his unit, Wagner has been the assistant’s greatest success story in Baltimore.

“The thing that jumps out at me is his consistency. Rick is very consistent,” Harbaugh said. “He executes the techniques exactly the way that the scheme calls for. He gets it right most all the time. If he does get beat — like anybody does at times — it’s physically. And that doesn’t happen very often.”

A quiet but imposing 25-year-old with a 6-foot-6, 310-pound fram, Wagner is admittedly uncomfortable speaking with media — he joked that he was more at ease playing in Pittsburgh last Sunday than he was at the podium in Owings Mills Wednesday — but he’s taking the high praise as a confidence boost in his first full year as a starter.

Playing next to three-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda has certaintly helped Wagner’s development as the two share Big Ten roots — Yanda at Iowa and Wagner at Wisconsin — and have formed plenty of sizable running lanes for the league’s 10th-ranked running game. Despite being appreciative of the recognition, it’s clear Wagner prefers talking about the overall improvement of the offensive line rather than his individual contributions.

“I think pass protection has been pretty [improved],” said Wagner about how his game has improved since his rookie season. “Run blocking as a whole [offensive] line, we’ve been pretty good. It’s great playing next to Yanda. He really helps me out. It’s phenomenal playing next to him. The communication, the double-teams we have together — it makes my job easier.”

Wagner is the only Ravens player not to miss an offensive snap all season and doesn’t recall even missing a practice. It’s the kind of durability that commands respect and praise from teammates, both young and old.

There’s nothing fancy about him as veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs nicknamed Wagner “The Salesman” in reference to his ordinary name and a belief that he’d be good at selling “a lot of good stuff” despite his quiet demeanor. But there’s been nothing common about the tackle’s play as what was once a concern entering the season is now a position of strength for the Ravens.

“He has been working his tail off, and I think that’s a feel-good story,” Suggs said. “He showed that he can hold his own, and he has been playing phenomenal for us. You have to tip your hat to a guy that shows up to work. Those guys [are] in there in the trenches. They don’t really get a lot of credit for the things that they do, but he has definitely been a big part of our success.”

And it’s about time he’s being noticed for it.

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RickyWagner

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Ravens T Wagner on right tackle nod: “I definitely have to earn it”

Posted on 30 May 2014 by Ryan Chell

After an 8-8 season in which the Baltimore Ravens fell short of defending their Super Bowl title, many of John Harbaugh’s players are coming into this week’s OTAs with a huge chip on their shoulders in an attempt to get back to the playoffs.

However, that attitude is nothing new for Ravens 2nd-year offensive tackle Rick Wagner, who is getting a crack at the team’s starting right tackle spot going into OTAs-the position vacated by former first-round pick Michael Oher, who left via free agency to sign a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Other candidates for the job include 2013 LG Kelechi Osemele, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen, as well as undrafted rookie James Hurst.

Wagner, the team’s 5th round pick (168th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin, has had an uphill battle since he was drafted by the Ravens last April.  Despite a high grade, he fell farther than his initial draft projection despite playing four years at Wisconsin-including 39 starts and Outland Trophy consideration.

The off-season was a disappointing one not only for Wagner in terms of becoming a starting NFL tackle, but also seeing his team fail to play deep into January for the first time in the John Harbaugh era.

“It’s not a good taste to have in our mouths right now,” Wagner told Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Thursday. “You can tell with the vets that they’re not used to that. “They’ve been making the playoffs for years here so we wanna get back and ultimately-that’s our number one priority.”

But behind the team goals, Wagner does find himself with a unique opportunity being tapped as the early candidate to start at right tackle for the Ravens going into training camp and ultimately in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 7th-a situation he fought his entire rookie year to try and achieve.

“I’m really excited, ” Wagner told Clark after practice. “Last year, I practiced like I was going start Week 1 because you never know what will happen with injuries, but [this year], I’m just trying to get the playbook down first, which I’m already feeling confident with in these first couple OTAs.”

That determination fueled Wagner going into his rookie year, and he earned playing time out of it-playing 13 games for the Ravens in 2013 and starting two as John Harbaugh’s “swing tackle” in Jumbo, short-yardage, and goal line situations. 

Wagner said playing his rookie year really gave him an edge in his short NFL career getting acclimated to the changing pace of the professional game.

“It’s such a change from college,” Wagner said. “The speed is so much more amped up, and that’s the real difference. That really helped me out last year, and I’m ready to go.”

Wagner said it definitely put things on perspective when it came to his own work ethic.

“Every player in the NFL is the best player you’ve faced in college.  It’s just a whole new intensity you have to get used to.”

But even with that experience under his belt, Wagner still understands that he’s going to have to compete for the right tackle job and that he won’t have it handed to him.

“I definitely have to earn it,” Wagner said.  ”There’s nothing set until Week 1. I’m just gonna keep working and hope I earn that title.”

What’s he is getting used to in OTAs is lining up next to some new faces, including 3x All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda and getting line calls from a new center in former Buccaneeer Jeremy Zuttah.

Wagner said he owes so much to the two of them.

“It’s incredible to have him right next to me,” Wagner said of Yanda. “He helps me out every day and makes it so much easier when you have a vet like him next to you.”

And in regards to Zuttah, despite the center being in a Ravens uniform for two months, Wagner felt like with Zuttah’s knowledge and expertise, it feels like he’s been in the meeting rooms and on the field for years.

“We’re real comfortable already…it seems like he’s been here awhile,” Wagner said.  ”He’s a real athletic guy and he’s fit right in since the first day.”

Now it’s all about the whole group grasping this new scheme being implemented by incoming offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak. Despite the perceived complexity of a zone offense, Wagner though says it all comes down to execution despite the different terminology.

“Football is football,” Wagner said. “There isn’t really anything else we can do.”

What they do want to do is get back to establishing the running game to help out their quarterback in Joe Flacco.

“It’s a big emphasis. I’m really happy with the play-action stuff we have going this year-a lot different than last year.”

And while it’s been all business so far in camp, Wagner did say that he’s shared a few laughs so far seeing Flacco on some of Kubiak’s bootleg plays.

“He’s  a real athletic guy, and it’s good to see him getting out of the pocket and getting some runs going.”

WNST thanks Ricky Wagner for joining “The Reality Check!” Check out the entire conversation in the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net! 

 

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Right tackle Oher leaving Ravens to join Tennessee Titans

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Right tackle Oher leaving Ravens to join Tennessee Titans

Posted on 14 March 2014 by Luke Jones

A busy day for the Ravens that included the addition of five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith and the re-signing of linebacker Daryl Smith also saw the departure of right tackle Michael Oher by way of a four-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.

The 2009 first-round pick wasn’t expected to return and will receive a $20 million deal that includes $9.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Oher visited with the Titans on Friday before coming to an agreement that brings his five-year run with the Ravens to a close.

Baltimore had left the door open to a potential return but wasn’t interested in making a steep financial commitment to Oher after signing left tackle Eugene Monroe to a $37.5 million contract earlier in the week. A high-ranking team official said earlier in the offseason that Oher would be viewed as a more viable option at left tackle in the current blocking system, making his return unlikely after Monroe agreed to remain in Baltimore.

Oher allowed a team-worst eight sacks in 2013 and has been penalized more than any player in the NFL since his rookie year, frequently committing false start penalties that drew the ire of fans. However, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound tackle was bounced back and forth between the left and right spots, which likely hindered his development as an NFL lineman.

Always durable in his time with the Ravens, the Memphis native made 80 starts and never missed a game in his five seasons.

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2014 class of free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the Ravens’ 2014 class of free agents

Posted on 04 March 2014 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin at 4 p.m. next Tuesday, it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 13 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents, and six exclusive-rights free agents.

The 2014 salary cap was officially set to a record-high $133 million last week and the Ravens have just under $25 million in cap space after signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract that includes a cap figure of just $3.2 million for the 2014 season. Most media attention focuses on unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens’ list of restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players will take up a noticeable portion of that available cap space when tendered.

In much better cap position than they’ve been in a few years, the Ravens will likely have the ability to be a bigger player in the free-agent market than they are in most years, but general manager Ozzie Newsome has also valued compensatory picks over the years and signing unrestricted free agents hurts the formula in determining those.

Though the signing period officially begins on March 11, the NFL allows teams to enter into negotiations with the certified agents of players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the three days leading up to the start of the new league year, meaning the rumors and speculation will pick up this weekend before the start of the signing period.

To see how I fared last year, check out my 2013 free-agent forecast HERE.

Unrestricted free agents

TE Dallas Clark: LEAVES
Skinny: Earlier this offseason, Clark expressed uncertainty whether he would play again in 2014, but it’s all but guaranteed that he won’t be back with the Ravens after he was no longer a factor when Pitta returned from injury last December.

NT Terrence Cody: LEAVES
Skinny: The 2010 second-round pick wasn’t quite the bust that fellow 2010 class member Sergio Kindle was, but he was certainly a disappointment in his four-year run with the Ravens and never really improved.

TE Ed Dickson: LEAVES
Skinny: He may have been the best blocking tight end on the roster the last couple years, but that was still an issue for the Ravens in 2013 and both sides appeared ready to move on by the end of last season.

CB Corey Graham: STAYS
Skinny: Viewed more as a luxury than a pressing need, Graham may ultimately fit into the Ravens’ plans with an improved cap position and the lack of quality cornerback depth behind Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb.

DT Arthur Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Emerging as one of the better 3-technique defensive tackles in the AFC in his first full year as a starter, Jones figures to fetch the kind of deal that will be more than the Ravens are willing to pay with so many needs on the other side of the ball.

WR Jacoby Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: The door will remain open for a return at the right price, but the shortage of quality wide receivers on the open market will likely lead to another team overvaluing Jones’ limited ability as a wideout.

S James Ihedigbo: LEAVES
Skinny: All things being equal, the Ravens would like to have Ihedigbo back, but he deserves to start somewhere and 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam is a better fit at the strong spot than at the free safety position where he struggled as a rookie.

S Jeromy Miles: STAYS
Skinny: Plucked from Cincinnati’s roster early last season, Miles is a strong special-teams player and shouldn’t command more than the veteran minimum to remain with the Ravens.

OT Eugene Monroe: LEAVES
Skinny: The 26-year-old remains the Ravens’ top priority, but it’s clear that the sides have a difference in opinion of his value and a number of teams are looking for a left tackle, which doesn’t bode well for the chances of him re-signing.

OT Michael Oher: LEAVES
Skinny: A high-ranking member of the organization expressed the belief that Oher would be viewed as a left tackle if he were to remain with the Ravens, but he appears to be no more than a Plan C or D at this point.

RB Bernard Scott: LEAVES
Skinny: With Ray Rice dealing with legal problems and Bernard Pierce coming back from shoulder surgery, the No. 3 running back job has suddenly become a bigger priority and the Ravens will be looking for a substantial upgrade over Scott.

LB Daryl Smith: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens took a chance on Smith last summer and he rewarded them handsomely with a strong 2013 season, so it makes too much sense to re-sign him after Jameel McClain was cut due to cap reasons last week.

WR Brandon Stokley: LEAVES
Skinny: The man who caught the first touchdown of Super Bowl XXXV announced his retirement at the end of last season but will always be a popular figure in Baltimore.

Restricted free agents

Restricted free agents have three accrued seasons in the league. The Ravens can offer a first-round ($3.113 million), second-round ($2.187 million), or original-round tender ($1.431) million to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer sheet from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. If the player originally went undrafted, it simply provides the team the right to match an offer sheet but awards no compensation should the player sign elsewhere.

WR Tandon Doss: STAYS
Skinny: The 2011 fourth-round pick has disappointed as a receiver, but his ability as a punt returner will lead to the Ravens either offering him the low tender or re-signing him on a cheap two-year contract.

LB Albert McClellan: STAYS
Skinny: McClellan was a non-factor defensively last season but is a strong special-teams player and has the ability to play all four linebacker spots, making him a likely choice to receive the low tender or an inexpensive two-year deal.

Exclusive-rights free agents

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Harbaugh expects competition, changes along offensive line

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Harbaugh expects competition, changes along offensive line

Posted on 31 December 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh wasted no time in spelling out the biggest reasons why he thought his team fell short of the postseason for the first time in his six-year tenure in Baltimore.

The biggest downfall started up front with the offensive line, a unit that was so instrumental to the team’s Super Bowl XLVII run but one that also underwent several changes this season.

“We’re going to need to run the ball better, we’re going to need to protect Joe [Flacco] better,” Harbaugh said. “Offensively, those things will make us better.”

Finishing the season with three new starters from the line that protected Flacco so effectively in last year’s postseason, the Ravens averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry and rushed for 1,328 yards, two marks that shattered previous single-season lows in franchise history. Baltimore also allowed 48 sacks, the second-highest total in team history and the most given up since the 1999 Ravens were sacked 56 times.

Media and fans have pointed fingers most often at run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, who implemented a new zone-blocking scheme in his first year with the Ravens that didn’t fit an offensive line featuring a new center responsible for making calls at the line of scrimmage. Harbaugh said Tuesday that no changes to the coaching staff were in the works for now, but the coach alluded to the possibility of staff members potentially moving on to take other jobs as the Ravens’ brass will meet next week to make further evaluations within the organization.

Even if Castillo isn’t retained, Harbaugh was quick to point out that the former Philadelphia offensive line coach has a strong track record and was just one of many responsible for the shortcomings of the Ravens’ failures in the trenches.

“Being in those meetings every single day and being a part of that thing every single day, I know better, and every one of our players knows better, and every one of our coaches knows that there are a lot of things that go into that,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got complete confidence and belief in all of our coaches. I believe in our coaches. That goes for Juan Castillo; it goes for all of our guys. I think he’s a great coach, but I think all of our guys are great coaches. But, we’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to find a way to use our personnel better. We’ve got to get better.”

The Ravens are all but guaranteed to feature a new-look offensive line in 2014 with starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher both unrestricted free agents. Harbaugh complimented Monroe’s play and expressed hope that he would re-sign with Baltimore after he was acquired from Jacksonville for fourth- and fifth-round picks in early October, but the Ravens will not have a great amount of cap space and can’t overspend for an above-average tackle who has yet to make a Pro Bowl in his five-year career.

Meanwhile, Oher is expected to depart via free agency after a disappointing season at right tackle and failing to pan out as the left tackle of the future when he was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft. The Ravens will evaluate 2013 fifth-round pick Rick Wagner for the right tackle spot and likely turn to the draft in early May to add more offensive line help.

Beyond the obvious holes at both tackle positions, Harbaugh made it clear that only Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda — coming off an underwhelming season by his high standards — is a sure bet to line up at the same position next year. The Ravens are encouraged with the progress made by second-year lineman Kelechi Osemele from his November back surgery to repair a herniated disc, but where he’ll fit in the 2014 puzzle remains to be seen. Osemele played right tackle during the regular season of his rookie year before being shifted to left guard for the 2012 playoffs and started 2013 at that spot before landing on injured reserve.

His versatility will provide general manager Ozzie Newsome with more options when trying to address two open tackle positions at the start of the offseason.

“I think there will be a competitive situation pretty much at every spot on the offensive line except right guard,” Harbaugh said. “We will be looking forward to getting [Osemele] back. Whether he plays left guard or right tackle, we will have to make a determination on that. He can play either one of those spots. I would assume that he will be in that lineup somewhere, because he’s that kind of a player, but he’s got to come back and do it.”

Adding new bodies to the mix at tackle will be a top priority, but the competition at center might be more intriguing as 2012 fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski struggled in his first season as a starter. Replacing 15-year pro Matt Birk, Gradkowski struggled to make the right protection calls for most of the season but improved as the year went on, according to Harbaugh.

Reserve lineman A.Q. Shipley competed for the starting center job in training camp before ultimately being needed to replace Osemele at left guard and rookie Ryan Jensen is considered an intriguing prospect with a 6-foot-4, 318-pound frame that would figure to physically hold up better than the smaller Gradkowski. However, the Ravens could elect to search free agency and the draft for more competition and a better option at center.

Gradkowski received the worst cumulative grade of any center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

“Early in the season, Gino would probably be the first to tell you that we had a lot of problems,” Harbaugh said. “You go from Matt Birk that does everything, that makes every call, and in some ways tells every lineman what to do in the heat of battle because he is so good — because you’ve got an offensive line coach basically in there playing center for you — to a guy that is doing it for the first time. That was part of the reason that we didn’t have a hat on a hat a lot of times early on, and that was a tough transition for us.

“And yet, Gino fights through it, and by the end of the year, he is making all those calls and doing a good job with that. [He is] a really smart guy, huge student of the game.”

A variety of other issues must be addressed on both sides of the ball as the Ravens try to regroup after their commendable run of five consecutive playoff appearances comes to an end, but the 2013 struggles of Flacco, Ray Rice, and the passing game were all impacted by the inconsistency along the offensive line.

It’s just one area that needs to be fixed, but it’s a critical one in which the Ravens must explore every avenue in hopes of improving by the time training camp rolls around in late July. Decisions in terms of coaching and personnel must be made carefully in arguably the most important offseason of the Harbaugh era.

And losing the battle up front was one major flaw the Ravens simply couldn’t overcome in 2013.

“Everything is going to be on the table that way [to improve],” Harbaugh said. “Every one of our guys, all of us understand in this league that it is a production business — coaches and players. We all have to be accountable for producing and winning.”

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Bengals “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 29 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net. (Tim Horsey filled in for Ryan this past week.)

The Ravens fell to the Cincinnati Bengals , meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Tim and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. AQ Shipley

4. Haloti Ngata

3. Marshal Yanda

2. Joe Flacco

1. Terrell Suggs (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Patriots “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the New England Patriots 41-7 Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Lardarius Webb

4. Jimmy Smith

3. Michael Oher

2. John Harbaugh

1. Joe Flacco (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Familiarity aids preparation for Steelers on short week

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Familiarity aids preparation for Steelers on short week

Posted on 25 November 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With no time to bask in the aftermath of a 19-3 win over the New York Jets, the Ravens immediately shifted their attention Monday toward a Thanksgiving night meeting against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Thursday night game always brings the challenge of balancing physical recovery from the previous week’s contest with a condensed amount of time to prepare for the next opponent, but the Ravens and Steelers figure to benefit from the great level of familiarity the AFC North rivals have with one another. Having already played in Pittsburgh last month, the Ravens will simply fine-tune what they already know despite the Steelers having won five of their last seven games to rebound from an 0-4 start.

Playing on Thanksgiving for the second time in three years, coach John Harbaugh acknowledged a challenge when playing a less-familiar team on a short week like when the Ravens hosted San Francisco in 2011.

“When you play an opponent that you don’t know, there’s a lot of groundwork that you have to do in terms of establishing their system and how they organize things,” Harbaugh said. “Both teams have a pretty good idea of how the other is organized. We’re pretty far down the road with each other at this point.”

This week’s preparations will involve lighter practices as the Ravens focus on mental reps while preparing for a physical game taking place just 100 hours after completing the win over New York to improve to 5-6 on the season.

The Ravens and Steelers have met in prime time frequently over the years, but this Week 14 meeting will mark the first time the AFC North adversaries have met on a Thursday night. And it will provide the Ravens with an opportunity to top Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in a late-season game with high stakes, something they’ve never been able to do.

“It’s a rivalry game, so there are not a lot of secrets between the two teams,” defensive end Chris Canty said. “They understand the personnel this year. We have a good feel for what they have. That being said, you have to look at the little nuances, the details, the wrinkles over the past four games [and] what they’ve been doing. How they’ve been attacking teams, what they’ve been having success with, what they’ve been struggling with. You have to try to look at the whole picture and put yourself in situations where you’re able to have the most success.”

As is often the case with Thursday games in which the quality of play suffers, both teams will battle the physical fatigue of playing two games in a five-day period while the Ravens hope to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Steelers, something that last happened in 2008.

In addition to the annual bragging rights and occasional bad blood between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the teams are both 5-6 and tied with four other teams in the AFC in fighting for the No. 6 seed. A win puts one team in great position to snatch the final playoff spot in the conference with a strong final quarter of the season while the loser will need to rely heavily on help from others with no margin for error over the final four weeks.

“You just have to be into it mentally. It’s a big game,” right tackle Michael Oher said. “A lot of things are riding on it. It is the Steelers — big rivalry game. It’s going to be a physical game, and you’ve just got to get after it.”

Thanksgiving game permanent fixture?

Playing on Thanksgiving night for the second time in the last three seasons, Harbaugh expressed pride in the Ravens and the city of Baltimore being showcased before a national audience on what he called most guys’ favorite holiday.

The coach even suggested the organization would be open to becoming a Thanksgiving fixture in the same way that Detroit and Dallas have over the years.

“If at any point in time the NFL and Roger [Goodell] want to make this a tradition, wouldn’t we all be for that in Baltimore?” Harbaugh said. “I think that would be pretty amazing. We love it and I know our fans do, too.”

With the Ravens not playing at home in the NFL’s season opener back in September — a privilege that has been given to the defending Super Bowl champions in recent years — many viewed a second Thanksgiving home game in three years as a concession made to owner Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens when the schedule was released in late April.

Players and coaches will delay their own holiday celebrations for a day while trying to get back to .500, but it’s clear that many within the organization have embraced playing in the holiday game.

“I love playing on Turkey Day. How could you not love playing on Thanksgiving?” Canty said. “I remember when I was a little kid, we used to round up all the kids in the neighborhood and get a football and just go out and play sandlot ball on Thanksgiving. Then, go in and eat some turkey. It doesn’t leave [you]. You’re just excited about the opportunity to go out there in front of a national audience.”

Monday’s injury report

In lieu of a normal practice just over 24 hours following their respective Week 12 games, the Ravens held a light walk-through Monday evening while the Steelers did not practice, only releasing an estimated injury report.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee), Canty (shoulder), linebacker Arthur Brown, and tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) were all present for the walk-through as the Ravens focused primarily on mental preparation while completing the indoor workout. Canty was the only player of those four who was listed on the injury report as a limited participant.

Reserve safety Brynden Trawick (ankle) did not participate after leaving early in Sunday’s game against the Jets and failing to return.

Meanwhile, the Steelers are dealing with a slew of injuries on the defensive side of the ball as starting nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) was already ruled out for Thursday’s game and defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) and linebacker LaMarr Woodley are both less than 100 percent after missing Sunday’s game in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh also lost reserve cornerback Curtis Brown due to a torn ACL suffered in Sunday’s win over the Browns.

Here is Monday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Brynden Trawick (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (shoulder)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: CB Curtis Brown (knee), DT Steve McLendon (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Brett Keisel (foot), S Shamarko Thomas (ankle), LB LaMarr Woodley (calf)

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Our Ravens/Browns “Slaps to the Head”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Slaps to the Head”

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show on AM1570 WNST.net.

The Ravens fell to the Cleveland Browns 24-18 Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, meaning there were no Pats to be awarded.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I offered “Slaps to the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a Wild Card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches after each game.

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

5. Corey Graham

4. Matt Elam

3. Michael Oher

2. Ray Rice

1. Juan Castillo (Two Slaps)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Osemele absent from Thursday’s practice

Posted on 31 October 2013 by Luke Jones

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

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite optimism that the 53-man roster was as close to full strength as possible following the Week 8 bye, the Ravens were without a starting member of their offensive line for the second straight day on Thursday as they continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

After right tackle Michael Oher sat out Wednesday’s workout with an ankle injury, left guard Kelechi Osemele did not participate after being a limited participant a day earlier. Osemele has been nursing a back injury all season and acknowledged prior to the bye that he would be undergoing offseason surgery to correct a bad disc, making it likely that the Ravens will need to monitor his practice time for the rest of the season.

“The back’s a big thing. It’s connected to everything,” said Osemele about the injury during the bye week. “It’s connected to your legs. It’s everything from that point down is affected. It’s affected my power. I’m an offensive lineman. I need to have strong legs. So, obviously it’s affected me.”

Oher was suited up and working fully after he was listed as a non-participant the day before. His ankle injury was not considered serious as he was moving around well during Thursday’s practice.

Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) was present and working for the second straight day and was listed as a limited participant once again. Linebacker Josh Bynes (finger) was a full participant after being limited on Wednesday.

With veteran Jameel McClain back to action, Bynes has been relegated to a reserve role and is expected to play a larger role on special teams, an area in which the Ravens have expressed strong desire to improve. Considering McClain was the incumbent at the weakside inside linebacker position, Bynes took the expected demotion in stride as defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he has full confidence to continue playing the young linebacker should McClain need a breather.

“I think it definitely helps on our special teams, because we definitely need to get better on that end,” Bynes said. “Defensively, it just helps us out as a unit. We’ll see how that goes and what not. It just helps this defense tremendously.”

There was one notable change to the Browns’ injury report as starting running back Willis McGahee was a non-participant on Thursday after practicing fully a day earlier. The former Raven is dealing with a knee injury as he prepares to take on his former team.

Here is Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Kelechi Osemele (back/knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Brandon Stokley (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Josh Bynes (finger/thigh), DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot), T Michael Oher (ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Willis McGahee (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Quentin Groves (ankle), DL Billy Winn (Quad)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Willis McGahee (knee), RB Chris Ogbonnaya (ribs), DB Chris Owens (finger), LB Jabaal Sheard (wrist)

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