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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 12 win over Cincinnati

Posted on 29 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens topping Cincinnati in a 19-14 final on Sunday to remain tied for first place in the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I don’t know what else there is to say about the excellence of Justin Tucker, but I sure hope he receives an opportunity one of these days to attempt a 65-yard field goal to set the NFL record. And then gets another chance to kick an even longer one.

2. The Ravens have more field goals (27) than anyone in the NFL, but they rank ahead of only Houston and Los Angeles with 19 touchdowns. That combination has earned them a 6-5 record, but it’s not a formula that will work against upper-tier teams.

3. Coming off his second Achilles injury in a four-year period and currently playing with a torn biceps, Terrell Suggs played a season-high 61 snaps and had two strip-sacks. Though not the consistent force he was in his prime, he’s earned even more respect as a player this season.

4. Don’t forget that Sam Koch’s safety went down as a run for minus-23 yards in the final statistics. Otherwise, the Baltimore running game gained 115 yards on 29 carries, a respectable average of just under 4.0 yards per attempt compared to the official 3.1 mark.

5. It’s difficult to recall a defensive line batting down four passes on a single drive, let alone doing it on the final series of a one-score game. It was a brilliant way to offset an inconsistent pass rush for much of the afternoon.

6. Nothing illustrated the up-and-down nature of the offense more than its third-down conversion rate against the Bengals. After going a strong 5-for-10 in a 16-point first half, the Ravens were 0-for-6 after intermission. Baltimore ranks last in the NFL with a 33.3 percent conversion rate on the season.

7. The decision to call an end-around hand-off to Mike Wallace on the final drive was questionable at best, but I applaud any extra attempts to get him the football otherwise. His explosive speed needs to be utilized as much as possible.

8. It came down to the numbers game with Elvis Dumervil returning, but Za’Darius Smith being a healthy inactive illustrates how much finding an edge pass rusher remains a priority this offseason. Rookie Matt Judon flashes potential, but Smith’s second season has been a disappointment.

9. Kamar Aiken caught a pass to move the chains on a key third down on each of the first two scoring drives and wasn’t targeted again after that. No one expected him to be Baltimore’s leading receiver again this season, but he shouldn’t have fewer receptions than Kyle Juszczyk.

10. I’m still surprised how reluctant some have been to embrace this defense. It may lack much star power, but this has been a top 5 unit all year. If your standard is the 2000 Ravens or you’re waiting for the next Ray Lewis to appear, you’ll never be satisfied.

11. Many are clamoring for the Ravens to use the no-huddle offense even more, but it bogged down after a fast start against Cincinnati. This group hasn’t shown the kind of precision or communication required to run it exclusively, but it can still be used plenty.

12. Coaches always receive criticism when teams lose, but John Harbaugh deserves praise for the way he handled the game-ending safety. He said all teams have that strategy in their special-teams playbook, but I highly doubt that.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 11 loss to Dallas

Posted on 22 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling back into a first-place tie in the AFC North after a 27-17 loss to Dallas on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The defense squandering a first-and-30 on Dallas’ first touchdown drive was the turning point of the game, but Mike Wallace’s inability to get his feet inbounds on a deep pass inside the 5 on the ensuing possession was equally frustrating. Neither side of the ball could make the game-changing play.

2. If the second half of the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants wasn’t enough, Sunday offered another reminder of how valuable Jimmy Smith is to this defense. Without his game-changing talent in the secondary, the Ravens have an average group with no answer against an elite receiver.

3. The Ravens have certainly abandoned the run at times, but Week 11 doesn’t fit that narrative. Look at the play-by-play and you’ll find a spot or two for another run, but the ratio was skewed because of a multi-score deficit that led to 15 straight dropbacks to close the game.

4. On a day that produced a record 12 missed extra points, Justin Tucker remained perfect on the year and extended his league-long streak of 30 consecutive field goals. He hasn’t missed an extra point in his career. With kicking issues all over the place, don’t take that excellence for granted.

5. The secondary faced the bulk of the criticism on Sunday, but the linebacker coverage that’s been so good this year looked more like it did in 2015. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr have done a much better job against the pass in 2016, but they struggled against the Cowboys.

6. It’s difficult to recall too many offensive linemen who have shown the ability to switch positions and still play at a high level like Marshal Yanda. Jonathan Ogden is the undisputed top offensive lineman in franchise history, but Yanda is an easy No. 2 on the list.

7. Dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice, Timmy Jernigan played a season-low 21 snaps. You wonder if him being less than 100 percent put too much on the plates of Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams in the battle against the best offensive line in the NFL.

8. Looking at his final numbers, Joe Flacco turned in a solid performance against the Cowboys, but the problem is that feels like it’s become his ceiling this season. In a game screaming for a big play, Flacco was 0-for-4 on pass attempts traveling more than 20 yards through the air.

9. It was disappointing to see Breshad Perriman follow the best game of his career by failing to record a reception and not even being targeted on 23 snaps. The 2015 first-round pick still has a long way to go to become a consistent threat in the passing game.

10. After forcing punts on the first four possessions, the Ravens were too conservative on third down the rest of the way. After blitzing or showing blitz on the first four third-down stops, Baltimore rushed four or fewer on four of the next five third downs without a single stop.

11. Despite the incredible resources pumped into the position, the Ravens have received very little from the tight end spot. Dennis Pitta’s return has been a great story, but he’s piled up no more than 40 receiving yards in any of the last five games.

12. I’m torn whether penalties are a bigger reflection on the coaching staff or on undisciplined — and potentially overmatched — players, but piling up 136 penalty yards is unacceptable when you’re trying to beat one of the best teams in the NFL. It’s a tired problem.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 10 win over Cleveland

Posted on 12 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens moving back above .500 after a 28-7 victory over winless Cleveland on Thursday night, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Watching Terrell Suggs get the best of nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas was special. He’s playing with one arm and isn’t the consistent game-wrecker he used to be, but the 34-year-old turned in a vintage performance with a strip sack and a pass defense leading to an interception.

2. He recovered nicely to throw three touchdown passes, but Joe Flacco looked jumpy and frenetic in the pocket throughout the first half. The Ravens can only hope his second-half rebound is a sign of better things to come, but that third-quarter interception in the end zone was ugly.

3. Marty Mornhinweg should continue using the crossing routes and slants we saw in the second half against the Browns. There’s no reason not to use the speed of Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman while letting Flacco get rid of the ball quickly.

4. We’ve talked plenty about Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young, but nickel cornerback Jerraud Powers turned in a strong performance. He broke up a pass the only time a Cleveland quarterback threw his way and intercepted another that was knocked up into the air.

5. You could tell how relieved John Harbaugh was to be able to smile and exhale over the final few minutes of Thursday’s 21-point win. Twenty-two of your previous 24 games being decided by a single possession will take a toll.

6. Jeremy Zuttah has had his struggles this season, but he’s the only Baltimore offensive lineman to start all nine games. Give the center credit for pushing through back and ankle issues to play 72 of 82 offensive snaps, especially after left guard Alex Lewis left with an ugly ankle injury.

7. It’s looking more and more like the offensive line problems aren’t going to be fixed this season. Lewis had looked good at left guard the last two games while the status of five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda remains in question. Those are crippling losses.

8. Some of the gold numbers were difficult to read, but I give the “Color Rush” uniform a passing grade, especially compared to those of other teams. I’d like to see the striping on those purple pants added to the Ravens’ black pants that are too dull.

9. Every time Michael Pierce turns in another strong performance, I can’t help but think it pushes pending free agent Brandon Williams a little further out the door. The rookie free agent recorded a tackle for a loss and batted a pass at the line of scrimmage.

10. Josh McCown had past success against the Ravens, but Hue Jackson’s decision to bench Cody Kessler was still baffling. Kessler wasn’t great, but that was a quick hook for a rookie who had outplayed Flacco to that point and orchestrated a touchdown drive in the first half.

11. They can’t do it exclusively, but the no-huddle offense needs to become a bigger part of what the Ravens do after it led to two touchdowns in the second half. It could put some strain on the defense, but you have to do whatever it takes to get Flacco going.

12. Watching Steve Smith’s eyes light up when asked about doing the Ray Lewis dance reminds us how much the 37-year-old still feels like a kid. After getting permission from Lewis to do the dance, Smith watched some YouTube videos to make sure he got it right. Having fun matters.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 9 win over Pittsburgh

Posted on 07 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens having snapped their four-game losing streak in a 21-14 win over Pittsburgh to move into first place in the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Jimmy Smith and rookie Tavon Young could be the best cornerback duo the Ravens have had in a while. Smith is finally playing like he did before his foot injury two years ago, and the 5-foot-9 Young is making a strong case to be more than just a slot corner.

2. His broken brace earned attention, but a first-quarter sequence from Joe Flacco was inexcusable. After snapping the ball before his receivers were set — with 10 seconds still on the play clock — to negate a third-down conversion in the red zone, he then threw across his body for an ugly interception.

3. When Mike Wallace signed his two-year contract, it was mostly viewed as a one-season deal with a scheduled $8 million cap figure for 2017. He’s caught four of Flacco’s six touchdown passes and is on pace for 1,200 yards. The Ravens are cheapskates with their receivers, but shouldn’t be here.

4. Earning his first career interception in the third quarter, Timmy Jernigan fell to the ground after previously coughing up a fumble return deep in Baltimore territory in Week 7. It was good seeing him learn from a mistake and to be able to laugh, quipping how he’s a fast learner.

5. What are the odds of a rookie scoring his first two career touchdowns in consecutive games as a member of the punt return team but not as the actual returner? Chris Moore has certainly been in the right place at the right time.

6. He didn’t put up monster numbers with just five credited tackles and a dropped interception, but the difference in the Ravens defense was tangible with C.J. Mosley back in the middle. He was a major reason why Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was a non-factor on Sunday.

7. Remember how the running game was trending upward despite Marc Trestman’s hesitancy to commit to it before his dismissal last month? The Ravens have averaged 2.4 yards per carry in three games with Marty Mornhinweg in charge.

8. With Flacco often checking down and Kenneth Dixon not showing the same explosiveness he had before his knee injury, why not give Buck Allen more chances out of the backfield? He struggles between the tackles, but he did catch 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie.

9. Speaking of Allen, the second-year running back provided the Ravens their 12th blocked kick since 2014 and their league-best fourth this season. When you lack dynamic play-makers, these types of special-teams plays are of the utmost importance.

10. I’m not concerned about his long-term prospects, but Ronnie Stanley committing four penalties on Sunday and acknowledging his foot was still “a little sore” after a four-game absence weren’t encouraging developments for the remainder of his rookie season.

11. I admittedly don’t spend a great deal of time discussing Justin Tucker because there’s only so much to say about his excellence. He’s a perfect 20-for-20 on the season and has silenced concerns about his accuracy from 50 yards and beyond. He’s been worth every penny of his contract.

12. How long had it been since the Ravens last won a game before Sunday’s victory? The Orioles had won four contests more recently despite their season coming to a bitter end more than a month ago. Maybe John Harbaugh just needed to call Zach Britton for some relief.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts entering Week 8 bye

Posted on 27 October 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens having dropped four straight games going into a much-needed bye week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It’s admirable that Ozzie Newsome stays out of the spotlight when the Ravens are thriving, but is it fair that John Harbaugh faces all of the heat from media when there are so many questions about this roster? As it stands, we won’t hear from the general manager until January.

2. The comparison made between Timmy Jernigan’s fumble with C.J. Mosley’s in the Washington game is off-base. Mosley was inches away from scoring, whereas a defensive lineman was trying to imitate Ed Reed on his own goal line. They were both costly mistakes, but Jernigan’s was worse.

3. There was excitement about the return of Kenneth Dixon, but he’s received just nine touches for 16 yards in his first three games. You hope the bye allows his knee to get stronger, because he hasn’t shown the explosiveness he had in the preseason and the Ravens need that spark.

4. Count me in as wanting to see both Terrell Suggs and Ben Roethlisberger return for the Ravens’ critical Week 9 meeting with Pittsburgh. There aren’t many players left from the prime of the bitter AFC North rivalry that isn’t what it used to be.

5. Few things have gone well offensively, but Mike Wallace has been everything the Ravens could have reasonably hoped for. His 490 receiving yards lead the team, and he’s served as a productive deep threat. He’s not a No. 1 receiver, but he’s been more dependable than any other Baltimore wideout.

6. Harbaugh said in June that Elvis Dumervil underwent a “preventative procedure” to the foot area in the offseason. The pass rusher has been vague about specifics, but it would be interesting to know exactly what he’s been dealing with and how much the coach may have undersold the surgery.

7. I’m glad to see Breshad Perriman healthy enough to play, but he’s done little to quell pre-draft concerns about his route-running ability and inconsistent hands. He’s essentially still a rookie just seven games into his career, but catching just 41 percent of his 34 targets isn’t nearly good enough.

8. They’ve both taken their lumps in recent games, but Tavon Young and Alex Lewis have done a commendable job living up to the hype surrounding the fourth-round haul in this year’s draft. Despite both being forced to play out of position, they look like legitimate NFL players.

9. It isn’t a good look for offensive line coach Juan Castillo that his group has been a substantial problem in three of his four seasons with Baltimore. The lone exception was 2014 when Gary Kubiak served as the offensive coordinator and implemented his effective zone-blocking scheme.

10. The Ravens were excited to move Lardarius Webb to safety, but he’s appeared slow to react and hasn’t taken good angles as a tackler. The decision to carry his $9.5 million cap figure — second highest on the team — looks no less questionable now than it did in February.

11. It was a moot point in Week 7 since the offense never reached the red zone, but I’d like to see Crockett Gillmore and Darren Waller more involved in that area of the field. The Ravens need to use more size and physicality inside the 20.

12. I’d be fascinated to know what Steve Bisciotti is thinking as the Ravens take the weekend off. Does he see more failure from the coaching staff or the effects of an undermanned roster as the primary reason for Baltimore’s struggles?

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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 22 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens need a break, but they could use a victory even more.

With several key starters sidelined with injuries and having lost their last three games, the Ravens are naturally looking forward to some rest with next week’s bye, but beating the New York Jets feels like a must if a realistic second-half run to the playoffs is in the plans. Falling to 3-4 would require a 7-2 finish just to get to 10 wins, and a challenging schedule awaits in November and December.

Meanwhile, the Jets are already all but finished with a 1-5 record and have made a change at quarterback. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Joe Flacco will be anywhere close to 100 percent after missing practices this week with a right shoulder injury, making the quarterback play iffy at best for both sides.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Jets for the 10th time in their regular-season history. Baltimore has won eight straight matchups with the only New York victory coming in a 19-16 overtime final on Nov. 2, 1997.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens will set a season high for rushes and a season low for passes to protect their quarterback. Flacco looked sharp throwing passes in Friday’s walk-through and the offensive line may welcome back both starting offensive tackles, but Baltimore still needs to be smart with its franchise quarterback. The problem is that the Jets rank sixth in run defense and are allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, the same as the Ravens’ No. 1 run defense. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will stick with the run to the tune of well over 30 carries while Flacco throws fewer than 33 passes, his season low.

2. Jets receiver Brandon Marshall will catch a touchdown against a banged-up Baltimore secondary. The New York passing game is hardly scary, but top cornerback Jimmy Smith was recovering from a concussion all week and will likely draw the difficult task of slowing the 6-foot-4 Marshall, who has 443 passing yards this season. Smith won’t get much help from a Ravens pass rush that has been ineffective all season and will be without both Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Jets have a poor offense, but injuries have made an improved Ravens defense more vulnerable.

3. The Ravens defense will pick off Geno Smith twice in his first start since 2014. The lowest scoring offense in the league is desperate to turn to Smith, who has thrown 36 interceptions in 32 career games in the NFL. After setting a franchise low with only six interceptions in 2015, Baltimore has picked off eight passes in the first six games of the season, which has certainly helped playing in close games. Look for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to dial up some blitzes and disguise coverages to confuse a quarterback who’s only playing because veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick has been downright awful.

4. Breshad Perriman will finally score his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. It’s been an underwhelming start to what is essentially the 2015 first-round receiver’s rookie season as Perriman has caught just 13 of the 29 passes thrown his way and has struggled to catch balls consistently. However, we’ve seen him flash his ability to make plays in the vertical passing game and it only feels like a matter of time before he finds the end zone. With the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense having to deal with Mike Wallace on the opposite side of the field, Perriman will catch a deep one for a score.

5. John Harbaugh’s team will limp into the bye feeling better about itself with a 23-16 win. Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and the Ravens playing in one-possession games. Perhaps Baltimore would win by multiple scores if the injury report weren’t such a mess, but you just can’t trust the Ravens to be anything but mediocre right now. That said, the Jets have been a disaster in Todd Bowles’ second season and not even playing at home makes you believe they’re a good bet to win. There will be penalties and self-inflicted mistakes because that’s what they do, but the Ravens will find a way to come home with a much-needed win before embracing a week off.

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Ravens-Giants: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 15 October 2016 by Luke Jones

Two teams already at a potential crossroads in the 2016 season.

After their first 3-0 start since 2009, the Ravens have lost two straight and fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman on Monday. Meanwhile, the New York Giants have dropped three in a row after a 2-0 start to their season.

Injuries are a major story as six key Ravens players are listed as doubtful or worse for Sunday’s game, but Baltimore doesn’t have time to waste with two straight road games before the Week 8 bye and Marty Mornhinweg trying to breathe life into the NFL’s 22nd-ranked offense. The Giants won’t feel sorry for the Ravens as first-year head coach Ben McAdoo needs a win to reverse his own team’s fortunes.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play the Giants at MetLife Stadium for the first time ever. Baltimore is 3-1 in the regular-season history and won the last regular-season meeting between these teams, a 33-14 blowout at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 23, 2012. Of course, the Ravens also defeated the Giants by a 34-7 margin in Super Bowl XXXV.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens will rush a season-high 30 times with Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon each gaining at least 50 yards. Everyone has clamored for Baltimore to run more, and Mornhinweg will do just that with a banged-up offensive line going against the league’s 17th-ranked defense. The Giants will key on West with his 5.0 yards per carry average, so this might be the time to show different looks with Dixon, who didn’t play after the first quarter against Washington. The Giants have allowed only 3.5 yards per carry this season, but the Ravens have to stick with the run if this game is close.

2. The Giants will match their full season total by sacking Joe Flacco four times. Five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley are inactive, and Rick Wagner is no sure bet to start even if he’s active on Sunday. Even if the Ravens commit to the run and use designed roll-outs and waggles to keep Flacco away from the pass rush, the Giants still have the tandem of Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon that will create problems for Alex Lewis and James Hurst. If Baltimore falls behind and needs to throw, it could get ugly in this department.

3. Mike Wallace and Odell Beckham Jr. will each catch a touchdown of 30 or more yards. If they run as much as we expect, the Ravens should find some opportunities to take more shots down the field as so many offensive players wanted under Trestman. The Giants will also be without starting free safety Nat Berhe, which will give Wallace a greater chance to shake free. The Ravens secondary has held up well, but there were coverage breakdowns last week that Washington failed to exploit in windy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium. Beckham shaking free will result in a different outcome.

4. Matt Judon will collect his first career sack despite the Ravens not getting enough pressure on Eli Manning. Elvis Dumervil is out and head coach John Harbaugh didn’t make it sound as though we’ll see the veteran again until after the bye, meaning the Ravens must start getting pass-rush contributions from younger outside linebackers. Judon has been inactive for the last two games, but he posted three sacks in the preseason while second-year linebacker Za’Darius Smith hasn’t shown much so far. The rookie fifth-round pick will flash, but creating enough pressure off the edge will remain an issue.

5. The injury-depleted Ravens will compete, but the Giants will prevail in a 25-17 final. The change at offensive coordinator was already challenging enough for Sunday, but the Ravens are likely to be without top receiver Steve Smith and as many as three starting members of the offensive line on the road. Meanwhile, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is doubtful to play, which will compromise a run defense that’s been superb in 2016. The Ravens still have a reasonable chance to win considering the Giants aren’t very good, but there’s too much unknown and too many injuries to pick them this week.

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Stanley’s return lone bright spot at Ravens’ Thursday practice

Posted on 13 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are dealing with a plethora of injuries to key players ahead of their Week 6 meeting with the New York Giants, but they did receive a shred of good news on Thursday.

After missing the last two games with a lingering foot injury, rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley returned to practice for the first time since Sept. 23. It remains to be seen whether he’ll play against the Giants, but that is an encouraging development for an offensive line that was without right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) for the second straight day.

“This is part of what we do,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “We won’t know [who is playing] possibly for a little while. But the guys we have playing will do a good job.”

Baltimore adding guards Vlad Ducasse and Billy Turner over the last two days didn’t appear to be positive signs for the status of Yanda and Wagner for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens also continued to practice without wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle) and linebackers C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and Elvis Dumervil (foot). Smith and Mosley left the Week 5 loss to Washington with their respective ailments, but Dumervil resurfacing on the injury report is a clear concern after he played an unremarkable 45 snaps over the last two games, his first action of 2016 after undergoing offseason foot surgery.

“Some guys can come right back right away; some guys can’t,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “There’s nobody that knows their body better than the veterans. He knows if he’s ready or not ready. We just keep talking about it all the time, along with [trainer Mark Smith] and coach [John] Harbaugh. We’ll just see where it goes. On his behalf, the guy has just been a great player. If he’s not playing at that [level], it’s just because he’s not ready yet. He’s hurt. No other reason.”

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) was also missing from Thursday’s practice after working on a limited basis a day earlier.

During the portion of practice open to reporters, safety Kendrick Lewis left the field with what appeared to be some sort of injury.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace (ribs) practiced with a red non-contact vest over his jersey for the second straight day.

Meanwhile, the Giants welcomed defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (groin) back to practice after missing Wednesday’s workout.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), RS Devin Hester (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith (ankle), OT Rick Wagner (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), WR Mike Wallace (chest), CB Shareece Wright (back)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Eli Apple (groin), S Nat Berhe (concussion), WR Dwayne Harris (toe), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf), S Darian Thompson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Jerell Adams (ear), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), LB Devon Kennard (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), DE Olivier Vernon (wrist)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Larry Donnell (concussion)

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Energized Ravens offense knows pressure is on to produce

Posted on 12 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens players reacted differently to the firing of Marc Trestman than they did to Cam Cameron’s removal four years ago.

Cameron’s firing was shocking to players with just three weeks remaining in the 2012 regular season. Despite the annual outside complaints and speculation about his job status, Joe Flacco and the Ravens had found much success with Cameron guiding the offense for nearly five full years. What happened in the seven weeks that followed would make history, but the change served as a jarring wake-up call for the entire offense in the midst of what had already been a 9-4 season to that point.

With Trestman, however, the Ravens had won just eight of 21 games, never finding any meaningful stretch of prosperity in his brief tenure. Following Sunday’s 16-10 loss to Washington, the frustration in the locker room was apparent as the tone had seemingly shifted from “if” to “when” in terms of a potential firing.

Two days after John Harbaugh officially replaced Trestman with quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg, players expressed kind words about their former coordinator as a person and as a coach, but their opinion of the change was crystal clear. And nobody sounded surprised.

“It was difficult to see him go, but I think it was something that this offense needed,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, who experienced the Cameron firing and isn’t known for being overly critical. “We were in kind of a bad place. It didn’t seem like we were getting out of it. Hopefully, this will spark us. Marty is a great coach, and we have a lot of faith in him. He brings an energy and an excitement to our offense that we needed. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put it together and play much better going forward.”

“Energy” and “excitement” were the buzzwords uttered by multiple players about Mornhinweg during Wednesday’s media session. Trestman’s questionable play-calling was evident to even the casual observer, but it sounded as if his personality wasn’t inspiring an offense ranking 22nd in total yards and tied for 22nd in points per game entering Week 6.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Kamar Aiken immediately smiled when asked about their first impressions of the promoted Mornhinweg, citing his energetic personality. But that feeling will be fleeting if improved results don’t accompany the change.

Players predictably cited improved commitment to the running and taking more shots down the field as the anticipated changes in a system that can only be tweaked and not overhauled in the middle of a season. How it will play out on game day remains to be seen.

“It is just up to him as a play-caller and getting into the rhythm of the game and feeling when you do those things,” said Flacco, who was much more guarded than his teammates in discussing the change on Wednesday. “Obviously, you aren’t just picking things off the call sheet and calling them. There is a rhythm to it, and there is a reason for it. That is the biggest thing.”

Even if players weren’t surprised by the decision, one only hopes they still took a long look in the mirror on Monday.

Trestman wasn’t committing costly penalties to blow up drives on a weekly basis.

He wasn’t failing to block for Flacco.

And the 60-year-old certainly wasn’t dropping passes in critical situations.

Identifying Trestman as the problem is fair, but only if the remaining group — Harbaugh, Mornhinweg, and the players — finds the solution and fast. The training wheels are off, and it’s time for the offense to pedal faster down the street or fall into the bushes.

If it’s the latter, maybe this group just isn’t as good as we thought it could be and it will be unfortunate that Trestman had to take the fall.

“I think we just need to do what we keep doing, but just turn it up a notch,” Wallace said. “We’re in every single game. It’s just a matter of making one play here, one play there. We just need to get over the top. That’s what the coaches are trying to do to get us there. You have to explore every single situation. Unfortunately, that means some people lose their jobs. I’ve been there before myself.

“That’s football. It’s the business we’re in. Everybody knows it when you sign up, so nobody’s hanging their head or anything like that. It’s unfortunate, but everybody knows.”

And the Ravens know it’s now on them with their biggest excuse officially out the door.

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Seven Ravens starters missing from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 12 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Turning the page with new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg after a two-game losing streak, the Ravens were without seven starting players for Wednesday’s practice.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), offensive tackles Rick Wagner (thigh) and Ronnie Stanley (foot), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (non-injury) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) were absent during the portion of practice open to reporters on Wednesday morning. Suggs received a veteran day off and was available to reporters on Wednesday.

How many will be available for the Week 6 meeting with the New York Giants remains to be seen.

“As far as any of the injury stuff, I’m sure you guys saw who was practicing and who is not and all of that,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m just not going to get into any of that right now. There are various reasons for different guys.”

Smith, Mosley, and Wagner all left Sunday’s game against Washington with injuries. The reappearance of Dumervil on the injury report has to be a concern after quiet performances in his first two games since making his return from offseason foot surgery.

The newly re-signed Vlad Ducasse was working with an offensive line group that was without three starters during the workout. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens might line up against the Giants should Stanley miss his third straight game and Wagner not be able to play. In the second half of Sunday’s loss to Washington, Yanda shifted to right tackle with Ryan Jensen entering the game at right guard when Wagner could not continue after halftime.

Concerns about the injured offensive linemen only grew in the late afternoon when the Ravens claimed former Miami guard Billy Turner off waivers. Baltimore released linebacker Chris Carter to make room on the 53-man roster.

As he did last week, Stanley expressed optimism that he could make his return this week, but the 2016 first-round pick acknowledged he would need at least a little bit of work on the practice field before Sunday.

“I believe one would be fine enough for me,” Stanley said. “It’s really all mental, especially at this level figuring out what the guy that you’re going against likes to do and his tendencies and what not and really the whole defensive scheme. That’s just through studying and film work.”

Wide receiver Mike Wallace (ribs) was practicing on Wednesday, but he was wearing a red non-contact vest over his jersey. He took a hard shot to the chest area on the Ravens’ final offensive play against the Redskins.

“I’m a little sore, but that’s football,” Wallace said. “I’ll be alright for the game though. That’s normal — a normal week’s work. Sometimes you get hit hard in some games more than others, but I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go Sunday.”

The Giants are also feeling the effects of a number of injuries with four starters not participating in Wednesday’s practice. That list included two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is dealing with a groin injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith (ankle), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), OT Rick Wagner (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RS Devin Hester (thigh), WR Mike Wallace (chest), CB Shareece Wright (back)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Eli Apple (groin), S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Devon Kennard (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), S Darian Thompson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Larry Donnell (concussion), WR Dwayne Harris (toe), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), DE Olivier Vernon (wrist)

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