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2017 American League East preview

Posted on 01 April 2017 by Luke Jones

The American League East has been won by a club winning fewer than 95 games in each of the last two seasons, something that hadn’t happened since 2000 prior to that.

It’s a reflection of how competitive the division has been in recent years after a long period of time in which New York and Boston dominated at the top and the other three clubs languished. However, the Red Sox look like the favorite to finish in first place in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1915 and 1916 when Babe Ruth pitched at Fenway Park.

Below is a capsule of the five AL East clubs in their predicted order of finish:

1. BOSTON (2016 record: 93-69, first place)
Notable additions: SP Chris Sale, 1B Mitch Moreland, RP Tyler Thornburg
Notable losses: DH David Ortiz, RP Koji Uehara, RP Junichi Tazawa, INF Travis Shaw, RP Brad Ziegler
Why to like them:
Already sporting the third-best starter ERA in the AL last year, the Red Sox added one of the game’s best pitchers in Sale to go along with the highest-scoring offense in the majors.
Why to dislike them:
Starters David Price and Drew Pomeranz and Thornburg headline the list of current pitching injuries, which put more pressure on an offense that lost the incomparable Ortiz.
Player to watch:
A trimmed-down and healthy Pablo Sandoval had a good spring and could help stabilize the hot corner for a lineup with very few holes elsewhere.
2017 outlook (92-70):
Even with the current concerns in their rotation and the potential emotional hangover of no longer having Ortiz, the Red Sox still possess the most talent in the division.

2. TORONTO (2016 record: 89-73, tied for second place)
Notable additions: DH/1B Kendrys Morales, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, RP Joe Smith, RP J.P. Howell
Notable losses: DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion, OF Michael Saunders, RP Brett Cecil, RP Joaquin Benoit, SP R.A. Dickey
Why to like them: The Blue Jays finished first in the AL in starter ERA in 2016 with both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman having the potential to be even better this year.
Why to dislike them: You can understand not wanting to invest too much in the 34-year-old Encarnacion, but the Blue Jays are going to miss his dangerous bat in their lineup.
Player to watch: The Toronto lineup looks even more vulnerable if Jose Bautista’s decline in 2016 was more about age and less about the nagging injuries he dealt with.
2017 outlook (88-74, wild card): The Blue Jays offense isn’t quite as dangerous as it was a couple years ago, but the rotation has fewer questions than Boston’s despite lacking the same star power.

3. BALTIMORE (2016 record: 89-73, tied for second place)
Notable additions: C Welington Castillo, OF Seth Smith, RP Vidal Nuno, OF Craig Gentry
Notable losses: C Matt Wieters, SP Yovani Gallardo, 1B/OF Steve Pearce, RP Vance Worley
Why to like them: The home run potential remains impressive, the bullpen dominant, and the infield defense very strong as the Orioles seek their fourth trip to the playoffs in six years.
Why to dislike them: The starting rotation is this club’s Achilles heel every year, but Chris Tillman’s lingering shoulder issue creates more concern than usual in this department for Buck Showalter.
Player to watch: Dylan Bundy enters 2017 as the No. 2 starter in his first full season in the rotation, which is a lot to ask of a pitcher who lost significant parts of three minor-league seasons with injuries.
2016 outlook (85-77): Kevin Gausman might be ready to become a legitimate ace, but there’s too much uncertainty with Tillman and Bundy to trust that the rotation won’t hold back the rest of the club.

4. NEW YORK (2016 record: 84-78, fourth place)
Notable additions: RP Aroldis Chapman, DH/OF Matt Holliday, 1B/DH Chris Carter
Notable losses: C Brian McCann, 1B Mark Teixeira, SP Nathan Eovaldi
Why to like them: Catcher Gary Sanchez is headlining a youth movement that has many expecting the Yankees to return to prominence soon while the bullpen should be very strong with Chapman’s return.
Why to dislike them: Masahiro Tanaka is very good and Michael Pineda and Luis Severino are talented, but there isn’t much else to really like about a mediocre starting rotation.
Player to watch: After shoulder surgery cost him the entire 2016 season, first baseman Greg Bird had a monster spring and showed the promise he did at the end of the 2015 campaign.
2017 outlook (80-82): The Yankees have some intriguing youngsters to watch, but they’ll have growing pains and there are still too many declining veterans to allow them to seriously contend.

5. TAMPA BAY (2016 record: 68-94, fifth place)
Notable additions: OF Colby Rasmus, OF Rickie Weeks, RP Tommy Hunter, C Wilson Ramos, OF Peter Bourjos, C Derek Norris
Notable losses: 2B Logan Forsythe, SP Drew Smyly
Why to like them: Chris Archer leads a starting rotation that still holds plenty of talent despite injuries and ineffectiveness that led to the Rays underachieving in 2016.
Why to dislike them: The offense lost Forsythe in the offseason and still remains a clear weakness while the bullpen doesn’t inspire much confidence to back up the starting pitching.
Player to watch: Alex Cobb was on his way to becoming one of the top pitchers in the AL before injuries cost him all but 22 innings over the last two seasons, but he finally appears to be healthy.
2016 outlook (74-88): Injuries and tough luck made the Rays worse than their talented suggested a year ago, but the days of Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman still feel like a long time ago.

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Bisciotti call helped push Brandon Williams deal across finish line

Posted on 13 March 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked if trumping the massive deal awarded to New York Giants nose tackle Damon Harrison last year was his goal, Brandon Williams acknowledged reality before then trying to defer to his agency’s role in negotiating his five-year, $52.5 million contract with the Ravens.

He didn’t say it verbatim at his Monday press conference in Owings Mills, but the 28-year-old was aiming to become the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL.

“Obviously, it was a starting point, I guess,” said Williams of Harrison’s five-year, $46.25 million contract that included $24 million guaranteed. “You look at his deal, and I guess you kind of go from there.”

It’s hardly surprising, of course, but what was interesting was general manager Ozzie Newsome pulling back the curtain on the sequence of events that resulted in Williams ultimately receiving $27.5 million guaranteed. Newsome has often referenced Baltimore’s process of determining a value for a player and staying true to that final number during the negotiating process, but an audible was apparently called last week, a reflection of how badly the Ravens wanted to keep their fifth-year nose tackle and maintain their long-held desire to be strong up the middle defensively.

A Thursday morning conference call with owner Steve Bisciotti that included Newsome, team president Dick Cass, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, and head coach John Harbaugh paved the way for the sides to get a deal done later that evening. Regardless of their many needs on both sides of the ball, the Ravens made it clear that they weren’t going to let their man get away.

“We came to a number [in January] that we felt like would be fair for Brandon and fair for us,” Newsome said. “But then, there is always an adjustment that has to happen based on, No. 1, how high the cap went, which went up $12 million [from 2016]. Then, [we considered] some of the deals that were made in the early part of the day and the early part of the week.

“Before the deal got completely done, I got another call from Steve early Thursday evening basically saying to me, ‘Do what you have to do to get the deal done.’ Having an owner like that really helps myself and [senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty] to be able to put together a deal that can keep good players on our football team.”

In the end, perhaps the owner couldn’t stand the thought of seeing another talented young player find big money somewhere else like guard Kelechi Osemele did a year ago, but his final call appeared to push negotiations across the finish line.

That revelation may provide some ammunition to those arguing that the Ravens overpaid to keep a run-stopping nose tackle, but we may never know whether another team was prepared to go as high as the Ravens did to sign Williams. Newsome reiterated on Monday that he’s comfortable with the organization’s remaining resources to address its many other needs, but only time will tell whether that proves to be the case.

For Williams, the lucrative deal brings the expectations of leading a young group of defensive linemen as well as living up to the title previously held by Harrison.

“He tweeted me out and said, ‘Good job. Looks like you’re the best now. See you on the field,'” Williams said. “Now, I’ve got to prove my worth, so I’m ready to do that.”

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Veteran receivers reportedly no longer options for Ravens

Posted on 08 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The official signing period for free agency doesn’t begin until 4 p.m. on Thursday, but two veteran receiver options are already off the board for the Ravens.

Former New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall won’t have to change his address after agreeing to a two-year, $12 million with the Giants on Wednesday morning. The 32-year-old was considered a potential fit for the Ravens by many outsiders — including retired Raven Steve Smith — but it remains unclear whether the organization ever engaged in dialogue with Marshall after he was cut by the Jets last week.

Washington veteran Pierre Garcon has also been identified by many as the prototype receiver that the Ravens covet, but he appears set to join the San Francisco 49ers. According to ESPN, the 31-year-old is expected to earn $16 million in the first year of a deal that can’t be finalized until Thursday.

The Ravens have already lost top veteran Steve Smith to retirement this offseason and appear unlikely to retain free agent Kamar Aiken, who led the team in receiving in 2015.

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Marshall represents interesting case for Ravens

Posted on 03 March 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens-related noise began as soon as word leaked out Thursday night that the New York Jets were releasing wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

An accomplished veteran with size and physicality, the six-time Pro Bowl selection has long fit the mold of the receiver the Ravens seek this offseason, but it’s more complicated than that. The 12th-year wideout is an interesting case study for an organization desperate to get better after missing the playoffs in three of the last four years.

Of course, the conversation needs to begin — and could promptly end — with Marshall’s history of domestic violence, an issue the Ravens have deliberately spoken out against since their mishandling of the Ray Rice saga in 2014. Owner Steve Bisciotti has made it clear that his team will avoid players with this type of history, and it’s an admirable position despite the roster needing as much talent as it can find these days.

There should be no dismissing Marshall’s disturbing past, but he has worked to rehabilitate his image with no reported legal problems since 2012. Revealing in 2011 that he suffers from borderline personality disorder, Marshall has been an outspoken advocate for mental illness awareness, an issue that’s been neglected in our society for too long.

But no writer is likely to sway your stance on Marshall the person or any other individual with such a history. Ultimately, Bisciotti and the Ravens will make the call, knowing they’ll be criticized by many if they sign him or bashed by others if they choose to pass on him and seemingly ignore the strides that he’s made off the field over the last five years.

If the Ravens do decide they’re comfortable with the person Marshall is in 2017, then what?

An obvious victim of the Jets’ disastrous quarterback situation in 2016, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wideout caught only 59 passes for 788 yards and three touchdowns after making 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns in his debut season with New York. Few would dispute that Marshall has more left in the tank, but how much more and at what price?

The Ravens’ history with Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Smith makes it seem like a foregone conclusion that Marshall — who will turn 33 later this month — would be the latest success story of a receiver coming to Baltimore and thriving in the November of his career, but there’s no guarantee of that occurring. For every Smith or Mason who thrived well into his mid-30s — keep in mind that the Ravens acquired Boldin when he was only 29 and jettisoned him when he was 32 — there are other accomplished receivers who saw their production fall off a cliff much sooner.

Possessing a similar skill set and size to Marshall, former Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson caught 109 passes for 1,407 yards as a 32-year-old in 2013 and then saw his production dip to 85 receptions for 936 yards a year later. Citing the uncertainty at quarterback for the Texans and the emergence of the younger DeAndre Hopkins as the primary reasons for his 2014 decline, AFC South rival Indianapolis signed Johnson to a three-year, $21 million deal and cut him after just one 503-yard season.

The incomparable Randy Moss went from a 1,264-yard receiving season as a 32-year-old in 2009 to being a player who was all but finished a year later.

Even with some of the all-time greats, it’s a slippery slope when a receiver gets to this age.

The Ravens should proceed with caution, especially in a receiver market with only so many attractive options and plenty of teams flush with cash. Marshall still averaged 13.4 yards per catch in 2016 — slightly less than his 13.8 mark the previous year — but that kind of overall drop-off in production from a player his age shouldn’t be completely overlooked, either.

Marshall the player appears to be a good fit for any team that’s only one accomplished receiver away from serious contention in 2017, but are the Ravens in that kind of position with so many needs on both sides of the ball and limited resources? Can they reasonably expect Marshall to age as well as Smith did when Baltimore could be better positioned to compete for a Super Bowl in 2018? Would a younger veteran such as the 30-year-old Pierre Garcon be a better investment for the next few years?

It’s not an easy answer.

As much as the focus has been on whether the Ravens should go after Marshall, it might be more relevant to ask if they would be one of his top choices. Baltimore certainly remains an attractive destination, but is it still so appealing to prompt Marshall to forgo a potential bidding war in the way Smith did three years ago?

We know all of this is moot if Bisciotti and the Ravens decide not to look beyond Marshall’s past with domestic violence and other off-field transgressions. But if they determine he can be the right player, general manager Ozzie Newsome better be sure he’s paying the right price as they’re currently pondering the future of several veterans being paid more for their past accomplishments than their current value.

Marshall very well could be the right fit, but it’s a continuation down the path of relying on players well past the age of 30, something for which the organization has been criticized.

It worked with Mason, Boldin, and Smith, but history isn’t guaranteed to repeat itself if they choose to sign another accomplished receiver past his prime.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 13 win over Miami

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens blowing out Miami in a 38-6 final on Sunday to remain tied atop the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. How badly did Joe Flacco need a performance like that? It was the first time he’d thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game against a team not named the Cleveland Browns in over a year.

2. Considering his salary cap figure is the second highest on the team and fourth among NFL safeties, Lardarius Webb stepping up in response to Eric Weddle’s recent challenge to elevate his play is an encouraging development. His end-zone interception in the second quarter was sensational.

3. Kyle Juszczyk might be the best fullback in the NFL, but he saw his lowest snap total on Sunday since Week 3. I couldn’t help but think that was a positive development in getting more dynamic receivers on the field to help the passing game.

4. Using the same starting offensive line for the third straight game — the first time the Ravens have done that since the first three weeks of the season — resulted in zero sacks and just two quarterback hits allowed against the Dolphins’ talented front four. Continuity is critical with line play.

5. Remember how the Ravens ranked last in the NFL with just six interceptions last season? Their three-pick performance against Ryan Tannehill gave them 14 for the season, which is tied for second in the league entering Week 14.

6. Count me among those who expected the Ravens to run the ball more in the second half, but I sometimes wonder if some care more about the run-pass ratio than scoring points and accumulating yards. Taking issue after the highest scoring output in over two years is silly.

7. I’m not sure I’ve seen linebackers more clueless in coverage than Miami’s were. Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg were smart to attack the middle of the field to exploit them.

8. Of the nine Ravens players selected on Day 2 of the draft since Super Bowl XLVII, just two — Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan — were active for Sunday’s game. That isn’t easy to overcome as an organization.

9. Terrance West has averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry this season, but Kenneth Dixon is gaining 5.9 yards per attempt over his last four games after averaging 1.5 yards per carry in his first four games back from injury. It’s getting tougher and tougher to hold the rookie back.

10. Miami’s complaints about the field at M&T Bank Stadium are noteworthy after the switch to natural grass this season, but the Ravens didn’t seem to have any problems. It will be interesting to see how the surface holds up for the Army-Navy game and the Philadelphia game in Week 15.

11. The Ravens have surrendered the fifth-fewest pass plays of 25 or more yards this season, but they’re on pace to produce fewer pass plays of 25 or more than they did last year when they lacked any viable vertical threat. This offense has disappointed, but I wouldn’t have guessed that.

12. I understand John Harbaugh’s team was really banged up at the time, but watching the New York Jets play Monday reminded how maddening that Week 7 loss was. The Ravens remain in good position now, but that one still hangs over their heads as a potential season-killer.

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Ravens-Jets: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 October 2016 by Luke Jones

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Ravens are looking to stop the bleeding before a much-needed break as they face the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Playing at MetLife Stadium for the second straight week, Baltimore is dealing with a plethora of injuries, but starting quarterback Joe Flacco is active after practices this week with a right shoulder injury. Flacco was designated as questionable to play, but he appeared to be throwing the ball well in the portion of Friday’s workout open to reporters.

It was interesting to note, however, that Flacco did not do his typical throwing on the field before full-team warmups, an indication that he isn’t 100 percent and is trying to take care of his shoulder.

The rest of the injury report isn’t as encouraging as the Ravens officially deactivated linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps), wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) after all three former Pro Bowl selections were listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring) were ruled out on Friday.

With Suggs and Dumervil out, Za’Darius Smith and rookie Kamalei Correa were lining up was the starting outside linebackers during pre-game warmups. Albert McClellan was once again working at inside linebacker with Mosley sidelined.

The biggest surprise was the deactivation of rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) after he practiced fully all week. The first-round pick has now missed four straight games, continuing to leave the Ravens vulnerable on the left side of the offensive line.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith is active after going through the concussion protocol this week. He practiced on a limited basis wearing a red non-contact jersey, but the veteran defensive back was obviously cleared over the weekend to play against the Jets.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is also active after returning to practice on Friday.

With all seven inactives being injured players this week, rookie defensive tackle Willie Henry is active for the first time this season. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Robertson Daniel are also active after being moved to the 53-man roster on Saturday.

Meanwhile, New York will be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) after he was listed as questionable on the final injury report. His absence clearly leaves a big void on the defensive line for the struggling Jets.

Sunday’s referee will be Walt Anderson

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the low 60s and winds up to 23 miles per hour.

The Ravens will wear white jerseys with black pants while the Jets don green tops with green pants.

Sunday marks the 10th regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding an 8-1 advantage and having won the last eight games. The Jets haven’t beaten the Ravens since a 19-16 overtime final on Nov. 2, 1997.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Shareece Wright
LB Terrell Suggs
LB C.J. Mosley
LB Elvis Dumervil
G Marshal Yanda
OT Ronnie Stanley
WR Steve Smith

NEW YORK
DL Muhammad Wilkerson
QB Christian Hackenberg
QB Bryce Petty
WR Jeremy Butler
LB Darron Lee
OT Brent Qvale
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

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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 activate Taliaferro, promote cornerback from practice squad

Posted on 22 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The banged-up Ravens made multiple moves to their roster a day before their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

Third-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has been activated from the physically unable to perform list after returning to practice this week. The 2014 fourth-round pick has appeared in just three regular-season games over the last two seasons, but he is expected to immediately fill a meaningful special-teams role.

In 16 career games, Taliaferro has rushed for 339 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries. His career has largely been derailed by a chronic foot injury that required season-ending surgery last season.

Baltimore also promoted cornerback Robertson Daniel from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. The secondary lost cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (concussion), Jerraud Powers (groin), and Shareece Wright (hamstring) to injuries last week, and all three remained on this week’s injury report with Wright doubtful to play and the other two questionable for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens signed Daniel to their practice squad less than two weeks ago. The 6-foot-1 Brigham Young product was an undrafted free agent originally signed by Oakland in 2015 and also spent time with Green Bay and Washington.

To make room for Taliaferro and Daniel on the 53-man roster, the Ravens waived tight end Daniel Brown and placed safety Kendrick Lewis on injured reserve. Lewis suffered a setback with a lingering thigh injury during Thursday’s practice and had been listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

The Ravens did not promote practice-squad quarterback David Fales to their 53-man roster on Saturday, a clear sign that starter Joe Flacco will be active for Sunday’s game. The 31-year-old missed practices this week with a right shoulder injury, but he was a full participant in Friday’s workout.

On Saturday, the Jets made roster moves of their own, promoting linebackers Victor Ochi and Julian Stanford. A rookie free agent from Stony Brook, Ochi spent the 2016 preseason with the Ravens and collected two sacks before being waived in early September.

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Flacco questionable, seven other Ravens doubtful or out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 21 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens listed Joe Flacco as questionable to play against the New York Jets after he returned to the practice field on Friday.

Losers of three straight games, Baltimore can hardly afford to be without its franchise quarterback, who has dealt with a right shoulder injury this week. Taking part in a walk-through practice that did not involve helmets or shells, Flacco threw to Dennis Pitta from 10 to 15 yards away with plenty of zip on the football during the portion of practice open to media and did not show any discomfort.

“He looked good. He was throwing the ball well,” said Pitta, who teased his close friend about his absence from practices this week but added that he’d be surprised if Flacco doesn’t play. “He didn’t seem in any kind of pain. We’re excited to have him back out there, for sure.”

Flacco missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging exam earlier in the week. The 31-year-old signal-caller received treatment after participating fully in Friday’s workout and was not available to reporters.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was also designated as questionable to play and was a limited participant for the third straight day. As of Friday afternoon, he hadn’t been fully cleared from the concussion protocol.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is questionable after returning to practice on Friday and missing the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants, but the Ravens continue to be without wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps), Elvis Dumervil (foot), and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder). Dumervil and Mosley were officially ruled out on Friday while Smith, Suggs, and Yanda were all designated as doubtful.

The banged-up Ravens will certainly welcome their Week 8 bye after Sunday’s game.

“We have a lot of injured guys and guys who will need that time off,” Pitta said. “I think we’ll all welcome that time off to heal up and get ready to finish the season. It puts even more pressure on this game because everybody wants to go into that bye with a win. We certainly don’t want to lose four straight going into that bye and have to sit all week and think about it.”

Defensive backs Shareece Wright (thigh) and Kendrick Lewis (thigh) are also doubtful to play in Week 7. Wright hasn’t practiced since leaving Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants while Lewis was added to Thursday’s injury report as a limited participant, which often indicates an injury occurred during practice.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) was listed as questionable after being a full participant in practice for the third straight day, but head coach John Harbaugh offered little insight on his status for Week 7. The first-round pick has missed three straight games and was a limited participant in two practices last week before sitting out the loss to the Giants.

“I like what we saw,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just see how he feels tomorrow after the work and see how he feels on Sunday.”

With seven players listed as doubtful or out, the Ravens could be in line to make a roster move or two ahead of Sunday’s game. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro would be a potential option as he began practicing this week and is a good special-teams player.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) and listed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) as questionable after he failed to participate in Friday’s practice. Reports from New York indicated concern for the 2015 Pro Bowl selection’s Sunday status.

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

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to 17 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh)
DOUBTFUL: S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
OUT: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)

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Injury report not looking much better for Ravens on Thursday

Posted on 20 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Thursday brought little good news for the Ravens on the injury front as starting quarterback Joe Flacco again headlined a list of eight players absent from practice.

Flacco missed his second straight practice while nursing a right shoulder injury, creating more concern about his status for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Jets. Not counting the season-ending knee injury he sustained last November, the ninth-year quarterback hadn’t missed consecutive regular-season practices in recent memory.

Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), and cornerback Shareece Wright (thigh) were also absent for the second consecutive day.

Reserve cornerback Jerraud Powers (groin) was the only player to return on Wednesday after missing the previous day’s workout. However, wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) and safety Kendrick Lewis (thigh) were added to the reporter as limited participants on Thursday.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion) was practicing for the second straight day, but he was once again sport a red non-contact vest over his jersey, indicating he has not yet been fully cleared in the concussion protocol. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is not on the injury report, but he continues to wear a red vest as well.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner were practicing for the second straight day as they both appear poised to return to action in Week 7.

The Jets were without five players during their Thursday practice as head coach Todd Bowles ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) for Sunday’s game.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), DL Sheldon Richardson (non-injury), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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