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Flacco injury creates unsettling feeling for already-reeling Ravens

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco says his right shoulder injury is nothing to worry about and head coach John Harbaugh expressed his belief that the Ravens quarterback will play against the New York Jets on Sunday.

But we’re also talking about the man who had missed only one regular-season practice in his NFL career before tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last November. In other words, it takes a lot to keep the 31-year-old off the practice field, making Wednesday’s absence more concerning for a struggling team already trying to avoid its first four-game losing streak since 2007.

Like with any pitcher in baseball, you never want to hear about a quarterback dealing with an ailment to his throwing arm — no matter how minor it might be — because you don’t know how long it could linger. Fortunately, the bye comes next week to afford Flacco some extended rest, but the Ravens can hardly afford a loss to the struggling Jets with a challenging second-half schedule to come, making it difficult to sit him if he is capable of playing and isn’t at substantial risk of making the injury worse.

“It is not about being pain free,” said Flacco, who underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam after reporting the injury on Monday. “You can deal with a little pain. It is just about making sure you can throw the ball good enough to go out there and help your team.”

The memories of the injury-ravaged 2015 were already returning with five former Pro Bowl selections inactive for Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, but the additions of Flacco and veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs (torn biceps) to the injury report this week create a full-fledged sense of déjà vu. Injuries are part of the game, but the attrition has reached an alarming level in a matter of just a week or two.

The saving grace is that Baltimore is just a game behind first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North and none of the key players to get hurt during the current slide have suffered season-ending injuries — at least to our current knowledge. We know Flacco is the only player the Ravens truly can’t afford to lose, and the current ailment pales in comparison to the ACL injury sustained last year.

But that team was already 3-7 and going nowhere fast when the franchise quarterback was lost for the season.

Of the three quarterbacks to start games in Flacco’s place last season, Ryan Mallett fared the best, leading an upset victory over the Steelers in Week 16. It’s hardly a stretch to think the Ravens’ backup couldn’t help the Ravens to a win over a 1-5 team with a different starting quarterback of its own on Sunday.

“This league is all about the next man up,” running back Terrance West said. “Everybody is behind Mallett. Everybody wants Flacco to play, but if he doesn’t, it’s about the next man up. That’s how the league goes.”

Whether it’s Flacco or Mallett under center, the Ravens will likely need to lean more on their running game against a Jets defense that’s been poor against the pass but has surrendered only 3.4 yards per carry. Having Flacco throw 45 or 50 times per game was already less than ideal, and that’s even more obvious now.

Maybe the starting quarterback’s absence turns out to be nothing more than a midweek footnote, but the missed practice time alone is less than ideal with Marty Mornhinweg in his second week as offensive coordinator. Averaging a career-worst 6.02 yards per attempt, Flacco could stand to use the practice reps with a group of wide receivers who struggled to consistently create separation on short-to-intermediate routes in Week 6.

Aside from the expected absence of five-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, the offensive line is fortunately trending in the right direction with left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Rick Wagner both practicing fully on Wednesday. It’s no secret that Flacco has taken a beating over the last few weeks, so improved pass protection would make Harbaugh and the Ravens feel better about playing him with a tender shoulder on Sunday.

It would also help if top receiver Steve Smith can return from an ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of the Week 5 loss to Washington. Even at age 37, Smith still represents the most reliable pass-catching target that the Ravens have.

Baltimore was already banged up and in real need of a break, but a Week 7 win is a must after losing three straight. Even at full strength, this roster needing to go 7-2 after the bye just to finish with a 10-6 record — which isn’t always guaranteed to land a playoff spot — would be an extremely difficult task.

Improving to 4-3 is critical, but a win against even the lowly Jets feels very uncertain without Flacco on the field and healthy.

Despite his claim on Wednesday suggesting otherwise, the shoulder is surely something to worry about.

“I sure hope not,” said Flacco about whether it could come down to a Sunday-morning decision. “I really don’t know to be honest with you. I hope I come in here and start feeling pretty good.”

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stevesmith

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Nine Ravens players absent from practice on Wednesday

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already dealing with a litany of injuries, the Ravens added starting quarterback Joe Flacco to the list as they continued preparations for their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

The 31-year-old signal-caller was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he deals with a right shoulder injury. He played all 83 snaps in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, but the veteran appeared to be banged up in the post-game locker room after the game.

Flacco said he did not feel any discomfort during the game and only felt “a little something” in the post-game locker room on Sunday.

“We’re just going to see how the thing goes during the week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play. I don’t know what the percentage is. No one gave me a percentage on it. I believe he has a legitimate chance to play.”

The Ravens were also without wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and cornerbacks Shareece Wright (thigh) and Jerraud Powers (groin) on Wednesday.

Harbaugh said Monday that Suggs and Yanda are unlikely to play until after next week’s bye, but he didn’t rule out the former trying to play against the Jets if his arm were to improve.

“Last time he [tore his other biceps], he played the game after the first game,” Harbaugh said. “If he comes up and says he can play, then we’ll put him out there. He’s not a long-term deal, either.”

The good news for Baltimore was the presence of cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion), who was practicing with a red non-contact vest over his jersey. His limited participation would mean he’s reached the penultimate step in the concussion protocol before being cleared to return to full action.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace (ribs) and Breshad Perriman were also practicing with red vests during the open portion of practice, but they were not listed on the injury report.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) were both present and working during practice, a good sign for their availability against the Jets. Stanley was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 3 while Wagner wasn’t even listed on Wednesday’s report.

As expected, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Asa Jackson were both practicing. Taliaferro has begun his 21-day practice window after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list while Jackson is currently on the practice squad and could be an option for depth with the current injuries in the secondary.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially named Geno Smith their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling mightily in the midst of a 1-5 start.

Left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (knee), and defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) were absent from Wednesday’s practice for New York.

Below is Wednesday’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), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

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

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ravens

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Ravens just can’t seem to escape malaise of mediocrity

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens just couldn’t shake it in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, another winnable game that wasn’t won.

Yes, the injuries are piling up and the rest of the AFC North is conveniently a mess, but those factors only deflect from the reality that’s becoming more apparent every week, especially after three straight losses to cancel out a 3-0 start.

The Ravens are stuck in a malaise of mediocrity that’s rapidly becoming their identity. Truthfully, it’s what they’ve mostly experienced since Super Bowl XLVII, going just 26-28 with one playoff appearance over that time. Their 2014 campaign that included a postseason win and a trip to the divisional round used to be the norm, but it’s been Baltimore’s ceiling since raising the Lombardi Trophy four years ago.

Look no further than Sunday being the Ravens’ 20th game decided by a single possession since the start of 2015. They’re not terrible, but they’re not particularly good, either. Especially after last season’s 1-6 start, the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” routine is starting to fall on deaf ears with close games becoming the norm in the NFL.

The Ravens are what their record says they are.

“We’re a .500 team. We’re 3-3 in tight games,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’ve won some, we’ve lost some. You could easily say we could be 5-1, 6-0 or we could be 0-6 or 1-5.”

Everyone deserves blame, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office.

The Ravens entered Week 6 tied for 22nd in the NFL in penalties before adding 15 more for 111 yards against the Giants, several of those short-circuiting offensive drives like we’ve seen all too often this season. Coaches and the players themselves need to be accountable for the weekly routine of shooting themselves in the foot.

Baltimore entered Sunday ranked fifth in pass defense and held the Giants to just seven points and 133 yards in the first half, but the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith led to Eli Manning throwing for 296 yards after halftime, most of that going to Odell Beckham Jr. Losing Smith obviously hurt, but allowing passing plays of 75, 43, and 66 yards in one half is inexcusable.

Of course, a pass rush that continues to be nonexistent beyond the occasional flash from the now-injured Terrell Suggs hasn’t helped one bit. With Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both sidelined, the Ravens continue to wait for their young pass rushers to step up.

With three starters missing on Sunday, the offensive line played about how you’d expect, but opposing defenses aren’t going to feel sorry for the Ravens. They’ve got to figure out a way to make it work in the meantime.

On Sunday, John Harbaugh received too much criticism for going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to begin the fourth quarter — that was the correct decision in a game in which his pass defense was rapidly falling apart — but he’s deserved plenty of blame for bizarre choices in recent weeks. During a losing streak, a head coach needs to find solutions and not be part of the problem as has been the case over the current three-game slide.

The coaching issues go beyond simply firing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman last week.

Even Joe Flacco — who generally receives too much blame during tough times — played his worst on the final drive of Sunday’s game when the Ravens still had a chance to win, missing a wide-open Mike Wallace and making some questionable decisions with the football. The franchise quarterback isn’t high on the list of current problems, but he’s only been OK and not much better than that this season, which isn’t good enough from the highest-paid player on the roster.

It’s certainly not helping Flacco that we’re again asking who the play-makers are on this roster, something that’s become an annual question for longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office. Steve Smith still being the Ravens’ best receiver is both a compliment to the 37-year-old and a clear indictment of the front office.

The Ravens received much praise for the Weddle signing this offseason, but even that came after wasting early draft picks and making bad free-agent signings at the safety position over the last few years.

The Odell Beckhams of the league don’t grow on trees, but when are the Ravens going to find a special player or two — on either side of the ball — to make the difference in these one-score games? Ed Reed had a Hall of Fame career of doing exactly that, allowing Baltimore to snatch numerous victories from the jaws of defeat.

The Ravens’ current list of injured players includes five over the age of 30. This is an aging roster short on high-impact young players, which is why the Ravens find themselves stuck in neutral.

They’re springing too many leaks to inspire much confidence, especially with a difficult second-half schedule looming. Even when they begin fixing an issue such as the special teams playing better in Week 6, another pops up elsewhere with the defense collapsing in the second half of a winnable game.

Yes, there’s plenty of football to play and the AFC North is wide open with Cincinnati two games below .500 and 4-2 Pittsburgh losing Ben Roethlisberger to a knee injury for the time being, but that doesn’t change the truth about the Ravens.

From top to bottom, it just feels too mediocre.

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Ravens-Giants: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 16 October 2016 by Luke Jones

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Ravens are seeking a fresh start under new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg after the dismissal of Marc Trestman this past week.

The problem is having three offensive starters inactive for the Week 6 meeting with the New York Giants as both teams attempt to snap losing streaks on Sunday. As expected, No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), and rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) were all deactivated by Baltimore after missing practices and being listed as doubtful to play this week.

Smith left last Sunday’s loss to Washington in the first quarter and did not return while Yanda is missing his first game since the end of the 2012 regular season. Stanley practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday, but he will now miss his third straight game with a lingering foot ailment.

With Stanley out, fellow rookie Alex Lewis will make his second straight start at left tackle with John Urschel starting once again at left guard. Ryan Jensen will start at right guard in place of Yanda.

Despite veteran right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) being active, he is not 100 percent and may only be available as an emergency backup. Third-year lineman James Hurst was working as the starting right tackle during pre-game warmups.

The defense is also in rough shape as linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring) will not play after being deactivated. Dumervil was shut down again this week after quiet performances in his first two games since returning from offseason foot surgery. Mosley hurt his hamstring in the second half of the Week 5 loss to Washington and didn’t return.

With Mosley out, third-year inside linebacker Zach Orr will relay the defensive calls in the huddle and veteran Albert McClellan will move inside. Dumervil’s absence should lead to more pass-rushing opportunities for the likes of Za’Darius Smith, Matt Judon, and possibly Kamalei Correa on Sunday.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is also inactive after missing practices on Thursday and Friday. How the Ravens elect to handle the return duties is more of a mystery as veterans Lardarius Webb, Mike Wallace, and Terrance West and rookies Chris Moore, Kenneth Dixon, and Tavon Young all fielded kicks during pre-game warmups. Webb did appear to field the majority of the punts, however.

In all, the Ravens will be trying to break their two-game slide with five former Pro Bowl players sidelined with injuries. Rookie defensive tackle Willie Henry was the only healthy scratch for Baltimore.

Meanwhile, there were no surprises among the New York Week 6 inactives as safeties Nat Berhe (concussion) and Darian Thompson (foot) and starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf) were declared out on Friday. As expected, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (groin) and running back Rashad Jennings (thumb) were active after being listed as questionable.

Sunday’s referee will be Jeff Triplette.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the low 70s and winds up to nine miler per hour.

The Ravens will wear white jerseys with black pants while the Giants don blue tops with white pants.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding a 3-1 advantage, which doesn’t include the 34-7 victory in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001. However, the Ravens haven’t won a road game against the Giants since Sept. 14, 1997.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR/RS Devin Hester
LB C.J. Mosley
LB Elvis Dumervil
DT Willie Henry
G Marshal Yanda
OT Ronnie Stanley
WR Steve Smith

NEW YORK
CB Eli Apple
QB Josh Johnson
WR Tavarres King
S Darian Thompson
S Nat Berhe
LB Deontae Skinner
OT Marshall Newhouse

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stevesmith

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Six key Ravens players likely out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 14 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will be trying to snap a two-game losing streak without the benefit of several key players for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Giants.

In the final injury report of the week, Baltimore not only ruled out outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) for Sunday’s game, but wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), and return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) were all listed as doubtful to play in Week 6. The rookie Stanley returned to practice on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday, but it’s apparent that he’s not fully recovered from the foot ailment that sidelined him for each of the last two games.

The injury saga of last season is a given, but it’s difficult to recall many single-game injury reports as sobering as this week’s for the 3-2 Ravens.

The only good news for the Ravens on Friday was the return of right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) to the practice field, but he was still listed as questionable after leaving last Sunday’s loss at halftime. Linebacker Albert McClellan (calf), wide receiver Mike Wallace (ribs), and cornerback Shareece Wright (back) are all questionable, but Wallace and Wright were full participants in the final two practices of the week.

New coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will try to reverse the fortunes of the league’s 22nd-ranked offense, but it won’t be easy with his top wide receiver and arguably his two best offensive linemen all unlikely to play against the Giants. The Ravens will likely try to combat their offensive line woes by committing more heavily to run, something former offensive coordinator Marc Trestman had been reluctant to do during his 21-game tenure with Baltimore.

Defensively, the Ravens are clearly hurting at linebacker, and the appearance of the versatile McClellan on Friday’s injury report only complicates matters with Dumervil officially out and Mosley unlikely to play after injuring his hamstring last Sunday. Inside linebacker Zach Orr will be entrusted to relay calls in the defensive huddle in place of Mosley while young linebackers Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa could see bigger defensive roles on Sunday.

With Hester unlikely to play, the Ravens could turn to the likes of rookie wide receiver Chris Moore, rookie cornerback Tavon Young, and veteran safety Lardarius Webb for help at the kick and punt return spots.

The Giants aren’t dealing with as many injury concerns, but head coach Ben McAdoo did rule out starting safety Nat Berhe (concussion) and starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf). Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (groin) is questionable, but he took part in practices on a limited basis this week.

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

Sunday’s Weather.com forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with the temperature reaching 70 degrees and winds five to 10 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report for Week 6:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot)
DOUBTFUL: RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith (ankle), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE: S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), LB Albert McClellan (calf), WR Mike Wallace (chest), OT Rick Wagner (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (back)

NEW YORK
OUT: S Nat Berhe (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf), S Darian Thompson (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Eli Apple (groin), WR Dwayne Harris (toe), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), LB Devon Kennard (concussion), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin)

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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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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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jimenez

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Bats warming, but pitching has carried Orioles over final month

Posted on 01 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Orioles hope their highest run output in nearly three weeks on Friday night is the harbinger of an offensive awakening for October, but their pitching is what’s made that kind of talk still possible.

A six-run, three-homer fifth inning was the story in Friday’s 8-1 victory over the New York Yankees that put Baltimore in the lead for the top wild card with two games to play, but veteran starter Yovani Gallardo gave the Orioles exactly what they needed and continued a month-long trend that’s saved the season. Allowing only one run over six innings to earn the win, Gallardo lowered the starter ERA to a very respectable 3.83 for the month of September.

For a group that was the Achilles heel of a contending club for the better part of five months, the substantial improvement couldn’t have come at a better time as the Orioles’ bats entered Friday averaging just 4.0 runs per game in September, continuing the second-half frustration for a lineup increasingly dependent on home runs. The offensive struggles had been even worse over the last 12 games prior to Friday as the Orioles scored more than three runs only twice while still managing to post a 6-6 record over that stretch to stay afloat in the race.

The survival was because of the pitching, which leads the American League with a 2.90 ERA in September.

The surge has been led by Ubaldo Jimenez, who has rebounded from an appalling 7.38 ERA in the first half to pitch to a 2.31 mark over his last five starts. The recent performance may not forgive his many missteps that hurt the Orioles earlier in the season, but where would they have been without him over the last five weeks with Chris Tillman not himself for most of that time?

Jimenez hasn’t been alone as fellow maligned starters Gallardo and Wade Miley have also had their moments in recent weeks. It’s easy — and fair — to ask what took so long for this group to finally pitch better, but the Orioles are just grateful to see the necessary improvement after the rotation’s previous best ERA for a month was a mediocre 4.55 in April.

Assuming good health, Tillman and Kevin Gausman were always locks for a potential postseason rotation, but Jimenez has easily secured the No. 3 spot with Dylan Bundy, Gallardo, and Miley all vying for the fourth and final starting spot.

Though known for being the backbone of the Buck Showalter era in Baltimore, the bullpen has also rebounded from a nightmare August (6.43 ERA) to post a 1.38 mark over the final month, eclipsing the previous best month of a 2.24 ERA in April. The Orioles still don’t know if Darren O’Day — who pitched for the first time in a week on Friday night — can reclaim his status as one of the best setup men in baseball in time for the playoffs, but Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, and Donnie Hart have continued to do admirable work in bridging the gap to the impeccable Zach Britton in the ninth.

The best closer in baseball remains a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities with eight coming in September.

It’s no secret that the Orioles will need offensive performances similar to Friday’s if they’re to make any noise in October, but the improved pitching will need to accompany the bats into the postseason.

For now, however, the pitching staff deserves a tip of the cap for making any of this excitement possible.

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“Rounding the Bases” in Orioles’ 4-1 win over Yankees

Posted on 21 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Who stood out in the Orioles’ 4-1 win over the New York Yankees on Thursday afternoon?

In the spirit of hockey’s “three stars” system with the addition of home plate for honorable mentions and other notes, we go around the bases after the 94th game of the 2016 season.

1stChris Tillman pitched like an ace to close out a rough road trip on a positive note. Needing a strong start as they tried to avoid their fifth consecutive loss and a four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium, the Orioles got seven superb innings from the right-hander, who improved to a sparkling 14-2 and lowered his ERA to 3.18. After allowing five batters to reach over his first two innings, Tillman relied more heavily on his fastball to register four strikeouts in the third and fourth innings and did an excellent job mixing his assortment of pitches the rest of the way. In addition to retiring 16 of the last 17 batters he faced to ultimately tie Chris Sale for the major league lead in wins, Tillman became the first Orioles pitcher since Jim Palmer in 1978 to complete at least seven innings and allow no more than one run in four consecutive starts. Baltimore is now a whopping 18-3 when Tillman takes the mound, the most team wins in any pitcher’s starts this season. Where would the Orioles be without him?

2ndJ.J. Hardy has been one of the few to swing the bat well at the start of the second half, and the shortstop set an improved tone early in Thursday’s game. With the Orioles entering the day just 3-for-33 with men in scoring position since the All-Star break and Mark Trumbo having already popped up with runners on the corners, Hardy delivered a hard single past Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius to plate two runs with two outs. The hit allowed Baltimore to match its run total from the first three games of the series and gave Tillman a lead before he took the hill. Hardy added another single in the fourth.

3rdJonathan Schoop gave the Orioles some much-needed breathing room when he hit a soft liner down the right-field line to score two runs and increase the lead to 4-1 with two outs in the seventh. The two-run double came on an outside off-speed pitch from New York starter CC Sabathia, who was then lifted from the game and suffered his fourth consecutive loss. Schoop also started the scoring rally in the first with a one-out infield single and is now hitting .296 on the year.

HomeZach Britton may have been staked to a comfortable three-run lead in the ninth, but the All-Star closer improved to a remarkable 30-for-30 in save opportunities this season by pitching a 1-2-3 frame against the heart of the Yankees order. His 30 saves in as many chances to begin a season is the 10th-best mark in major league history. … Returning to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with flu-like symptoms, Manny Machado went 2-for-4 with a run scored. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning and has not allowed an earned run in his last 14 appearances covering 16 2/3 innings. … While Machado and Chris Davis returned to the lineup, center fielder Adam Jones missed Thursday’s games after dealing with back spasms the previous night. Catcher Matt Wieters missed his third straight game while resting a bruised foot. … The Orioles return to Camden Yards on Friday to begin a six-game homestand with right-hander Dylan Bundy making his second major league start against Cleveland right-hander Trevor Bauer.

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Orioles send Wieters for X-ray on right foot

Posted on 19 July 2016 by Luke Jones

Already without Chris Davis and Hyun Soo Kim in their series-opening loss to the New York Yankees, the Orioles were concerned late Monday about the status of another starting player.

Matt Wieters underwent an X-ray after being hit by a 94 mph Ivan Nova fastball on his right foot in the first inning of the 2-1 defeat. The 2016 All-Star catcher stayed in the game and went 0-for-3, but manager Buck Showalter expressed concern after the game.

“Just sore, real sore,” Showalter told reporters at Yankee Stadium. “I’m waiting with a little anxiety on what’s going to show, especially this X-ray here.”

The Orioles lost shortstop J.J. Hardy for seven weeks earlier this season because of a broken foot, but the veteran infielder fouled a ball off his left foot in that instance.

Though Wieters has struggled with a .128 average in July, backup catcher Caleb Joseph is hitting just .167 without a home run or RBI in 84 plate appearances this season. An extended absence from Wieters would be a hit to a Baltimore offense that is scuffling in July after a red-hot month of June.

In 258 plate appearances in 2016, Wieters is hitting .250 with nine homers, 38 RBIs, and a .709 on-base plus slugging percentage. The 30-year-old was named to his fourth All-Star Game earlier this month.

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