Tag Archive | "NFL"

Ravens sign former picks Simon, Wenning, Jensen to practice squad

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Ravens sign former picks Simon, Wenning, Jensen to practice squad

Posted on 31 August 2014 by Luke Jones

A day after trimming their roster to the league-mandated 53 players for the regular season, the Ravens began formulating their 10-man practice squad by signing three former draft picks and six others on Sunday.

The list was headlined by 2013 fourth-round linebacker John Simon, who was one of the more notable final cuts of the summer. Simon saw action in only seven games as a rookie, making four tackles while primarily serving on special teams. Despite a strong performance in the preseason finale in New Orleans, Simon was left off the 53-man roster just a year after the Ravens were so excited to select the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year out of Ohio Stat.

The Ravens signed two other former draft picks as 2013 sixth-round offensive lineman Ryan Jensen and 2014 sixth-round quarterback Keith Wenning cleared waivers and agreed to join the practice squad. Baltimore elected to enter the regular season with just two quarterbacks on the roster for the fifth straight year and had hoped that Wenning would go unclaimed after final cuts.

Cornerbacks Tramain Jacobs and Deji Olatoye, defensive tackles Jamie Meder and A.J. Pataiali’i, tight end Phillip Supernaw, and running back Fitz Toussaint were the other six players to agree to join the practice squad as the Ravens had one spot to fill as of Sunday afternoon.

All nine players currently on the practice squad spent the preseason with Baltimore. Olatoye was cut when the Ravens needed to trim their roster from 90 to 75 while the other eight were officially waived on Saturday.

The NFL expanded practice squads from eight to 10 members for the 2014 season.

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Breaking down the Ravens’ 53-man roster following final cuts

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Breaking down the Ravens’ 53-man roster following final cuts

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

Saturday’s deadline arrived with the Ravens constructing their first official 53-man roster of the 2014 season in hopes of rebounding from the first non-playoff campaign of the John Harbaugh era a year ago.

Of course, the roster will remain fluid in the coming days as general manager Ozzie Newsome scans the open market for potential additions to enhance the talent already assembled. Baltimore will also construct a 10-player practice squad over the next few days with a number of players who were cut over the weekend potentially returning to the organization.

Here’s a look at the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening with some early impressions:

QUARTERBACKS (2) — Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
Analysis: The Ravens appear primed to go with only two quarterbacks for the fifth consecutive season after waiving rookie Keith Wenning on Saturday. The story will remain the same as it has for years in hoping the durable Joe Flacco continues his impressive streak of never missing a game as he enters his seventh season. Baltimore might be able to steal a win or two with Taylor at the helm in the event of a short-term injury to Flacco, but all hopes disappear if the Super Bowl XLVII Most Valuable Player goes down for any significant period of time.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4) — Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (can return in Week 3)
Skinny: The return of Pierce to the practice field on Saturday brought relief, but the third-year back will need to hold up over the first two weeks of the season before Rice is eligible to return. Taliaferro is a fair bet to see an increased role in short-yardage situations as the season progresses while Forsett’s job will be in jeopardy by Week 3. Juszczyk led the team in receptions during the preseason and could be a surprise contributor as a receiver out of the backfield. It will be very interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak distributes carries throughout the season with Rice and Pierce both coming off poor seasons.

WIDE RECEIVERS (7) — Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson, Kamar Aiken
Analysis: The Ravens found room to keep the trio of Campanaro, Thompson, and Aiken, but seven receivers feels a bit excessive in a passing offense that regularly uses two tight ends and the fullback out of the backfield, making it possible this positional group is altered before the start of the season. The Smiths need to come up big if this offense is to make major improvement from last year’s abysmal ranking of 29th in the NFL. Brown didn’t have a great summer and won’t be counted on as much as he was last season, but his 6-foot-5 frame remains extremely appealing inside the red zone.

TIGHT ENDS (3) — Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
Analysis: This group looked more promising before training camp began, but Daniels has looked more like this year’s version of Dallas Clark than the difference-making tight end he was for years in Houston. Pitta is 100 percent, however, and should be in for a big year after a full offseason to regain his strength and explosiveness. The Ravens will trust Gillmore to handle blocking duties once reserved for former Raven Ed Dickson, but the third-round rookie was uneven during practices and preseason games. Pitta alone makes this an above-average group, but the Ravens need contributions from Daniels and Gillmore to make Kubiak’s offense function at a high level.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9) — Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel, Jah Reid, James Hurst
Analysis: Even if you’re buying into the idea that Zuttah and Wagner will hold up adequately as starting members of the offensive line, the depth behind the starters remains suspect, especially at the interior positions. Significant offensive improvement begins and ends with this unit as offensive line coach Juan Castillo is counting on healthy versions of Osemele and Yanda as well as Monroe to do the heavy lifting. This group had its moments in the preseason, but the offensive line deserves scrutiny until it proves it can do the job on a weekly basis with three AFC North opponents waiting right off the bat. Hurst appeared very green early in the summer but improved as the weeks progressed, and the Ravens like his upside.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5) — Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson, Timmy Jernigan
INJURED: Terrence Cody (placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list and can’t return until Week 7)
Analysis: The season-ending injuries to Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban transformed the defensive line from a deep group to one with questions as the Ravens are only carrying five defensive linemen for the time being. Williams had a very strong preseason and could be a game-changer against the run, but Ngata and Canty will need to hold off Father Time for another season if the Ravens want to consistently control the line of scrimmage, something they struggled to do at times a year ago. This unit could stand to benefit from a veteran addition if Newsome finds someone that strikes his fancy.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6) — Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan, Josh Bynes, Zachary Orr
Analysis: The depth at this position is exceptional with the 2013 second-round pick Brown and former starter Bynes serving as primary backups. The Ravens could try to deal from this position of strength to address other areas such as cornerback, but reserves such as McClellan and Bynes are also core special-teams players. If the first-round pick Mosley can be a game-changing linebacker next to Daryl Smith, the Ravens will have a pair of starting inside backers as good as nearly any in the league. Orr was a surprise to make the 53-man roster, but he appears vulnerable to be cut if other positional groups are addressed in the next couple days.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee
Analysis: Even if 2013 fourth-round pick John Simon was an obvious disappointment, his dismissal on Saturday speaks to how talented and deep this group is. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees needs Suggs and Dumervil to look like the disruptive pass-rushers they were in the first half of 2013 to help cover up a vulnerable secondary. Upshaw is solid against the run while McPhee will probably serve as more of a defensive lineman in the Ravens’ sub packages, but both are quality role players within the defense.

CORNERBACKS (4) — Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, Asa Jackson
Analysis: Seeing Webb, Smith, and Jackson back on the practice field Saturday was encouraging, but that doesn’t mean the top three cornerbacks will be 100 percent for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7. Jackson earned praise during training camp, but he’s also never played a defensive snap entering his third year in the NFL, and the maligned Brown struggled for much of the summer. In the pass-happy modern era of the NFL, you need three or four quality corners and only Webb and Smith are proven commodities at this point. It’s easier said than done, but Newsome really needs to add an established cornerback to the mix to prevent too many restless nights for Harbaugh and Pees.

SAFETIES (6) — Matt Elam, Darian Stewart, Terrence Brooks, Jeromy Miles, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick
SUSPENDED: Will Hill (can return in Week 7)
Analysis: Most attention has fallen on the cornerback position, but this position doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence, either. The Ravens hope Elam playing closer to the line of scrimmage will bring out his physicality, but he made few plays in training camp or during preseason games. Stewart is the starting free safety for now, but it only appears to be a matter of time before the third-round rookie Brooks gets his chance after he made major strides over the final couple weeks of the summer. Keeping the trio of Miles, Levine, and Trawick appears to be a bit much, but Levine’s ability to play cornerback makes him stand out a bit more than the others. Newsome stated an offseason goal of finding a game-changing safety, but there weren’t any signs of that being a reality this summer.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
Analsysis: Tucker might be the best kicker in the NFL while Koch appeared to have a strong enough summer to quell concerns about an underwhelming 2013 campaign and a high salary cap figure. The long snapper Cox quietly does his job as well as anyone every year.

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Ravens’ banged-up secondary returns to practice Saturday

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Ravens’ banged-up secondary returns to practice Saturday

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens hit the field to a welcome sight Saturday as four key members of their secondary returned to practice.

Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back), Jimmy Smith (chest), and Asa Jackson (ankle) as well as safety Matt Elam (leg) were all present and working during the portion of practice open to the media. Jackson and Elam appeared to be participating at a fairly high rate while Webb and Smith were more limited to individual work.

The return of Webb was particularly positive as he hadn’t practiced since being stricken with back spasms on July 25. With just over a week to go before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens will need their full array of defensive backs against Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and a potent offense.

“Very encouraging to get all those guys practicing,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I think we had everybody practicing today. It was encouraging to see that. Those guys all looked good. We’ll just take it one day at a time from there.”

Running back Bernard Pierce and offensive lineman Jah Reid also returned to practice after both had been dealing with concussions.

With running back Ray Rice beginning his two-game suspension, Pierce will become the starting running back and is expected to handle a bulk of the carries in Gary Kubiak’s new offensive system.

 

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Ravens cut veteran Shipley, 2013 fourth-rounder Simon to get to 53-man limit

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Ravens cut veteran Shipley, 2013 fourth-rounder Simon to get to 53-man limit

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to trim their roster to the league-mandated 53 members by 4 p.m. Saturday, the Ravens parted ways with a number of players headlined by veteran offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley and 2013 fourth-round linebacker John Simon.

The Ravens also cut cornerbacks Dominique Franks, Derek Cox, Tramain Jacobs, and Sammy Seamster, offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and Parker Graham, defensive tackles Jamie Meder and A.J. Pataiali’i, tight end Phillip Supernaw, running back Fitz Toussaint, and sixth-round rookie quarterback Keith Wenning on Saturday.

“It’s challenging,” said head coach John Harbaugh about the final cut-down day. “When a guy walks in your room, as a head coach, or if you’re any kind of a person at all, immediately you put yourself in their shoes. You become empathetic to what they’re going through, and that’s just how you feel about it.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody was placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list while he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery. He will be required to miss the first six weeks of the regular season before he’s eligible to return.

In addition to those transactions, the Ravens placed rookie wide receiver Jeremy Butler on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and moved running back Ray Rice and safety Will Hill to the reserve-suspended list.

The decision to part ways with both Franks and Cox means the Ravens only have four cornerbacks on their current roster, making it very likely that they’ll add another defensive back with Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Asa Jackson all just returning to practice on Saturday after injuries. Six safeties made the regular-season roster with Anthony Levine and rookie Terrence Brooks also having the ability to play cornerback to help depth at that position.

After much discussion over which receivers would make the 53-man roster, the Ravens elected to keep the trio of rookie Michael Campanaro, veteran Deonte Thompson, and 2013 practice squad member Kamar Aiken to give them seven total wideouts on the 53-man squad. Many were of the opinion that the Ravens would find room for only two of the three.

A pair of rookie free agents made the 53-man roster in offensive tackle James Hurst and linebacker Zachary Orr. The Ravens were excited about Hurst’s upside when they signed him following the draft while Orr impressed coaches with his special-teams ability during the preseason.

Shipley was let go by Baltimore despite starting nine games last season after left guard Kelechi Osemele underwent season-ending back surgery. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 307 pounds, the Penn State product is undersized for his position but was projected by most to make the 53-man roster as a reserve interior lineman.

The selection of fifth-round guard John Urschel in May’s draft ultimately helped push Shipley out the door as the Penn State product has the ability to play all three interior line positions.

“Less competed against and more just grew with. He’s a Penn State guy; I’m a Penn State guy,” Urschel said after Saturday’s practice. “We became very good friends while we were here, and he’s a guy who really took me under his wing and taught me a lot of things. A guy who didn’t have to help me considering that I’m a young guy, [and] he’s a veteran. Helped me every single day and really just helped teach me how to be a pro in this league.”

Last year, the Ravens were elated to draft Simon, who was the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for Ohio State, but the 6-foot-1, 252-pound linebacker was slow to develop and failed to show the all-around skill set required of an outside linebacker. With Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Pernell McPhee all ahead of him on the depth chart, Simon was clearly on the bubble after an underwhelming summer.

Simon’s departure marks the second straight year in which the Ravens have parted ways with a fourth-round pick from the previous year. Baltimore cut disappointing 2012 fourth-round safety Christian Thompson after he finished serving a four-game suspension to begin the 2013 season.

The exit of Shipley initially appeared to be good news for the second-year offensive lineman Jensen, but he was also waived. A sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, Jensen did not appear in a game last season, but the Ravens thought highly enough of him to carry him on the 53-man roster despite a broken foot costing him a sizable portion of training camp and the regular season.

The Ravens remain hopeful that Wenning will clear waivers, which would allow him to join the practice squad. They appear on track to carry only two quarterbacks on their active roster for the fifth consecutive season as starter Joe Flacco and backup Tyrod Taylor are the only signal-callers currently in the organization.

Of Saturday’s cuts, Jacobs, Seamster, Wenning, and Toussaint are among the potential fits for the 10-man practice squad if they do not draw interest from other NFL teams.

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Ravens waive five players ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline

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Ravens waive five players ahead of Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline

Posted on 29 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens began the process of trimming their roster from 75 to the regular-season total of 53 by initially waiving five players on Friday afternoon.

Defensive tackles Levi Brown and Derrick Hopkins, linebacker D.J. Roberts, tight end Nathan Overbay, and center Reggie Stephens were the first players to be let go following Thursday’s preseason finale in New Orleans. None were considered serious possibilities to make the regular-season roster although Hopkins and Brown were part of a position group that’s been ravaged by injuries after defensive ends Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore were lost for the season during training camp.

These moves mean the Ravens will need to make 17 more transactions to get down to the league-mandated 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday. Baltimore will place running back Ray Rice and safety Will Hill on the reserve-suspended list with neither counting against the roster limit. Rice is suspended for the first two games of the regular season while Hill is banned for the first six contests.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody can be placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list — and not count against the 53-man limit — after missing the entire summer rehabbing from offseason hip surgery. However, head coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal earlier in the week when asked about that possibility, meaning Cody could be ready to return sooner than the six-week minimum required to be on the list or he could just be waived and potentially awarded an injury settlement.

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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of preseason

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Predicting the Ravens’ 53-man roster at the end of preseason

Posted on 29 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The preseason is finally over as the Ravens now turn their sights toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7.

But first, head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome must trim their roster from 75 players to 53 by Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Though many often label this the “final” roster after nearly six weeks of summer football, it’s merely the first 53-man roster with the Ravens looking to make adjustments and upgrades wherever and whenever possible.

Depth concerns are apparent in the secondary and along the defensive line, which have prompted general manager Ozzie Newsome to look for outside help — he signed veteran cornerback Derek Cox earlier this week — to enhance the roster between now and the start of the season. Meanwhile, the Ravens appear to have good depth at linebacker and wide receiver that could leave one or two incumbents on the outside looking in by Saturday afternoon.

Though Newsome, Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are cognizant of the number of players at each position, trying to pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. The Ravens will always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their specific positional group.

NFL teams must get down to the regular-season number of 53 by Saturday, but they will also be able to formulate 10-man practice squads — an increase from the previous number of eight — once players around the league clear waivers.

Take a look at last week’s roster projection to see whose stock is up and who might have landed on the wrong side of the bubble after the 22-13 win over New Orleans in which most starters didn’t play.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players projected to be retained at that given position. Players listed as injured or suspended will not count against the 53-man roster limit when final cuts are made.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
OUT: Keith Wenning
Skinny: Wenning played more than expected in thinking the Ravens wouldn’t want to put too much tape out there for other teams to see, but it’s still a good bet the sixth-round pick passes through waivers and lands on the practice squad. Baltimore hasn’t carried three quarterbacks on the roster since 2009, and that’s expected to continue.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk
OUT: Fitz Toussaint
SUSPENDED: Ray Rice (will be suspended for the first two games of the regular season)
Skinny: Toussaint was the surprise of the night in New Orleans in rushing for 103 yards on 17 carries, but don’t read too much into the final preseason game when nearly all roster decisions have already been made. However, his performance improves his chances of being invited to join the practice squad or to be picked up elsewhere.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, Deonte Thompson
OUT: Kamar Aiken, Jeremy Butler
Skinny: Being a draft pick and having the potential to develop as a slot receiver, Campanaro is a notch above Thompson and Aiken, who are essentially a coin flip for one spot. Thompson gets the nod because of his lightning speed and improved performance as the summer progressed, but Aiken also grabbed four catches for 57 yards in the preseason finale. It’s very close.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore, Owen Daniels
OUT: Nathan Overbay, Phillip Supernaw
Skinny: Concerns remain over how much Daniels has left in the tank after a disappointing summer, but the Ravens are going to give him the benefit of the doubt and plenty of rest as we saw over the last couple weeks. It was encouraging seeing Daniels back on the practice field this week, but the rookie Gillmore might need to be a bigger factor than most anticipated.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
IN: Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Rick Wagner, Gino Gradkowski, John Urschel, Jah Reid, A.Q. Shipley
OUT: James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens, Parker Graham
Skinny: If Reid’s concussion symptoms linger longer than Harbaugh indicated earlier in the week, Hurst could temporarily find himself on the 53-man roster as the third tackle. Otherwise, it appears Shipley and Urschel get the nod as backup interior linemen over Jensen, who had a disappointing summer and could be a practice squad candidate.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (5)

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 27 August 2014 by Luke Jones

While many have turned their attention toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7, the Ravens complete their preseason schedule by taking on the New Orleans Saints in their first visit to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since Super Bowl XLVII Thursday night.

Of course, the stakes pale in comparison to the last time the Ravens traveled to Louisiana, but the livelihood of a select group of players still vying for roster spots is on the line as key position battles remain at wide receiver and potentially on the offensive and defensive lines. After trimming their roster to 75 players earlier this week, the Ravens must produce their first 53-man roster by 4 p.m. Saturday while also scanning the open market to see what players might shake free from other teams.

Thursday represents the final time some players will ever play football while others will find themselves seeking opportunities with 31 other NFL teams by the weekend. In all reality, most decisions will have been made prior to Thursday’s game with only a couple spots potentially up for grabs when the Ravens take the field against the Saints.

“It’s hard every year. It seems like we get to this point every year and we feel this way about our team,” said head coach John Harbaugh of the final roster decisions. “It just seems like it’s a challenge every year. That’s a good problem to have. Getting to the season, I hope it’s proven true. I hope we don’t think we have good depth and all of the sudden we get into the season [and] find out we don’t. That’s the nature of what we do.”

Thursday’s game won’t offer much from an entertainment standpoint as Harbaugh confirmed earlier this week that most starters will not play against the Saints, a team the Ravens will face in the regular season on Nov. 24. With the number of injuries currently plaguing the secondary alone, Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome will likely use the preseason finale as an evaluation tool of their secondary depth — the Ravens signed veteran cornerback Derek Cox on Wednesday — more than anything else.

Even without his starters playing in the final game of the summer, Harbaugh says expectations remain high for backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the Baltimore reserves who will either be filling out the 53-man roster or looking for work by Saturday.

“I want to win the game. We don’t go down there to not win the game,” Harbaugh said. “We are going to do everything we can to win the game. If we walk off the field without the win, I’m not going to be happy about it. I want to walk over and shake the other coach’s hand as the winner — not the loser.”

Thursday will be the second preseason meeting between the Ravens and the Saints, but Baltimore owns the 4-1 edge in the regular season and a 1-0 advantage in the preseason. The Ravens are 45-29 all-time in the preseason and have a 18-9 preseason mark in the Harbaugh era.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, does not take into account the many veterans — injured or not — who will be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: CB Lardarius Webb (back), CB Asa Jackson (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (chest), DT Terrence Cody (hip)
DOUBTFUL: OL Jah Reid (head)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Owen Daniels (legs), S Matt Elam (leg), RB Bernard Pierce (head)
PROBABLE: WR Kamar Aiken (head)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

1. QB Keith Wenning

This one will be fairly clear-cut as you’d expect the Ravens to limit Wenning’s playing time if they desire to pass him through waivers and place him on the practice squad. If Wenning receives extensive playing time, it could be a sign that they’re prepared to keep him on the 53-man roster as the third quarterback behind Joe Flacco and Taylor. The Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on the active roster since 2009, so the consensus expectation is they’ll run the risk of losing their 2014 sixth-round pick and use that roster spot for another position of need while hoping Wenning makes it to the practice squad.

2. WR Deonte Thompson

The speedy third-year wideout has been one of the stars of the summer with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Dallas and a 21-yard touchdown reception against Washington, but Thompson has also failed to take advantage of past opportunities in Baltimore. Even in Saturday’s game in which he caught the touchdown from Taylor, Thompson played only nine offensive snaps compared to 19 taken by Kamar Aiken and 13 by seventh-round rookie Michael Campanaro. The wild card that could keep Thompson on the roster is his blinding speed, which is a nice asset to back up Jacoby Jones in the return game.

3. LB John Simon

I’d still expect the 2013 fourth-round pick to make the roster, but the Ohio State product hasn’t stood out this preseason with only three total tackles. Considering there are four outside linebackers — Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Pernell McPhee — ahead of him on the depth chart, Simon’s only chance to see the field will be as a special-teams player in his second season. Given the current vulnerabilities at cornerback and on the defensive and offensive lines, Simon could be a surprise cut as nothing about his play on the field during practices or limited game opportunities suggests he’s really deserving of being a lock.

4. OT James Hurst

Despite receiving more attention that the typical rookie free agent after a broken leg factored into him going undrafted out of North Carolina, Hurst has struggled this summer and probably wouldn’t be receiving much consideration for a roster spot if not for the recent concussion suffered by fourth-year tackle Jah Reid. If Reid’s symptoms linger longer than expected, Hurst might find himself on the active roster when final cuts are made, but it’s doubtful that the Ravens would feel comfortable if needing to use him on game day. The likely scenario for Hurst would be the practice squad where he can continue to develop.

5. OL Ryan Jensen

The Ravens thought enough of the 2013 sixth-round pick as a rookie — and their struggling offensive line probably played a part as well — that they carried him on the 53-man roster despite a broken foot that sidelined him for an extensive part of the regular season. A year later, Jensen is firmly behind veteran A.Q. Shipley and fifth-round rookie John Urschel in the pecking order at guard as he saw only eight offensive snaps against Washington. Because he’s a recent draft pick, Jensen would figure to have a good chance to be signed to the practice squad, but his performance and playing time suggest his roster spot is in major jeopardy.


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Ravens sign veteran Derek Cox to boost secondary depth

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Ravens sign veteran Derek Cox to boost secondary depth

Posted on 27 August 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens attempted to boost depth in the secondary with the signing of veteran cornerback Derek Cox on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old was cut by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week and is expected to play in the preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints Thursday night. The Ravens parted ways with rookie wide receiver Jace Davis to make room on their 75-man roster.

Cox began his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of William & Mary. He started 45 games for the Jaguars over his first four seasons before signing a four-year, $20 million contract with the San Diego Chargers prior to the 2013 campaign.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound cornerback began last season as a starter for San Diego before being benched for poor play and losing his starting job in Week 13. He finished with 38 tackles, one interception, and seven pass breakups in 16 games, 11 of them starts. According to Pro Football Focus, Cox graded out 106th out of 110 cornerbacks to play at least 25 percent of his team’s snaps during the 2013 season.

Cox was released by the Chargers in March and signed a one-year contract with the Vikings later that month.

With injury concerns and a lack of experience beyond starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, the Ravens have been looking for cornerback help for quite some time, but it remains unclear whether Cox will make the final roster, let alone be trusted to potentially leapfrog Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown on the depth chart. He is now joining his fourth team in just over two years, which doesn’t speak well for his recent play.

In five NFL seasons, Cox has 241 tackles, 13 interceptions, 39 pass breakups, and a forced fumble.

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Harbaugh sees no “desperation” for Ravens to make trade

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Harbaugh sees no “desperation” for Ravens to make trade

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Eighty percent of the Ravens’ projected nickel secondary remains sidelined less than two weeks away from the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, but you won’t observe any sense of panic from John Harbaugh.

Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Asa Jackson as well as strong safety Matt Elam are currently out with various ailments, but the head coach remains optimistic that all will be ready when Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and a talented Bengals offense comes to Baltimore on Sept. 7. Harbaugh said Tuesday he expects Webb — who’s been sidelined with back spasms since July 25 — and Smith to be practicing by early next week while Jackson was running and working on lateral movement during Tuesday’s practice. Elam is expected to be practicing again by the end of the week after suffering a minor leg injury in Saturday’s preseason game against Washington.

Even if those expectations become reality for the Baltimore defense, serious questions remain at the No. 3 corner spot that’s essentially become a starting role in today’s pass-happy NFL. Jackson has never played a defensive snap entering his third season while fourth-year corner Chykie Brown saw only 39 defensive snaps during the 2013 regular season.

Needless to say, general manager Ozzie Newsome has been scanning the market to potentially add veteran cornerback help following the free-agent departure of Corey Graham in the offseason. The Ravens signed former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dominique Franks in mid-June, but his play this summer has been inconsistent after he was largely relegated to special-teams duties last season.

The poor health and lack of experience behind Webb and Smith have prompted many pundits and fans alike to clamor for an impact move as soon as possible.

“Maybe there will be a guy that will fall and somebody is going to have a real need for something that we have to offer,” Harbaugh said. “I know Ozzie and Eric [DeCosta] and Vince Newsome and George [Kokinis] and those guys are all talking with everybody around the league in terms of what’s out there. Not that we feel we have any desperation things that we have to get, but from the standpoint that [if] there’s something that we can get better, we want to do that.”

Trades at the end of the summer have been sparse in the Harbaugh era as the only impact swap came at the end of the 2010 preseason when the Ravens traded a fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for cornerback Josh Wilson. Needing another defensive back after starter Domonique Foxworth suffered a season-ending knee injury at the start of training camp, Baltimore benefited greatly from that acquisition as Wilson — now with the Falcons — started nine games and intercepted three passes to help the Ravens to a 12-4 record and a third straight trip to the playoffs.

Might the Ravens draw from a position of strength such as linebacker or wide receiver and possibly couple that with a draft pick to nab an established cornerback?

Harbaugh isn’t betting on it.

“We look at that every year, the opportunities to make trades and things like that,” Harbaugh said. “And every year, I’m usually disappointed that we don’t get anybody, because people don’t want to trade good players. It’s not as predominant as you would like to think it is going to be.”

Options are slim on the current market with veterans such as Asante Samuel, Chris Houston, and Dunta Robinson carrying age- or injury-related baggage that hasn’t been attractive to teams this summer. If the Ravens were interested in any of those veteran options, they likely would have pulled the trigger by now to give them sufficient time to learn Dean Pees’ defensive system.

Over the years, Newsome has been known to find a gem or two who was let go by another team at the end of the preseason such as offensive tackle Willie Anderson in 2008 or safety James Ihedigbo in 2012, but cornerback talent is at an ever-increasing premium with rules consistently trending toward offense. The odds simply aren’t great to be able to complete a reasonable trade that will help, but that’s fine with the seventh-year head coach as the Ravens prepare to play their final preseason contest in New Orleans on Thursday night.

“I like our team right now the way it stands,” Harbaugh said. “If we can get better, great. You get your hopes up, [then] they’re probably going to be dashed. But you can never count Ozzie out. He’s pretty special.”

NOTES: Harbaugh said he has decided whether suspended running back Ray Rice will play in the preseason finale, but he chose not to disclose his answer to the media. It would be surprising to see the three-time Pro Bowl selection playing behind a second-string offensive line that’s been suspect this summer. … Sixth-round quarterback Keith Wenning’s future remains in limbo as the Ravens haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster since 2009, but Harbaugh downplayed the difficulty of the decision. “You just decide who your best 53 players are. If the third quarterback is in the top 53, he’s on the team. If he’s not, he’s not. It’s simple.” … Quarterbacks are wearing new practice jerseys (modeled by backup Tyrod Taylor below) that are black with purple numbers, replacing the red models worn since Harbaugh arrived in 2008. The change was likely inspired by the practice jersey worn by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — a black top with red numbering — when his team practiced with the Ravens in Owings Mills earlier this month.

 

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Most of Ravens secondary continues to be sidelined during practice

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Completing their final full practice before the preseason finale in New Orleans, the Ravens continued to be without most of their projected starting secondary on Tuesday.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest), Lardarius Webb (back), and Asa Jackson (ankle) and safety Matt Elam (leg) were not working on Tuesday afternoon as the Ravens desperately try to get their secondary healthy for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 7.

Jackson was doing some running and working on his lateral movement with head athletic trainer Mark Smith during the portion of practice open to the media. Webb was an observer on the practice field as he has been periodically since being stricken with back spasms on July 25.

Running back Bernard Pierce (concussion), offensive tackle Jah Reid (concussion), and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (hip) were also missing from Tuesday’s practice. Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Pierce’s concussion Monday while also acknowledging that recovery time can often be unpredictable.

“I was told by Mark [Smith] he’s feeling a lot better today,” Harbaugh said. “It was described as a mild concussion. Nowadays, with those things, I don’t take any stock in that until they tell me that he’s back. The concussion thing is just hard to predict.”

Wide receiver Kamar Aiken returned to practice a day after sitting out. He is currently competing for one of the last spots on the 53-man roster with final cuts needing to be made by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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