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Pitta officially placed on PUP list, Guy returns to practice field

Posted on 01 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens trimmed their roster to the NFL-mandated 75 players on Tuesday by officially placing tight end Dennis Pitta on the reserve physically unable to perform list.

Baltimore also waived offensive linemen De’Ondre Wesley and Darryl Baldwin. The latter had been placed on the non-football injury list on Monday.

Attempting to return from a second right hip dislocation and fracture in two years, Pitta has been running routes and working out on his own, but the 30-year-old has not been fully cleared to return to the field. Head coach John Harbaugh had already said last month that Pitta would begin the regular season on the PUP list, meaning he is not eligible to return until Week 7 at the earliest.

The Ravens prepared all offseason as though Pitta would not be able to return to football by drafting tight ends Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle a year after selecting current starter Crockett Gillmore in the third round of the 2014 draft.

“As far as I’m concerned as a coach, I think you plan for the worst, and you hope for the best,” Harbaugh said. “I’m planning on him not being back. That would be the plan from a football standpoint, and I think he’s planning on being back. It’ll just come down to whether it’s a smart thing to do, and whether it’s what he wants to do, and really, what his family wants to do.”

Wesley injured his knee in the preseason loss to Philadelphia on Aug. 22 and had not returned to the practice field.

Defensive end Lawrence Guy (knee) returned to the practice field on Tuesday, a good sign for a thin group of young defensive linemen going into the preseason finale against Atlanta.

Seven players on the active roster were missing from Tuesday’s workout including wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee), defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan (knee) and DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder), cornerback Rashaan Melvin (undisclosed), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (concussion), and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (knee). Second-year defensive end Brent Urban (biceps) remains on the active roster, an indication that the Ravens are considering him placing him on injured reserve with the designation to return.

Teams are only allowed one designation, so the Ravens must weigh the benefits of Urban potentially returning in the second half of the season against the desire to save the option for a potential injury to a more prominent player early in the year.

Williams continues to practice in a red-contact jersey and did not play in the third preseason game against Washington, but Harbaugh would not delve into the specifics of the 2015 second-round pick’s ailments.

“He’s got an issue that we just can’t get him banged around with,” Harbaugh said. “He’s practicing, so he should be there for Denver, but we just want to protect him from a bump. We’ve done that in the past with guys.”

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Ravens hurting on defensive line entering preseason finale

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A defensive line once possessing great depth is suddenly a concern as the Ravens approach Thursday’s preseason finale in Atlanta.

After starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (right knee) and veteran reserves Lawrence Guy (knee) and DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder) all left Saturday’s preseason loss to Washington with injuries, the Ravens had just six defensive linemen on the field for Monday’s practice. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged this could be problematic for Thursday’s preseason finale with the Ravens preferring to rest starters Brandon Williams and Chris Canty against the Falcons.

“It’s going to be tight,” Harbaugh said. “The idea that we go in there with 75 guys [on the roster] is really not 75, because it’s going to end up being 35 guys probably with the injuries [and veterans resting]. It’s going to be a strain on those guys. It’s a tough game, but it’s also an opportunity for those guys to show what they can do. They’ll be excited to play.”

Should none of their injured defensive linemen return in time for Thursday’s game, the Ravens would be forced to rely heavily on rookie Carl Davis, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi, and Micajah Reynolds.

Jernigan injured his right knee on a legal cut block from Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses on the fourth defensive play of the game on Saturday. The Ravens are hopeful that the second-year defensive tackle will be able to play in the season opener on Sept. 13, but his status remains uncertain.

“It doesn’t look to be overly serious, but I can’t put any timetables on it,” Harbaugh said. “But it’s not something that’s going to keep him out [for an extended time]. It’s not going to be a surgery or anything like that.”

Durability continues to be a concern for the 2014 second-round pick as he had already dealt with a foot ailment earlier that prevented him from playing in the preseason opener. As a rookie, Jernigan missed a total of five games with knee and foot injuries.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed some frustration earlier this month about Jernigan missing valuable practice time as he prepares to take the reins from five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. No one doubts Jernigan’s ability, but the physical ailments are becoming a concern at this early stage of his career.

“I still believe he’s the guy that we drafted,” Pees said on Aug. 17. “I just wish we could get him out there a little more, but that’s not his fault.”

Should Jernigan not be ready for the opener, Davis would take his place on the starting line after receiving extensive action this summer. The third-round selection has been the Ravens’ most impressive draft pick with first-round receiver Breshad Perriman and second-round tight end Maxx Williams both dealing with health concerns.

Davis logged 36 defensive snaps and one tackle against Washington. He has has collected seven tackles and a pass breakup in three preseason games.

The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Iowa product says he has plenty of room for improvement and is still trying to learn the little tricks needed to succeed at the next level.

“Offensive linemen are smart. They’ve got so many different techniques,” Davis said. “I’m just learning how to play more physical every play. Every play counts. I’m trying to focus on making sure I don’t take any plays off and get better every play.”

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Key veterans return as Ravens begin trimming roster to 75

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens began paring their roster to the league-mandated 75 by Tuesday afternoon, a few key veterans returned to the practice field with the preseason winding down.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), left tackle Eugene Monroe (forearm), cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), and wide receiver Michael Campanaro were all present and working during the portion of Monday’s practice open to reporters. Webb and Campanaro had looked good in pre-game workouts before sitting out Saturday’s preseason contest against Washington, signaling their returns were imminent.

Webb was practicing for the first time since Aug. 11 and missed the first three preseason games with the hamstring issue. The 29-year-old cornerback hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2013.

“He practiced today, and I felt like he looked good,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He should be on schedule for Week 1. Again, I’m confident. I have faith that he’ll be out there Week 1.”

Monroe took part in individual work during the opening portion of practice and was sporting a pad on his right forearm to protect a deep bruise suffered in the Philadelphia game.

The Ravens began trimming their roster on Monday by announcing the cuts of wide receivers DeAndre Carter, Aldrick Robinson, and Trent Steelman, cornerback Tramain Jacobs, offensive linemen Leon Brown and Marcel Jones, long snapper Patrick Scales, and punter Justin Manton. Of those eight, Carter was the most notable after turning some heads in the spring, but issues with ball security severely damaged his chances of making the roster.

Per Monday’s NFL transactions sheet, the Ravens also placed safety Matt Elam (biceps), linebacker Steven Means (groin), cornerback Chris Greenwood (leg), and tight end Allen Reisner (ankle) on season-ending injured reserve and offensive lineman Darryl Baldwin on the reserve non-football illness list. Earlier this month, Harbaugh had alluded to the possibility of Elam or defensive end Brent Urban (biceps) being placed on IR with the designation to return, but now only the latter remains eligible for that.

Baltimore must make two more moves to get down to 75 players by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Ten players on the remaining preseason roster were sidelined for Monday’s practice including receiver Breshad Perriman (knee), defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan (knee), Lawrence Guy (knee), and DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder), cornerback Rashaan Melvin, offensive linemen Ryan Jensen (concussion) and De’Ondre Wesley (knee), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (knee), tight end Dennis Pitta (hip), and Urban.

Only six defensive linemen were practicing for the Ravens on Monday, which was problematic three games before the fourth preseason game in Atlanta. Numbers could be a concern as Harbaugh would prefer to rest starters Brandon Williams and Chris Canty on Thursday night.

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Leftover thoughts from Ravens’ third preseason game

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Many were ready to deem Asa Jackson the winner of the Ravens’ return competition after his 103-yard kickoff return late in the first half of Saturday’s 31-13 loss to Washington.

But then the fourth-year cornerback committed the cardinal sin of fumbling a punt in the fourth quarter after electing not to call for a fair catch with coverage bearing down on him. The gaffe immediately earned Jackson an animated lecture from special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg on the sideline.

To no surprise, the turnover holds more weight in the evaluation process than the explosive return.

“The biggest concern I have with those guys is dropping the ball,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Asa made a bad decision, and he knows that. You have to fair catch that. That kind of hang time, you have to fair catch it. Obviously, dropping the kickoff that we had was not great either.”

For now, the job appears to be Jackson’s by default with second-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro currently injured, but you still can’t help but wonder if this year’s return specialist isn’t yet on the team. It will be interesting to see if any teams cut loose a veteran returner for a cheaper and younger alternative when final cuts are made next weekend.

** I haven’t been overly impressed with Jeremy Butler’s performance in the preseason, but the young receiver was a member of the starting kickoff and kick return units on Saturday night, a good sign for his chances of making the 53-man roster.

Butler caught four passes for 32 yards against Washington, but three of those receptions came in the second half against the Redskins reserves. He hasn’t shown consistent ability to gain separation against reserve defensive backs, making you doubt whether he can make an impact as an NFL receiver.

With Campanaro and rookie Breshad Perriman currently sidelined with injuries, the Ravens are more likely to keep an extra receiver, which is good news for both Butler and sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.

** It was interesting to note that rookie running back Terrence Magee played 15 offensive snaps and carried four times for 13 yards while second-year back Fitz Toussaint only saw duty on special teams on Saturday night.

The Ravens are likely to carry an extra running back with Lorenzo Taliaferro sidelined with a knee injury for at least the next few weeks, and Saturday indicated that Magee is garnering strong consideration as the temporary No. 3 back behind starter Justin Forsett and rookie fourth-rounder Buck Allen.

** Speaking of Allen, I can forgive his underwhelming rushing performance (24 yards on 12 carries) due to the injured state of the offensive line, but his goal-line fumble in the closing seconds of the first half didn’t sit well with Harbaugh and was inexcusable when you’re a step away from the end zone.

“It’s just not possible to put runners out there that fumble the football,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have other opportunities and chances going forward, and I really believe he’s going to be a very good player. But, he’s going to have to learn from that.”

Allen is going to receive plenty of carries with Taliaferro out, but there’s no quicker way to find your way to Harbaugh’s doghouse than to put the ball on the turf.

** The run of injuries on the defensive line was the most disturbing development from Saturday’s game, but Kapron Lewis-Moore improved his chances of making the 53-man roster with a solid outing.

It’s been a quiet summer for the 2014 sixth-round pick who missed each of the last two seasons with injuries, but he played the run well, making four tackles in 28 defensive snaps against the Redskins. If any of the injuries to Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson linger into the start of the regular season, Lewis-Moore may find himself on the favorable side of the roster bubble.

** I’ll spare you another negative review of backup Matt Schaub’s performance on Saturday, because it was obvious if you watched the game.

However, I’d be interested to see how the Ravens would handle their backup quarterback spot if Schaub weren’t already guaranteed $2 million this season. To be clear, no one should confuse Bryn Renner with the next Frank Reich, but the young quarterback has played well enough this summer to garner a spot on the practice squad.

** Rookie outside linebacker Zach Thompson only played 13 defensive snaps, but he was a member of the starting kickoff team, which is something to keep in mind in the final week of the preseason before final cuts next Saturday.

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Injuries hit Ravens defensive line in third preseason game

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Luke Jones

After dealing with a slew of injuries on their offensive line in recent weeks, the Ravens were bitten on the defensive line in a 31-13 preseason loss to Washington on Saturday night.

Starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan injured his right knee on the fourth defensive play of the game and did not return. The second-year defensive lineman has shown much promise in his brief NFL career, but durability is becoming a concern as he was sidelined earlier this summer with a foot injury and missed five games as a rookie.

Rookie third-round pick Carl Davis replaced him on the starting defensive line.

The Ravens’ defensive line depth also took a hit on Saturday as defensive ends Lawrence Guy (knee) and DeAngelo Tyson (right shoulder) exited early with injuries. Tyson’s injury was of particular concern as he was writhing in pain and was later being consoled by teammates on the bench.

Baltimore is already dealing with the loss of second-year defensive end Brent Urban due to a biceps tear.

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (concussion) and cornerback Chris Greenwood (leg) also left the game with injuries and did not return.

Head coach John Harbaugh did not give any injury updates when asked after Saturday’s loss.

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Beyond Smith, Flacco taking leap of faith through air entering 2015

Posted on 30 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — As bizarre as it was seeing Steve Smith sit in the stands during Saturday’s 31-13 preseason loss to Washington, the Ravens secretly had to be pleased knowing their top receiver was out of harm’s way.

Of course, head coach John Harbaugh wasn’t thrilled with Smith being ejected from the game for his part in a brawl late in the first quarter, but the 36-year-old hardly played like a man retiring at the end of the season. In less than 15 minutes of action, Smith caught four passes for 95 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown in which he made the Washington secondary look like a junior-varsity unit.

The early exit — which eliminated any risk of Smith getting injured in a meaningless preseason game — may have been a blessing in disguise for the Ravens as their pass-catching group lacks a sure thing behind him. Without his No. 1 wideout, Joe Flacco completed just 2 of 6 passes for 24 yards before giving way to backup Matt Schaub late in the first half.

With all meaningful preseason action now in the books — it’s all but guaranteed that Harbaugh will sit most of his starters in Atlanta on Thursday — the Ravens still haven’t answered the questions at wide receiver and tight end that they faced entering the summer. And it’s becoming clear that Flacco will be taking a leap of faith when it comes to the rest of his targets entering the 2015 regular season.

Yes, potential is there as we saw with Crockett Gillmore’s negated 33-yard touchdown catch in which he broke three tackles on his way to the end zone. But the second-year tight end finished the night with just one catch for seven yards and has only made four receptions in the first three preseason games.

Unfortunately, much of the passing game’s upside wore street clothes on Saturday as rookies Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams could only catch passes from reserve quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Bryn Renner on the sideline late in the first half. Perriman’s status for the season opener remains in question as he continues to recover from a sprained knee suffered on July 30, and Williams has had a disappointing summer, missing some practice time and performing inconsistently when he’s been on the field.

Second-year slot receiver Michael Campanaro has flashed his ability this summer, but he missed his second straight game on Saturday as his durability remains a real concern.

The other receivers who were on the field Saturday didn’t inspire much confidence, either.

Kamar Aiken caught two passes for 29 yards, but it was his offensive pass interference penalty that wiped out Flacco’s touchdown to Gillmore late in the first quarter. Currently penciled in as the starter opposite Smith, Aiken profiles better as a No. 3 receiver at this point and has struggled to gain separation in the preseason.

Entering his third year, Marlon Brown should be getting better, but his disappointing play this summer would probably have his roster spot in jeopardy if it weren’t for the current injuries and the lack of established options behind him.

Jeremy Butler was the surprise of spring workouts, but he’s looked like just another guy matching up against second- and third-team defenses. Rookie Darren Waller may show intriguing upside as a 6-foot-6 target, but the sixth-rounder is still more project than receiving threat at this point.

To be fair, better performances from these individuals in the preseason wouldn’t have fully eliminated the questions facing a passing game that’s trying to replace Torrey Smith and Owen Daniels — it is only the preseason, after all — but the Ravens would have felt a lot better about beginning the season with five of their first seven contests away from M&T Bank Stadium if they’d seen a little more to this point. As it stands, Flacco will be leaning heavily on the ageless Smith, but opposing defenses will be aware, which will likely lead to double teams and bracketed coverage until someone else emerges as a viable threat.

It’s clear that the Ravens need a healthy Perriman, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and Flacco still don’t know what that looks like beyond his college tape and spring workouts that can only carry so much weight. Without their first-round pick, the Ravens lack speed on the outside, which should prompt secondaries to clamp down with tight man coverage to limit short-to-intermediate passing.

The Ravens need their young receivers and tight ends to grow up quickly with the season opener in Denver just two weeks away, but there just hasn’t been a lot of evidence to suggest that’s right around the corner.

I wouldn’t bet against Flacco making it work as he enters his eighth year and the Ravens are still built around their running game — making it critical that left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are healthy after sitting out Saturday’s game — but it’s fair to feel uneasy with real games rapidly approaching.

So many questions and few answers in the passing game beyond Flacco zeroing in on Smith as the calendar turns to September this week.

The Ravens can only pray that their veteran receiver stays healthy while taking a leap of faith that the rest of their young wideouts and tight ends heal up and catch up quickly.

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Ravens-Redskins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 29 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The dress rehearsal for the 2015 season has finally arrived as the Ravens welcome the Washington Redskins to Baltimore for the all-important third preseason game of the summer.

With starters expected to play the entire first half in a final tuneup before the season opener in Denver on Sept. 13, head coach John Harbaugh hopes to see a crisp performance after last week’s poor showing in Philadelphia. Most starters will not play in Thursday’s preseason finale in Atlanta as has been the custom in Harbaugh’s eight summers at the helm.

The Ravens will be without three key starters as left tackle Eugene Monroe (forearm), left guard Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), and cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring) are all dealing with injuries. Ryan Jensen, John Urschel, and Rashaan Melvin are expected to start at their positions, respectively.

Normally, James Hurst would have drawn the start at left tackle in place of Monroe, but he was dealing with a concussion and missed extensive practice time this week. Hurst was suited up, but the second-year tackle was not doing much during full-team warm-ups.

Sidelined for nearly three weeks, Webb went through a rigorous pre-game workout on the M&T Bank Stadium field and appeared to be moving well, a strong indication that he’s close to returning. In Webb’s absence, Melvin has received extensive opportunities on the outside with veteran Kyle Arrington continuing to work inside at the nickel position.

Out with a sprained knee suffered on the first day of training camp, rookie wideout Breshad Perriman was on the field catching passes from receivers coach Bobby Engram two hours before the start of the game. For what it’s worth, the 2015 first-round pick did not do any running as he caught passes in a stationary position, another good indication that he will miss the entire preseason.

Rookie tight end Maxx Williams will also sit out Saturday’s game after practicing in a red non-contact jersey all week in Owings Mills.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro was the first Ravens player on the field a few hours before kickoff, working on stretching and agility drills. Harbaugh has described the injury that’s sidelined him for more than a week as a “soft tissue” ailment, but he did not go through team warm-ups.

Asa Jackson was expected to start the game as the primary returner, but DeAndre Carter, Aldrick Robinson, Tom Nelson, Buck Allen, and Terrence Magee also fielded kicks prior to the game.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Terry McAulay.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Washington dons its white tops with gold pants.

Baltimore is 47-30 in all-time preseason play and 20-10 under Harbaugh. The Ravens and the Redskins are meeting in the preseason for the ninth time with Baltimore holding a 6-2 record.

Teams are not required to release a list of inactive for preseason games, but below is an unofficial list of Ravens players on the 90-man roster who were suited up to play on Saturday night:

WR Michael Campanaro
WR Breshad Perriman
CB Lardarius Webb
G Kelechi Osemele
OT Eugene Monroe
TE Maxx Williams
LB Steven Means
CB Tramain Jacobs
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
OT Darryl Baldwin
OT De’Ondre Wesley
TE Dennis Pitta
TE Allen Reisner
S Matt Elam
DE Brent Urban

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Ravens-Redskins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens see the regular-season light at the end of the tunnel as Saturday’s preseason game represents the final dress rehearsal for the 2015 regular season.

Starters are expected to play the entire first half as head coach John Harbaugh will get a final look at most of his starters. Baltimore has rarely played its full starting units in the preseason finale, and that trend isn’t expected to change next Thursday in Atlanta.

Of course, the Ravens want to make a better impression after taking a 40-17 beating at the hands of Philadelphia, but the third preseason game is more about looking ahead than dwelling on what happened against the Eagles — no matter how ugly it was.

“I think it is really important — nothing to do with the second game — but more so just so we can go into Week 1 and have as high a level of confidence as we possibly can,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw two interceptions in last Saturday’s loss. “You don’t want any doubt to be able to creep into anybody’s mind. You want all of the coaches and all of the players to have 100-percent confidence that we’re going to go in there and light it up. I think for that reason, we want to go out there and play the best we can just so we feel that extra energy going into the first week.”

Of course, competition remains at various positions, and Saturday marks the final game before the organization will pare the roster from 90 players to a maximum of 75 by Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday marks the ninth time that Baltimore will play Washington in the preseason. The teams are playing each other for the fifth time in the Harbaugh era.

The Ravens are 6-2 against Washington in the all-time preseason series and are 3-2 against them in their regular-season history. They are set to meet again in the 2016 regular season, a game that will take place at M&T Bank Stadium.

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 Saturday night’s game against Washington.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will come into question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may 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: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), G Kelechi Osemele (Achilles), LB Steven Means (groin), TE Dennis Pitta (hip), S Matt Elam (biceps), DE Brent Urban (biceps), TE Allen Reisner (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: OT Eugene Monroe (forearm), WR Michael Campanaro (soft tissue injury), OT Darryl Baldwin (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: S Terrence Brooks (knee), OT James Hurst (concussion), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), OL Blaine Clausell (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: OT Rick Wagner (foot), OT Jah Reid (back), G John Urschel (concussion), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (undisclosed), OL Ryan Jensen (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Saturday night

CB Asa Jackson

The Ravens are waiting for someone — anyone — to emerge as the return specialist while acknowledging there being few opportunities for authentic evaluation in the preseason, but Jackson appears to be the leader in the clubhouse and will return kickoffs and punts to begin Saturday’s game. The fourth-year cornerback hasn’t done much to stand out, but with Michael Campanaro again injured and rookie free agent DeAndre Carter muffing two kicks in two weeks, who else is there at this point? The Ravens want to avoid using Steve Smith and Lardarius Webb, their “aces in the hole” in the return game during the regular season, but you have to wonder if they’ll ultimately need to look elsewhere for a returner.

WR Kamar Aiken

With it appearing more and more likely that Breshad Perriman will bring a limited impact at the start of the season, the Ravens need Aiken to play like a starting receiver as he is set to lineup opposite veteran Steve Smith. The 26-year-old had an excellent spring and a strong start to the summer, but he’s been quiet in the preseason, catching only one pass for 13 yards in two games and not putting forth an impressive effort on the deep ball from Flacco that was intercepted in the first quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Eagles. Aiken shows the potential to be a solid short-to-intermediate receiver, so you’d like to see some success for him against Washington on Saturday.

CB Cassius Vaughn

Third-year cornerback Quinton Pointer garnered more attention early in the summer, but Vaughn has quietly put together two strong preseason performances. It’s fair to point out that the six-year veteran has matched up against second- and third-team offenses, but he has still been the Ravens’ highest-rated defensive player this summer, according to Pro Football Focus. At 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Vaughn doesn’t over overwhelming size, but he’s played well enough to garner consideration for one of the final spots on the roster. Strong performances in the final two preseason games would go a long way for his chances of landing on the right side of the bubble.

RB Terrence Magee

The MCL sprain suffered by Lorenzo Taliaferro has created a golden opportunity for Magee or Fitz Toussaint as the Ravens will likely want to carry a third healthy running back behind starter Justin Forsett and rookie Buck Allen to begin the year. An undrafted rookie from LSU, Magee was never the man in Baton Rouge, but he’s shown good vision and a burst when given opportunities this summer. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound back led the Ravens in rushing with 44 yards on 11 carries against Philadelphia, so it will be interesting to see how the workload is split between him and Toussaint. It would be wise for the Ravens to give a couple carries to each in the first half to see what they can do behind a better line.

LB Brennen Beyer

Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome spoke throughout the offseason about the potential of outside linebacker Steven Means, but a groin injury has sidelined him for more than two weeks, opening the door for Beyer to put himself in the conversation with a strong finish to the preseason. A smart player who had a solid career at the University of Michigan, the 6-foot-4, 256-pound Beyer remains a better candidate for the practice squad with four outside linebackers — Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Za’Darius Smith — already locks for the roster, but he received a nice endorsement from former Ravens defensive coordinator and Michigan assistant Greg Mattison before he was signed in the spring.

 

 

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Five questions pondering Machado, Ravens tight ends, Pittsburgh’s woes

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or is it almost impossible to believe Manny Machado is the active “iron man” in the majors? As the Orioles prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record next week, how is it possible that someone who doesn’t yet have the 131 in “2131” owns the longest active streak with 127 consecutive games played entering Friday night? Credit Machado for being the only player in the majors to appear in each of his club’s games so far this season — especially after he underwent season-ending knee surgeries in the two previous years — but the 23-year-old would have to continue for nearly 15 1/2 seasons to catch Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games. We’ll see you in 2031 when Machado is 39 years old? I suppose we should never say never when no one thought Gehrig’s record would ever be broken, but the juxtaposition of Machado and Ripken 20 years later shows how remarkable “The Streak” really was.

2. Is it just me or does the tight end position become even more important with the Ravens’ current injuries at wide receiver? The long-term absence of Breshad Perriman and recent Michael Campanaro injury have taken attention away from the tight end position, but the Ravens have to be nervous at the thought of needing to count on their tight ends more than expected. Baltimore still has the incomparable Steve Smith as well as Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown at wideout, but none of them are field-stretchers, meaning the Ravens will need more precision in the short-to-intermediate passing game if Perriman isn’t ready to make an early impact. Young tight ends Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle have much upside, but they have 10 career receptions and one year of professional experience among them. In Saturday’s dress rehearsal for the season, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman will want to see his tight ends have a good showing to quell concerns.

3. Is it just me or is it embarrassing to look back at the Orioles’ corner outfield “crunch” of a couple months ago? It wasn’t long ago that we were discussing the Orioles’ difficulty in trying to make room for Delmon Young, Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, David Lough, Travis Snider, and Chris Parmelee. Two months later, only Pearce remains on the 25-man roster as the Orioles released Young and Snider and outrighted Parmelee, Lough, and Reimold to Triple-A Norfolk. Allowing both Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to part via free agency was one thing, but the plan for trying to replace them was a colossal failure when there were better moves that could have been made that even wouldn’t have wreaked havoc on the payroll. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has done good things since arriving four years ago, but it’s difficult to recall a worse offseason for an individual that immediately followed an Executive of the Year campaign.

4. Is it just me or are the Pittsburgh Steelers in pretty rough shape early in the season? The Ravens have dealt with their share of injuries and face the daunting task of playing five of their first seven games on the road to begin the 2015 season. However, I’m still not sure it tops what Pittsburgh will face early on, especially with Thursday’s news that wide receiver Martavis Bryant will be suspended for the first four games. This comes after Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell was already serving a two-game ban, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a long-term ankle injury, and reliable kicker Shaun Suisham was lost for the year in the Hall of Fame Game. Of course, none of this should make the Ravens or their fans feel sorry for their hated rival, but it’s a simple reminder of just how much every team goes through over the course of a season. Taking nothing away from the team ultimately holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy at season’s end, but the NFL really is a war of attrition and involves plenty of luck.

5. Is it just me or are there some significant positives to take away from an otherwise disappointing campaign for the Orioles? It’s easy — and fair — to deem 2015 a failure if the Orioles do not qualify for the postseason for the third time in four years, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some important developments for the future. The organization and fan base will collectively knock on wood, but Machado has remained healthy while also blossoming into an MVP-caliber player as he’s already set career highs in home runs, stolen bases, and walks and is on track to finish with personal bests in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBIs, and runs scored. Despite missing nearly three months, second baseman Jonathan Schoop had an .845 on-base plus slugging percentage entering the weekend and would be on pace for 30 homers and 90 RBIs over a full season. The Orioles face an uncertain offseason, but two All-Star-caliber infielders under age 24 are golden pieces to build around.

 

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Harbaugh offers no timetable on Perriman’s return

Posted on 27 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s been four weeks since rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman injured his knee on the first day of training camp.

The Ravens and their fans are still wondering when the first-round pick will be back on the field with the season opener just over two weeks away.

“I’m asking, too. It’s just a slower healing than they expected,” head coach John Harbaugh said on Thursday. “I really don’t have a timetable right now. That’s really all I have to say on that.”

Perriman injured his knee making a diving catch on July 30, missing the final 20 minutes of the first full-squad practice. At the time, Harbaugh described the ailment as a bruise and estimated the 6-foot-2 receiver would return in a day or two before eventually labeling it a sprain a few days later. A magnetic resonance imaging exam came back “normal” on Aug. 17, but the recovery process has been slow as the organization has remained tight-lipped about his condition.

It’s appearing more and more likely that Perriman will miss the entire preseason as the questions now begin to turn toward his status for the start of the regular season in Denver on Sept. 13. It’s fair to assume that Perriman’s initial impact could be limited as he tries to play catch-up when he eventually does return to the practice field.

“He’s going to have to get back and get into shape, because it’s not like he’s just been hurt,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “He’s been missing a ton of time out there running with pads on, getting into that football shape. It is up to him to get back out there and try to do that as quickly as possible.

“I think when you’re dealing with guys that are pretty talented, it doesn’t take a ton of time to get in sync with each other. But, obviously, you’d like to have as much time as possible.”

Drafted with the 26th overall pick in this spring’s draft to replace speedy wideout Torrey Smith, Perriman brings a rare combination of speed and size that the rest of the receiving corps lacks. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound target’s absence leaves the Baltimore offense without a clear threat in the vertical passing game as the 36-year-old Steve Smith and younger options Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown all fit the profile of possession receivers.

Flacco said he felt good about the rapport he was building with Perriman during spring workouts, but he kept the injury in proper perspective, understanding the rookie’s speed won’t be fully utilized if he’s trying to play at less than 100 percent.

In his final season at Central Florida, Perriman caught 50 passes for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 20.9 yards per reception.

“You have to deal with injuries, and I think he’s doing a great job dealing with his and trying to get back out here,” Flacco said. “But it takes time. I wish we had him out [on the field]. I think he’s an awesome talent and he’s going to help us out a lot, but he’s not going to help us out if he can’t run. We’ve got to get him out here, and when he does get out here, I think we’ll be able to rely on him.”

 

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