Tag Archive | "NFL"

Ravens moving closer to clinching playoff spot entering Week 16

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Ravens moving closer to clinching playoff spot entering Week 16

Posted on 15 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Even after a sloppy performance in their 20-12 win over Jacksonville in Week 15, the Ravens now see the light at the end of the tunnel in securing a return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

The Ravens knew last week that a trip to the postseason would be guaranteed with three straight wins to close out the month of December, but they now enter Week 16 with the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with some help. At the conclusion of Week 15, Baltimore holds the No. 6 spot in the AFC playoff race thanks to San Diego’s loss to Denver.

Three scenarios exist that would allow the Ravens to officially punch their ticket to the playoffs in Week 16:

1) A win at Houston + a Pittsburgh loss to Kansas City + a Cincinnati loss to Denver

2) A win at Houston + a Kansas City loss or tie at Pittsburgh + a San Diego loss or tie at San Francisco

3) A tie at Houston + a Kansas City loss at Pittsburgh + a San Diego loss at San Francisco + a Buffalo loss or tie at Oakland

Of course, the Ravens still have visions of winning the AFC North, which will happen if they win their final two games and both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh lose at least one more game.

However, Week 16 could also bring an end to the Ravens’ hopes of a division title if both the Steelers and the Bengals are able to secure wins. If that were to happen, the winner of the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game at Heinz Field the following week would be the AFC North champion.

Both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh clinch postseason berths with wins in Week 16.

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Ravens take further hits to secondary in Sunday’s win

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Ravens take further hits to secondary in Sunday’s win

Posted on 14 December 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens secondary continued to be hammered by injuries Sunday with cornerback Asa Jackson and rookie safety Terrence Brooks both leaving the game with right knee injuries.

Brooks hurt his knee on the opening kickoff and did not return. Head coach John Harbaugh said after the 20-12 win over Jacksonville that the 2014 third-round pick would miss the rest of the season with an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament.

“Terrence Brooks does not look good,” Harbaugh said. “Terrence Brooks is at least a PCL — it might have been [a medial collateral ligament] in there, too, I think. So, he’ll be out for the year.”

Harbaugh did not have an update on Jackson, but he was unable to put any weight on his right knee after he was injured covering a sideline route in the third quarter. He was immediately helped to the locker room and didn’t return to the game.

Jackson was replaced by young cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who played well in the first action of his NFL career. After being inactive for four straight games upon being acquired in early November, Melvin finished the day with five tackles and a pass breakup.

“Melvin came in there and did a great job and played really well and was excited to get out and get a chance,” Harbaugh said. “The next guy has to step up, and they will. This is a team sport, and our guys have done a good job with that so far, and they’ll keep doing it.”

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On rough day, Ravens lean on biggest strength to pull through

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On rough day, Ravens lean on biggest strength to pull through

Posted on 14 December 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens were predictably complimentary of the Jacksonville Jaguars following an uncomfortable 20-12 victory on Sunday.

Head coach John Harbaugh and his players spent plenty of time after the game praising the Jaguars despite their 2-12 record, but Terrell Suggs said it best after the Ravens struggled throughout the day against one of the NFL’s worst teams.

“It would have sucked if we lost,” said Suggs, who admitted to having flashbacks to the last-second home loss to San Diego two weeks ago. “It would have been very unfortunate. But you’ve got to commend this whole team — offense and defense alike — for putting it away this time.”

Nothing felt quite right on Sunday for the Ravens, from the sparser-than-normal crowd at M&T Bank Stadium with little to cheer for throughout the day to an uninspiring performance from a team in the midst of a tight playoff race. But there are no style points for winning pretty in the NFL as the Ravens prevailed in throwback fashion, relying on a dominating front seven that sacked Blake Bortles eight times and registered 15 hits on the Jacksonville quarterback.

Suggs finished with 2 1/2 sacks, rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan added two, Pernell McPhee had 1 1/2, and C.J. Mosley and Elvis Dumervil added one apiece.

The pass rush once again masked a secondary further decimated by injuries in Week 15 as rookie safety Terrence Brooks and third-year cornerback Asa Jackson both left the game with serious knee injuries. To his credit, the previously unknown Rashaan Melvin was thrown into starting duty in his first action of the season for the Ravens and finished with five tackles — one for a loss — and a pass breakup.

The strong defensive effort was needed as the Ravens’ stout running game was nowhere to be found for much of the game and was held to just 31 yards on 13 carries before finally finding more room in the fourth quarter. Baltimore finished with 93 yards on 26 carries, averaging an underwhelming 3.6 yards per attempt.

And a special-teams group that’s been one of the finest in the NFL — and started the game with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown — had its worst game of the year as the Ravens fell for an onside kick and a fake punt, missed two field goals, and committed several key penalties and coaching gaffes.

If nothing else, the uneven performance was a group effort, but the Ravens still found a way to walk away with a victory to improve to 9-5 on the season. There isn’t much to take away beyond that.

“We didn’t play smart all the time,” Harbaugh said. “We had too many mistakes, too many errors that kept us off the field or put our defense back on the field — those kind of things. But I’ll tell you what, Jacksonville did a great job. It’s December football. You take every win you can get, and we’re proud of the victory.”

Yes, the Ravens would have been in serious trouble with a similar effort against many other teams in the NFL on Sunday, but the Jaguars were the opponent and no one else. And despite a valiant effort with nothing to play for, the Jaguars self-destructed just enough in crucial spots.

The good news is the Baltimore pass rush was at its best once again, illustrating how much a team can overcome with an ability to collapse the pocket. It’s the reason why the Ravens shouldn’t be counted out if they make the playoffs in spite of the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

We didn’t learn much about the Ravens on Sunday that we didn’t already know as they’ve struggled offensively when unable to run the football and the issues in the secondary aren’t going away. After a close call, they can only exhale before moving on to Week 16.

While remembering to thank a ferocious pass rush once again.

“We can’t really worry about too much other than going out and winning next week,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, who tossed a third-quarter touchdown to Owen Daniels and finished with an efficient 221 yards against the Jaguars. “We know what’s in front of us, and we’ve just got to make sure we take care of one piece at a time. Nothing is really new this week than last week. We know what we have to do. We’ve just got to go do it.”

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Ravens-Jaguars: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Jaguars: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 14 December 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens aim to move a step closer to the playoffs in welcoming the Jacksonville Jaguars to Baltimore for Week 15.

Baltimore is assured of a postseason berth with three straight wins to conclude the regular season, and the 2-11 Jaguars wouldn’t figure to offer much resistance, especially with this week’s news of starting running back Denard Robinson being out for the rest of the season with a sprained foot. Veteran Toby Gerhart will start in Robinson’s place and has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry this season.

Despite doubts earlier in the week about the availability of Torrey Smith after he was limited to just 15 snaps in last Sunday’s win over Miami, the fourth-year wide receiver is active and will start, continuing his streak of never missing a game in his NFL career — or his collegiate run at the University of Maryland. Smith suffered a sprained right knee in the loss to San Diego two weeks ago, but he appeared to be moving well in pre-game warmups.

As expected, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was deactivated after missing practices all week with a sprained foot. The Ravens promoted rookie free agent Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad Saturday to give them a third healthy running back for Week 15. Taliaferro’s absence likely means a heavier workload for veteran backup Bernard Pierce, who rushed for 50 yards in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins last week.

After being signed earlier this week, veteran cornerback Antoine Cason is inactive as the Ravens elected to activate young cornerback Rashaan Melvin instead. Baltimore lost veteran cornerback Danny Gorrer to a season-ending knee injury last week in Miami, but Asa Jackson is once again expected to start opposite veteran Lardarius Webb at cornerback.

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore is active for Sunday’s game despite being limited with a back injury most of the week. It’s worth noting that No. 3 tight end Phillip Supernaw is also active in case Gillmore’s back is an issue.

Neither Terrence Cody nor DeAngelo Tyson were activated for Sunday’s game, which shows how much confidence the Ravens have in rookie Timmy Jernigan filling in for the suspended Haloti Ngata. Veteran Lawrence Guy will serve as a primary backup in the defensive line rotation.

Despite not being listed on the injury report this week, rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro is once again inactive and hasn’t played in a game since injuring his hamstring against Cincinnati on Oct. 26. Joining Campanaro among the healthy inactives is second-year linebacker Arthur Brown as he’s only been active three times all season.

Rookie safety Terrence Brooks is active after not playing against the Dolphins last week.

The Ravens will be playing the Jaguars for the 18th time in franchise history and own a 7-10 record against their old AFC Central foe. The Jaguars won the last meeting between the teams, a 12-7 final in Jacksonville on Oct. 24, 2011. Jacksonville still seeks its first road win of the year while Baltimore looks to improve to 5-2 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching 50 degrees and winds up to 11 miles per hour.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Tony Corrente.

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with black pants while Jacksonville dons its white tops with black pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Michael Campanaro
CB Antoine Cason
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Arthur Brown
DT Terrence Cody
OL Gino Gradkowski
DL DeAngelo Tyson

JACKSONVILLE
RB Denard Robinson
CB Teddy Williams
CB Jeremy Harris
LB A.J. Edds
LB Khairi Fortt
G Tyler Shatley
DE Andre Branch

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Ravens promote running back Toussaint, move offensive lineman Reid to IR

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Ravens promote running back Toussaint, move offensive lineman Reid to IR

Posted on 13 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens promoted rookie running back Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad to the active roster ahead of Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With fourth-round running back Lorenzo Taliaferro listed as questionable and unlikely to play after being sidelined with a foot injury suffered in last week’s win in Miami, Toussaint gives Baltimore a third healthy running back behind starter Justin Forsett and backup Bernard Pierce. To make room on the 53-man roster, offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand) was placed on injured reserve.

Toussaint, a rookie free agent from the University of Michigan, gained 123 rushing yards on 21 carries in the preseason and has spent most of the season on the practice squad. He was on the active roster in Weeks 1 and 3 but has yet to appear in a regular-season game.

Reid being moved to IR likely brings his disappointing career in Baltimore to end after he never lived up to expectations as a third-round pick in the 2011 draft. The Central Florida product appeared in just four games this season.

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Jaguars: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 13 December 2014 by Luke Jones

There’s no big secret to Sunday’s game between the Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

If the Ravens are the playoff-caliber team they’ve shown themselves to be for much of the 2014 season, there won’t be any drama as they try to improve to 9-5. It’s difficult to call this one a trap game when 2-11 Jacksonville hasn’t won a game on the road all year and the Ravens win the games they’re supposed to — especially at home — in the John Harbaugh era.

The Ravens know they’re guaranteed a playoff spot by winning their final three games, but Sunday is the closest they’ll get to a sure thing the rest of the way with a challenging trip to Houston next week and a season-finale against Cleveland that will likely carry plenty of pressure. Meanwhile, the struggling Jaguars are now dealing with the season-ending loss of starting running back Denard Robinson due to a sprained foot.

It’s time to go on the record as these old AFC Central foes meet for the 18th time in regular-season history with the Jaguars holding a 10-7 edge. However, the Ravens are 5-4 in Baltimore and have won seven of the last nine meetings. Jacksonville won the last regular-season game between these teams, a 12-7 final on Oct. 24, 2011.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to move a step closer toward securing a playoff spot …

1. Terrell Suggs will pick up 2 1/2 sacks working against Jacksonville tackle Luke Joeckel. Opposing offensive lines haven’t been able to slide protection because of the pressure the Ravens have created from both edges this season, but you wonder if the Jaguars will pay more attention to Elvis Dumervil, who last week set the single-season franchise record in pushing his sack total to 16. Despite being the second overall pick of the 2013 draft, Joeckel has struggled mightily in his sophomore season and Suggs will take advantage to try to close the gap in the sack department. The Ravens shouldn’t have any trouble making rookie quarterback Blake Bortles uncomfortable with the 12th-year linebacker leading the effort.

2. With Torrey Smith limited, Marlon Brown will catch his first touchdown of the season. The Ravens surprisingly listed Smith as probable on their final injury report, but they’ll try to limit throwing him into the fire as much as possible on Sunday to rest his sprained knee, which will mean more opportunities for Brown and Kamar Aiken. It’s been a disappointing season for Brown after a surprising rookie year, but he’s been more involved with the offense since the bye week, a trend that will continue against the league’s 18th-ranked pass defense. Justin Forsett and the running game figures to be featured heavily, but quarterback Joe Flacco will find Brown in the red zone for a score.

3. Wide receiver Cecil Shorts will rein in a score in a rare highlight for the Jaguars on Sunday. If Jacksonville can find even a little time for Bortles in the pocket, it’s no secret that the Baltimore pass defense is vulnerable and ranked 31st in the NFL. The Jaguars figure to be throwing the ball a lot if they fall behind like most would expect, and defensive coordinator Dean Pees will play soft coverage in the back end as the game goes on. Bortles has shown flashes of promise when he hasn’t been annihilated in the pocket — Jacksonville has allowed an incredible 54 sacks this season — and he’ll orchestrate a nice scoring drive finished off with a short touchdown to Shorts.

4. Lardarius Webb will secure his first interception in what’s been a difficult season. The sixth-year cornerback is healthier now than he was earlier in the season, but it’s been a disappointing year for Webb as his future with the Ravens is in question due to his $12 million cap figure in 2015. However, the Jaguars don’t have any receivers that should scare the Ravens, and Bortles has thrown 16 interceptions in 379 pass attempts. The Ravens secondary hasn’t been able to create many turnovers this season, but the Jaguars are tied for 26th in the NFL with a minus-8 turnover margin. Webb will pick off his first pass of the season to set the Ravens up on a short field.

5. The Ravens will emphatically handle a team they’re supposed to beat in a 31-13 final. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but this one is as close as it gets with an opponent having nothing to play for coming to M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens, who have very little margin for error as they try to make it back to the playoffs after a one-year absence. Short of something catastrophic such as a multiple-turnover performance or an injury to Flacco, the Ravens just aren’t going to let the lowly Jaguars beat them. It won’t be a flawless performance — the Ravens never seem to make it quite as easy as they should in these spots — but the home crowd will ultimately go home happy after the win.

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Torrey Smith listed as probable to play against Jacksonville

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Torrey Smith listed as probable to play against Jacksonville

Posted on 12 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens move closer to Sunday’s meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receiver Torrey Smith is expected to be a game-time decision despite being listed as probable on the final injury report of the week.

The fourth-year wideout returned to practice on Friday after sitting out the previous two days, but he still appeared to be feeling the effects of a sprained right knee that limited him to just 15 snaps in last Sunday’s win over Miami, making his official game designation surprising.

The 2011 second-round pick says he hasn’t missed a game since his junior year of high school, and he played through a high ankle sprain for much of his final season at the University of Maryland in 2010. Smith injured his knee in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 loss to San Diego.

“Sometimes it’s better for coach to save me from myself,” said Smith when asked how much he’ll lobby to play against the Jaguars. “I’ve never had to make a call like that. I can play through pain, but it’s just a matter of weighing if it’s worth lingering for a few weeks or is it going to be ready on Sunday. I don’t know the answer yet.”

Smith was limping while running routes during the portion of practice open to reporters Friday, and it would appear to make little sense for him to play against the 2-11 Jaguars if he isn’t close to 100 percent and would benefit from more rest. Kamar Aiken handled the bulk of the workload in Smith’s place against the Dolphins, catching six passes for 65 yards and a 13-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The 25-year-old continues to receive treatment and acknowledged he’s feeling much better now than he did earlier in the week. Smith told reporters Friday that he plans to go through an on-field workout Sunday morning before a decision is made on his availability.

Of course, the Ravens could elect to activate Smith and adjust his playing time based on how he’s feeling during the game.

“We’ll see how it goes. He practiced [Friday],” Harbaugh said. “He looked pretty good, so we’ll see how [the knee] is Sunday.”

Veteran wideout Steve Smith missed his second straight practice and was listed as probable for the Jaguars game, but Friday’s absence was due to an illness after he took his typical Thursday off. Harbaugh did not seem concerned about the 35-year-old’s availability for Sunday’s game after he felt well enough to watch the final practice of the week.

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, but he was listed as questionable after he missed the first game of his career last Sunday.

Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot) was once again absent from practice and is expected to miss Sunday’s game despite being designated questionable. The Ravens could promote rookie Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad Saturday if Taliaferro cannot play against the Jaguars.

“He comes out here and he goes against our defense, and they get after him pretty good,” said Harbaugh about the rookie free agent from Michigan. “He plays the game pretty much on Wednesday and Thursday as much as you can simulate it. He’s ready to go, and we have a lot of confidence in him if he’s needed.”

Harbaugh confirmed that cornerback Anthony Levine has been cleared after going through the NFL concussion protocol and is fine to play against Jacksonville after he was a full participant in the final two practices of the week. Levine was listed as probable and left last Sunday’s game with the head injury in the first quarter.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Tony Corrente.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 47 degrees and winds at 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: TE Crockett Gilmore (back), OL Jah Reid (hand), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot)
PROBABLE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), S Anthony Levine (concussion), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (illness), WR Torrey Smith (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)

JACKSONVILLE
OUT: DE Andre Branch (groin), LB Khairi Fortt (hamstring), RB Denard Robinson (foot)
PROBABLE: QB Blake Bortles (right shoulder), DE Chris Clemons (knee), S Josh Evans (finger), RB Toby Gerhart (ankle), LB Geno Hayes (rest), DT Sen’Derrick Marks (rest), WR Tommy Streeter (abdominal), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle)

 

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Ravens offense pounding opponents into fourth-quarter submission

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Ravens offense pounding opponents into fourth-quarter submission

Posted on 11 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If all goes to plan against the 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the Ravens won’t need to flex too much muscle in the fourth quarter.

But their ability to pound opponents with the running game in the final 15 minutes is a major reason why Baltimore owns a 7-1 record when leading at the end of three quarters. Criticized for an inability to finish games last season on their way to an 8-8 record, the Ravens have used the league’s fifth-ranked rushing attack to wear down opposing defenses to the point where they’ve often appeared to quit from a physical standpoint.

“We haven’t closed out every game in the fourth quarter,” said Harbaugh, likely referencing the 10-point lead the Ravens squandered in the fourth quarter of their loss to San Diego two weeks ago. “We feel like that’s something that has been a point of emphasis for us to finish — to finish runs, to finish blocks, to finish series, to finish in the red zone, to finish games in the fourth quarter.”

That effort has been led by one of the league’s best offensive lines and running back Justin Forsett, who is averaging a remarkable 7.0 yards per carry in the fourth quarter. Only Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and New Orleans’ Khiry Robinson have better averages in the final period, but Forsett’s 348 yards and 50 fourth-quarter carries are more than the other two have combined.

Half of the Ravens’ NFL-best 20 runs of 20 or more yards this season have come in the fourth quarter when the offensive line has consistently worn down front sevens to protect leads and control the clock.

“That’s what we want to do. That’s what the run game provides,” said Forsett, who leads all running backs with a 5.6 yards per carry average and has rushed for a career-high 1,080 yards. “Every time we come out, we know it might not pop right off the bat, but we believe if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to wear defenses down, and we’re going to be able to gas them late in the game, and we’ve had some success doing that.”

While Forsett has surprisingly handled the workload in the aftermath of Ray Rice’s release, the Ravens haven’t hesitated in going to fresh legs as backup Bernard Pierce has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, good for seventh in the NFL. Of Pierce’s 323 rushing yards this season, 144 have come in the last period — including 50 against Miami this past Sunday.

Of course, it’s been a balanced attack that’s allowed the Ravens to build so many late leads this season, but the running game has been the biggest reason why they rank second in the league in fourth-quarter scoring and fourth-quarter time of possession — Pittsburgh ranks first in each category. And it’s why the stunning loss against San Diego has been the exception and not the norm as the Ravens have needed to mask the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

“When it gets tough and gets late, the confidence to run the football is huge,” offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. “I think last week, [107] of our yards were actually in the fourth quarter. That’s important. In this league, a lot of close football games you have to win the fourth quarter, and I’m sure this week won’t be any different.”

Miles latest man up at safety

In a season in which five safeties have played meaningful snaps at various points, Jeromy Miles has been the latest to receive extensive action the last two weeks.

Playing 43 of 57 defensive snaps against Miami and 70 of 72 snaps against San Diego, Miles has essentially supplanted Darian Stewart as a starter next to Will Hill on the back end. The fifth-year safety received Pro Football Focus’ highest grade of any defensive player in the San Diego game and was again solid in coverage against the Dolphins, which prompted defensive coordinator Dean Pees to offer a vote of confidence that Miles will continue to receive extensive work.

“It was a matter of, ‘Alright, let’s give each guy a shot and see where it goes and see how he plays that game,’” Pees said. “‘Did he lose the job? Did he keep the job? Are we going to split the time?’ It’s really not a matter of other guys doing stuff poorly. He has done some things well, so it’s kind of like, ‘Why take him out?’ [We are] going to keep giving him a shot.”

Infirmary report

There weren’t any significant changes to the Ravens’ injury report on Thursday as wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee), running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (foot), and tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) missed practice for a second straight day with the availability of all three in doubt for Sunday’s game.

Veterans Steve Smith, Daryl Smith, and Owen Daniels received the day off as they often do on Thursdays while cornerback Anthony Levine (concussion) was upgraded to full participation, a good sign for Sunday’s game.

Below is Thursday’s official injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Steve Smith (non-injury), WR Torrey Smith (knee), RB Lorenzo Talliaferro (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Jah Reid (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Anthony Levine (concussion)

JACKSONVILLE
OUT: RB Denard Robinson (foot)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Andre Branch (groin), DE Chris Clemons (knee), LB Khairi Fortt (hamstring), LB Geno Hayes (rest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Blake Bortles (right shoulder), S Josh Evans (finger), RB Toby Gerhart (ankle), WR Tommy Streeter (abdominal), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle)

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Yanda, Jacoby Jones Named to USA Football all-fundamentals team

Posted on 11 December 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Fan vote to determine captains for annual squad that honors the best technique for young players to emulate

USA Football has selected Baltimore Ravens guard MARSHAL YANDA and kick returner JACOBY JONES as members of the 2014 USA Football All-Fundamentals Team, which honors 26 NFL players – 11 offense, 11 defense and four special teams – who exhibit exemplary football techniques for young players to emulate.

The sixth annual USA Football All-Fundamentals Team recognizes NFL players who employ proper technique, particularly when blocking and tackling, which fosters better on-field performance and advances player safety.

Watch Yanda’s feet, hips and hands, and you will see everything that’s required to be an NFL guard. A tough, hard-nosed blocker, Yanda remains engaged with defenders to finish blocks through the whistle, displaying run blocking basics at their best.

 

Jones’ speed is apparent but his success stems from patiently setting up his returns, holding his burst until the crucial moment. He takes two steps in one direction to lure the defense before cutting back toward his wall of blockers. With excellent open field vision, he identifies and attacks open spaces.

 

Each player chosen for the All-Fundamentals Team will receive a $1,000 equipment grant from USA Football to donate to the youth or high school football program of his choice. USA Football, the sport’s national governing body in the United States, is the official youth football development partner of the Ravens, the NFL and each of the league’s other 31 teams.

 

A fan vote will determine All-Fundamentals Team captains at www.facebook.com/usafootball. Fans may vote for one captain on offense, defense and special teams. USA Football will award each of the three captains a $2,000 equipment grant to donate. Voting is open through Dec. 22.

USA Football educates more high school and youth coaches combined than any organization in the United States.

The USA Football All-Fundamentals Team was assembled with guidance from a five-person selection committee:

  • CHARLES DAVIS, USA Football spokesperson, football analyst for NFL Network and FOX Sports
  • HERM EDWARDS, ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL head coach
  • MERRIL HOGE, ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL running back
  • CARL PETERSON, USA Football chairman, former NFL team executive and assistant coach
  • BILL POLIAN, ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL general manager

More on past USA Football All-Fundamentals Team players’ techniques is available at:
www.usafootball.com/all-fundamentals-team.

2014 USA Football All-Fundamentals Team – Offense:

 

POSITION         NAME, TEAM         
Quarterback Peyton Manning, Broncos  
Running back Matt Forte, Bears  
Fullback John Kuhn, Packers
Wide receiver Golden Tate, Lions Reggie Wayne, Colts
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, Patriots  
Tackle Jason Peters, Eagles Joe Thomas, Browns
Guard Zack Martin, Cowboys Marshal Yanda, Ravens
Center Ryan Kalil, Panthers  

 

2014 USA Football All-Fundamentals Team – Defense:

 

POSITION         NAME, TEAM    
End Cameron Wake, Dolphins Sheldon Richardson, Jets  
Tackle Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers Kyle Williams, Bills  
Linebacker Khalil Mack, Raiders Luke Kuechly, Panthers Tamba Hali, Chiefs
Cornerback Vontae Davis, Colts Terence Newman, Bengals  
Safety Ryan Clark, Redskins Earl Thomas, Seahawks  

 

2014 USA Football All-Fundamentals Team – Special Teams:

 

POSITION         NAME, TEAM
Return specialist Jacoby Jones, Ravens
Kicker Chandler Catanzaro, Cardinals
Punter Jon Ryan, Seahawks
Long snapper Cullen Loeffler, Vikings

 

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Jaguars castoffs have found greener pastures in Baltimore

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Jaguars castoffs have found greener pastures in Baltimore

Posted on 10 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A year ago at this time, Justin Forsett had just been placed on injured reserve and knew his NFL career was at a crossroads after carrying the ball just six times in an injury-plagued season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No one could have predicted how dramatically his career would change as the Ravens running back enters Sunday’s game against his old team ranked third in the NFL in rushing and leading all running backs with a 5.6 yards per carry average. His 14 runs of 20 or more yards lead the league and are more than the Jaguars have — along with 28 other teams — this season.

But the 29-year-old can’t help but think about how far he’s come from being an afterthought on one of the NFL’s worst franchises to becoming a standout performer for an 8-5 Ravens team targeting a playoff spot.

“The writing was kind of on the wall when I was at the bottom of the depth chart and on injured reserve,” said Forsett about his lone season in Jacksonville. “I wasn’t really surprised, but it was still a hard pill to swallow knowing that you’ve been cut and [you] didn’t know what the future was going to hold. But I just kept the faith, kept working, and this opportunity came up.”

Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley doesn’t express regret — to be fair, not even the Ravens expected a 1,000-yard season from the journeyman back — but shared his admiration for a player who’s always been respected as a hard worker and good teammate. Those traits have drawn the Ravens to three Jacksonville castoffs in the last two years as Forsett only followed the 2013 additions of linebacker Daryl Smith, the Jaguars’ all-time leading tackler, and left tackle Eugene Monroe.

All three now start for the Ravens, who have a 2014 win total (eight) that matches the number of games the Jaguars have won in the last three seasons combined.

“Just because I know him so well, it’s more excitement for him,” said Bradley, who also spent time with Forsett when he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. “He’s so deserving of it — what he brings to the locker room, what he brings to the team. I am just excited for what he’s brought to Baltimore.”

Bradley also spoke highly of Smith and Monroe as the former never played for the current Jaguars coach while Monroe was dealt to the Ravens last October, several months after Jacksonville had drafted offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the second overall pick. The Jaguars received fourth- and fifth-round draft picks from Baltimore, which were then parlayed into three players this past May. The Jaguars decided to part ways with Smith as a result of desiring more youth at the linebacker position while Monroe was entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Smith and Monroe both received long-term deals from the Ravens this past offseason, showing how much general manager Ozzie Newsome thought of their play in their first season in Baltimore.

Though slowed by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery earlier this season, Monroe has stabilized the left tackle spot and has acknowledged feeling revitalized with the Ravens after winning only 22 games in five seasons with Jacksonville. The winning atmosphere was a reason why he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract to remain in Baltimore.

“I don’t know if [being in the playoff hunt] makes you a better player, but it certainly forces you to zero in on everything your job requires,” said Monroe, who downplayed the significance of facing his former team because of so much roster turnover in the last year or two. “It’s going to be crucial at this point of the year being fundamentally sound and being physical. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”

Forsett, Smith, and Monroe escaped what many would describe as football purgatory to find greener pastures in Baltimore. The veteran running back’s emergence has received the national headlines while making Ray Rice’s on-field presence a distant memory. Smith has helped bridge the gap at the inside linebacker from the Ray Lewis era and has mentored rookie standout C.J. Mosley, and Monroe has effectively protected quarterback Joe Flacco’s blindside to end unrest at his position that had existed for years.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars continue to try to find their way as an organization that hasn’t produced a winning season since 2007.

None of the three have offered any ill will over the Jaguars’ decision to move on, but their arrival has paid major dividends for the Ravens as they pursue their sixth postseason appearance in seven years.

“No resentment, because all of the pain and the hurt I may have felt during that time, it made me a better man,” Forsett said. “Those dark moments, those times of frustration — they happen for a reason. I’m definitely a better man today because of it. Those times really molded me.”

The Ravens have also been better for it.

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