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Michael McLain on the disarray of the Cleveland Browns

Posted on 06 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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With pains at receiver, Ravens facing Cleveland at perfect time

Posted on 06 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Expecting to take the field without the services of Steve Smith on Sunday, the Ravens are hurting at the wide receiver position entering Week 5.

Their projected No. 1 receiver against the Browns, Kamar Aiken, has just 11 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown through the first four games of the season. Those numbers don’t even match what the 36-year-old Smith did in Week 3 against Cincinnati alone.

That’s why the Ravens’ 191-yard rushing performance in last Thursday’s win at Pittsburgh couldn’t have come at a better time. Prior to Week 4, Baltimore had averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in its 0-3 start, perhaps the most surprising development of the early season.

Now, head coach John Harbaugh hopes the ground performance against the Steelers is a sign of better things to come.

“Sometimes you have to keep pounding that rock,” Harbaugh said. “They made a lot of plays against the run — especially early — and finally it kind of opened up toward the end there a little bit more. But it’s always important for us. It’s something that we count on doing well, and we need to continue to improve. I don’t think we’re where we need to be with the run game, yet. That’s something we need to continue to work on really hard.”

With Smith sidelined and starting tight end Crockett Gillmore still recovering from a calf injury, the Ravens are playing the 1-3 Browns at a perfect time. Cleveland brings the league’s 32nd-ranked defense in total yards and its rush defense ranks 31st in giving up 141.5 yards per game.

The Browns rank 29th in allowing 4.8 yards per carry, which comes a year after their defense surrendered more rushing yards than any team in the NFL. Those 2014 struggles prompted the selection of defensive tackle Danny Shelton with the 12th overall pick of this spring’s draft, but the 339-pounder’s presence has yet to make a major difference for the Browns’ front.

Of course, quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens will need to do enough through the air to prevent the Cleveland defense from consistently stacking the box, but there appears to be little reason why Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Buck Allen won’t find running room to move the chains and take pressure off an undermanned group of pass-catchers. The Ravens will need a produtive running game moving forward, especially until Smith is ready to return to action.

Even if they’re playing at M&T Bank Stadium where the Browns haven’t won since 2007, Harbaugh made it clear that the Ravens are in no position to take Cleveland lightly.

“I mean, hey, we’re 1-3, too,” Harbaugh said. “We have two 1-3 teams going at it here. We’re battling to be third place in the division right now. That’s where we stand, and that’s a tall order and we have work to do. But they have a heck of a front seven. They have good pass rushers on both edges. They have some of the most talented secondary players in the league, and we’ve seen them up close and personal every time we play them.”

Pass-rushing reinforcements

The Ravens enter Week 5 tied for sixth in the NFL with 11 sacks, but the pass rush remains a topic of concern for the league’s 16th-ranked pass defense.

The good news was the boost defensive coordinator Dean Pees received from Za’Darius Smith, who collected the first two sacks of his NFL career in the third quarter of the win at Pittsburgh. In 19 snaps, the rookie collected two other tackles in addition to his takedowns of Mike Vick, flashing the skills he showed at Kentucky that prompted the Ravens to draft him in the fourth round.

“I think he has really been ramping up his intensity level,” Harbaugh said, “how he plays from one play to the next, understanding at this level the edge that you have to play on to be successful, and how hard you have to play. He applied that in that Pittsburgh game better than he has at any point in time. He has always been good, but not really good enough to make a difference until this game, and that was really good to see.”

With Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw taking on heavier workloads since the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs, the Ravens need Za’Darius Smith and veteran Jason Babin to be productive when asked to spell the starters.

Making his Ravens debut after being inactive for two games, Babin only played seven snaps and did not record any official statistics, but Pro Football Focus credited him with a quarterback hurry.

“He was really disciplined with his pass rush,” Harbaugh said. “The thing we asked our guys to do in this game was be very disciplined with their pass rush and treat it almost like run defense, because you have  a guy back there who can throw and can run and can really hurt you with him arm and with his legs.”

Challenging Jernigan

One of the quieter stories of the early season has been the demotion of second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who has been replaced by rookie Carl Davis in the base defense in each of the last two games.

The 2014 second-round pick missed the season opener with a knee injury and started against Oakland in Week 2, but a foolish roughing-the-passer penalty on the Raiders’ game-winning drive landed him behind Davis on the depth chart. Jernigan played just 17 of 63 defensive snaps against the Steelers, but the Ravens will need him to be a major part of their inside pass rush as the season progresses.

“Timmy is getting better and better,” Harbaugh said. “He really stepped it up the last week or so — in practice and in games. He’s very capable of being a real factor inside there, and it’s especially true when he plays a certain way, when he really gets after it, when he cuts it loose. That’s what we’re trying to get him to do — get off the ball, get off blocks, run to the football, be a physical force in there, and play fast.

“Sometimes, too much thinking is not good. He knows the defense now, and we expect him to play with a real high motor. And when he does that, he’s very effective.”

Returning questions in return game

With Michael Campanaro now out for the season with a back injury, the Ravens have gone back to the drawing board with their return game.

The latest depth chart lists veteran Lardarius Webb as the No. 1 punt returner, but the kick returner is listed as “to be determined.” Newly-acquired Chris Givens has experience returning kicks in St. Louis while Taliaferro and Allen also practiced handling kickoffs over the summer.

However, the Ravens’ best option might be on their practice squad where receiver Jeremy Ross currently resides. Ross returned kicks and punts in Detroit for two years and scored a touchdown doing each during the 2013 season.

“We’ll look at all our options. We have guys on the roster that can do it,” Harbaugh said. “Chris is a guy that can do it, too, as far as the kick return stuff. We’ll just see where we’re at come Sunday on that, but it could be someone here. Obviously, it could be somebody outside, too.”

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Dom Cosentino talks the NFL popularity in London

Posted on 05 October 2015 by WNST Staff






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Bernard Bokenyi on constant struggles of the Cleveland Browns

Posted on 05 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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Clark Judge breaks down Week 4 of the 2015 NFL season

Posted on 05 October 2015 by WNST Staff


























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Alex Marvez talks all things NFL

Posted on 05 October 2015 by WNST Staff

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Harbaugh says Perriman has one of “slowest-healing PCL sprains ever”

Posted on 05 October 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Though downplaying the notion that Breshad Perriman suffered a recent setback, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the rookie receiver has one of the slowest-healing knee injuries they’ve encountered.

Upon seeing renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews last Thursday, the 2015 first-round pick underwent arthroscopic surgery as he continues to recover from a sprained posterior cruciate ligament suffered on the first day of training camp in late July. Perriman had returned to practice on a limited basis two weeks ago before appearing to aggravate his right knee during a pre-game workout a couple hours before the Ravens’ Week 3 loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 27.

Last Tuesday, Harbaugh said he was unaware of any setback before the news surfaced about his surgery two days later.

“It’s just a slow-healing deal,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “He’s had probably one of the all-time slowest-healing PCL sprains ever. That’s nothing against him; that’s just the way it is. It’s just tough. It’s one-in-some number — whatever Dr. Andrews said it was.”

Initially diagnosed with a bruise that was expected to keep him out for only a day or two, the Central Florida product was supposed to be the replacement for Torrey Smith in the vertical passing game this season. Through the first quarter of the season, the Ravens have been unable to consistently stretch the field with quarterback Joe Flacco completing just three passes of 30 or more yards.

In addition to the scope, Perriman received a platelet-rich plasma injection to try to accelerate the healing process, a practice that has become more common in recent years. It remains unclear when the 6-foot-2, 218-pound receiver will return to the practice field as general manager Ozzie Newsome acquired speed receiver Chris Givens from St. Louis in exchange for a 2016 seventh-round pick over the weekend.

“Hopefully, [the PRP injection] will have a good impact on it,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see how he comes along this week. I’m looking forward to it and seeing how fast that we can get some recovery going on it.

“I think when we get him out there full-speed in practice running routes and actually practicing with the units, that’s when you’ll know he’s got a chance to come back and play. When he’s doing the walk-throughs or just individual [parts], that’s a little different. That’s what he was doing before [the surgery].”

Steve Smith in pain tolerance “Hall of Fame”

Making Perriman’s continued absence even worse was the lower back injury suffered by No. 1 receiver Steve Smith in the Thursday night win at Pittsburgh.

Sustaining multiple microfractures in his back, Smith is expected to miss Sunday’s game with Cleveland, but Harbaugh is optimistic about his status after that as the issue will be more about pain tolerance than risking further injury.

“We’re never going to put him out there if he’s not able to really function and protect himself and play hard and fast and all those kinds of things,” Harbaugh said. “Now, knowing Steve, he’ll want to be out there. He has probably one of the all-time high pain tolerances that you’re ever going to see. He’s in the Hall of Fame of pain tolerance. That’s what our doctors told me.”

Asked about Smith’s status on Saturday at the Maryland-Michigan game, Harbaugh told Comcast SportsNet that the medical staff already “ruled him out for the Cleveland game,” but the Ravens coach tried to back away from that proclamation when asked again on Monday.

“The injury report rules people out; that’s how it works,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a process to that, so we’ll just follow the process on that. I have my own thoughts on it as I stated.”

Demon Deacon influence

Placed on season-ending injured reserve with a herniated disc in his back on Saturday, second-year receiver Michael Campanaro gave the Ravens some inside information on the newly-acquired Givens, the man taking his place on the 53-man roster.

Campanaro and Givens were once teammates at Wake Forest before the latter was drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

“Michael gave us a nice report on him as far as his character and work ethic,” Harbaugh said. “He’s a fast receiver, down-the-field threat, and does a lot of good things. He’s a good player. It turned out he was available due to the circumstances in St. Louis, and Ozzie made the trade, so we’re excited.”

Gillmore, Canty have “chance” to play against Cleveland

Harbaugh said tight end Crockett Gillmore is improving and could make his return against the Browns.

“Week-to-week. He has a chance this week — same thing with Chris Canty,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve both had very similar calf strains.”

Gillmore injured his calf in the first half of the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati while the veteran defensive end hurt his calf early in the Week 2 loss at Oakland.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe practiced on a limited basis last week as he’s remained in the concussion protocol since injuring his head on the opening series of the 2015 season.

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Ravens acquire St. Louis receiver Givens, place Campanaro on IR

Posted on 03 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Reeling from injuries at the wide receiver position, the Ravens acquired Chris Givens from the St. Louis Rams in exchange for a 2017 seventh-round pick on Saturday morning.

To make room on the 53-man roster, second-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a back injury suffered in Week 4. The 2014 seventh-round pick scored a touchdown in the 23-20 win over Pittsburgh and has shown promise, but injuries have continued to limit his ability to make an impact as a receiver and return specialist.

Givens was a 2012 fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest and had fallen out of favor in St. Louis, registering just 12 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown over his last 17 games. The speedy six-foot receiver adds speed that the Ravens have lacked with rookie Breshad Perriman sidelined with a knee injury since the start of training camp, but Campanaro’s absence once again creates major questions in the return game as Givens only has experience as a kick returner in his career.

Averaging 16.3 yards per reception in his four-year career, Givens caught 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, but his numbers have declined every season since his rookie campaign.

In addition to losing Campanaro for the year, Baltimore confirmed Saturday morning that Steve Smith is “week-to-week” with a lower back injury suffered against the Steelers. Multiple reports have said that the 36-year-old suffered four broken ribs late in the third quarter of the Thursday night win.

Givens has 88 catches for 1,433 yards and four touchdowns in his career.

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Steve Smith to miss Cleveland game with back injury

Posted on 03 October 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:00 p.m.)

After leaving Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh with a lower back injury, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith is “week-to-week” as reports are saying he suffered four broken ribs in the 23-20 win.

The 36-year-old was injured on the penultimate play of the third quarter when he caught a pass on a short out route and was tackled by Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons and cornerback Antwon Blake in front of the Pittsburgh bench. Timmons appeared to spear Smith in the lower back as the veteran receiver was slow to get up.

Smith tried to return to the Baltimore huddle before falling to the ground in pain. He did not return to the game as members of the training staff walked him to the Ravens bench.

Watching his brother Jim lead the University of Michigan against Maryland in College Park on Saturday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh told Comcast SportsNet that Smith will be held out of the Week 5 game against Cleveland next Sunday. Harbaugh described the injury as “microfractures” in Smith’s lower back.

Ravens vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne issued the following statement Saturday morning:

“While the Ravens do not give specifics about injuries out of respect to the men on our team and HIPAA laws, we want to dispel rumors and stories currently being reported about Steve Smith Sr.’s injury. He does have a back injury. It is not a surgical issue. His status is currently week-to-week.”

Trying to determine what “week-to-week” means will be interesting as the Ravens cannot afford to be without their top receiver and only established threat in the passing game. News of Smith’s injury came after the Ravens acquired St. Louis Rams receiver Chris Givens for a 2017 seventh-round pick and placed second-year receiver Michael Campanaro (back) on season-ending injured reserve.

Given his incomparable toughness as well as his plans to retire at the end of 2015, Smith will likely try to play through the injury, but the news certainly isn’t encouraging for a Ravens team trying to rebound from the first 0-3 start in franchise history.

In four games this season, Smith has caught 29 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns.

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With receivers ailing, Ravens running game came alive at perfect time

Posted on 02 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Already with 79 rushing yards through three quarters in Pittsburgh, Ravens running back Justin Forsett thought his number might be called more often with Steve Smith exiting with a lower back injury.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman did exactly that as Forsett carried 14 times for 71 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime of Baltimore’s 23-20 win over the Steelers. After the early-season struggles of the ground attack and injuries to Smith and Michael Campanaro as well as the absence of tight end Crockett Gillmore, the running game couldn’t have come alive at a better time.

“I was hoping that they would lean on me a little bit and give me the opportunity,” Forsett told reporters in Pittsburgh after the game. “They did so, and we were able to get some runs in and gash them a little bit. I think the run game was effective every time we were out there.”

With the Ravens down to just three receivers — Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, and rookie Darren Waller — late in the game, Trestman’s commitment to the running game and its productivity were the most encouraging developments of Thursday’s win. With the status of Smith, Gillmore, and Campanaro remaining murky for the Week 5 game against Cleveland, the Ravens may need to lean on their running game more than ever.

Prior to Thursday’s game, Baltimore had averaged just 3.3 yards per carry during its 0-3 start with most of that success coming from the shotgun formation against Oakland in Week 2. However, the Ravens were able to run for 191 yards on 39 attempts against the Steelers, a 4.9 yards per carry average that bested all but three of their single-game marks a season ago.

A single win doesn’t erase the worst start in franchise history, but the Ravens recapturing their 2014 success on the ground would go a long way in bringing hope as the passing game remains a work in progress. And their ability to run against a defense that had ranked 10th in the NFL against the run should provide plenty of confidence for the offensive line.

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