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Ravens waive Cousins, Harper, seven others

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Ravens waive Cousins, Harper, seven others

Posted on 27 August 2011 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 2:30 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to trim their 90-man roster down to 80 by Tuesday, the Baltimore Ravens got a head start by cutting nine players on Saturday morning.

The most prominent player to be waived was offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, a third-round selection in the 2008 draft. Maligned for his inability to play tackle, the Ravens shifted Cousins inside to guard where he started in place of the injured Marshal Yanda against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second preseason game. However, newly-signed veteran Mark LeVoir started at guard against Washington on Friday in what appeared to be a bad sign for the UTEP product.

“This decision was made basically last night, so it was thought through,” Harbaugh said. “For him to get a chance now to get out and negotiate his deal and get with a team where he’ll have a chance — personally, I think his future is at guard. I think he can do it, but it’s going to take an opportunity where someone has a need for that guy, and he can get in there and go to work on it. With our situation with Jah [Reid] being young and Mark [LeVoir] coming in, it kind of squeezed him out.”

The second prominent name to be released was receiver Justin Harper, a member of the practice squad the last two seasons. A seventh-round pick from Virginia Tech in 2009, Harper’s 6-foot-3 frame made him an attractive prospect, but his inconsistency catching the football and tendency to try to make one-handed catches frustrated coaches.

Harper dropped a Tyrod Taylor pass at the goal line in the fourth quarter against the Redskins.

The Ravens also waived tight end Jonathan Stupar, offensive lineman Brady Bond, receiver Terrell Zachery, linebacker Anthony Leon, receiver Rodney Bradley, center Ryan Bartholomew, and defensive tackle Cornell Banks.

The timing of the cuts suggests the Ravens wanted to give these nine players an opportunity to catch on with other teams in time to play in the final preseason game and have the opportunity to make another 53-man roster.

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Ravens agree to deal with veteran tackle Mark LeVoir

Posted on 20 August 2011 by Luke Jones

Looking to boost their depth at offensive tackle, the Ravens agreed to terms with former New England Patriots lineman Mark LeVoir on Saturday, according to the AP.

The 29-year-old lineman made two starts in 32 games over the last three seasons in New England. LeVoir was released by the Patriots earlier this week.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QviSo2F9jJQ[/youtube]

Baltimore finds itself thin at the tackle position after they moved fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins inside to guard after an ineffective performance against the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Rookie Jah Reid is currently the starting right tackle and played the entire game against Kansas City on Friday night.

At 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds, LeVoir began his career with stints in Chicago and St. Louis before landing with the Patriots in 2008. The former Notre Dame product finds an ideal opportunity in Baltimore after playing in only six games with the Patriots last season.

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I’ll Defer Here…10 Quick Thoughts on Ravens-Chiefs

Posted on 19 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

Before Ryan Chell and I hop back on AM1570 WNST & WNST.net for the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” presented by Poor Boys in Dundalk, I figured I’d share ten things that stuck out with me from the first half of Ravens-Chiefs.

Feel free to chime in at 410-481-1570 as the game is wrapping up to share your thoughts as well.

1. I still don’t like the lack of offensive rhythm. I’d just like to see a cohesive drive. It has to start up front, and we’re just not seeing that right now. It will bring me to my second point.

2. Jah Reid was pretty good, Michael Oher was okay, Oniel Cousins was okay. The penalties….the penalties are just completely inexcusable.

3. This was clearly not a night Joe Flacco will want to think about moving forward. There were a couple nice throws to Lee Evans, but otherwise he was terribly inconsistent. He was often forced to throw the ball away when flushed, which is at least better than a sack.

4. Lee Evans was exciting to watch. He can’t work sideline routes because of his size, but looked good in the go and on the wheel. He also showed sure hands over the middle, which is a good sign.

5. I like the Ray Rice/Ricky Williams combination. It wasn’t perect Friday night, but you can see how they complement each other. Meanwhile, Vonta Leach is tough. But we were expecting that. The head lowering “boom” was fun.

6. Cary Williams was clearly impressive in the first quarter, but struggled a bit in the second quarter. He’s not a starter despite working with the first team tonight, but he’s making it very clear why he should be ahead of Lardarius Webb on the depth chart.

7. Jimmy Smith might eventually be able to handle good receivers-even Pro Bowl receivers like Dwayne Bowe. He’s not quite ready to do that yet however. He has the physical tools, it will just take a little more time to adjust to the NFL level. I still think he’s going to be good, perhaps as early as this season.

8. There was a time when I didn’t think Sergio Kindle would ever play in Charm City. I’ve done a 180. I think he’s going to be a player, perhaps a good one. He hasn’t shown “quarterback menace” yet, but his speed and power are impressive. Pernell McPhee, Arthur Jones and Paul Kruger each also looked good.

9. Billy Cundiff might have made his field goal from 65 yards out. Stunning news I know, he has a hell of a boot.

10. John Harbaugh would not leave the postgame interview room without answering a question about the decision to defer if I were at the game. As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t really matter what his answer was either. There’s just no excuse for deferring in a preseason game. You defer as part of a strategy to win a football game. Winning doesn’t matter in the preseason.

It was a puzzling decision that set the tone for a lack of offensive continuity to open the game.

I expect more deferrals in the regular season as the kickoff rule nearly assures receiving teams will start at the 20 yard line, but there’s absolutely no explanation for deferring in the preseason.

Talk to you at 10:30 on the postgame show.

-G

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Ravens-Chiefs Preseason Primer: What to watch tonight

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Ravens-Chiefs Preseason Primer: What to watch tonight

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Luke Jones

***Join us in the Purple Haze live chat beginning at 7:30 p.m. as WNST.net brings you live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium. For the quickest updates and analysis, follow WNST on Twitter and be sure to subscribe to the WNST Text Service.***

Playing their preseason home opener on Friday night, the Ravens envision a better showing against the Kansas City Chiefs after a lackluster effort in Philadelphia last week.

Coach John Harbaugh said starters will play well into the second quarter, a higher workload than you’ll typically find in the second preseason game, in an effort to accelerate the development of a young offense with question marks along the offensive line. With starting lineman Matt Birk (knee surgery) and Marshal Yanda (back spams) current sidelined, the Ravens will use Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at tackle — an uncomfortable proposition for quarterback Joe Flacco.

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Friday will also mark the preseason debuts for newly-acquired veterans Ricky Williams and Lee Evans. Williams had only practiced once prior to the opener against the Eagles, and the Ravens traded a fourth-round pick to Buffalo to bring the veteran wideout Evans to Baltimore a day after the Ravens’ 13-6 loss last week.

The Ravens will also welcome three former players back to Baltimore as defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, fullback Le’Ron McClain, and offensive tackle Jared Gaither all signed with the Chiefs after spending multiple years in Baltimore. Gregg was released to create salary cap space while McClain and Gaither departed as unrestricted free agents.

Series history

The Ravens and Kansas City have never met in the preseason, but Baltimore’s 30-7 thrashing over the Chiefs in the Wild Card round last year will be fresh on everyone’s mind.

However, the Chiefs hold a slight advantage in the regular season series, 3-2. Kansas City won the first three meetings between the two AFC teams before the Ravens earned victories in 2006 and 2009.

Kansas City connections

In addition to the three former Ravens now on the Kansas City roster, there are several other links between the two teams.

Safety Bernard Pollard began his NFL career with the Chiefs after being selected by them in the second round of the 2006 draft. He played three seasons in Kansas City, accumulating 189 tackles, three interceptions, and one sack before being released prior to the start of the 2009 season.

Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper played two games for the Ravens in the 2008 season, Harbaugh’s first season as head coach. On the flip side, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff spent time during the 2008 offseason on the Kansas City roster.

Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant played defensive end for the Ravens in their inaugural season of 1996 after spending the first six years of his career in Cleveland.

Kansas City tackle Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) and receivers coach Richie Anderson (Sandy Springs) are Maryland natives.

And perhaps the most interesting connection is Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli’s former role as the pro personnel coordinator for the Ravens in 1996. Pioli moved to Baltimore from Cleveland, where he worked as a personnel assistant for the Browns for four seasons.

Injury report

Yanda (back spasms) will not play after missing five straight days of practice this week, though Harbaugh is hopeful the guard can return for next week’s game against Washington. Birk has been sidelined since the first full week of camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Cornerback Chris Carr missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after straining his hamstring in Monday’s workout, leaving his status against the Chiefs in doubt.

Others not expected to play include receiver James Hardy (hamstring), running back Damien Berry (leg), and defensive back Marcus Paschal.

Receiver David Reed missed practice on Wednesday after being activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list at the beginning of the week.

Veteran cornerback Domonique Foxworth has increased his workload in practice in recent days as he continues to work his way back from the ACL injury that wiped out his entire 2010 season. The former Maryland star has worked with the second team while rookie Jimmy Smith and third-year player Cary Williams took reps with the starting defense. Foxworth did not play in the preseason opener.

7 Players to Watch

1. WR Lee Evans – Friday night’s game will mark one week since the Ravens acquired Evans from the Bills. The eighth-year veteran stepped into the starting lineup on his first day of practice, but Evans still needs to develop timing with Flacco. The former Wisconsin Badger has shown impressive speed in practice, including a fly route on Monday that caused Carr to pull up lame.

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Ravens’ plan comes into focus for Chiefs on Friday

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Ravens’ plan comes into focus for Chiefs on Friday

Posted on 17 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens wrapping their final practice of the week in preparation for their second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday, coach John Harbaugh announced his team has essentially ended the training camp portion of the summer.

Of course, it’s tough to see it that way given the unusual circumstance of training camp being held at the team’s facility in Owings Mills due to the 134-day lockout that cancelled practices at McDaniel College for the first time in the 16-year history of the franchise. Harbaugh said the Ravens will resume a practice schedule similar to the regular season beginning next week, though he wouldn’t rule out some extra work where needed.

Without an offseason in which to work, the coach will play starters a bit more than they would normally go in the second preseason game. Harbaugh said most starters will play well into the second quarter against Kansas City at M&T Bank Stadium.

“We have a shorter offseason this year; we didn’t have any OTAs,” Harbaugh said. “We need to get ready to play. We’re going to be playing a regular season game very soon. But there are certain guys that don’t need to play that much.”

Harbaugh mentioned veterans Ed Reed and Ray Lewis by name as candidates to be pulled earlier than the rest of the first-unit players. Lewis was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he dealt with a family illness.

The Ravens will be shorthanded on the offensive line as Harbaugh confirmed right guard Marshal Yanda will not play on Friday after missing five straight days of practice as he deals with back spasms. With center Matt Birk already sidelined after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago, Yanda’s back issue conjures up memories of last summer and Jared Gaither’s back injury that sidelined him for the entire summer. The Ravens are being extra cautious with Yanda despite Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron maintaining a stance of the injury not being serious.

“Whether he’ll go next week or not, I don’t know,” Harbaugh said. “You know Marshal, he’ll want to. If we have to hold him back, it’ll basically be us holding him back. He’s going to be out this week. It’s not a serious thing; he’s not going to be out for the regular season or anything like that. He’ll probably play next week.”

With Birk and Yanda out, the Ravens will play Bryan Mattison at center, Oniel Cousins at right guard, and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle. Rookie Justin Boren has also received time at right guard with the first unit, so the Ohio State product is worth keeping an eye on.

Defensively, Chris Carr has missed the last two days of practice with a hamstring tweak, opening the door for third-year cornerback Cary Williams to start opposite rookie Jimmy Smith. The two have worked has the starting corners all week while Lardarius Webb and Domonique Foxworth have worked with the second defense. Harbaugh praised Williams’ improved technique in addition to his impressive size and athleticism.

With the starters receiving more playing time, many eyes will be on quarterback Joe Flacco, who will have the chance to work with newly-acquired Lee Evans for the first time in a game situation. Much was said about the Ravens’ intentions to give Flacco more freedom within Cameron’s offense, and Harbaugh was emphatic about the fourth-year quarterback’s increased responsibilities with play calls.

“In training camp, at least half the plays that we’ve called out here, and I haven’t done a count, but I’ll bet you it’s at least half have been plays where he’s had a choice to make a decision,” Harbaugh said. “He changes a run to another direction, he changes a run to a pass, he changes a pass to a maximum protection or to a run. And he’s done a great job with that.”

It’s clear general manager Ozzie Newsome and the coaching staff will be expecting improvements in a number of areas on Friday, particularly along the offensive line and tackling on defense. With the sloppy product shown in the Ravens’ 13-6 loss to the Eagles last Thursday, the Ravens coach has found himself needing to reflect from time to time on the unprecedented nature of this training camp.

“You just have to take a deep breath sometimes and say we’re not where my eye says we should be, whether it’s in terms of execution or in terms of personnel,” Harbaugh said. “You just have to take a step back and say we’re going to keep working on those things.

“We’re going to keep working on those guys out there [on the market] that can help us or trades or something. Those things usually got done three or four months ago. It’s a very strange training camp that way.”

Hear more from Ravens coach John Harbaugh as well as tight end Ed Dickson’s conversation with WNST’s Glenn Clark in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

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Bisciotti on Ngata extension: “I’m Having A Hard Time Giving Away $60 Million”

Posted on 16 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

For the second time in 2011, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti held a conference call with fans Tuesday night. Owners of Premium seats and Personal Seat Licenses (PSL’s) at M&T Bank Stadium were invited to participate in the call.

During the call, Bisciotti was asked by fans about the progress the team was making on signing three time All-Pro DT (and defending team MVP) Haloti Ngata to a long term contract extension. Ngata was given the franchise tag by the Ravens early in the offseason, guaranteeing him to make $12.476 million this season.

Signing Ngata to a contract extension would free up salary cap space for the Ravens to address still lingering needs. A ProFootballTalk.com report this week said the Ravens had just $2.8 million of cap space ($120 million) available to sign players even after trading for former Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans.

Bisciotti appeared frustrated but hopeful about the talks.

“I’m having a hard time giving away $60 million” said the owner. “I have a feeling things are going to work out. I have no doubt in my mind Haloti’s going to be with us (long term).”

Ngata was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl in 2010 and is widely viewed to be one of the better interior D-Linemen in the National Football League. He is coming off a season in which he tied a career high with 63 tackles and set a new career high with 5.5 sacks.

The Ravens still have a number of needs throughout the team. OL Oniel Cousins has worked out at RG this week with starter Marshal Yanda sidelined due to back spasms. Rookie Jah Reid has worked as the first team RT, leaving the team very thin at the tackle position. Multiple outlets have suggested the Ravens could consider veteran OT Jon Stinchcomb, who was recently released by the New Orleans Saints.

The team could still use help on the interior of the Offensive Line as well. Starting C Matt Birk (knee) has been sidelined for most of Training Camp and is not expected to return until close to the team’s Week 1 home opener against their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The team attempted to sign veteran Casey Rabach (who played most recently with the Washington Redskins) earlier in Camp, but was unable to complete the signing when he failed a physical.

Backup quarterback is also an issue for the team, after rookie Tyrod Taylor provided mixed results in the team’s exhibition opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The team also has Hunter Cantwell on the roster, but the third year player from Louisville spent all of 2010 on the practice squad. The team could still try to convince 2010 backup Marc Bulger to come out of retirement.

Bisciotti had hoped superstar ILB Ray Lewis would accept a “home town discount” upon reaching free agency in 2009, but the future Hall of Famer was quick to point out that he wouldn’t accept less than market value. After failing to convince Lewis to take that such a deal, Bisciotti joked Tuesday he didn’t expect to be able to agree to a similar arrangement with the former Oregon DT to remain in Charm City.

Even without a home town discount, the Ravens would benefit from simply signing Ngata to any sort of extension that includes a significant signing bonus and bigger money on the back end.

If Bisciotti can indeed “give away” that $60 million, the team could begin taking other steps towards completing what they hope will be a roster capable of reaching Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

-G

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Ravens offense working to boost long-ball potential

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Ravens offense working to boost long-ball potential

Posted on 16 August 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As a number of veterans rested during Tuesday afternoon’s practice, the Ravens continued working on their timing in the vertical passing game in hopes of stretching the field and creating the explosions that were lacking a season ago.

Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin sat out his second straight practice — coach John Harbaugh said it was merely to rest the 30-year-old — as rookie Torrey Smith joined newly-acquired veteran Lee Evans as a starting receiver in the first offense. Quarterback Joe Flacco connected on a few deep balls to Smith and Evans — one a beautiful 43-yard touchdown strike to Smith with cornerback Cary Williams trailing behind. Evans has challenged a number of the Ravens’ top corners over his first four practices in Baltimore, even causing veteran Chris Carr to tweak his hamstring on a deep route Monday.

Though the Ravens continue to preach their need to regain the power running game,  receivers gaining separation and taking the top off the defense will be a priority after the triumvirate of Boldin and departed veterans Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh created little diversity in the passing game a season ago. Of Ravens players making more than 10 receptions a year ago, former tight end Todd Heap averaged 15.0 yards per catch to lead all pass catchers. Evans averaged 15.6 yards per reception in Buffalo last season.

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As the NFL continues its transformation into a pass-heavy league in recent seasons, the Ravens hope Evans and Smith will allow Flacco to show off his strong throwing arm that’s often gone unused in his first three seasons. Their contributions would also go a long way to loosening coverage underneath for Boldin to get touches and gain yards after the catch.

“It’s so hard in this league just to march the ball all the way down the field time and time again,” Harbaugh said. “It sure looks like they’re going to be a lot of long drives with the kickoffs being the way they are, so you’ve got to have that big-play ability, that quick-strike ability. Hopefully, we can develop that.”

Evans will factor heavily into the development of the passing offense after playing his first seven seasons in Buffalo. The 30-year-old has looked as fast as advertised during practice, and the Ravens were able to take a good look at him catching three touchdown passes against them last October.

“We know what gameday looks like and feels like, because he can run,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “The thing that caught my attention was he had been here 10 minutes (on Saturday) and we ran a [deep route] and he got on top of the corner. Joe [Flacco] says to me, ‘That felt different.’ Then, he got right on top of a corner on the next one and Joe underthrew him. I think there is a speed and an explosion that feels a little different that I think every team needs and is nice to have.”

Of course, the development of the vertical passing game hedges completely on the development of the offensive line. With rookie Jah Reid currently in line to be the starter at the right tackle position and veteran center Matt Birk sidelined after undergoing knee surgery, the Ravens will need to provide adequate time for Flacco to find his speedy targets down the field.

Fourth-year lineman Oniel Cousins’ struggles in the preseason opener prompted the coaching staff to shift him inside to guard, putting even more pressure on this year’s third-round pick to be ready to start by Week 1. Both Harbaugh and Cameron have echoed their excitement in Reid’s development in recent days.

“He’s very strong,” said Harbaugh, who discussed Reid’s development with Jarret Johnson and Terrell Suggs earlier in the day. “He’s just a gifted, gifted guy. Big, strong. He’s a bender. He’s got very long arms. He’s got a little bit of a nasty streak. I think, obviously, he’s more ahead in the run game than he is in the pass protection at this point, which you would expect. He’s getting it. I think just fundamentals, attention to detail, assignment, play with a little bit of poise — hopefully the game will slow down for him a little bit.”

The game slowing down for Reid would go a long way in speeding it up for the Ravens’ aerial attack.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear more from head coach John Harbaugh.

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A few Opinions after One Pre-Season Game

Posted on 12 August 2011 by Tom Clayton

I am not one for jumping to concrete opinions after the first pre-season game of the season but I did make some observations that I feel pretty strong about.  Before I get into my observations about the Ravens let me say that I agree 100% with other fans that the new kickoff rule is awful and has all but removed one of the most exciting plays from the game.  On the other hand the Ravens are really going to benefit from this rule from having perhaps the kicker with the strongest leg in the NFL and not possessing a game breaking returner.

 First of all, offensive coordinators are going to target Chris Carr every single week.  I’ve had this thought since the Ravens decided not to resign Josh Wilson and my fears were heightened when Dominique Foxworth was scratched just before kickoff.  Carr is clearly the weakest corner on the team and the Ravens are going to need to get Jimmy Smith up and running very quickly if they don’t want to be torched on a weekly basis.  On the topic of Jimmy Smith I was impressed with how big he looks in pads; if his talents are as touted and he stays out of trouble Smith looks like the big, shutdown corner the Ravens have been missing since Chris McAllister went AWOL in Miami.  

 Speaking of impressive physical specimens on the Ravens defense, Sergio Kindle looks like he could have the speed and power to become a great pass rushing counterpart to T-Sizzle.  Kindle got into the backfield numerous times against the Eagles first and second team offense and did a good job of collapsing the pocket on the edge.

 Overall I was impressed with Chuck Pagano’s defensive philosophy as he brought “heat” from all angles and the Ravens were consistently in the Eagles backfield all night.  Unfortunately once in the backfield the Ravens seemed to miss every tackle.  In fact it seemed like the Ravens missed at least one tackle on every single play, but I will chalk that up to it being the first pre-season game and an abbreviated training camp.

On offense Oniel Cousins looks horrible; he was getting beat by the Eagles third and fourth string defensive ends in the second half and looked more like a rookie than a fourth year player. 

As for the offensive line as a whole, they look to have zero depth behind the starters and the loss of Chris Chester may be more damaging than first thought.  Once the second string offense came in Tyrod Taylor did not have a clean pocket once all night and he was running for his life EVERY time he dropped back to pass. 

As for Tyrod Taylor he seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed and he showed flashes of a skill set that could make him a valuable dual-threat quarterback down the road.  I liked his toughness as he was getting knocked around all night and he seemed to have good command of his teammates for a rookie quarterback.

 And fellow offensive rookie LaQuan Williams showed why he has been the talk of training camp catching three passes for 46 yards including a slant and a screen where he ran hard and made big plays after the catch.  Williams looks like he could be a viable option at receiver and a player that will run hard and pick up the tough yards after first contact. 

After watching this team play I think it is pretty obvious that they still need to bring in a veteran backup quarterback and they will need to address the right tackle position before the games count.  But I trust Ozzie and his front office and I believe the correct moves will be made before the Ravens and Steelers open this thing up on September 11th. 

Overall the Ravens didn’t show much and they didn’t do anything that is going to make fans start making travel plans for Indianapolis on February 5th 2012 but this is going to be a different season as the Ravens try and get younger at a lot of key positions.  I think the Ravens will be a better team in December and January then they will be on September 11th but fans are going to need to be more patient with this team than they have been the last three seasons.  But no matter what you took away from this game one thing is certain, Football is back and we all the better for it!

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Ravens hope Thursday night vs. Eagles answers questions

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is the moment Ravens fans have all been in anticipation of as for the first time-even if it’s in exhibition mode-we will get a look at what the 2011 Ravens have in store when it comes to the product on the field.

With the labor turmoil behind us and now the focus solely on the game of football, coach John Harbaugh will now look to his expanded roster to see if there are going to be any concerns going forward in preseason as the team prepares for its Week 1 opener against the Steelers September 11th.

Here is a position-by-position look at some of the question marks going into Thursday against the Eagles, and hopefully some things we hope to see out of those players in the way of answers.

Quarterback-Obviously, Joe Flacco will start Thursday and will likely see two series of work or about a quarter of action. Flacco-who has improved his statistics in each of his first three seasons-doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone; however, he may need to get some game-action with some new faces. It will be interesting to see if Flacco continues to rely on Anquan Boldin as a security blanket early on, or if we see the eventual building of a rapport between Flacco and one of the newer faces in the receiving corps.

Once Flacco leaves, it will be on sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor-who took a significant step forward his senior year at Virginia Tech-to try and prove he deserves the backup role to Joe Flacco. In camp so far, he has been back-and-forth with his accuracy, and it will be on Taylor to show the coaching staff they can have faith in a rookie as Joe Flacco’s backup-maybe the only backup at the position. If not, it gives 2010 practice squad quarterback Hunter Cantwell, who at least has more experience with the playbook than Taylor, to show what he can do under center.

Running Back-Running back Ray Rice will get his first taste of NFL action this year, but in this case, it will be a nibble. The Ravens definitely don’t want to risk injury to a player who is going to get a considerable amount of touches offensively-not just in the running game but also screen passes from Joe Flacco.

Also not playing Thursday will be the newly added Ricky Williams, who still may not be ready to suit up for the Ravens after signing this week. He is familiar with OC Cam Cameron’s playbook from their time in Miami, but all this means is that rookie Anthony Allen, Jalen Parmele, and Damien Berry will battle for carries and a roster spot or two behind Rice and Williams. Vonta Leach and the only other remaining FB on the roster, rookie free agent Ryan Mahaffey out of Northern Iowa, will clear the running lanes.

Wide Receivers-Behind the given in  Boldin, this is a position where the Ravens are going to need immediate impact from some younger players, most notably two of their draft picks in Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. Quarterback Joe Flacco has sworn by the route-running ability of Doss, the Ravens’ fourth-round pick and Smith has made several big plays during drills in camp.

However, Smith needs to prove that he can be a reliable option across from Boldin. Smith needs to focus on making catches outside of his body, which has caused the former Terp to drop several passes in camp.

Outside of Smith and Doss, it will be interesting to see if veterans Brandon Jones (Titans) and James Hardy (Bills) can make plays against some lesser competition across from them. It they do, it could help their causes in making the roster. Hardy-at 6’5, 220, could be a valuable asset in the red zone and along the sideline if shows the ability to go up and get a jump ball over a defender. Other players like Marcus Smith, Justin Harper, LaQuan Williams, etc need to make plays otherwise they’ll be finding their way off the roster.

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After Stadium Practice, Better Idea of What Ravens Will Look Like in Preseason Opener

Posted on 06 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

BALTIMORE — Following an annual open practice at M&T Bank Stadium in front of 24,078; fans will not have another opportunity to see the Baltimore Ravens again until their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Sunday’s practice provided some clarity for Ravens fans however, as the team gave a look at would could be expected at various positions.

QUARTERBACK:

There’s of course no question as to who the team’s starting quarterback will be Thursday (Joe Flacco). But with starters not expected to play much in the opener, the retirement of 2010 backup Marc Bulger has left the Ravens with little experience behind him.

Rookie Tyrod Taylor (Virginia Tech) has worked as the team’s backup in Training Camp, and will be likely to get the most snaps Thursday night after Flacco departs. Following Taylor is Hunter Cantwell, a practice squad QB a year ago who is currently the team’s third stringer. Cantwell did VERY limited work in Saturday’s practice and appears to clearly be behind Taylor on the depth chart.

The team could still make a move to bring in a veteran backup before Thursday night, but it would be unlikely a new quarterback would get significant playing time as early as Thursday after limited practice.

RUNNING BACK:

Once again, the team has no questions as far as starters are concerned. 2009 Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice and 2010 Pro Bowl FB Vonta Leach will patrol the backfield to open the game; but neither are expected to play significant time.

The RB position behind Rice is wide open at the moment. The most likely candidates to enter after Rice are Jalen Parmele and rookie Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech), who have each taken second team reps in practice. Parmele is more probable, but both are expected to see a number of plays.

Undrafted rookie Damien Berry (Miami) appears to be fourth on the RB depth chart at the moment, but should keep getting work. If the Ravens don’t add veteran depth at the position, he’s very much in the battle for a roster spot. The team also has undrafted rookie and Mervo grad Walter Sanders (St. Augustine) on the roster, he’ll likely see a few snaps in the second half of Thursday night’s contest as well.

The wild card in the group is veteran RB/ST Matt Lawrence, who missed all of the 2010 season with a knee injury. Lawrence has had very little participation in camp thus far (he did not practice Saturday), but would be expected to see playing time Thursday night if healthy.

Undrafted FB Ryan Mahaffey (Northern Iowa) could see snaps behind Leach.

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