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Ravens-Saints: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 21 October 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will be without three starters for Sunday’s meeting with New Orleans.

After suffering injuries late in the practice week, cornerback Marlon Humphrey (thigh) and right tackle James Hurst were both deactivated, joining starting left guard Alex Lewis (neck) after he had already been declared out on Friday. Those absences leave the Ravens with just four healthy cornerbacks and six active offensive linemen against the Saints, less-than-ideal developments against one of the NFC’s best teams.

Humphrey made an appearance on the field roughly 25 minutes before the inactives list was released Sunday afternoon, but he was only an observer while wearing a sweatsuit, making it clear he wasn’t preparing to play. His absence means veteran Jimmy Smith will make his first start of the season after playing on a rotational basis in the last two games. Smith will play opposite Brandon Carr on the outside with Tavon Young manning the nickel and Cyrus Jones serving as the fourth corner. Rookie cornerback Anthony Averett (hamstring) was deactivated for the fifth straight game after returning to practice on only a limited basis this week.

Hurst being scratched was surprising after the Ravens elected not to promote one of their three offensive linemen — Jermaine Eluemunor, Nico Siragusa, and Randin Crecelius — currently on the practice squad. Rookies Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown are expected to make their first NFL starts at left guard and right tackle, respectively, with Hroniss Grasu serving as the lone reserve lineman. Baltimore typically goes into every game with two active reserves for the offensive line, so an in-game injury or two could spark a major problem.

The Saints will have the services of right guard Larry Warford, who was listed as questionable on the final injury report with a back injury. New Orleans will be without left guard Andrus Peat, who was ruled out with a head injury on Friday.

New Orleans also deactivated reserve offensive tackle and former Towson University star Jermon Bushrod, who revealed this weekend that he’s mourning the death of his week-old daughter.

The Weather.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 50s. However, winds 15 to 25 miles per hour with occasional gusts approaching 40 miles per hour could create problems in the passing game. Winds are supposed to decrease as the game progresses.

Sunday’s referee is John Parry.

The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with purple pants — the first time we’ve seen this combination in a non-“Color Rush” capacity — while New Orleans dons white tops with black pants pants for Week 7.

Sunday marks the seventh all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 5-1 advantage and a 3-1 record in Baltimore. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is just one touchdown pass away from the 500th of his career, but the future Hall of Famer is 0-4 in his career against the Ravens, the only NFL team he has never defeated.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Marlon Humphrey
OL James Hurst
CB Anthony Averett
G Alex Lewis
WR Jordan Lasley
DL Zach Sieler
QB Robert Griffin III

NEW ORLEANS
G Andrus Peat
OL Jermon Bushrod
OL Will Clapp
DB J.T. Gray
DE Trey Hendrickson
DL Mitch Loewen
DT Taylor Stallworth

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Humphrey questionable, Lewis out for Ravens against New Orleans

Posted on 19 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will be without a starting offensive lineman and could be without one of their starting cornerbacks for Sunday’s much-anticipated meeting with New Orleans.

Left guard Alex Lewis was officially ruled out after missing practices all week with the neck injury sustained at Tennessee, but an unexpected concern is the status of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was designated as questionable on the final injury report. The 2017 first-round pick suffered what’s being labeled a thigh injury during Thursday’s practice and did not take part in Friday’s walk-through session that was closed to reporters.

Head coach John Harbaugh said Humphrey is receiving treatment and that the Ravens would “just see how it goes” in terms of whether he’ll be available to try to help slow Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense. Of course, Baltimore would still have veteran cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith to start on the outside with Tavon Young manning the nickel, but the luxury of rotating fresh players at every level has been a calling card for the league’s No. 1 scoring defense this season.

You’d rather not have to test that depth against one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and the league’s third-ranked passing offense.

“We just don’t talk about that stuff,” Harbaugh said. “You just move on. If he’s there, he’s there. If he’s not, he’s not, and that’s how you do it. It’s not something you give too much thought to. That’s how the league works.”

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has distributed snaps among his top three outside corners since Smith returned from a four-game suspension two weeks ago. Should Humphrey not be able to play against the Saints, the Ravens would be one injury away from having a problem on the outside as rookie cornerback Anthony Averett is just returning from a long-term hamstring injury and only practiced on a limited basis this week. The 5-foot-9 Young played extensively as an outside corner as a rookie two years ago, but both he and the recently-acquired Cyrus Jones are more ideal at the nickel.

Pro Football Focus has graded Humphrey as the 18th-best cornerback in the NFL — and Baltimore’s best — so far this season.

Lewis’ absence was expected after he was carted off the field on a stretcher early in the fourth quarter of the 21-0 win over the Titans and later diagnosed with a pinched nerve, according to Harbaugh. What remains to be seen is how the Ravens approach their offensive line for Week 7 with starting right tackle James Hurst likely playing a pivotal role. Since Hurst hadn’t practiced at left guard — where he started last season — all last week, the Ravens chose not to disrupt two different line positions and simply inserted rookie Bradley Bozeman at left guard in place of Lewis.

With a full week to prepare, the Ravens may shift Hurst to left guard and start rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle. Brown has played 37 offensive snaps this season and has occasionally served as a sixth offensive lineman in certain packages, but he played extensively as the first-team right tackle during the preseason and is considered the right tackle of the future.

“We’re not showing our hand. On the other side of the coin, it’s really not a big deal,” said Harbaugh, who was pleased with how both Brown and Bozeman practiced this week. “It’s really not a big deal. Guys get hurt for both teams. Guys play, guys don’t play, guys come back. It’s just part of the process.

“We’ve done well with injuries. We’ve been very blessed so far this year, and we’re not worried about that.”

(Update: On Saturday, Hurst was added to the injury report with a questionable designation because of a back issue, but the Ravens did not promote an extra offensive lineman to the 53-man roster, making it likely the veteran lineman will at least be active on Sunday.)

The Saints have placed wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) on injured reserve and ruled out starting left guard Andrus Peat with a head injury. Starting right guard Larry Warford was listed as questionable with a back injury.

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday’s game in Baltimore calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-50s, but winds 15 to 25 miles per hour could create problems for both passing games.

Returning to M&T Bank Stadium after playing four of their first six games on the road, the 4-2 Ravens will now reap the benefits of playing four of their next five at home. However, the next three opponents — New Orleans, Carolina, and Pittsburgh — all made the playoffs last season while their first post-bye game will be against Cincinnati, who is tied with the Ravens for first place in the AFC North.

“It’s a good place to be. The challenge is they’re all really good teams, and that’s how the NFL works,” Harbaugh said. “Wouldn’t rather have them anywhere else — that’s for sure — than with our fans and in our stadium here in Baltimore.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: G Alex Lewis (neck)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring)

NEW ORLEANS
OUT: G Andrus Peat (head), DT Taylor Stallworth (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Jermon Bushrod (non-injury), G Larry Warford (back)

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Cornerback Humphrey limited during Thursday’s Ravens practice

Posted on 18 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing to face one of the best passing games in the NFL in Week 7, the Ravens added starting cornerback Marlon Humphrey to their injury report on Thursday.

The 2017 first-round pick was listed as a limited participant with a thigh issue, making it unclear whether he sustained an injury during practice or if it’s something with which he was already dealing. Humphrey’s status will come into better focus on Friday when the Ravens conduct their final practice ahead of their meeting with New Orleans. Slot cornerback Tavon Young missed last Thursday’s practice with a hip issue before practicing the next day and playing without any apparent limitations against Tennessee.

Even if Humphrey’s availability were to be in doubt, the Ravens would simply turn to Jimmy Smith, who has played 62 snaps in a rotational capacity in each of the last two games. Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season and is coming back from a torn Achilles tendon sustained last December.

“He’s starting to play. He’s getting used to playing again in the second week, and you can see it,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “We didn’t play that many plays, but he was doing some things really well and receivers were having a hard time getting off the line of scrimmage. It was fun to see.”

As expected, veteran cornerback Brandon Carr practiced fully after sitting out the previous day. He has missed the last four Wednesday practices with what’s listed as a knee issue, so there had been no real concern regarding his availability to play against the Saints.

Left guard Alex Lewis remains sidelined with a neck injury that appears likely to keep him sidelined for Sunday’s game. Rookie right tackle Orlando Brown says he’s prepared to play should the Ravens elect to place him in the starting lineup while moving veteran James Hurst over to left guard. Rookie Bradley Bozeman is another option to start at left guard after he filled in for Lewis in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Titans.

“I’m just approaching it like I approach every other week,” said Brown, a third-round pick in April’s draft. “I don’t know what the coaches plan to do. They know I’m ready, so I’m just going to continue to work this week and develop my game.”

Both of the Saints’ starting guards sat out Thursday’s workout as Andrus Peat (head) had practiced on a limited basis the previous day and Larry Warford (back) was a new addition to the injury report.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Alex Lewis (neck)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR John Brown (non-injury), CB Brandon Carr (knee), , S Eric Weddle (non-injury)

NEW ORLEANS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Jermon Bushrod (non-injury), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (knee), G Andrus Peat (head), DT Taylor Stallworth (ankle), G Larry Warford (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Terron Armstead (knee), CB Marshon Lattimore (concussion), WR Cameron Meredith (knee)

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Ravens may need to shuffle offensive line for Week 7

Posted on 17 October 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing for their most challenging matchup of the season to date, the Ravens could debut a new offensive line combination for Sunday’s tilt against New Orleans.

With left guard Alex Lewis sidelined from Wednesday’s practice while recovering from a neck injury suffered in the Week 6 win at Tennessee, the Ravens will weigh their options while still hoping he makes enough improvement to play against the Saints. It’s a possibility head coach John Harbaugh didn’t rule out at the beginning of the week, but the Ravens will be cautious with Lewis’ health.

“I guess I would label it, for lack of a better term and to go back to an old term, [to] be a pinched nerve,” Harbaugh said. “That just kind of heals. That can heal like that (snaps fingers) or it can take a little bit of time, so he’s really day-to-day is really the best way to describe it with that kind of injury.”

Should Lewis not play, the Ravens could choose to move right tackle James Hurst to left guard — the position he played in place of the injured Lewis last season — and start rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. at Hurst’s current spot. Brown received most of the reps as the first-team right tackle in training camp and the preseason while Hurst filled in at right guard for six-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda, who was working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, but the Ravens have gone with the more experienced option through the first six weeks of the regular season.

Rather than disrupt two positions early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game after Lewis was carted off the field on a stretcher, the Ravens kept Hurst at right tackle and inserted rookie sixth-round pick Bradley Bozeman at left guard to finish off a 21-0 win.

“He was prepared to play the left guard spot, and James was practicing the right tackle spot the whole time,” Harbaugh said after Sunday’s game. “We could do it the other way too if we had to, but that’s the way that [offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris] wanted to do it.”

Cornerback Brandon Carr was the only other Baltimore player to miss Wednesday’s practice for a health-related reason, but this is the fourth straight week he’s received a practice day off for a knee issue, removing doubt about his availability for Sunday’s game. Cornerback Anthony Averett made his return to practice after missing the last four games with a hamstring injury.

Returning from their Week 6 bye, the Saints held out wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) from Wednesday’s practice. Left tackle Terron Armstead (knee) and wide receiver Cameron Meredith (knee) were limited participants.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR John Brown (non-injury), CB Brandon Carr (knee), G Alex Lewis (neck), S Eric Weddle (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring)

NEW ORLEANS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Ted Ginn Jr. (knee), DT Taylor Stallworth (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Terron Armstead (knee), G Andrus Peat (head), WR Cameron Meredith (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Marshon Lattimore (concussion)

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Ravens guard Lewis leaves Sunday’s game with neck injury

Posted on 14 October 2018 by Luke Jones

Excitement from the Ravens’ 21-0 win over Tennessee was tempered by the neck injury sustained by starting left guard Alex Lewis.

Lewis was carted off the field on a stretcher after a collision with Titans linebacker Sharif Finch on the third play of the fourth quarter. The 2016 fourth-round pick initially remained on his feet upon making the block before eventually going to the ground and being cared for by both teams’ medical staffs.

Making his 14th career NFL start, the 26-year-old Lewis was taken to a local hospital and underwent a CT scan before being released and allowed to travel home with his team on Sunday night. The Ravens said he had feeling and movement in all of his extremities and would undergo further testing in Baltimore on Monday.

“So far, so good,” head coach John Harbaugh said in his post-game press conference. “There’s a lot of optimism.”

Lewis missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing shoulder surgery early in training camp. He was replaced by rookie Bradley Bozeman at left guard Sunday as the Ravens closed out the shutout victory to improve to 4-2, their best start after six games since the 2014 season.

Should Lewis miss more time, the Ravens could elect to move starting right tackle James Hurst to left guard — the position he played last season — and move rookie Orlando Brown Jr. into the starting lineup at right tackle.

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Mosley’s potential absence will be difficult for Ravens to endure

Posted on 15 September 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens’ biggest loss wasn’t on the scoreboard Thursday night.

The 34-23 defeat to Cincinnati was surely disappointing, but the absence of three-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley could bring bigger consequences than a divisional defeat. It remains unclear how much time he’ll miss after sustaining a bone bruise in his left knee on the first defensive series of the game.

After Mosley limped off the field at the conclusion of that initial three-and-out for the Baltimore defense, the Bengals scored touchdowns on their next four possessions as former undrafted free agent Patrick Onwuasor and rookie Kenny Young manned the inside linebacker spots.

“That’s your middle linebacker. We’ve got two young guys in there playing,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “They played hard, they fought, but they didn’t play perfect. That’s going to hurt you for sure. It hurt us with the coverage underneath mostly, a little bit in the run game.”

Young, a fourth-round pick from UCLA, has impressed early and looked poised to wrest the starting job away from Onwuasor sooner than later, but both lack experience. Depending on how much time Mosley is expected to miss, the Ravens could re-sign veteran Albert McClellan or add another linebacker with experience. They could also use more sub packages featuring safety Tony Jefferson or dime back Anthony Levine in the box, but the complications run deeper than simply replacing Mosley’s play.

One of the much-discussed developments of the offseason was new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale giving more pre-snap responsibility to veterans like Mosley, safety Eric Weddle, and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs to adjust defensive alignments, blitzes, and coverages based on what the opponent shows them at the line of scrimmage. It certainly makes sense to take advantage of players’ wisdom, but there was always the question of how an in-game injury might impact that process.

More than one veteran in the post-game locker room acknowledged some on-field confusion after Mosley’s exit as Onwuasor relayed calls in the defensive huddle from the sideline for the rest of the first half. Safety Eric Weddle took over the role in the third quarter as the defense seemed to find its footing and allowed only six more points.

“It’s not an excuse why we lost,” said Weddle, who also relayed defensive calls in the huddle at times when he played for San Diego. “When you play like crap in the first half in all three phases, then that’s just going to happen. You dig yourself a hole. Hopefully, C.J. won’t be out too long, but we battled back and fought our tails off in the second half. It’s too far of a hole when you don’t play the way you’re supposed to play.”

The only extended action Mosley has missed in his NFL career was due to a hamstring injury in 2016. He sustained the injury in the second half of a Week 5 loss to Washington and missed the next two games, which were losses to the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

Stanley also ailing

Mosley wasn’t the only key player to leave Thursday’s game as left tackle Ronnie Stanley went to the sideline with 2:18 to play and didn’t return.

Stanley said he was “fine” after the game, but he wouldn’t discuss what happened or whether he would miss any time, deferring injury questions to Harbaugh. He appeared to grab his right arm after trying to block Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins on a Joe Flacco incomplete pass to Buck Allen, and NFL Network’s field microphone also picked up a player screaming at the same time.

Starting right tackle James Hurst moved to left tackle for the final 12 plays of the game with rookie Orlando Brown Jr. entering on the right side. Stanley looked to be favoring his right arm on the sideline as well as in the post-game locker room, but the lack of extensive medical attention after his departure and his availability to reporters after the game are signs that the injury may not be serious.

According to NFL Network, the Ravens worked out interior offensive linemen Wesley Johnson, Hroniss Grasu, and Jordan Morgan on Saturday to address their concerns inside, so they can hardly afford to be without their starting left tackle for any amount of time.

Road woes continue

Since their 2014 postseason win over Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, the Ravens have gone 8-17 in regular-season away games.

Those road wins have come against the following starting quarterbacks: Michael Vick in his final season, Josh McCown (twice), Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, EJ Manuel, Brett Hundley, and DeShone Kizer. You never apologize for the level of competition you face as injuries are part of the game, but when Dalton is the best signal-caller the Ravens have beaten in over three years and he’s won five of the last six meetings against them in Cincinnati, they can’t exactly claim to be road warriors anytime soon.

The Ravens are scheduled to face Roethlisberger, Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes, and Philip Rivers in their seven remaining road games. Five of those quarterbacks have been to Pro Bowls.

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Ravens-Dolphins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 24 August 2018 by Luke Jones

Saturday brings what is traditionally viewed as the final tuneup before the start of the regular season, but it may not turn out that way for at least a few key members of the Ravens.

With as many as three possible starters on the offensive line potentially sitting out against Miami, two rookies — Greg Senat and Orlando Brown Jr. — could be manning the first-team offensive tackle spots against Dolphins defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, who combined for 19 sacks last season and have an impressive total of 154 1/2 in their careers. Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and versatile offensive lineman James Hurst — who has served as the backup left tackle in past seasons — are not expected to play, begging the question whether starting quarterback Joe Flacco should even suit up if the inexperienced Senat is protecting the blindside.

Flacco has played only 31 snaps in the preseason, but he’s performed well in two games, completing 12 of 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 141.4. By all accounts, the 33-year-old is healthy and has had an excellent spring and summer, making you wonder if exposing him to a patchwork offensive line is worth the risk so close to the Sept. 9 opener against Buffalo.

“We’ll see. It’s just going to really depend on how much Joe needs,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m confident in the guys we’ll put out there that they can protect Joe, and I’m confident that we can run schemes that will protect him. They have two really good pass-rushing ends obviously, and we have to make sure that we keep those guys under control, no matter who’s the quarterback.”

After such a seamless start to the summer, the Ravens officially learned this week they will be without top cornerback Jimmy Smith and first-round rookie tight end Hayden Hurst to begin the season, significant blows to both sides of the ball. Saturday will offer defensive coordinator Wink Martindale his best opportunity to see what the secondary will look like for the season opener as veteran Brandon Carr and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey will handle the starting outside spots while Smith serves his four-game ban for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Hurst’s absence certainly hurts a tight end group that combined to make only 43 receptions in the NFL last season.

Of course, those absences to begin the season will impact roster decisions as general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must formulate the initial 53-man squad next Saturday.

The Ravens have the additional challenge of a quick turnaround coming off a Monday night win in Indianapolis.

“I told the guys this is great preparation for the season because we’re going to have an oddball start to the season,” said Harbaugh, referencing the Week 2 trip to Cincinnati just four days after the opener. “We’re going to play Sunday-Thursday right out of the gate. Wow, what a great opportunity to prepare for that. We got just what we needed is the way we’re looking at it.”

Saturday marks the second time the Ravens and the Dolphins will face off in the preseason with Baltimore winning the only other exhibition encounter last year. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-6 margin and has won both postseason meetings, but this year will mark the first time since 2012 these teams won’t meet in the regular season.

The Ravens own a 31-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh and have won 11 straight exhibition contests.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include any veteran starters who could be held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: TE Hayden Hurst (foot), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), LB Bam Bradley (knee), CB Jaylen Hill (knee), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps)
DOUBTFUL: CB Maurice Canady (muscle strain), OL James Hurst, LB Alvin Jones
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kenneth Dixon (hamstring), TE Mark Andrews (hamstring), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/ankle), S Bennett Jackson

Five players to watch Saturday night

WR Jaleel Scott

Past disappointing fourth-round picks such as Ron Johnson, P.J. Daniels, and Christian Thompson were never in real danger of being cut as rookies, but Scott saw only three offensive snaps against Indianapolis and dropped a pass in that limited playing time, making you wonder if he’s really even on the bubble at this point. He’ll need a strong finish to the preseason to avoid a dubious distinction, but the Ravens could still attempt to stash him on injured reserve or at least get him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Previously a long shot to make the team with six cornerbacks ahead of him in the pecking order, Jean-Baptiste now finds himself on the bubble with Smith going to the reserve-suspended list to start the season and Maurice Canady currently banged up. The 2014 second-round pick is with his sixth different organization as he’s been talented enough for teams to sign and too inconsistent to stick anywhere for long. His solid performance against the Colts included an interception and looks more important now.

OT Greg Senat

A former basketball player at Wagner, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Senat is a raw prospect who could dramatically enhance his chances of making the 53-man roster with a good performance against the Dolphins. Both James Hurst and Alex Lewis have struggled in past stints as the reserve left tackle, so Senat holding his own with the first team would be an encouraging sign for the present and future.

DE Zach Sieler

The seventh-round pick from Ferris State received ample playing time beginning in the first half of the Colts game, a good indication of where he stands in his attempt to win a roster spot. Veterans Brent Urban and Carl Davis are not under contract beyond this season while Chris Wormley is the only other 5-technique defensive end who’s safely on the roster, making it more likely that Sieler makes the team.

TE Darren Waller

I didn’t like Waller’s chances a couple weeks ago as he returned from a one-year drug suspension, but the Hayden Hurst injury and an underwhelming wide receiver competition have created the opportunity for him to potentially take a spot. Formerly a wide receiver, Waller has a 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame that could be utilized in the red zone and as a bigger slot option, but can the organization really trust him?

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following third preseason victory

Posted on 21 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 in the preseason in a 20-19 win over Indianapolis, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It’s OK to believe the Ravens have the depth to endure the potential suspension of Jimmy Smith and to still be worried about potential drop-off. The combination of Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr still looks good on paper, but a healthy Smith and a more experienced Humphrey could be special.

2. Kenneth Dixon needed to show up in his first preseason action and did exactly that with 56 yards from scrimmage on nine touches. He showed better speed than he had in practices and was able to gain yards after contact. Now, he needs to build on that performance.

3. Tim Williams still looks like the most improved player on the roster as he collected five tackles, a sack, and another quarterback hit while making a few good plays against the run. Pro Football Focus credited him and Za’Darius Smith with a combined 10 pressures. That’s an interesting rotational duo.

4. Remember the anticipated competition among the young wide receivers? It hasn’t materialized, continuing a summer tradition. The Ravens have never cut a fourth-round pick in his first season, but Jaleel Scott played only three offensive snaps and dropped a short slant pass late in the fourth quarter. Yikes.

5. The return specialist battle hasn’t been any better as both Tim White and Janarion Grant fumbled. There are too many crowded position groups to keep a returner you don’t trust to secure the ball. Chris Moore returning kicks and a veteran such as Willie Snead handling punts remain options.

6. After starting fast and then regressing in the second preseason game, Lamar Jackson did the opposite against Indianapolis, struggling mightily early before regrouping. His bullet touchdown to Moore reinforced the notion that he’s better throwing on the run than from the pocket. He remains a work in progress.

7. Michael Pierce feels like a forgotten man with Brandon Williams back at nose tackle and Willie Henry manning the 3-techinique spot in the base defense, but he gave Colts center Ryan Kelly fits and collected a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble. His 13 snaps were very disruptive.

8. Kenny Young continued to alternate series with incumbent starting inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, but the rookie fourth-rounder led the team with seven tackles and shows impressive closing quickness to the football. His fill and tackle on the late two-point try is exactly what you want to see.

9. Orlando Brown Jr. hasn’t played flawlessly, but his body of work continues to support him being deserving of starting at right tackle over James Hurst, who’s practiced there recently while still taking all live-game snaps at right guard. How can you not root for Brown after a tweet like this?

10. Despite Brown’s progress, the interior offensive line beyond Yanda remains a concern as the sight of former Ravens edge rusher John Simon bull-rushing Hurst back into Joe Flacco’s legs brought back unpleasant memories. This group struggled to protect Jackson in particular.

11. Anthony Averett was terrific during the third-quarter goal-line stand with an assisted tackle, a pass breakup, and tight coverage on an incompletion on consecutive plays, continuing his solid preseason. Not bad for a fourth-round rookie who’s only fifth or sixth in the cornerback pecking order right now.

12. Flacco finished a solid but unspectacular night with good throws to Michael Crabtree and John Brown on his final touchdown drive, but his hard count inducing a neutral zone infraction didn’t go unnoticed. Varying the cadence has quietly been a focus this summer after too much predictability in the past.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following second preseason victory

Posted on 12 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their 10th preseason game in a row in a 33-7 final over the Los Angeles Rams, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Playing well in victory beats the alternative, but the Rams rested all but two projected starters and were playing their first preseason game while Baltimore starters played early and reserves and rookies were competing in their second exhibition contest. The action looked every bit like that.

2. Tim Williams followed Kamalei Correa’s standout performance in the Hall of Fame Game with five tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble to continue his strong summer. While those two see their stock rise, a groin injury isn’t helping Tyus Bowser’s bid for more playing time in 2018.

3. After watching Lamar Jackson run for his life in Canton, giving him a series with the first-team offensive line was a prudent move as he hit Chris Moore for a 36-yard completion and ran for a touchdown in highlight fashion. He looked more comfortable than last week, especially early on.

4. It was still another mixed-bag performance for Jackson, who took a sack on third down to create a longer field goal try that was unsuccessful and made an ill-advised throw from his end zone that should have been intercepted. My biggest concern remains the number of hits he’s willingly taking.

5. It was only nine defensive snaps, but no one expected Jimmy Smith to be playing this early in the preseason, a major credit to his rehab work. He moved well and closed quickly on a slant pass to keep it to a four-yard gain on the Ravens’ first defensive snap.

6. Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young being the second defense’s base cornerbacks and Maurice Canady and Anthony Averett the third unit’s reflect the embarrassment of riches at the cornerback position now. It’s quite a difference from the days of Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown battling for the nickel job.

7. John Harbaugh said James Hurst still has the “inside track” in the right tackle competition, but Orlando Brown Jr. is doing everything he can to earn the job. He’s decreased his body fat from 31 percent in January to 19 percent now. The spot should be his sooner than later.

8. Patrick Ricard caught a touchdown from Joe Flacco and even ran a wheel route as a fullback, but he added 10 pounds in the offseason and his play along the defensive line is turning some heads as he finished with four tackles and a quarterback hit on Thursday.

9. I felt good for Breshad Perriman catching three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, but the fact that he didn’t play until the second half was telling. Barring injuries, his status as a former first-round pick might be the only factor keeping him on the bubble at this point.

10. Zach Sieler is one reason why the Ravens face tough roster decisions along the defensive line. The seventh-round rookie from Ferris State registered a sack and a quarterback hit against the Rams and is keeping himself in the roster conversation.

11. Greg Senat received extensive work at left tackle and played about how you’d expect a sixth-round rookie to fare. It would be interesting to see if the Ravens would consider moving Brown to left tackle — his college position — if something happens to Ronnie Stanley. Alex Lewis could also slide outside.

12. Props to Harbaugh for channeling Michael Scott of The Office when he declined to discuss the Ravens once again escaping a preseason game without any notable injuries. “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” Of course, I’m now expecting this reaction when the inevitable first big injury occurs.

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Ravens-Rams preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 08 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Hall of Fame Game behind them, the Ravens have turned their attention to what is normally the first preseason contest of the summer.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed he will treat Thursday’s contest with the Los Angeles Rams like the typical preseason opener with veterans starters unlikely to play more than a couple series after most sat out entirely against Chicago last week. Of course, this game brings extra interest after the teams practiced together twice in Owings Mills this week, a move that provided the Ravens a useful litmus test.

“That’s a good team. Obviously, they have a very good defense, and I think they have a very good offense,” said Harbaugh about the defending NFC West champions. “It’s excellent to practice against a team like this. That’s why we were excited when Sean [McVay] said they wanted to come in and practice. It was very positive for us.”

Quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to play in just his second preseason game since 2015, creating more intrigue as he comes off one of the most difficult seasons of his career.

Drawing strong conclusions from preseason performance is unwise, but Flacco would like to continue building chemistry with three veteran newcomers at the wide receiver position as well as two rookie tight ends. The Ravens have emphasized the need to start fast in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and would like to build some good mojo on the offensive side of the ball before the season opener on Sept. 9.

“You want to go out there, and you want to play well,” said Flacco, who missed the entire 2017 preseason with a back injury. “It’s obviously not at the point where it really, really counts, but I think it does a lot for the confidence of the team and the confidence of an offense to go out there and perform well.”

Thursday marks the fifth time the Ravens and the Rams will meet in the preseason with then-St. Louis winning the four previous meetings. However, Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series by a 4-2 margin.

The Ravens own a 29-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh and have won nine exhibition contests in a row.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include any veteran starters who could held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: S Tony Jefferson, G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/ankle), LB Bam Bradley (knee), CB Jaylen Hill (knee), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps)
DOUBTFUL: WR Tim White, OL Randin Crecelius, OL Maurquice Shakir
QUESTIONABLE: CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon), TE Mark Andrews (hamstring), OT Greg Senat, RB Kenneth Dixon, LB Tyus Bowser, S Kai Nacua, CB Bennett Jackson

Five players to watch Thursday night

DE Brent Urban

The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Urban played nine uneventful snaps against the Bears last week, a positive step in his return from last season’s Lisfranc foot injury. The Baltimore defense would love to see him become an impact interior rusher in sub packages, but Urban needs to prove he’s healthy and will stay that way. A heavier workload and a couple disruptive plays would be positive developments on Thursday.

OT Orlando Brown Jr.

The rookie was the bright spot on a forgettable night in Canton for other young offensive linemen as he played 60 snaps. With Marshal Yanda back at practice this week, the expectation was that Brown would compete with James Hurst for a starting spot, but the Ravens kept Brown at right tackle when Yanda took limited reps on Tuesday. Another strong performance might make him the favorite over Hurst.

CB Tavon Young

The talented slot corner played 15 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, but he should see more playing time this week against the Rams’ talented trio of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. Perhaps the biggest sign of the Ravens’ confidence in Young coming back from last year’s ACL injury was the decision to move Maurice Canady, last year’s primary nickel, to a reserve outside cornerback spot.

WR/RS Janarion Grant

Tim White was considered the favorite to win the return specialist job — if the Ravens keep someone solely to do that job — but he’s been sidelined since the first preseason game, opening the door for Grant. The Rutgers product flashes ability and made a spectacular cut on a punt return against the Rams on Tuesday, but he also drew a taunting penalty — and the ire of special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

OLB Tim Williams

On the heels of recording six pressures and a quarterback hit against the Bears, Williams was praised this week by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who stated his belief that the 2017 third-round pick will become a “premier” pass rusher in the NFL. Of course, Williams carrying over last week’s performance against better competition would go a long way in growing his confidence.

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