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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

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Five pressing questions for the 2012 season

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Luke Jones

As the Ravens begin defense of their AFC North division crown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night and hope to embark on a journey to Super Bowl XLVII in John Harbaugh’s fifth year as head coach, they play the fourth-toughest schedule in the league statistically as their opponents held a .523 winning percentage (134-122) last season.

Expectations remain sky-high in Baltimore, even after a trying offseason than included key injuries and significant departures due to limited salary cap room.

Here are the five biggest questions weighing on my mind for the Ravens’ 2012 season:

1. Is the starting line good enough for the offense to take the next step?

Deemed a priority to upgrade at the beginning of the season, the offensive line remains a major question mark as the Ravens tinkered with various alignments throughout the preseason. Even determining which starting five will line up has been quite a challenge considering the circumstances the organization has dealt with since last January.

The Ravens knew Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs — now with New Orleans — would be difficult to replace as they eventually settled on former Bengals guard Bobbie Williams. Playing with a surgically-repaired right ankle, the 35-year-old has dealt with swelling as scar tissue is still breaking up in the ankle, making you wonder if Williams will hold up over the course of a 16-game regular season.

The bigger surprise has been the uncertainty at the tackle position as the Ravens weren’t satisfied with Bryant McKinnie’s weight and conditioning this offseason and the tackle reported late to training camp, opening the door to the idea of Michael Oher returning to left tackle. All seemed to be straightened out when McKinnie started at left tackle and Oher shifted back to the right side in the third preseason game, but the Ravens surprisingly played hardball with McKinnie by cutting his pay last week, a tactic that nearly led to his departure.

In another twist, rookie Kelechi Osemele revealed Saturday that he expected to start at right tackle against the Bengals, meaning Michael Oher will play on the left side and McKinnie will hold a backup role for now. Osemele played well at the position in the preseason and is the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 draft class to this point, but his insertion in the starting lineup creates the question whether Oher can handle protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side, which led to the Ravens signing McKinnie in the first place last August.

The Ravens’ handling of their line is unsettling considering the offense is expected to take a significant step forward this season. The combination of Oher and Osemele is more athletic and better conditioned, factors worth remembering when you consider how much they expect to run a no-huddle offense, but much doubt remains about their ability as pass blockers. Though McKinnie is considered a below-average run blocker, he is still the best pass blocker among the Baltimore tackles, which should be the most important factor in trying to protect the most important player on the field.

It’s clear the Ravens have grown tired of McKinnie’s act, but they also didn’t have enough confidence in life without him or they would have pulled the trigger in releasing him last week when he balked at their original pay-cut demand. They appear set to try the younger duo against Cincinnati, but you have to wonder if it will work week in and week out, especially when considering Williams’ health and age at left guard and the fact that there’s no viable option behind him other than Osemele on the 53-man roster.

Even when finally appearing to settle on a starting five moving forward, the Ravens will need to show improvement in short-yardage run situations, an area in which they struggled immensely last season.

Regardless of the factors working against them, the Ravens deemed upgrading the offensive line a major priority in the offseason and even the optimistic takes on the current group couldn’t possibly feel more confident about it than last season’s group.

2. How will the defense find a consistent pass rush without Terrell Suggs?

No one knows if and when the Pro Bowl linebacker will return this season and whether he’ll display the same explosiveness he displayed last season on his way to the 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year award. His absence has created a gigantic black cloud over a defense ranking among the NFL’s elite annually for over a decade.

The Ravens have used their “next man up” mantra since the news broke about the injury in early May, but they appear no closer to answering their pass-rush question than they were when first learning about Suggs’ partially-torn Achilles tendon. And it’s a sobering thought when you remember the defense will encounter 11 quarterbacks who have made at least one Pro Bowl this season.

Fourth-year linebacker Paul Kruger is being asked to play the strongside linebacker position in place of the departed Jarret Johnson and struggled setting the edge against the run in the preseason. However, an even more disappointing outcome of the summer was the slow development of rookie Courtney Upshaw, who dealt with a shoulder injury for much of training camp. Upshaw appeared overweight and lacked explosiveness coming off the edge and was beaten out by former practice squad member Albert McClellan for the rush linebacker spot.

While no one should have expected Upshaw to immediately enter the league as a poor man’s version of Suggs, the fact that he was unable to show any tangible signs of being a threat as a pass rusher in the preseason is disheartening after he was selected with the 35th overall pick in late April. To suggest Upshaw is a draft bust is absurdly premature, but the Ravens hope the light comes on quickly for the rookie from Alabama to be a bigger factor on passing downs.

In terms of maximizing their pass rush, the Ravens might be better served by scrapping the idea of Kruger at the “Sam” position and allowing him to move back to the rush linebacker spot where he can focus more often than not on simply getting after the quarterback. His 5 1/2 sacks in limited time last season showed he can put heat on the quarterback, but those also came with a healthy Suggs on the opposite side of the defensive line.

Defensive end Pernell McPhee will also be critical to the pass rush as his six sacks last year were a major surprise. The Ravens will elect to use him more extensively on first and second down given his pass-rushing ability, but McPhee also bulked up to 290 pounds to aid in playing the run. The second-year defensive lineman made positive plays in run support in the preseason, but you also wonder how the extra weight will affect the combination of strength and quickness he displayed as a pass rusher last year.

There’s simply no replacing the loss of Suggs and the secondary will be challenged in coverage much more without him tormenting quarterbacks for at least the bulk of the regular season. It’s difficult envisioning the defense maintaining the same level of excellence we’ve come to expect over the years, meaning the offense will be asked to be more productive if the Ravens are to remain a legitimate Super Bowl threat.

3. With the no-huddle attack expected to become a prominent part of the offense, how will it affect Ray Rice’s touches?

CONTINUE >>>

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Four Questions for the Ravens Season

Posted on 04 September 2012 by jeffreygilley

Personally, I have high hopes and expectations for the Ravens this season.  But then again, when are expectations not high in Baltimore?  The success the Ravens have had in their short existence is truly unbelievable.  As I said, this season is no different and the Ravens are hoping to make the Super Bowl after reaching the AFC Championship in two of the last four years.  But, no team enters a season without question marks.

Can the Ravens young linebackers replace the production of Suggs?  

As we all know, Terrell Suggs tore his ACL in the off-season.  Because of his injury, linebackers Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, Sergio Kindle, and Albert McClellan must step up.  Kruger had a nice season in 2011 but that was when he had Terrell Suggs on the field commanding double teams.  Kruger is not alone though.  He has the help of some young players but young is the key word.  Kindle, UpShaw, and McClellan are all young and unexperienced.

If the Ravens can not produce any pressure, the team will struggle.  Pernell McPhee is a defensive lineman to keep an eye on.  He was most effective last season when he lined up against guards.  Pernell McPhee and Haloti Ngata will be a deadly combination this season and can occupy blockers which will help the Ravens young linebackers.

Can Torrey Smith have a break out season? 

Another way the Ravens can make up for the loss of Terrell Suggs is for the offense to be more productive and the pre-season has looked promising for the offense.  Joe Flacco looks much different.  He seems more composed and is scanning the field more effectively.  His favorite target seems to be Torrey Smith.  Smith also looks better.  His route running is more polished and he is now more than a down field threat.

If Torrey Smith had an 800-yard season in 2011 by being a down field threat only, immagine what he can do now that he is more polished?

How will the Ravens use Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson?

Bobby Rainey and Deonte Thompson were both stars of the pre-season.  They were brought into Ravens camp with little expectations but once they got to camp, they did nothing but perform at a high level.  Rainey, a running back out of Western Kentucky has shown a vast skill set throughout the preseason.  Rainey can run the ball effectively, catch the ball out of the backfield, he can block, and he can even return punts and kicks.  I think Rainey will play a role very similar to how Darren Sproles is used in New Orleans.  He is a play maker and the Ravens need as many of them as possible.

Deonte Thompson has also been very impressive in the preseason.  Like Raney, Thompson has been effective in multiple areas.  He has been explosive at wide receiver and as a kick returner.  Thompson has an opportunity to climb the depth chart even more.  Players like LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss are ahead of him but Thompson has been more impressive in the preseason.  I expect Thompson to be used in multiple situations this season.

Will the special teams improve? 

The Ravens are stacked with options to return punts and kicks.  Jacoby Jones, Asa Jackson, Deonte Thompson, and Bobby Rainey have all shown flashes of brilliance in the return game but returning punts and kicks is not the problem.  The coverage was dreadful last season.  To improve the kickoff and punt coverage, the Ravens made several moves in the offseason.  Cory Graham, a special teams ace from the Bears is expected to play a big role on special teams this year and possibly on defense.  Sean Considine was also signed and is expected to contribute in a big way on special teams.

The special teams coverage did not look good in the preseason but it’s only the preseason.  I expect the special teams to be greatly improved from last season.

 

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Moving ever closer to games that actually count, the Ravens will play their third preseason contest of the summer Thursday as they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach John Harbaugh is planning to play his starters well into the third quarter as Baltimore meets Jacksonville in the preseason for the first time ever. Traditionally, the third preseason game is considered the final real test for the regular season as starters see their most extensive action before barely making a cameo — if they even do that — in the final preseason game.

The Ravens will try to find more rhythm on both sides of the football, but the vanilla looks we saw in each of the first two preseason games will remain as the coaching staff does not game-plan for opponents in the preseason. For this reason, some downplay the significance placed on the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason.

“I guess that’s the way we’re trained to kind of look at it, just because that is the game [the starters] play the most in,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We want to go out there and put good work forward and good footage that we can look at and learn from. This week is kind of the same. We want to go out there and we want to play well, but at the same time, we need to clean some things up and see what we’re getting better at and see what we still need to work on maybe even a little bit more.”

As is always the case, the preseason holds the most significance for players competing for starting positions or spots on the 53-man roster, but the coaching staff wants to see rhythm and communication improve as some starters will be playing together in a game for the final time before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Issues facing the Ravens in the offseason such as becoming more efficient in the red-zone offense and establishing a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs have carried into the preseason, and Harbaugh would like to see glimpses of optimism in those areas with the season set to kick off in less than three weeks.

“The performances of certain players are a really big part of it, but the performances of groups and units together is probably more important, because that’s how the game is played,” Harbaugh said. “We would expect that to be the case – guys working together better, fewer communication mistakes, being more synchronized.”

Even for longtime veterans such as 17-year linebacker Ray Lewis, the third preseason game provides a nice tuneup to not only be on the field for an extended period but to provide the emotional charge they’ll experience in beginning their quest to return to the AFC Championship game — and try to advance a step further — in 2012.

And while it’s not on the list of priorities for Thursday’s game, the Ravens’ embarrassing 12-7 loss to Jacksonville last season was on the mind of at least one Baltimore defensive player. The Jaguars ran for 132 yards against the Ravens on Oct. 24 of last season, but 105 came from the legs of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently holding out over a contract dispute.

“This is a good test for us,” Lewis said. “These guys run the ball pretty well, and for us to come in and have this type of test right now, being our third preseason game, yeah, I’m a little ready.”

Unofficially (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 at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Though not dealing with an injury, defensive end Pernell McPhee’s status for Thursday remains unknown as he’s been away from the team since the weekend due to the death of a family member.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: OT Jah Reid (calf), LB Josh Bynes (back), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (leg), LB Sergio Kindle (shoulder), S Sean Considine (head), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), G Bobbie Williams (ankle)

Five positions to watch Thursday night

1. Left guard – Bobbie Williams and Kelechi Osemele

Should starting right guard Marshal Yanda be held out Thursday after accidentally being undercut by linebacker Chavis Williams during Monday’s practice, it will be more difficult to get a read on where the Ravens stand with their left guard position. It appears the coaching staff has finally settled on veteran Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher on the right side — the two have practiced in those spots exclusively since the second preseason game — but Osemele has begun working at guard more extensively with the 35-year-old Williams still dealing with scar tissue breaking up in his surgically-repaired ankle.

Interestingly enough, Williams was working at right guard in Yanda’s place, which seemed odd for the lineman expected to start on the left side, but it was the position the veteran primarily played in his years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Osemele has been very impressive this summer, making you wonder if he could eventually unseat Williams in the starting lineup. His ankle makes you question whether Williams will hold up over a 16-game schedule, but the Ravens feel confident that Osemele can be a contributor as a rookie if necessary.

My gut choice if the season started today: Williams gets the nod due to experience, but the Ravens won’t hesitate to go with Osemele if the veteran struggles as the season progresses.

2. Defensive end – Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee

Thursday would be a golden opportunity for Jones to make up ground if McPhee remains away from the team due to a death in the family. A hip flexor injury cost Jones valuable practice time, allowing McPhee to receive the bulk of the reps and take the lead in the push for the starting job. A 2011 fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State, McPhee had the reputation of being stronger against the run prior to a surprising rookie season that included six sacks, and he played well against the run in the Ravens’ first two preseason games.

Jones has a strong lower body that translates well in run-stopping situations, but he doesn’t stand out when asked to get after the quarterback, which led many to believe he would see time on first and second downs with McPhee spelling him in passing situations. However, it now appears McPhee can handle the duties of a three-down lineman, and Jones could find himself as more of a situational player like he was last season. Regardless of which player the Ravens anoint as the starter, both will factor heavily into the defensive line rotation.

My gut choice if the season started today: McPhee has stood out on the defensive line as a more complete player and would be the choice as the starter even though Jones will still see plenty of opportunities.

3. Rush linebacker – Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw

CONTINUE >>>

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Yanda absent from Tuesday’s practice

Posted on 21 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 1:35 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Conducting their final full workout before Thursday’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens worked without starting right guard Marshal Yanda during the opening portion of Tuesday’s practice.

The Pro Bowl lineman was given the day off to rest after a defensive player rolled into his legs at one point during Monday’s workout. Though shaken up momentarily, the 27-year-old was able to finish the practice.

“He kind of tweaked [the leg] a little bit,” Harbaugh said. “It’s nothing serious, but we had a little pileup there that we were kind of disappointed about. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, so we just gave him some rest today.”

Defensive end Pernell McPhee also remained away from the team as he deals with a death in the family. Arthur Jones has assumed his place along the starting defensive line in his absence.

Others not present during Tuesday’s practice included offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf), tight ends Ed Dickson (shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (hand), wide receiver David Reed (knee), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (ankle), and linebackers Josh Bynes (back), Darryl Blackstock (undisclosed), and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon). Blackstock had returned to practice over the weekend after being sidelined for two weeks with a groin injury.

Linebacker Sergio Kindle (shoulder) and safety Sean Considine once again practiced in red non-contact jerseys on Tuesday. Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Considine was “dinged” during Friday’s preseason game against Detroit, which is believed to mean the veteran safety sustained a concussion.

The Ravens practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts and treated the practice as though it were a Friday before a Sunday game in the regular season. They will hold a walk-through on Wednesday that will be closed to media before returning to M&T Bank Stadium for their third preseason game on Thursday.

 

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McPhee still absent from Monday’s practice

Posted on 20 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated 6:20 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After being excused from the Ravens as he deals with a death in the family, defensive end Pernell McPhee was absent from practice for the second straight day Monday.

With only seven other players absent due to injury reasons, the Ravens continue to look healthier as they continue preparations for their third preseason game of the summer on Thursday night.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf), linebackers Josh Bynes (back) and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), tight ends Ed Dickson (shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (hand), wide receiver David Reed (knee), and defensive lineman Ryan McBean (ankle) didn’t work during Monday afternoon’s practice.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith (ankle) practiced for the second straight day after missing Friday’s preseason game while recovering from a sprained ankle.

Linebacker Sergio Kindle (shoulder) continued to sport a red mesh jersey — indicating no contact — after suffering a stinger against Detroit. Safety Sean Considine initially wasn’t wearing a red jersey at the start of practice but wore one in team drills for the second straight day.

“The doctors say he got dinged [on Friday]; he says he didn’t,” coach John Harbaugh said. “So, we’re going with the doctors. We’re going with the ding, so he’s got the red jersey.”

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Torrey Smith returns to practice, McPhee excused for death in family

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Torrey Smith returns to practice, McPhee excused for death in family

Posted on 19 August 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As the Ravens held their first workout since their second preseason contest on Friday, defensive end Pernell McPhee headlined a dwindling list of non-participants.

Though McPhee has received an occasional day off at a couple different points since returning from arthroscopic knee surgery he underwent in the spring, the defensive end’s absence wasn’t injury-related as he was excused to deal with a death in the family. He played in Friday’s game against the Detroit Lions, registering two solo tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a quarterback hit.

“He had a personal issue, a tough situation,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’ll let him explain it when he gets back, but he suffered a loss in his family, so he has been excused to go take care of that right now.”

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was also absent from Sunday’s practice due to the death of his mother, according to the team.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith returned to practice after sitting out Friday’s game and missing two practices last week while dealing with a sprained ankle suffered in the season opener. Wide receiver Devin Goda and linebacker Darryl Blackstock (groin) also returned to practice on Sunday.

Smith expects to play in the Ravens’ third preseason game — a sentiment echoed by Harbaugh Sunday — as they’ll host the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. The second-year wide receiver described not playing last Friday as “agonizing” and felt he could have played against Detroit.

“Coach was kind of being cautious with it, so I can get it out of the way now rather than just having it lingering on,” Smith said. “I felt way better today and obviously, I still have to practice until I get better, but I’m fine.”

Offensive lineman Jah Reid was present but not dressed in pads to practice after suffering a setback with the calf injury that’s hampered him since mandatory minicamp. Others not practicing included linebackers Josh Bynes (back) and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), tight ends Ed Dickson (shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (hand), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (fractured ankle), and wide receiver David Reed (knee).

After sustaining a shoulder stinger on Friday night, linebacker Sergio Kindle was practicing but sported red mesh over his jersey, indicating no contact. Safety Sean Considine also wore red mesh, but it remains unclear whether he suffered an injury in the game. Wide receiver LaQuan Williams (ankle sprain), fullback Vonta Leach (ankle sprain), and linebacker Ricky Brown (hip contusion) all practiced despite suffering reported injuries after the second preseason game.

Caldwell welcome addition with emphasis on no-huddle attack

Harbaugh praised the influence of quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell when it comes to the Ravens’ increased focus on the no-huddle offense. Of course, Caldwell spent a decade working with quarterback Peyton Manning in Indianapolis as the Colts ran a similar attack almost exclusively.

While the Ravens operated without a huddle at different times over the last four seasons under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, they have run it extensively in the first two preseason games.

“We’ve had that in our system before so it’s based and formatted on what we’ve always had, but Jim’s brought some nuances,” Harbaugh said. “He’s brought a tempo or two we didn’t’ have before, just some methodology, I think, to it that he’s really added. Plus, the experience just in terms of dealing with Joe and talking to Joe and how they’ve done it in the past has been really helpful.”

It remains to be seen just how much the Ravens will use the no-huddle offense, but all signs point to it being a major point of emphasis as they begin the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Harbaugh described it as “very much quarterback driven” with Flacco having the ability to go to the line of scrimmage with several play options for which he will decide what the offense will do.

“As you watch the transformation, it’s going to be fun to see how we do,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be challenging. We go against good defenses. It’s not going to be easy, obviously, it never is. We will have our ups and downs, but I really think our coaches, starting with Cam and then Jim and all of our guys, have done a great job of setting up the structure of this offense, and I’m as excited as anyone to see how it plays out.”

Practice notes

It was a rare practice in which Billy Cundiff outdid Justin Tucker as the two kickers squared off once again on Sunday. Cundiff was a perfect 4-for-4 as he connected from 30, 36, 39, and 44 yards. In contrast, Tucker turned in a solid performance by going 4-for-5, but his miss went wide left from 44 yards.

Unlike the veteran, Tucker was given an attempt from 53 yards, and the rookie converted.

Right guard Marshal Yanda appeared to receive a breather on Sunday as he didn’t take part in any reps after the early portion of practice. The Ravens’ starting offense mostly went with Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher at right tackle while using Kelechi Osemele at left guard. Veteran guard Bobbie Williams, who has been dealing with soreness in his surgically-repaired right ankle primarily worked at right guard with the first and second units.

Linebacker Courtney Upshaw received more reps with the starting defense on Sunday as he split time at rush linebacker with Albert McClellan, who started in Friday’s game against Detroit.

Ravens hold final off-site practice

Conducting their final off-site practice of the summer, the Ravens traveled to Stevenson University as approximately 2,800 fans attended the ticketed event. The team also held public practices at M&T Bank Stadium and the Naval Academy in their first official camp after announcing they would no longer hold training camp at McDaniel College in Westminster.

Mustang Stadium is on the site of the Ravens’ old training facility used from 1996 through the early fall of 2004 before the team moved to its currently facility. Harbaugh even offered a plug that certainly had to please the admissions office at the Owings Mills university.

“Stevenson has been fantastic; just great people here [and a] really tremendous facility,” Harbaugh said. “This stadium is really, really special. I know the indoor [facility] they have over here is really neat. They have done a great job with their athletic facilities. This would be a great place to go to school.”

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Veteran guard Williams dealing with swollen ankle

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Veteran guard Williams dealing with swollen ankle

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:45 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just when you think the Ravens are getting healthier with players returning to action, a new batch of injury concerns arises as there were four new absences on Monday afternoon.

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) was activated from the active physically unable to perform list as he took the practice field for the first time during training camp. Reid was carted off the field with a calf injury on the final day of the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp on June 14 and suffered a setback shortly before the start of camp in late July.

The second-year lineman worked at right tackle with the second offense as the Ravens practiced in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday. He will work at both guard and tackle as the coaching staff prefers to see how versatile he can be along the offensive line.

“It was a good start for him, and he got through most of the practice I believe,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He didn’t seem to have negative effects, so that was a good start for him, too.”

Wide receiver Tandon Doss (hamstring)) and cornerback Chykie Brown (hamstring) also returned to the practice field.

Meanwhile, defensive end Pernell McPhee, left guard Bobbie Williams, and wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Devin Goda didn’t participate in Monday’s workout. McPhee began the season on the active PUP list after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring, but the second-year defensive lineman had declared himself to be 100 percent after Sunday’s practice in Annapolis.

Jones appeared to be dealing with a nagging leg issue during practice Sunday but finished the workout.

Williams is dealing with swelling in his right ankle and will also sit out Tuesday’s practice, according to Harbaugh. The 35-year-old guard missed the final three games of the 2011 season in Cincinnati after he fractured the ankle in Week 14.

“He’s really been working hard, but he needs [rest] and it will be good for him and it will help him,” Harbaugh said. “Now, you have an opportunity with that spot there to roll some guys in and move some guys around. It works out real well.”

In Williams’ absence, Bryant McKinnie worked at left tackle with the starting line while Michael Oher returned to the right tackle spot he manned last season. However, the most interesting move was rookie Kelechi Osemele occupying the left guard position, a spot he hasn’t worked during opening practices since organized team activities.

Tight ends Ed Dickson (shoulder) and Dennis Pitta (hand), cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring), wide receiver David Reed (knee – active PUP list), defensive lineman Ryan McBean (ankle), and linebackers Josh Bynes (back), Darryl Blackstock (groin), and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon – non-football injury list) were also absent from Monday’s practice.

 

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McPhee returns to practice; Ngata moving closer to return

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McPhee returns to practice; Ngata moving closer to return

Posted on 01 August 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are still waiting for All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to appear on the practice field, but they regained a key member of the defensive line with the return of Pernell McPhee on Wednesday.

The defensive end had been sidelined since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in the spring and began training camp on the active physically unable to perform list. After collecting six sacks in his rookie season, McPhee is expected to compete with third-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones for the starting defensive end job open after the free-agent departure of Cory Redding.

McPhee was limited in team work, but he took part in positional drills with the rest of the defensive line.

“We’re very excited to see him back,” coach John Harbaugh. “He is an important part of our defense, and we need him in there. But he needs a lot of work, too.”

In addition to Ngata, left tackle Bryant McKinnie (back), linebackers Courtney Upshaw (shoulder) and Josh Bynes (undisclosed), offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf), running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring), and wide receiver Tandon Doss (hamstring) were again absent from Wednesday’s practice. Matt Birk was missing from practice for the third straight day as Harbaugh revealed Tuesday we can expect to see plenty of days off for the 36-year-old center.

Ngata is moving closer to a return after he injured his hamstring while trying to take the conditioning test upon reporting to training camp last Wednesday.

“Haloti’s coming along; Haloti thinks he’s pretty close,” Harbaugh said. “We’re probably working him a little slower than he’d like us to. But he’s starting to run now, and I think he’s going to be fine very soon. I don’t really have a timetable.”

New additions to the list of absentees included wide receiver Patrick Williams and offensive lineman Cord Howard.

Defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu returned to practice after sitting out Tuesday’s workout. Wide receiver LaQuan Wiliams was also present and working after leaving during the latter portion of Tuesday’s practice.

Tight end Dennis Pitta is expected to miss the remainder of the preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a broken hand, and Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon) and David Reed (knee) continue to rehab their respective injuries during training camp.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, safety Ed Reed, and secondary coach Teryl Austin HERE.

 

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Birk to receive frequent days off; no change in McKinnie’s status

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens continued to deal with absences on both the offensive and defensive lines as they took the practice field on Tuesday.

In addition to left tackle Bryant McKinnie — who continues to be held out of practice with a lower back injury and hasn’t taken the team’s conditioning test — center Matt Birk was given off practice for the second straight day. Entering his 15th season, the 36-year-old will receive frequent rest throughout the preseason in a move that will allow the Ravens to further evaluate rookie Gino Gradkowski and young interior lineman Justin Boren.

“Matt is at a stage of his career where probably he’s going to practice less than he’s not going to practice,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I think that would be the best thing for Matt getting ready to go.”

Offensive lineman Jah Reid (calf) continues to be held out of practice while he’s on the active physically unable to perform list.

On the defensive line, the Ravens continue to be without All-Pro lineman Haloti Ngata (hamstring) and defensive end Pernell McPhee (knee), but veteran defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu joined them as a non-participant as he was given a day off as a member of the “30-and-over” club.

Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (bruised shoulder), wide receivers Tandon Doss (hamstring) and David Reed (knee), linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), and tight end Dennis Pitta (broken hand) were also absent. Pitta underwent surgery on Tuesday and is expected to be back for the Ravens’ season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Rookie running back Bernard Pierce and linebacker Josh Bynes were also new additions to the list of players missing from practice. Pierce is dealing with a hamstring tweak, and his girlfriend is also expecting their first child.

Despite a plethora of missing players on Tuesday, the Ravens saw three players return to action in wide receivers Tommy Streeter and Devin Goda and offensive tackle Ramon Harewood.

Wide receiver LaQuan Williams left practice late in the session, but whatever was ailing him is not considered to be a concern.

Maryland football coach Randy Edsall was attending practice on Tuesday.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, linebacker Paul Kruger, and linebackers coach Ted Monachino HERE.

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Live from Owings Mills: McKinnie to Report Monday

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Live from Owings Mills: McKinnie to Report Monday

Posted on 28 July 2012 by Ryan Chell

Owings Mills-The drama concerning Ravens LT Bryant McKinnie continued Saturday, as McKinnie was again absent from team workouts in the team’s first full-pads practice at the Under Armour Performance Center.

However, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel as McKinnie told WNST Saturday night that he will be reporting to practice Monday and will end his holdout from training camp.

“All is good,” McKinnie told WNST in a text message. I had a little accident a few days ago. I’ll explain later.”

McKinnie, who joined the Ravens last season, had yet to report to Owings Mills after being required to arrive to the area on Wednesday. This marks the third day of practice that he will miss, and under the new collective bargaining-agreement rules, he is subject to more fines by the team for his absence.

As reported by Yahoo! Sports, McKinnie had already been fined 30,000 for not showing up for practice, and would have been subject to continued fines of that amount per day that he is not in uniform.

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron shrugged off McKinnie’s absence, saying that the first few days of training camp never have a set offensive line in place.

“You just let these things play out,” Cameron said. “The season’s not starting tomorrow.”

But would Cameron love to have a player of McKinnie’s caliber in camp learning with his teammates? Absolutely.

“”[He] filled an unbelievable role for us last year, and was a big part in giving us an opportunity to win.”

If he were to miss the first preseason game, he would be subject to a missed game-check of 188,000 dollars.

Webb returns to Practice

Corner back Lardarius Webb returned to the field Saturday after missing Friday’s session. He was excused by head coach John Harbaugh due to a personal matter. He was actively participating in practice, fielding punts in the opening special teams of practice.

Not present were DT Haloti Ngata (hamstring), tackle Ramon Harewood (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles surgery), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), KR David Reed (ACL Surgery), C/G Justin Boren (undisclosed), and T Jah Red (calf).

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees was not worried about his regulars missing training camp practice, as he described the scenario of giving some of the younger guys like Arthur Jones and rookie DeAngelo Tyson opportunities to learn the playbook and execute on the field.

“”Even if Pernell was back, I don’t think it would affect his number of reps. We’re getting a lot of players in,” Pees said.

Reid was spotted in street clothes near the practice field, and during the special teams portion of the practice, CB Jimmy Smith did leave the field with an undisclosed injury.

He walked off the field under his own power, and it appears to be a recurrent cramping issue as Smith battled the same issue Friday at practice.

Practice Highlights

New Ravens CB Corey Graham was the star of Saturday’s practice-most likely getting some opportunities at both the nickel and corner spot with Jimmy Smith’s departure from practice.

He grabbed two interceptions off the Ravens QBs, including a pick-six off  Joe Flacco in which he ran past the Ravens quarterback as he chased him down the field holding the ball out.

His second interception came on a fade route from backup Tyrod Taylor intended for WR Jacoby Jones.

As the ball sailed past Jones, Graham came down with a one-handed grab and got quite the cheer from the few Ravens fans nearby.

Graham, a Pro-Bowl special teams ace with the Chicago Bears, may just fit in with this Ravens defense much like Brendon Ayanbadejo earned more playing time, says defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

“One of the things about Corey is his versatility,” Pees said. “We played him at the corner and the nickel spot, and I’ve also taught him to learn the backup safety. You never know how things are going to go down the road, how many make the cuts, and who’s going to be here. You’ve always got to have those guys who can be flexible.”

Another guy who Pees said makes his job easier is Albert McClellan, who can line up a defensive end, outside linebacker, and had some inside reps last season.

McClellan is another Ravens defender who had an interception-this time grabbing a ball bobbled by Jones, and he returned the pick to the house-earning himself a water break through several of that session’s drills.

Pees was also asked about his linebackers post-practice, especially guys like 2nd round picks Sergio Kindle and Courtney Upshaw who are going to be tasked with filling the void left by Terrell Suggs as he rehabs his injured Achilles tendon.

“I think Sergio’s made a lot of progress,” Pees said of Kindle, who is fighting back from a head injury sustained after a fall his rookie season. “Basically he’s had a lot of time off, and that’s tough…with an injury.”

“He really had a heck of a practice yesterday, and I’ll have to watch the film. I think he’s come a long way here in the last few weeks.”

Despite Upshaw suffering a right shoulder stinger after sustaining a hit from RB Bernard Pierce, he did not leave the practice field.

“He plays like an Alabama kid,” Pees noted. “He comes ready to play. He’s a football player. He’s going to play hard. He learns well in the classroom.”

Hear from Cam Cameron, Dean Pees, and Jerry Rosburg in the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net!

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