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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 10 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Approaching must-win territory this early in a season for quite some time, the Ravens look to snap a three-game losing streak while narrowing the gap in the AFC North when they take on the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

At 3-5 and trailing Cincinnati by 2 1/2 games entering Week 10, the Ravens have little margin for error if they want to advance to the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year under head coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore is trying to avoid a third straight division loss and is off to its worst start through eight games since the 2005 season.

A banged-up Ravens defense will have the tall order of slowing Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and the league’s seventh-ranked passing game, but defensive backs James Ihedigbo (toe), Jimmy Smith (groin), and Corey Graham (calf) are all active and will play. In addition, starting inside linebacker Daryl Smith was deemed active after dealing with what was listed as a thigh injury all week.

The Ravens ruled second-year cornerback Asa Jackson inactive, making you assume they’re confident in the health of both Smith and Graham in the secondary. Rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams was the only other player ruled inactive that could be deemed a surprise as the Bengals average 106.8 rushing yards per game despite their passing game being their biggest strength.

Former Bengals running back Bernard Scott is a healthy scratch for the second straight week and will not have an opportunity to face his former team.

Meanwhile, the Bengals will be without starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, who tested out his injured groin during pre-game warmups but was deemed inactive. As expected, rookie running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) is active. Cincinnati is already reeling from the loss of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who suffered a torn ACL in the Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

The Bengals are also without starting inside linebacker Rey Maualuga, who continues to be sidelined by a knee injury.

The Ravens have won four of their last five games over the Bengals, with their only defeat over that stretch coming in Week 17 last season when they rested an overwhelming number of starters after wrapping up the AFC North title a week earlier. Baltimore leads the all-time series by a 19-15 margin and are 12-5 at home.

Sunday’s referee will be Walt Coleman.

The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 60s, but winds up to 20 miles per hour could wreak havoc for both teams’ passing attacks and kicking game at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens will wear purple jerseys with black pants while Cincinnati dons white jerseys with black pants.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Asa Jackson
S Omar Brown
RB Bernard Scott
C Ryan Jensen
WR Brandon Stokley
LB John Simon
DT Brandon Williams

CINCINNATI
TE Jermaine Gresham
CB Chris Lewis-Harris
LB Michael Boley
LB Rey Maualuga
C Trevor Robinson
G Tanner Hawkinson
DT Devon Still

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Nestor Aparicio, Drew Forrester, and I bring live coverage from Baltimore throughout the day.

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After post-bye clunker, “What now?” becomes Ravens’ biggest question

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After post-bye clunker, “What now?” becomes Ravens’ biggest question

Posted on 03 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Coming off the Week 8 bye was supposed to be a chance for the Ravens to start anew after a rocky 3-4 start to the 2013 season.

With the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals losing on Thursday night and most of the AFC wild-card contenders looking mortal, the Ravens simply needed a win — no matter how it looked — to get back to .500 and begin the second half of the season on a positive note. A week off not only gave players a chance to rest but provided head coach John Harbaugh and his staff the time to make much-needed corrections in all phases of the game.

Instead, the Ravens responded with an ugly 24-18 loss to the Cleveland Browns, snapping an 11-game winning streak over their AFC North foe and digging an even bigger hole in their quest to advance to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. Expecting the bye week to provide a much-needed tuneup, the Ravens instead stalled getting out of their driveway as they’re now off to their worst start since the 2005 season.

And the question echoing over and over in the closing seconds as the Browns finished a scoring drive lasting more than six minutes was a frightening one.

What now?

A running game averaging a league-worst 2.8 yards per carry entering Sunday produced only 55 yards on 21 carries with quarterback Joe Flacco accounting for 25 of those on three scrambles. The offensive line was once again dominated at the point of attack and Ray Rice finished with 17 yards on 11 carries, not looking any more explosive or elusive despite claims that he was once again 100 percent.

Though once again plagued with a running game that was a non-factor and suspect pass protection for much of the day, Flacco played poorly through much of the first half, missing several open receivers and throwing a head-scratching interception late in the second quarter. To his credit, the sixth-year signal caller rebounded over the game’s final 30 minutes, but his poor first-half showing was disappointing coming off the bye and was a major factor in the Ravens offense once again getting off to a slow start.

The defense allowed veteran Jason Campbell to throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns and, even worse, wasn’t able to get a stop at a crucial point in the second half for the third straight game — all losses. Dean Pees’ unit hasn’t been the biggest problem this season, but the Ravens defense simply hasn’t been able to come up with a big play when it needs it late in games unlike stellar units of the past that often carried inferior offenses.

Not to be outdone by the first two phases, the special teams were a major problem as well as normally sure-handed punt returner Tandon Doss muffed a punt at his own 11-yard line, setting up the Browns’ third touchdown of the game in the third quarter and putting the Ravens behind 21-10. And punter Sam Koch continued his rough season, failing to pin the Browns inside the 20 on three separate opportunities kicking inside Cleveland territory in a game in which field position loomed large.

Hoping for the light to come on after the bye, the Ravens looked like they did in the first seven games of the season — appearing to be a below-average football team.

How does it get fixed? Can it be fixed this season?

The Ravens are as healthy as they’re going to be until the expected return of Dennis Pitta later this month, but the talented tight end isn’t going to remedy all of the team’s problems. At this rate, the Ravens may not be in a position for Pitta’s return to matter in terms of their playoff hopes for 2013.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh have already trimmed fat on the roster with the jettisoning of veterans Michael Huff, Marcus Spears, and Bryant McKinnie. Many are clamoring for the ax to fall on run-game coordinator Juan Castillo, but there have already been murmurs that his influence has waned since the bye week with offensive line coach Andy Moeller now having a louder voice.

If Castillo were to be fired — a move that would be very difficult to challenge at this point — do the likes of Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher suddenly start winning one-on-one battles that they’ve lost too often this season?

The answers aren’t simple when you have issues all over the place and that’s where the Ravens find themselves as they began the month of November with their third loss in the last four games. There’s a certain amount of understanding that comes with the struggles of unproven players like Gino Gradkowski and veteran newcomers who simply don’t fit, but a number of veterans who have been counted on year in and year out have been even bigger disappointments, which brings greater concern for the future.

Even with the problems along the offensive line, it’s getting more difficult every week to dispute the growing notion that Rice’s best days are behind him. He continues to struggle to break any tackles in the open field and no longer looks like the home-run hitter on which the Ravens relied for years. Rice has three years remaining on his current contract and is scheduled to account for $8.75 million on next year’s cap.

Oher and Yanda have appeared to be shells of their former selves, which might not be as problematic with the former scheduled to become a free agent, but the Pro Bowl right guard has a cap figure of $8.45 million next year and is under contract through the 2015 season.

Top cornerback Lardarius Webb was faked out of his shoes by Browns receiver Davone Bess on a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter Sunday and has struggled to find his pre-injury form coming back from ACL surgery, but he certainly deserves some benefit of the doubt and should get stronger in the second half of the season. Still, he carries a $10.5 million cap figure in 2014 and is being paid as one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Having arguably the worst season of his career, Koch carries a $2.8 million cap figure next year, which is a high number for a punter not getting the job done.

And perhaps the most disappointing and concerning of the group of standouts failing to deliver in 2013 is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who holds a $16 million cap number next season and no longer looks like the game-wrecker he was before the Ravens signed him to a five-year, $61 million contract in 2011. For the third straight season, nagging injuries are limiting his impact in games.

Regardless of what happens over the final eight games in terms of the Ravens trying to rebound to extend their run of five consecutive playoff appearances to a sixth, Newsome and Harbaugh must be in evaluation mode when it comes to the aforementioned players. Some contracts have bigger cap ramifications than others, but it’s a scary proposition to be forced to reconsider your thinking on players who previously weren’t of any concern — and carry huge price tags.

The debate went on through much of the offseason whether the Ravens were rebuilding or simply reloading after a slew of personnel changes. The result to this point has been a flawed roster that will need to go 6-2 in the second half of the season just to give the Ravens a chance at 9-7.

And barring a drastic turnaround in the final eight games, the Ravens will be forced to start thinking about their offseason much sooner than anyone anticipated.

And they’ll definitely have their work cut out for them.

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Picks and Comment – Week 9

Posted on 01 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Here are this weekend’s picks as The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will pick every NFL game, local college games, and their respective high school games this season.

Luke Jones finished Week 8 with a 9-4 record while Drew Forrester was 10-3 on his picks. Entering Week 9, Jones is 73-47 on the season while Forrester is 74-46. Official standings are based only on the NFL picks.

Jones and Forrester incorrectly picked Cincinnati to defeat Miami to kick off Week 9.

You can listen to Friday’s “Picks and Comment” segment HERE.

Ravens at Browns: Baltimore 20-12 (Drew), Baltimore 20-16 (Luke)
Falcons at Panthers: Carolina 27-13 (Drew), Carolina 24-16 (Luke)
Vikings at Cowboys: Dallas 34-13 (Drew), Dallas 31-17 (Luke)
Saints at Jets: New Orleans 30-24 (Drew), New Orleans 24-17 (Luke)
Titans at Rams: St. Louis 24-20 (Drew), Tennessee 21-13 (Luke)
Chiefs at Bills: Buffalo 21-20 (Drew), Kansas City 17-14 (Luke)
Chargers at Redskins: San Diego 33-30 (Drew), Washington 28-24 (Luke)
Eagles at Raiders: Oakland 21-16 (Drew), Oakland 23-13 (Luke)
Buccaneers at Seahawks: Seattle 30-9 (Drew), Seattle 31-10 (Luke)
Steelers at Patriots: Pittsburgh 24-20 (Drew), New England 23-17 (Luke)
Colts at Texans: Indianapolis 27-17 (Drew), Indianapolis 23-21 (Luke)
Bears at Packers: Green Bay 38-23 (Drew), Green Bay 31-17 (Luke)
Delaware at Towson: Tigers 35-30 (Drew), Tigers 34-27 (Luke)
Navy at Notre Dame: Fighting Irish 30-20 (Drew), Fighting Irish 24-14 (Luke)
Hampston at Morgan State: Bears 33-27 (Drew), Bears 23-20 (Luke)
Glen Burnie at South River: Gophers 31-7 (Drew), Seahawks 34-0 (Luke)
Dover at Susquehannock: Eagles 27-7 (Drew), Warriors 14-13 (Luke)

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Ravens exploring trade before Tuesday’s deadline?

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Ravens exploring trade before Tuesday’s deadline?

Posted on 28 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

With Tuesday’s trade deadline quickly approaching and the Ravens returning to work after their Week 8 bye, there has been plenty of discussion over general manager Ozzie Newsome potentially having another trick up his sleeve to augment the defending Super Bowl champions.

Below the .500 mark this late in a season for the first time in the John Harbaugh era, the 3-4 Ravens would benefit from a potential upgrade at a number of positions, including wide receiver, tight end, center, and even safety. History suggests that most trade discussion results in being little more than talk-radio material as the NFL’s deadline activity pales in comparison to the other professional sports in most seasons, but Harbaugh wouldn’t say whether he anticipated a move being made on Monday afternoon.

“I wouldn’t comment on that anyway if I did,” Harbaugh said, “so it’s probably best just to stay away from that.”

Though not entirely impossible, imagining the Ravens pulling off a second in-season trade after dealing fourth- and fifth-round picks to Jacksonville for left tackle Eugene Monroe earlier this month seems like a stretch after Newsome had never completed a trade in the middle of a season in the 18-year history of the franchise. Baltimore is also working with slightly less than $2 million in salary cap space, eliminating many scenarios for high-priced players who might become available.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Ravens are “deep in the process” of trying to add a wide receiver as a number of intriguing names are reportedly on the market, but what that exactly means remains to be seen as Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline approaches.

Here’s a list of the plausible names — Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and his gigantic contract don’t fit that description — being discussed with a thought on each:

Kenny Britt, Tennessee
Contract status: 2013 base salary of $897,500 and will become a free agent at the end of the season
Skinny: The Titans’ reported asking price of a third-round pick is way too high and will likely come down, but is Britt even worth a late pick with the lack of production accompanying his well-documented baggage off the field?

Josh Gordon, Cleveland
Contract status: 2013 base salary of $558,355 and has two years remaining on his rookie deal
Skinny: I’m still trying to figure out exactly why the Browns want to trade a talented — and admittedly troubled — 6-foot-3 receiver in his second year, but they surely aren’t dealing him to a division rival for any kind of reasonable price. 

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
Contract status: 2013 base salary of $2.75 million and will become a free agent at the end of the season
Skinny: The Giants have said consistently that they’re not trading Nicks and a two-game winning streak actually gives them a shot in the mediocre NFC East, meaning they’ll be asking for way too much to even entertain the possibility. 

Greg Little, Cleveland
Contract status: 2013 base salary of $602,500 with one year remaining on his rookie deal
Skinny: Too many drops and not enough upside make this unappealing and the Browns aren’t looking to do Baltimore any favors as was already mentioned.

Jon Baldwin, San Francisco
Contract status: 2013 base salary of $1.061 million with one year remaining on his rookie deal
Skinny: This third-year wideout has already been traded once and has three receptions this season for the receiver-needy 49ers, making you wonder why any team would give up anything for this 2011 draft bust.

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Rice, Canty, six others listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

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Rice, Canty, six others listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

Posted on 27 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear to feel good about their chances of getting Pro Bowl running back back for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills as Ray Rice practiced for the third straight day on Friday.

Rice is listed as questionable — along with seven other teammates — for Sunday’s game after practicing on a limited basis all week. He was moving around effectively during the portion of practice open to the media on Friday morning. Should he return, the sixth-year back will be facing a run defense tied for 30th in the NFL and giving up 155 yards per game on the ground.

“We stand by the fact that we’re hoping [Rice will] get there,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s got a better chance than he had last week. He has practiced, to an extent, throughout the course of the week, and we’ll know Sunday.”

Rice took his inability to play last week in stride, especially after he knew his hip flexor strain would not be the type of injury to keep him out for any extended period of time.

In the first two games of the season, Rice carried 25 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. He credited his teammates for the way they played in his absence in the 30-9 win over Houston. He told reporters on Friday that he tried as much as he could to push his hip to the limit to test how it could hold up against the Bills on Sunday.

“The week went as expected. I was very smart out there,” Rice said. “It did feel good to get three days worth of work in. Barring [any] setbacks, there’s a chance I could be out there on Sunday. Obviously, I have to go out there and warm up and see how it feels and let coaches make the decision for me.”

Defensive end Chris Canty (groin), linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral), wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe), and running back Shaun Draughn (ankle) were also listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after taking part in Friday’s practice. Rush specialist Pernell McPhee is questionable after he missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday while recovering from a sore knee.

Veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley was a new addition to Friday’s injury report and was listed as questionable against the Bills after being limited with a groin injury in the final practice of the week. Rookie receiver Marlon Brown (neck) was a full participant on Thursday and Friday and is probable to play on Sunday.

“You’ve got all the guys who have been injured — some just last week and some before — and practiced will be game-time decisions,” Harbaugh said. “They all have a chance to get there, and we’re really hopeful in each one of their cases that they can play, but something could come up. It could not feel right on Sunday. I doubt it will be 100 percent [of them playing], but we’d love for it to be 100 percent.”

The only players not taking part in Friday’s workout were wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee), defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot). Jones was ruled out for Sunday’s game earlier in the week while the latter two were designated as doubtful and are not expected to play in Week 4.

Meanwhile, the Bills ruled out five players and listed two key members of their secondary as questionable for Sunday’s game. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and free safety Jairus Byrd (foot) were limited in practices all week.

Defensive end Mario Williams, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, running back C.J. Spiller, and wide receiver Stevie Johnson were all designated as probable.

Referee Jerome Boger and his crew will officiate Sunday’s game in Orchard Park, N.Y. between the Ravens and Bills. He was the referee for Super Bowl XLVII.

Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 71 degrees and mostly cloudy skies.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DOUBTFUL: DT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Arthur Brown (chest), DE Chris Canty (thigh), RB Shaun Draughn (ankle), LB/DE Pernell McPhee (knee), RB Ray Rice (hip), WR Brandon Stokley (groin), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)
PROBABLE: WR Marlon Brown (neck)

BUFFALO
OUT: K Dustin Hopkins (r. groin), CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist), CB Ron Brooks (foot), WR Marquise Goodwin (hand), DT Alex Carrington (quad)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), FS Jarius Byrd (foot)
PROBABLE: WR Stevie Johnson (hamstring), RB C.J. Spiller (quad), G Doug Legursky (knee), G Kraig Urbik (knee), DE Mario Williams (ankle), DT Kyle Williams (Achilles), DT Marcell Dareus (ankle)

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Rice, Canty return to practice; rookie M. Brown sits out

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Rice, Canty return to practice; rookie M. Brown sits out

Posted on 25 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism Wednesday that Ray Rice would be able to play against the Buffalo Bills and the Pro Bowl running back’s return to practice so early in the week is a strong predictor of that happening.

The sixth-year practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday after missing his first game since the 2008 season in the win over the Houston Texans. Harbaugh’s willingness to talk about Rice’s return to practice supports the notion that the running back was close to being able to play on Sunday despite being listed as doubtful on last week’s injury report.

“Very hopeful. I would expect that,” said Harbaugh when asked whether he thought Rice would practice this week. “That’s the plan right now. We’re going to try to get him out there [Wednesday] and see what he can do, and we’ll have our fingers crossed.”

Defensive end Chris Canty (groin), linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral), and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) were also limited in their return to the practice field as it appears the Ravens are slowly but surely getting healthier. Of those three, Brown appeared to be very limited as he wore a yellow cap on his helmet.

Thompson practiced on a limited basis last Wednesday before sitting out the final two workouts of the week and told reporters that he would really test out his foot to see how close he is to returning to the field. The second-year wide receiver hasn’t practiced since injuring his foot in the preseason opener on Aug. 8.

If he’s able to play against Buffalo, Thompson would provide the Ravens another option in the kickoff return game as Tandon Doss and Shaun Draughn have handled those duties over the last two weeks. Draughn suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3, which could leave the Ravens thin in the return game.

“I’m coming along great,” Thompson said. “We’re going to go out today and see how I feel and try to do a lot on it and see how it holds up. There’s still some soreness in [the foot]. We’ll definitely know after this week.”

Wide receivers Jacoby Jones (knee) and Marlon Brown (neck), outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee), nose tackle Terrence Cody (knee), Draughn (ankle), and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot) did not participate in Monday’s workout. Harbaugh expressed significant doubt that Cody would be able to play in Week 4 after he injured his knee in the first quarter of the win over the Houston Texans.

Jones has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game as he continues to rehab the MCL injury he suffered in the season opener on Sept. 5.

Listed as a limited particdipant, defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe) was practicing once again after he was a limited participant in practices last week. He did not play against the Texans, but he appears to have a chance to make his return to action for the first time since injuring his toe in the preseason finale on Aug. 29.

During the viewing portion of practice, left tackle Bryant McKinnie appeared to be limited and was not taking his normal number of practice reps. Both of his ankles were taped, but it was unclear whether he suffered an injury in Sunday’s game and wasn’t listed on the injury report.

Newly-claimed safety Jeromy Miles was taking part in practice and wearing No. 36 while rookie safety Brynden Trawick officially became part of the Ravens’ practice squad.

Linebacker Brandon Copeland was waived to make room for Trawick on the developmental squad.

For Buffalo, 10 players sat out Wednesday’s practice including defensive end Mario Williams (ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Williams, wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring), and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring).

However, starting running back C.J. Spiller (quadriceps) was a full participant for the Bills.

Here is the official injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (neck), DT Terrence Cody (knee), RB Shaun Draughn (ankle), C Ryan Jensen (foot), LB/DE Pernell McPhee (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Arthur Brown (chest), DE Chris Canty (thigh), RB Ray Rice (hip), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), DT Brandon Williams (toe)

BUFFALO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DB Ron Brooks (foot), DT Alex Carrington (quad), CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist), WR Marquise Goodwin (hand), K Dustin Hopkins (R. groin), WR Stevie Johnson (hamstring), CB Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), G Kraig Urbik (knee), DT Kyle Williams (achilles), DE Mario Williams (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: FS Jarius Byrd (foot), DT Marcell Dareus (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Doug Legursky (knee), RB C.J. Spiller (quad)

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Harbaugh disappointed with Ravens’ involvement in party bus incident

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Harbaugh disappointed with Ravens’ involvement in party bus incident

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed that wide receiver Jacoby Jones did not sustain any serious injury in an altercation involving a party bus early Monday morning, but that doesn’t mean the coach was happy either.

After reportedly being struck in the head with a bottle when a fight broke out during left tackle Bryant McKinnie’s birthday celebration in Washington, D.C., Jones was back at the team’s Owings Mills facility as he continues to rehab the MCL sprain he suffered in the season opener on Sept. 5.

“As far as him, he’s fine,” Harbaugh said. “He went through everything today that he was supposed to go through. He didn’t miss anything.”

The Ravens coach, however, expressed disappointment over the incident as several other players are believed to have attended the birthday celebration. Harbaugh was unaware of any further investigation being done on the incident after no arrests were made early Monday morning, but he wasn’t pleased to see the organization painted in a negative light upon learning of the incident that morning.

Harbaugh said he spoke to the individual players involved as well as the entire team about the altercation.

“I’m not very impressed, personally, with the report,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something we want to be known for. I’d like to think it’s not something those guys would want to be known for. It’s nothing to be proud of, so it’s kind of disappointing in that sense.”

For the time being, it appears that no disciplinary action will be taken against Jones, McKinnie, or any other players involved in the incident, but Harbaugh used the altercation as a teachable moment in reminding players about the potential dangers of being in a public setting late at night.

Harbaugh mentioned the familiar advice given to many young people by their parents.

“Of course we’re going to have conversations and we’ve had conversations about that and other things,” said Harbaugh, referencing the motto of nothing good ever happening after midnight. “We’ll probably keep that between us and address that with the team. What do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as a football player or do you want to be known for that? I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of.”

 Rice, Canty “in the ballpark” to return this week

Harbaugh expressed optimism that running back Ray Rice and defensive end Chris Canty could return for Sunday’s game in Buffalo after both were sidelined for Week 3.

Rice continues to work his way back to full strength after suffering a left hip flexor strain while Canty is dealing with a groin injury. The Ravens will see how each progresses over the course of the week, but Harbaugh wouldn’t describe how much of a chance each would have to play against the Bills.

“I don’t know about the ‘good’ or ‘great’ or whatever, but [Rice] was close this week to a degree,” Harbaugh said. “So was Chris. With those muscle [strains], you never know for sure, but they were in the ballpark this week and we think that will really put them in the ballpark coming up.”

Meanwhile, reserve nose tackle Terrence Cody is likely out for Week 4 after suffering a left knee sprain in the first quarter of Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans.

The good news is the Ravens could get rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams back this week after he practiced on a limited basis for the first time since suffering a toe injury in the preseason finale on Aug. 29.

“I think it’d be a stretch to expect [Cody] back this week,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to try, but more likely it will be after this week coming up.”

Standing pat at running back for now

With Rice sidelined and third-string running back Shaun Draughn suffering a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s win, the Ravens could be in the market for another running back depending on how the week goes.

Rookie Jonas Gray is currently on the practice squad and the Ravens could always bring back third-year veteran Anthony Allen, who was with the team this preseason and is very familiar with the offensive system after two seasons with the organization.

“I think right now we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no imminent move as far as a running back goes because we feel those guys’ injuries are something we can deal with. We’re always looking for a good player, too.”

 

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Defensive picture becoming clearer for Ravens in throwback win

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Defensive picture becoming clearer for Ravens in throwback win

Posted on 22 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — It was fitting for future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to be present Sunday to witness a vintage defensive performance by the Ravens in their 30-9 win over the Houston Texans.

On a day in which the offense once again struggled to move the ball with any level of consistency, the Ravens leaned on their defense to handle the heavy lifting in a way similar to yesteryear when Lewis would dominate in the middle of the defense and Reed would lurk in the secondary. Assuming Lewis’ vacated spot in the defense this season, veteran inside linebacker Daryl Smith provided the defensive highlight, picking off a Matt Schaub pass and sprinting 37 yards for the first touchdown of his 10-year career to turn a 6-3 deficit into a lead the Ravens wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the afternoon.

The defensive touchdown was one more than the Texans provided all day as the Ravens have now gone back-to-back games without allowing a touchdown for the first time since 2010.

Just like old times.

“I just remember catching it and just running as fast as I could, trying to get in there,” said Smith, who finished with a game-high 10 tackles. “I’m not a dancer or nothing like that. I just gave them a little something and just went on back to the bench and got ready and lined back up.”

Smith may epitomize this Baltimore defense better than anyone with his unassuming, quiet demeanor, which is a dramatic change from the in-your-face style of Lewis and the bravado of past Ravens defenses. Even the brash Terrell Suggs has quieted down in 2013 as the Ravens move on from the Lewis era while still having high expectations for themselves.

That diminished bravado may have come in handy after the Ravens allowed a franchise-worst 49 points and seven touchdown passes in their humbling 49-27 defeat to the Denver Broncos in the season opener. All the talk of the Ravens having a better defense than a season ago seemed silly after watching Peyton Manning carve up the secondary, but neither the coaching staff nor players panicked after Week 1.

They’ve certainly rebounded in a major way. Shutting down the Cleveland Browns offense is one thing, but holding the Texans to just three field goals will demand attention from future opponents.

“We played better,” said coach John Harbaugh when asked to explain what’s changed for his defense since the big loss to the Broncos. “The biggest difference is [that] we haven’t given up the big plays.”

Dean Pees’ unit held the Houston offense without a play of 20 or more yards on Sunday after giving up nine plays of 20 or more in their season-opening defeat. For the second straight week, the play of the front seven stood out as the Ravens collected three sacks and seven quarterback hits while holding the Texans to 264 total yards overall and only 107 after halftime.

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub finished with only 194 yards on 35 passing attempts as he settled for short-to-intermediate passes for much of the afternoon as veteran wideout Andre Johnson dealt with a leg issue in the second half.

The Texans were just 3-for-12 on third down with no stop bigger than safety James Ihedigbo’s pass breakup of a pass intended for tight end Owen Daniels on third-and-goal from the Baltimore 9 on the opening drive. The play held Houston to a field goal on a 16-play drive and set the tone for what would be an exceptional day for the Ravens defense.

“You’ve got to get off the field on third down, and we did that today,” said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who collected his first sack of the season on Sunday. “Hopefully that’s something that we’ll continue to be successful at and, really, we just want to continue to get even better in all phases.”

It’s not a perfect defense by any means with some vulnerability in the secondary in which the Texans were either unable or unwilling to test, but the Ravens defense is looking as good as advertised in the summer after two convincing performances to rebound from the debacle in Denver. The strength of this unit is its front seven, which was particularly impressive on Sunday considering defensive end Chris Canty didn’t play and backup nose tackle Terrence Cody exited in the first half.

For the most part, the Ravens have controlled the running game and created consistent pressure on quarterbacks through the first three games of the 2013 season, and that’s a formula to not only help out an imperfect secondary but to keep you in games when your offense is sputtering as it has so far this season.

The Ravens continue to be a work in progress on offense — and that’s putting it kindly after they were held to 236 yards on 57 offensive plays against Houston — but their defense is getting the job done to win games right now. An 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tandon Doss certainly helped, but the defense has paved the way for victory in each of the last two weeks, which is exactly what the Ravens hoped for when they brought in the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Canty, and Smith in the offseason.

“Each week, we want to concentrate on getting better, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Smith said. “And each week, we’ll grow together, we’ll gain more chemistry, we’ll learn to trust each other more, and I think we’ve done that the last two weeks. We just have to continue to do that.”

Harbaugh and the Ravens can only hope the offense follows suit as it’s difficult to depend on touchdowns by your defense and special teams to put you in position to win every week, but you’ll take a victory however you can earn it against an AFC contender like Houston. The Ravens defense did to the Texans what they’re used to achieving against their opponents — they zapped the life right out of the them as the game progressed.

Questions and concerns continue to remain about the offense and how it will produce enough to put the Ravens in good position to win most games, but the picture is becoming clearer for the defense.

And you have to like what you see.

“We’re not satisfied by any means,” said Suggs, who collected a sack for the third straight game. “We know we’ve still got to work, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Texans left tackle Brown out for Sunday’s game

Posted on 21 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Houston Texans reportedly departed for Baltimore on Saturday morning without their Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown, who will miss Sunday’s game against the Ravens.

Listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week, Brown is dealing with a significant turf toe injury and was not expected to play in Week 3. The injury snaps a streak of 78 consecutive starts for the 2012 Pro Bowl selection and creates a great opportunity for Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs against backup Ryan Harris on Sunday.

With Suggs matched up against Harris and right tackle Derek Newton faces the task of blocking Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens should be able to create pressure on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub from the edges. This could also force the Texans to use tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham as extra blockers more often, which would be a major help for a defense that’s struggled to cover tight ends early this season.

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Rice, Canty, three others listed as doubtful against Texans on Sunday

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Rice, Canty, three others listed as doubtful against Texans on Sunday

Posted on 20 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It’s appearing very likely that the Ravens will be without their Pro Bowl running back against the Houston Texans as Ray Rice was listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week on Friday.

Recovering from a left hip flexor strain sustained in the Ravens’ 14-6 win over Cleveland in Week 2, Rice missed three straight days of practice and is in danger of missing his first game since his 2008 rookie season when he was sidelined for three contests. Coach John Harbaugh typically likes to see players practice — at least on a limited basis — on Friday to prove they are ready to play in the game but had stated on Monday that Rice wouldn’t need to practice this week in order to play against the Texans.

Defensive end Chris Canty (groin) and rookie linebacker Arthur Brown (pectoral strain) were also listed as doubtful after missing practice for the third straight day of practice. Canty suggested on Thursday that he was optimistic and could still potentially play in the game without practicing all week after suffering a groin injury late in the first half of the Browns game.

“There’s really nothing new to report,” Harbaugh said prior to the release of Friday’s report. “If I had something different with a guy, I’d share it with you, but they are all working hard to get back. They’re all kind of in the same neighborhood as far as getting back, particularly [Canty] and Ray Rice and those guys who were injured last week. It will be a game-time decision for those guys, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed although we’re prepared for it to go either way.”

With Rice likely to miss Sunday’s game, backup running back Bernard Pierce would be making his first career start. When Rice exited last Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter, Pierce picked up a bigger portion of the workload, gaining 57 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for the afternoon.

The second-year back said the key to being ready to start is preparing mentally in the same way he normally does and treating it like any other game in which he’s played at the NFL level. Signed just last week, former Chiefs running back Shaun Draughn would serve as Pierce’s backup if Rice is sidelined.

“In my mind, I was never a No. 2 back,” Pierce said. “It was just me and Ray rotating all through the game. I’ll have the same mentality. I’m just out here trying to win.”

Canty will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Marcus Spears, with Arthur Jones sliding to Canty’s 5-technique defensive end spot and Spears occupying the 3-technique defensive tackle position in the Ravens’ 3-4 base defense.

Wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) was also listed as doubtful after missing the final two days of practice this week after initially returning to the field on Wednesday. He hasn’t played since the Ravens’ preseason opener on Aug. 8.

Cornerback Chykie Brown (knee) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (toe) were both present and working during Friday’s practice. They worked as limited participants this week, but Brown is listed as questionable while Williams is doubtful since he hasn’t played since the preseason finale on Aug. 29.

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee) and offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot) will not play against the Texans after missing practice all week. Jones was officially ruled out on Wednesday while Jensen was ruled out Friday and still hasn’t practiced since breaking his foot in the first week of training camp.

For Houston, safety Ed Reed (hip) and starting left tackle Duane Brown (toe) are both listed as questionable while wide receiver Andre Johnson is probable after sustaining a concussion last Sunday.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Jacoby Jones (knee), WR Ryan Jensen (foot)
DOUBTFUL: LB Arthur Brown (chest), DE Chris Canty (thigh), RB Ray Rice (hip), DT Brandon Williams (toe), WR Deonte Thompson (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Chykie Brown (knee)

HOUSTON
QUESTIONABLE: LT Duane Brown (toe), TE Garrett Graham (hip/groin), FS Ed Reed (hip)
PROBABLE: LB Brian Cushing (knee), TE Owen Daniels (rest – NIR), RB Arian Foster (calf/chest/thumb), WR Andre Johnson (concussion/back), CB Jonathan Joseph (rest – NIR), LB Joe Mays (quad), CB Brice McCain (knee), C Chris Meyers (back), RT Derek Newton (knee/calf/elbow), WR DeVier Posey (achilles/foot), LB Darryl Sharpton (hip), LG Wade Smith (knee), RB Ben Tate (shoulder)

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