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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 30-17 win over Oakland

Posted on 10 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens snapping their two-game losing streak with a 30-17 win over Oakland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was encouraging seeing an aggressive offense effective in pass protection from the beginning of the game, but these aren’t exactly novel concepts outsiders have only recently been clamoring for. The Ravens need to continue that to prove it wasn’t simply an aberration.

2. Mike Wallace made up for his drop on a deep throw last week with two receptions of over 50 yards, one on the game’s first play. It’s criminal when the Ravens don’t throw at least a couple deep balls his way trying to draw pass interference at the very least.

3. After being inactive the first two weeks and not playing a single snap as a rookie, Willie Henry may have been Baltimore’s best defensive player on Sunday. He’s batted down four passes at the line of scrimmage over the last two weeks and is playing strong inside.

4. It’s apparent that Patrick Onwuasor has seized control of the weak-side inside linebacker job after Kamalei Correa played only one defensive snap. Onwuasor’s aggressiveness and physicality were apparent from his very first training camp, and he forced the fumble that Jimmy Smith returned for a touchdown.

5. In Terrance West’s absence, Buck Allen and Alex Collins combined for 140 total yards and a touchdown. Allen is becoming a trustworthy contributor while Collins averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 12 attempts without a fumble and effectively used Tiki Barber’s old high-and-tight grip on the football.

6. The run defense tightened up in the second half, but the Ravens still surrendered 4.3 yards per carry against an underwhelming Oakland ground game. Baltimore ranks 23rd in rushing yards per game allowed and 20th at 4.3 yards per carry. Brandon Williams or not, that needs to get better.

7. After an underwhelming start to the season, Matt Judon played well against Oakland, effectively defending two passes and finishing with four tackles. The Ravens need more consistency from their outside linebackers, and that was a step in the right direction.

8. You had to feel good for the rarely-used Vince Mayle scoring a touchdown to finish off the opening drive. John Harbaugh describes Mayle as “a serious dude” who was all smiles getting his moment in the spotlight after playing only three offensive snaps over the first four games.

9. With the Ravens struggling to generate pressure from a standard four-man rush, Dean Pees used the dime package to unleash Tony Jefferson and Anthony Levine for drive-killing sacks. I’ll continue to believe Jefferon’s skill set is best used playing close to the line of scrimmage as often as possible.

10. Kudos to Las Vegas native Ronnie Stanley for donating $26,000 to shooting victims and their families based on his strong performance against Oakland. He’s really starting to come on after a slow start to the season.

11. Remember how seemingly every Ravens game the last few years was decided by a single possession? All five of their contests in 2017 have been decided by double digits after 26 of their previous 32 games were single-score affairs.

12. As mercurial as their performances have been from week to week, the Ravens now face four straight opponents currently sporting murky quarterback situations. If they want to be taken seriously as a playoff contender, a 6-3 record entering the bye is a very reasonable expectation.

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jimmysmith

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Ravens defense passes first test facing familiar problem

Posted on 09 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Jimmy Smith’s 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Sunday’s 30-17 win over Oakland came at a price for the Ravens.

The veteran cornerback felt his tender Achilles tendon flare up toward the end of the run, putting the defense in an all-too-familiar position as he played just four defensive snaps in third-down situations the rest of the way. But unlike past instances when the secondary all but collapsed without its best talent on the field, the Ravens persevered to hold Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel to 159 yards and a single touchdown pass for the game.

Perhaps it would have played out differently had two-time Pro Bowl selection Derek Carr been under center, but the Ravens passed their first test in the exact situation for which they’d prepared this offseason. It’s unknown whether the lack of drop-off in Smith’s absence will prompt the Ravens to sit him down for some period of time in hopes of his Achilles improving for the second half of the season.

“We just have guys that we can play. We are very good with the guys that we have,” Harbaugh said. “We want Jimmy out there. He is a topnotch corner. I think he is one of the best corners in football. I am a big Jimmy Smith fan.”

But the organization also knows injuries have plagued the talented defensive back throughout his career. It was just last year when the Ravens went 2-5 in games in which Smith missed significant time, a major reason why they missed the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

General manager Ozzie Newsome addressed that reality by signing free-agent veteran Brandon Carr and drafting Marlon Humphrey in the first round, the first time he’d taken a cornerback on the opening day of the draft since picking Smith in 2011. And while Humphrey’s selection with the 16th overall pick raised a few eyebrows with the roster having more pressing needs, the Alabama product again looked the part in Week 5 as he frequently faced Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree.

The Oakland veteran entered Sunday having produced four touchdown receptions and 199 receiving yards in his last two contests against the Ravens, but Humphrey mostly held his own playing man-to-man coverage. Crabtree’s 41-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter came against Carr in coverage after Manuel escaped the pocket to extend the play. The No. 1 receiver finished with six catches for 82 yards overall.

“Crabtree is pretty special. We have had some experience with him, haven’t we, in Baltimore?” Harbaugh said. “He is a great one. Marlon didn’t back down. Marlon is confident. They got him on the three-stop nines or hitch [routes], if you want to call them that, versus press. Marlon played him a certain way. That was really the plan.

“Hindsight being 20-20, I think we might have played that with a little different technique than we did and helped Marlon out a little bit. Those are great learning experiences.”

Not only is Humphrey continuing to learn on the job, but he’s affording the Ravens the luxury of being able to rest their top corner without the fear of a collapse coming.

Injury report grows

Smith wasn’t the only injury concern emerging on Sunday as running back Terrance West (left calf), right guard Matt Skura (knee), and defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring) left the game and didn’t return.

On Monday, Harbaugh deferred to an NFL Network report indicating West would not be a long-term absence, but he didn’t offer any details on a timeline for his return or about a contingency plan at running back. Buck Allen and Alex Collins are the only healthy running backs currently on the roster, meaning Baltimore will likely look to add depth in the short term.

“We have to see if we can execute it right now in terms of what we’re going to do, who we’re going to look at,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just wait until we know. I don’t want to start putting the plans out there until we know if we can pull it off.”

According to The Sun, Skura could miss two to four weeks with a medial collateral ligament sprain in his knee. That means rookie Jermaine Eluemunor will likely be the next man up at the position, and the offensive line will need to adjust to another starting combination.

“It just doesn’t matter,” Harbaugh said. “It is not something we think about. It is not something we quantify. We don’t waste any energy thinking about that. You just go and get ready for the next game.”

Monday night scouting

Harbaugh and the Ravens had the rare opportunity to scout their next two opponents — Chicago and Minnesota — by merely turning on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was making his first NFL start for the Bears and is expected to start his first road contest at M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday.

“Normally on these Monday nights, I get home maybe at halftime and decide if I want to stay awake or not. Usually the answer is no,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “Sometimes if it’s an AFC North team, you have to do it, or the Patriots or somebody like that.

“But this game we’ll be watching. I will get home in time to watch this one.”

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Ravens-Raiders: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 08 October 2017 by Luke Jones

After going winless in October last season, the Ravens don’t want history to repeat itself after getting off to a bad start last week with a disappointing home loss to Pittsburgh.

Now they take their struggling show on the road against an Oakland Raiders team that will indeed be without Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, who is officially inactive after suffering a a transverse process fracture in his back in Denver last week. Carr’s status turned into a bit of a roller coaster over the course of the week as he practiced on a limited basis two days and was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but backup EJ Manuel will start in his place.

As head coach John Harbaugh indicated Friday, top cornerback Jimmy Smith is active and will start after missing two practices this week because of an Achilles tendon issue. The ailment has bothered him for some time, which explains why rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey was rotating in for Smith over the course of last Sunday’s game.

Defensive back Lardarius Webb (thigh) and tight end Benjamin Watson (calf) are also active after missing some practice time this week and being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) was deactivated after being listed as doubtful and only practicing on a limited basis this week.

After starting last week, second-year defensive end Bronson Kaufusi is a healthy scratch as rookie Chris Wormley will make his NFL debut against the Raiders. Baltimore is still searching for someone to stabilize the 5-techique spot after the season-ending foot injury to Brent Urban two weeks ago.

The Raiders are dealing with injuries beyond the quarterback position as starting right guard Gabe Jackson (foot) and cornerbacks David Amerson (concussion) and Gareon Conley (shin) are all out.

Sunday’s referee is Brad Allen.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Oakland calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-70s with winds up to 11 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with white pants while the Raiders don black tops with silver pants.

Sunday marks the 10th all-time meeting in the regular season between these teams with Baltimore enjoying a 6-3 advantage in addition to a victory in the only postseason encounter in the 2000 AFC championship game. However, Oakland has defeated the Ravens in each of the last two years with both contests being decided in the final minute.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DE Bronson Kaufusi
WR Chris Moore
CB Jaylen Hill
OL Tony Bergstrom
OL Dieugot Joseph
TE Maxx Williams
DT Brandon Williams

OAKLAND
QB Derek Carr
CB David Amerson
CB Gareon Conley
G Gabe Jackson
DL Jihad Ward
OT Jylan Ware
RB DeAndre Washington

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Ravens-Raiders: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 07 October 2017 by Luke Jones

The details may differ, but the Ravens and the Oakland Raiders find themselves in a very similar position.

Both have lost two straight and are in danger of losing ground to the leaders in their respective divisions. The Baltimore defense and the Raiders offense were expected to be elite units, but each has underperformed so far this season, contributing to the overall struggles for both teams.

The most intriguing story entering Sunday might be the status of Oakland starting quarterback Derek Carr, who surprisingly practiced on Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable on the final injury report despite having suffered a fracture in his lower back last week. It’s still assumed that backup EJ Manuel will start in his place, but Carr was reportedly taking Friday practice reps ahead of No. 3 quarterback Connor Cook, perhaps an indication that he could at least serve as the backup in Week 5.

His availability would certainly change expectations in this contest as Carr has thrown for 550 yards and seven touchdowns in his two games against the Ravens.

It’s time to go on the record as these AFC teams meet for the third consecutive season with the Raiders having won the last two meetings including a last-minute 28-27 win at M&T Bank Stadium last October. Baltimore holds a 6-3 advantage in the all-time regular-season series and won the only playoff encounter in the 2000 AFC championship game. The Ravens’ last win at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum came in Week 17 of the 2009 season when they clinched a trip to the playoffs.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Joe Flacco will throw an interception for the 11th consecutive game. What we’re seeing from the 10th-year quarterback is his own regression magnified by a lack of commitment to improve the variables around him for years. Not only as he tossed picks in 10 straight games, but he’s thrown at least one in 13 of 15 games with Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator and 23 of 30 with him as the quarterbacks coach, a stretch that followed the best regular season of his career in 2014. Suspect coaching, an injury-ravaged offensive line that wasn’t very good to begin with, average skill-position players, and Flacco’s own weaknesses result in a broken offense.

2. Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree will continue his recent success against the Ravens with a touchdown catch. Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are both expected to play despite missing practice time this week, but the secondary will need to be ready as Crabtree has produced four touchdowns and 199 receiving yards in his last two games against Baltimore. The Ravens front must generate more pressure than it has the last two weeks to force Manuel into mistakes in the pocket as he’ll likely be looking for Crabtree and tight end Jared Cook as his security blankets. With former first-round pick Amari Cooper struggling to catch the ball consistently, Crabtree is a big key to the Raiders’ success.

3. Alex Collins will run for a season-high 85 yards and a touchdown — without a fumble. It speaks volumes about the Ravens that a street free agent signed to the practice squad in early September has been their best offensive playmaker, but that doesn’t mean that Collins hasn’t impressed with an 8.2 yards per carry average. Head coach John Harbaugh has bristled over his two fumbles on 25 carries, but this struggling offense has little choice but to continue giving him the ball while hoping that running backs coach Thomas Hammock can help rectify the issue. The Ravens offensive line has done a solid job in run blocking and should find room against an Oakland front allowing 4.3 yards per carry.

4. Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack will collect two sacks and force a fumble. After having a brutal day against Jacksonville edge rusher Dante Fowler in London two weeks ago, right tackle Austin Howard is really going to have his hands full with his former teammate, who is one of the NFL’s best defensive players. Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. likes to move Mack around to create matchup problems, meaning left tackle Ronnie Stanley will also need to be ready. As if Mack weren’t enough, defensive end Mario Edwards also creates problems as an interior rusher on passing downs and it’s no secret that the Ravens have struggled mightily at the guard position without Marshal Yanda.

5. The Ravens offense fails to score 14 points for the third straight game in a 19-13 loss. I fully expect the run defense to bounce back after a poor performance last week, but the Ravens will have trouble generating pressure against Pro Football Focus’ most efficient pass-blocking line in the league, which will limit their opportunities for takeaways to put the offense on a short field. Since a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin in the season opener, Flacco hasn’t completed a single pass for even half as much yardage as that in 105 attempts. That’s simply not a winning formula, especially on the West Coast where Baltimore hasn’t fared well in recent years. Until this offense shows otherwise, the Ravens aren’t a good bet to win any road game — even one against a backup quarterback.

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Jimmy Smith good to go for Ravens despite being listed as questionable

Posted on 06 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to the field for the final practice of the week and is apparently good to go for Sunday’s game in Oakland.

Despite a questionable designation on the final injury report, head coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens were merely giving Smith some rest for his sore Achilles tendon this week. The seventh-year defensive back was replaced periodically by rookie Marlon Humphrey during the Week 4 loss to Pittsburgh, a sign that he’s been dealing with the issue for some time.

Smith was a full participant in Friday’s light practice.

“I know we didn’t announce that, but [his status] was not a question,” Harbaugh said. “He’s good.”

The Ravens will need Smith to be at full strength since Raiders wide receivers Michael Crabtree (chest) and Amari Cooper (knee) were full participants in Thursday and Friday practices and were not listed on the final injury report. Crabtree sat out his team’s Week 4 loss at Denver, but he has registered 16 catches for 199 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games against the Ravens.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) was once again absent from practice and has been ruled out for the third consecutive game. Tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) will also miss his third straight contest, but he did some limited work on his own before leaving the field during the media viewing portion of practice on Friday.

Tight end Benjamin Watson (calf) returned to practice fully on Friday after missing workouts earlier in the week. He was officially listed as questionable, but he also sat out two practices last week before registering five catches for 43 yards against the Steelers.

Veteran defensive back Lardarius Webb (thigh) and rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill (hamstring) were present and working on Friday. Webb was listed as questionable to go against the Raiders, but he is expected to play after completing two full practices without incident. Hill is doubtful to play after missing more than a month with a hamstring injury, but Harbaugh liked what he saw from the undrafted free agent in his limited practice work this week.

“It was good to see him back,” Harbaugh said. “He looked good, moved well, had a couple interceptions out there during the course of the week. That was good to see.”

The Ravens also listed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (hand) and defensive back Anthony Levine (thigh) as questionable, but neither is in danger of missing Sunday’s game.

There was a more interesting development with the Raiders’ final injury report as quarterback Derek Carr (back) was listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis for the second straight day. Head coach Jack Del Rio announced at the beginning of the week that Carr suffered a transverse process fracture in his back in Week 4 — an injury that typically sidelines a player for two to six weeks — but the Raiders are at least making it look like their starting quarterback has a chance to play Sunday.

Whether it’s merely some gamesmanship or an amazing recovery by Carr, the Ravens need to be be prepared for a quarterback who’s thrown for 550 yards and seven touchdowns in two career games against them. If Carr doesn’t play, E.J. Manuel would start at quarterback for Oakland.

The Raiders also listed starting right guard Gabe Jackson as questionable after he missed practice time this week with a foot injury.

As is their normal routine for games on the West Coast, the Ravens traveled to Oakland Friday afternoon to give themselves an extra day to adjust to the three-hour time change. Baltimore hasn’t won a game in the Pacific Time Zone since the 2012 season and is winless in its last five road games against AFC West and NFC West opponents.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Oakland calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and only a 10-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: DB Anthony Levine (thigh), WR Jeremy Maclin (hand), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), TE Benjamin Watson (calf), DB Lardarius Webb (thigh)

OAKLAND
QUESTIONABLE: CB David Amerson (concussion), QB Derek Carr (back), CB Gareon Conley (shin), G Gabe Jackson (foot), RB DeAndre Washington (hamstring)

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Ravens offense not even talking a good game at this point

Posted on 06 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Joe Flacco acknowledged this week that the Ravens offense isn’t playing with as much confidence as it needs to.

It was an honest assessment considering the quarterback and the unit rank near the bottom of the NFL in numerous categories, but how do you go about raising that confidence level in hopes of it carrying over to Sundays? Do coaches add new wrinkles to the playbook, invite more player input during meetings, or even try something as simple as having a little more fun during practices to put minds at ease?

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was posed that simple question on Thursday.

“Just a little juice, you know? Hey, we’ve got proud men here,” Mornhinweg said. “We talked about this the other day. We’ve got a lot of proud men and a lot of confident guys. When you go through a couple weeks like this, confidence is a great weapon. I think it’s the best weapon known to mankind. Confidence is at an all-time high.”

Not only does Mornhinweg not answer the original question, but he contradicts the starting quarterback’s opinion by saying the group’s confidence is greater than ever. That’s not exactly a good look when media and fans are demanding answers from one of the worst offenses in the league through the first month of the season.

Now in his third season as the quarterbacks coach, Mornhinweg is doubly responsible for Flacco ranking 32nd in passing yards, last among qualified quarterbacks with a career-worst 5.1 yards per attempt, and 31st of 32 qualified quarterbacks with a 65.0 passer rating. So, what is he having the 10th-year veteran work on during practices?

“There’s a lot of specific things, and that goes with every position,” Mornhinweg said. “These more than a handful of plays last ballgame — details. It’s really every position, you know? Details, and then you end up getting those four, five, six, seven plays in a game that may make a little bit of a difference.”

Again, what?

To be clear, talking to the media is far from Mornhinweg’s primary job responsibility and he’s never been an eloquent speaker, something the team’s official website has even had fun with on occasion. However, failing to answer fair questions with any substance isn’t amusing when many fans are calling for a coordinator change and already weren’t thrilled with John Harbaugh’s decision to retain him in January.

Is there any sign the offensive coordinator is seeing that a breakout could be coming?

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Mornhinweg said. “You keep working hard, you keep preparing, good things tend to happen.”

You can only hope he’s a better communicator with his players than he is with the media or there truly is no hope for an offensive turnaround.

Pees blames himself for run defense issues

A week after suggesting the Ravens’ problems in London stemmed from a lack of intensity, defensive coordinator Dean Pees took the blame for Pittsburgh gaining 173 rushing yards on 42 carries in Week 4.

The Ravens’ outside linebackers did a poor job setting the edge, but Pees said he didn’t have his defense prepared for the type of pulling the Steelers employed with their interior linemen on outside runs.

“It’s not the players fault. It’s my fault,” Pees said. “The Steelers — I give them credit — [offensive line coach Mike Munchak] and those guys did a different scheme on some of their pullers than what we had ever seen. They did. It was different than what I’ve seen the Steelers run. But it’s my job to get it adapted and fixed and corrected and put the guys in a better position than what they were put in.”

Pees did try to cherry-pick the final numbers by saying that the Ravens held the Steelers to 2.3 yards per carry on 36 of their 42 attempts — any defense is going to look much better when you remove the top six plays — but at least he took responsibility for a run defense needing to be better than it’s shown so far. The Ravens currently rank 26th in rushing yards allowed per game (127.3) and 20th in yards per carry allowed (4.2).

Secondary shuffling

We’re unlikely to see any notable changes if cornerback Jimmy Smith misses Sunday’s game in Oakland, but the Ravens secondary could stand to benefit from a facelift in the near future.

With nickel corner Lardarius Webb struggling in coverage and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey looking like the real deal, the Ravens should look to move the latter into the starting lineup and continue experimenting with Brandon Carr at the nickel spot as they’ve done on a few occasions this year. Impressive rookie free agent Jaylen Hill could also be in the nickel mix once he gets back into football shape from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for over a month.

Webb’s best role at this point is at the safety position, which gives the Ravens an opportunity to be more creative with their sub packages while also keeping the veteran involved in the defense.

Safety Tony Jefferson hasn’t made a major impact so far, but one could question whether he’s being used properly. His strength is playing closer to the line of scrimmage against the run and in pass coverage against tight ends, but Pees has used him as more of a traditional safety so far. Sliding Jefferson down to a hybrid dime position in many passing situations would allow the Ravens to take the weak-side inside linebacker off the field — a position that’s been an issue — and to move Webb to the back end of the defense where he played next to Eric Weddle last year.

Anything that maximizes their $34 million investment in Jefferson and gets Humphrey on the field should be on the table.

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Webb returns to Ravens practice while J. Smith remains sidelined

Posted on 06 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens defensive back Lardarius Webb returned to practice Thursday while top cornerback Jimmy Smith remained sidelined with an Achilles issue.

It remains unclear whether Smith will be ready to play against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed great confidence in rookie Marlon Humphrey stepping into a starting role if necessary. Humphrey was periodically filling in for Smith throughout the Week 4 loss to Pittsburgh, an indication that the veteran wasn’t right physically.

“He is fast, physical, big, he uses his hands, and he is into the game plan,” said Pees about the Ravens’ 2017 first-round pick from Alabama. “He has all those things that you want a [defensive back] to possess. I think that he is just a really good player, a really good talent, and I think we have done a good job of bringing him along and not throwing him in there too fast.

“Kind of each week, he gets more and more plays, and now he has himself in a little bit of a rotation-type thing.”

Tight ends Benjamin Watson (calf) and Maxx Williams (ankle) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) remained absent from practice. The latter two are almost certain to miss their third straight game.

Meanwhile, the Raiders surprisingly welcomed starting quarterback Derek Carr back to the practice field just days after he suffered a fracture in his back in Denver. He is still not expected to play against Baltimore, but Oakland will take satisfaction knowing he is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

Starting wide receivers Amari Cooper (knee) and Michael Crabtree (chest) and starting defensive end Mario Edward (back) were upgraded to full participation after sitting out on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), TE Benjamin Watson (calf), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Jeremy Maclin (hand), DB Lardarius Webb (thigh)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Gabe Jackson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB David Amerson (concussion), QB David Carr (back), CB Gareon Conley (shin), RB DeAndre Washington (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Amari Cooper (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (chest), DE Mario Edwards (back)

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Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith dealing with Achilles issue

Posted on 04 October 2017 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 8:15 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were missing two members of their secondary while welcoming back another as they continued preparations for a Week 5 trip to Oakland.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendon) and nickel corner Lardarius Webb (thigh) were both absent from Wednesday’s practice while rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill returned to the field for the first time in five weeks. Smith was replaced by rookie Marlon Humphrey on Pittsburgh’s final touchdown drive in the fourth quarter Sunday, but he didn’t appear to suffer a serious injury and never went to the ground during his final play of the afternoon, Le’Veon Bell’s 21-yard run to the Baltimore 21 with under five minutes remaining.

Smith played 52 of 76 defensive snaps against the Steelers as Humphrey replaced him for a few series over the course of the contest, something the rookie also did the previous week. Smith’s history of frustrating injuries is no secret as the Ravens defense collapsed down the stretch last season when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 14. The seventh-year defensive back is off to one of the best starts of his career this season and has been one of Baltimore’s best players on either side of the ball

Hill, a rookie free agent from Jacksonville State, was one of the best stories of the preseason as he played at a high level to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Though he’ll likely need some time to get back into football shape and prove he’s fully recovered from a long-term hamstring injury, Hill could be a potential fit at the nickel spot with Webb having struggled in pass coverage over the last couple weeks.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) and tight ends Benjamin Watson (calf) and Maxx Williams (ankle) were also absent from Wednesday’s practice. It’s appearing more likely that the standout defensive lineman will miss his third straight game on Sunday. Watson missed two practices last week before ultimately playing against the Steelers.

Defensive back Anthony Levine (thigh) was a limited participant.

On Tuesday, the Ravens signed tight end Gabe Holmes and cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste to their practice squad, placed fullback Ricky Ortiz on practice squad injured reserve, and waived cornerback Josh Thornton.

The Raiders were without three starters during their Wednesday workout as quarterback Derek Carr (back), right guard Gabe Jackson (foot), and defensive end Mario Edwards (back) were listed as non-participants. Carr was ruled out by head coach Jack Del Rio at the beginning of the week and will be replaced by former Buffalo first-round pick EJ Manuel.

Oakland starting wide receivers Michael Crabtree (chest) and Amari Cooper (knee) were both limited.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), TE Benjamin Watson (calf), DB Lardarius Webb (thigh), DT Brandon Williams (foot), TE Maxx Williams (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jaylen Hill (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Jeremy Maclin (hand)

OAKLAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: QB David Carr (back), CB Gareon Conley (shin), DE Mario Edwards (back), G Gabe Jackson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB David Amerson (concussion), WR Amari Cooper (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (chest), RB DeAndre Washington (hamstring)

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Ravens bolster offensive line by signing veteran Austin Howard

Posted on 04 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens signed veteran offensive tackle Austin Howard to a three-year deal Friday in an effort to shore up an unsettled offensive line.

According to NFL Network, the sides agreed to a contract that will pay him $5.5 million in 2017 and up to $16 million over the duration of the contract.

The 30-year-old was released by the Oakland Raiders on July 28 as he was set to enter the fourth season of a five-year, $30 million contract. Howard started 39 games for Oakland over the last three seasons after starting all 32 contests for the New York Jets in 2012 and 2013. He dealt with a shoulder injury last season that limited him to 11 games and required offseason surgery.

A member of Baltimore’s practice squad in 2011, Howard is now expected to handle the starting right tackle job that was held by free-agent departure Rick Wagner over the previous three seasons. Howard ranked 52nd among qualified offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading system last year, but he finished a very respectable 13th in 2015. He has also played guard in his NFL after beginning his collegiate career as a tight end at Northern Iowa.

Howard’s 72 career starts make him the Ravens’ second-most experienced offensive lineman behind six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda. Fourth-year lineman James Hurst had been working as the first-team right tackle in spring workouts and over the first week of training camp.

Already needing to replace Wagner as well as former starting center Jeremy Zuttah, the Ravens sustained two losses to their offensive line group in the first week of training camp with John Urschel’s surprising retirement on July 27 and the season-ending knee injury to rookie fourth-round pick Nico Siragusa earlier this week. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Alex Lewis, and center Ryan Jensen have all missed practice time this week while Yanda continues to be brought back slowly from offseason shoulder surgery.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg coached the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Howard with the Jets in 2013.

To make room for Howard on the 90-man preseason roster, the Ravens waived injured tight end Crockett Gillmore, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and would revert to injured reserve if unclaimed by another team. Gillmore is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery on Monday.

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Penultimate play sealed fate of Ravens defense on final drive

Posted on 03 October 2016 by Luke Jones

Sunday was a strange day for the Ravens defense in the one-point loss to Oakland.

Allowing 28 points and four touchdown passes is a disappointing day by most standards, but two of those scores came on “sudden-change” drives of 29 yards or less and the Ravens allowed a mere 153 yards through three quarters.

So, what the heck happened on the final six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that won it for the Raiders?

Baltimore had a couple problems with dropping to the right spot in coverage on the final drive, according to linebacker C.J. Mosley after the game. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr also made a few terrific throws and deserves some credit.

The pass rush certainly wasn’t there, but that was nothing new as the Ravens failed to sack or even register a quarterback hit on Carr all day. Whether sending extra blitzers — as defensive coordinator Dean Pees did twice on the last drive — or relying on a four-man rush, the Ravens rarely made the young quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket as he regularly got the ball out quickly.

In fact, the Ravens used the hated three-man rush on the penultimate play of the drive — they used four or five rushers on every other play of the drive — and nearly made the play to seal the victory. But that was the difference from the previous three weeks when the defense was able to make a critical stop in crunch time.

On first-and-10 from the Baltimore 23 with 2:25 remaining, Carr made an ill-advised deep throw over the middle intended for tight end Clive Walford, who was covered by safety Eric Weddle on the play. Weddle undercut the route just in front of the goal line and got both hands on the ball, but the veteran was unable to secure the interception that would have ended the drive and given the Ravens the chance to run out the clock with a 27-21 lead and just over two minutes left.

Making matters worse, Lardarius Webb delivered a low hit to Walford’s thigh that dislodged the safety’s helmet and prompted the training staff to remove him from the game to evaluate him for a concussion. With Webb out, reserve Kendrick Lewis entered at safety for the next play.

Already with two touchdown receptions, Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree got behind cornerback Shareece Wright on a double move and Lewis inexcusably allowed a receiver to get behind him in the red zone. The 23-yard touchdown was Oakland’s longest pass play of the game and led to a frustrating 28-27 defeat for a Ravens defense that had played well for much of Sunday’s game.

Perhaps Webb makes the same mistake, but Lewis too often allowed big plays over his head as a starter a year ago.

Against Cleveland and Jacksonville the previous two weeks, the Ravens came away with late interceptions to clinch one-possession victories.

On Sunday, Weddle was unable to make the play that could have won it for Baltimore. It would have been a great catch, but that’s what you sometimes need to prevail in a close game against a quality opponent.

The final touchdown spoiled an otherwise good day for the defense, but the Ravens missed their chance on the previous play.

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