Tag Archive | "Ravens"

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Ravens promote running back Toussaint, cut wide receiver Thompson

Posted on 20 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens made a roster move less than 24 hours before their Sunday meeting with the Cleveland Browns by cutting wide receiver Deonte Thompson and promoting running back Fitz Toussaint from the practice squad.

The move likely stems from starting running back Bernard Pierce being listed as questionable with a thigh injury on the final injury report of the week. Pierce was added to the injury report Thursday after practicing on a limited basis, but the third-year back was a full participant on Friday, an encouraging sign for his status.

Should Pierce be limited or unable to play against Cleveland, the Ravens would be looking at veteran Justin Forsett, 2014 fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro, and the rookie free agent Toussaint as their backfield options. Forsett has led the Ravens in rushing through the first two weeks of the season, gaining 126 yards on 19 carries for a 6.6 yards per attempt average.

Thompson made the 53-man roster as the Ravens kept seven wide receivers to start the season, but he was inactive in each of the first two games after scoring three touchdowns in the preseason. Toussaint turned heads with a strong performance in the preseason finale last month and gained 123 yards on 21 carries over the summer.

Toussaint was elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster the day before the season opener against Cincinnati but was inactive for the game. He was then cut a day later as the Ravens claimed defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi off waivers from the Bengals.

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 20 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will attempt to go 2-1 against the AFC North to begin the 2014 season, but the Cleveland Browns stand in their way while feeling good about themselves following last week’s surprising win over the New Orleans Saints.

While Baltimore has benefited from extra rest after a Thursday night win over rival Pittsburgh in Week 2, Cleveland has used a strong running game led by Towson product Terrance West while committing no turnovers through the first two weeks of the season. The Browns’ summer quarterback controversy between veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel has also subsided with the former off to an efficient start in his return from a season-ending knee injury last season.

Sunday marks the 31st all-time meeting between these AFC North rivals with the Ravens enjoying a 22-8 advantage and a 10-5 edge at FirstEnergy Stadium. Baltimore is 11-1 against the Browns since 2008 with last year’s 24-18 loss in Cleveland the first defeat over that stretch.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their sixth game in seven tries in Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era …

1. Torrey Smith finally gets his 2014 season going, making six catches for 95 yards and a long touchdown reception. Aside from a long touchdown to Steve Smith on a broken play in the season opener, quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t taken many deep shots, but that could change on Sunday with the Browns looking to clean up their run defense and fully aware of Gary Kubiak’s use of Steve Smith and the tight ends in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Torrey Smith has been held to just four catches for 60 yards in his first two games, but that will change on Sunday as he catches a 40-plus-yard touchdown to beat Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine in the first half.

2. The Browns running game picks up 130 yards on the ground to win the time of possession battle. The Ravens defense was very physical against Pittsburgh, but it’s difficult to determine how much of that was about playing their biggest rival in a prime-time game and handling an inferior offensive line. Cleveland has averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry and won’t match that impressive clip, but West and fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell will grind out tough yards to keep the Baltimore defense on the field too long. A key matchup will be Pro Bowl center Alex Mack going up against second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams, and the Browns will have the edge there to find some running room inside.

3. Terrell Suggs collects his first sack of the year in a difficult battle against Browns tackle Joe Thomas. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has more career sacks (15) against Cleveland than any opponent, but only seven have come since 2007 when the Browns drafted the seven-time Pro Bowl selection Thomas. Even though the Ravens insist Suggs has played very well and Pro Football Focus has graded Suggs as the team’s best defensive player through two weeks, the 12-year pass rusher has collected only one sack in his last 10 games dating back to last season and hasn’t been making high-impact plays since the first half of 2013. Suggs and fellow rusher Elvis Dumervil need to put heat on Hoyer, and Suggs will break through for his first sack since Week 16 of last year.

4. Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins beats a rusty Lardarius Webb for a touchdown catch from the slot. With Webb listed as probable on the final injury report, it appears the Ravens will have their full secondary at their disposal for the first time since the beginning of training camp. However, it remains to be seen how much rust the sixth-year corner will need to shake off even after practicing fully for the last three weeks. Meanwhile, the Browns are without suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, but the shifty Hawkins has been very effective out of the slot where he has lined up more than half of the time, leading the team with 14 catches for 157 yards. He’ll catch his first touchdown on a quick out route as Webb misses the tackle on the play.

5. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by West is the difference as the Ravens’ road struggles from last season carry over to Sunday in a 20-17 loss to Cleveland. It’s easy to be encouraged by what Baltimore did playing at home last Thursday night, but the Ravens have almost always played well at home even in some of their worst seasons. A 2-6 road record in 2013 is difficult to forget, particularly because it was the Ravens defense that struggled in allowing 26.4 points per game on the road compared to 17.6 points surrendered per home contest. A typical, ugly game between the Browns and Ravens will play out once again, but the Cleveland defense bounces back from its poor start to the season while the Baltimore defense is worn down by the running game in the final quarter.

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Ravens issue statement in response to ESPN.com report

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens issued the following statement in response to the ESPN.com report about their handling of the Ray Rice investigation released on Friday:

The ESPN.com “Outside the Lines” article contains numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings. The Ravens will address all of these next week in Baltimore after our trip to Cleveland for Sunday’s game against the Browns.

You can read an abridged version of the ESPN.com report HERE and the entire article HERE.

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

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Report: Ravens immediately learned graphic details of Rice incident

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

On the same day in which a Ray Rice jersey exchange was held and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell showed remorse without divulging any specifics in an afternoon press conference, a report attempted to shed light on the Ravens’ mishandling and potential coverup of the running back’s domestic violence incident.

According to an ESPN report, Ravens director of security Darren Sanders spoke to an Atlantic City police officer who’d watched the now-infamous video hours after the February incident and learned the explicit details of what transpired between Rice and then-fiancée Janay Palmer. Sanders then relayed that information to team officials, but it remains unclear whom he spoke with directly.

Upon the TMZ release of the first video just four days after the incident, head coach John Harbaugh and senior personnel assistant George Kokinis reportedly recommended that the organization release Rice, but team owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and team president Dick Cass rejected the suggestion, instead choosing to stand by the troubled running back. After offensive lineman Jah Reid became the third Ravens player arrested in the offseason, Harbaugh again approached team officials about releasing Rice, Reid, and wide receiver Deonte Thompson — the other player arrested in the offseason at that point — but was rejected again, according to ESPN.

The Ravens denied these allegations in a statement included in the ESPN piece saying, “John Harbaugh did not want to release Ray Rice until he saw the second video on September 8 for the first time. The video changed everything for all of us.”

Harbaugh was the only member of the Ravens’ brass to meet with reporters on the day Rice’s contract was terminated.

The report does not indicate that the Ravens ever had a copy of the video showing what happened inside the elevator, but Cass spoke to Rice’s attorney, Michael Diamondstein, in early April after the defense team had acquired a copy of the elevator security video from the Revel Casino via subpoena. ESPN reports that Rice’s lawyer told Cass that what was on the video was “f—ing horrible” and it was apparent that “Ray knocked her the f— out.”

Cass reportedly never asked Diamondstein for a copy of the video — the NFL didn’t either — and instead continued to urge Rice’s defense team to gain acceptance for their client into a pretrial intervention program that would not only eliminate the possibility of prison time but prevent the elevator video from ever being made public.

ESPN cited four sources indicating that Ravens officials — including Bisciotti, Cass, and Newsome — continued to push for only a two-game suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in disciplining their star running back. The report also indicated that the organization believed Goodell had viewed the video, imploring Rice to tell the entire truth when he met with the commissioner in June.

Upon releasing Rice when the second video was released by TMZ on Sept. 8, Bisciotti sent Rice a text message stating the following:

Hey Ray, just want to let you know, we loved you as a player, it was great having you here. Hopefully all these things are going to die down. I wish the best for you and Janay.

When you’re done with football, I’d like you to know you have a job waiting for you with the Ravens helping young guys getting acclimated to the league.

In an interview with The Sun last week, Newsome maintained that Rice had told the truth about what was on the graphic video throughout the process while Cass and Bisciotti have indicated in interviews that his story didn’t necessarily align with what they saw on the video for the first time on the morning of Sept. 8.

In a press conference held earlier in the day in New York, Goodell reiterated that he mishandled the Rice case with the initial two-game suspension handed down on July 25.

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I’m sorry for that,” Goodell said. “The same mistakes can never be repeated.”

 

 

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Ravens list Webb probable, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

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Ravens list Webb probable, Pierce questionable against Browns on Sunday

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens have listed Lardarius Webb as probable for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, which paints an encouraging picture for the starting cornerback to make his 2014 debut this weekend.

Webb has practiced fully for three straight weeks after missing all of training camp while dealing with a back injury. He was deemed inactive in Weeks 1 and 2 after being listed as questionable on the final injury report for each of those games.

Starting running back Bernard Pierce is listed as questionable after being added to Thursday’s injury report with a thigh injury. The third-year back practiced on a limited basis on Thursday before being upgraded to full participation on Friday.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) is doubtful after missing practice all week and is reportedly recovering from a meniscus injury that could keep hiim sidelined for a couple weeks.

Quarterback Joe Flacco (stomach bug), cornerback Asa Jackson (concussion), and left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) are also listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the Browns have ruled out running back Ben Tate (knee) as expected and designated standout tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) and outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) as questionable.

Here’s the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
PROBABLE: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Asa Jackson (concussion), T Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

CLEVELAND
OUT: RB Ben Tate (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder)
PROBABLE: WR Travis Benjamin (knee), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DL John Hughes (hamstring), P Spencer Lanning (shoulder), OL Paul McQuistan (ankle), CB Buster Skrine (thumb)

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Ravens WR Steve Smith to receive award for work to end homelessness

Posted on 18 September 2014 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, September 30, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (“the Law Center”) will honor Steve Smith, Sr. of the Baltimore Ravens, Senator Patty Murray, Sidley Austin LLP and Aleah Green at the 16th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards in Washington, D.C. The Law Center is honoring these exceptional people, and celebrating its 25th Anniversary of 25 years of high impact work to protect the rights of homeless people and to end homelessness in America. ABC7/News Channel 8 Senior Political Reporter Scott Thuman will serve as the emcee for the evening.

Steve Smith, Sr. will receive the Stewart B. McKinney Award and Senator Patty Murray will receive the Bruce F. Vento Award for their commitment to advancing solutions that prevent and end homelessness. Smith and his wife, Angie, established the Steve Smith Family Foundation which champions the cause of the voiceless and fearful, envisioning an end to domestic violence and a better quality of life for all. The Foundation is dedicated to providing resources and hope to those in need. Smith, Sr. has shown both leadership and commitment to homeless, poor, and disadvantaged communities and individuals in America.

Senator Patty Murray has a proven track record spanning more than two decades of fighting for Washington state families in the United States Senate. Patty has established herself as an effective leader on education, transportation, budget issues, port security, healthcare, women, and veterans issues. She has been a leader in the Senate in implementing policies and providing funding for programs to help those facing homelessness. This includes ensuring that homeless students have the rights and support they need to succeed in school. She has also fought for resources for affordable housing, services and shelters for homeless, as well as resources to prevent homelessness. She also restarted the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, providing housing and services to homeless veterans and helping to significantly reduce veteran homelessness. She believes in fighting for justice and has worked on numerous critical issues with the Law Center.

Sidley Austin LLP will receive the Pro Bono Counsel Award. Sidley lawyers devoted over 100,000 hours to pro bono service in 2013 and a critical part of Sidley’s pro bono program has been its long-term partnership with the Law Center. In collaboration with the Law Center over the last two decades, Sidley has protected the First Amendment rights of churches to feed and shelter homeless individuals, challenged voter ID laws that violated the voting rights of homeless persons, and challenged anti-camping ordinances that criminalized the mere status of being homeless.

Aleah Green will receive the Personal Achievement Award for her bravery in the face of hardship and homelessness. Despite her many accomplishments in life, as an unemployed single mom burdened by debt, Ms. Green found herself struggling. Without the financial resources to afford her own place she was forced to become one of the millions of Americans today who must endure homelessness. After her son was denied the right to go to school, Ms. Green took action and called the Law Center. Shiloh was able to return to school and receive the special education services he needed. Her story exemplifies the power of the law to change lives.

The McKinney-Vento Awards pays tribute to Congressmen Stewart B. McKinney and Bruce F. Vento, who co-authored the first major legislation addressing the national homelessness crisis. The 16th Annual McKinney-Vento Awards will be held on Tuesday, September 30, from 6 – 9 p.m., at The Liaison Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

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Flacco, Monroe return to practice on Thursday

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Flacco, Monroe return to practice on Thursday

Posted on 18 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after missing practice due to an illness, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco returned to the field on Thursday to continue preparing for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Flacco was present and working during the portion of practice open to media while left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) also returned to practice after sitting out with a knee injury on Wednesday. The seventh-year signal-caller was dealing with a stomach bug he caught from his oldest son Stephen and didn’t want to spread germs to his teammates.

“I don’t think I have [missed practice before], so it was definitely different not being out there,” Flacco said. “It was good that we had the long week coming off the Thursday night game, so we had an extra day in here, anyway, so it kind of worked out nicely. I was able to be in the meetings and all that.”

Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak echoed the sentiment that Flacco’s absence on Wednesday wasn’t a big deal, adding that it was good for backup Tyrod Taylor to get some rare extra reps.

Monroe told reporters on Wednesday that he fully expected to play against the Browns. Both he and Flacco were full participants a day after sitting out.

There was one addition to the Thursday practice report as running back Bernard Pierce was a limited participant as he deals with what’s listed as a thigh injury.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) was missing for the second straight day as he is recovering from what is a meniscus injury, according to The Sun. Already thin along the defensive line, Jernigan’s injury could force Pernell McPhee and the recently-signed Christo Bilukidi into more action up front.

Cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (concussion) were again present after being full participants on Wednesday. Asked whether he expected to make his season debut in Week 3, Webb is leaving it in the hands of head coach John Harbaugh.

“When he feels like I’m healthy and able to play a full game, he’ll put me out there,” Webb said. “Harbs will let me know when it’s time.”

There were no changes to the Cleveland injury report on Thursday as running back Ben Tate (knee) once again sat out and tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) and linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) were limited participants.

Here’s a look at Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Joe Flacco (illness), CB Asa Jackson (concussion), CB Lardarius Webb (back), T Eugene Monroe (knee)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Ben Tate (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Travis Benjamin (knee), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DL John Hughes (hamstring), P Spencer Lanning (shoulder), OL Paul McQuistan (ankle), CB Buster Skrine (thumb)

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Flacco absent from practice as Ravens prepare for Cleveland

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Flacco absent from practice as Ravens prepare for Cleveland

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Starting quarterback Joe Flacco was absent from Wednesday’s practice as the Ravens continued preparations for their first road game of the season against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Backup Tyrod Taylor and practice-squad quarterback Keith Wenning were present and working as Flacco missed practiced due to an illness that is not expected to keep him sidelined for long. The seventh-year quarterback has never missed a game, and several teammates couldn’t even recall Flacco missing a practice to this point in his career.

Even after injuring his knee against the Detroit Lions in Week 15 last season, Flacco did not miss a practice.

“It was weird,” defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “[Terrell Suggs] and I were thinking we’ve never actually been at a practice without Joe Flacco being out there. Whatever he has going on, I hope for all the best for him.”

Left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) were also absent during the viewing portion of Wednesday’s practice. The former expects to play against the Browns on Sunday while the rookie Jernigan could reportedly miss a couple weeks with a meniscus injury.

Cornerbacks Asa Jackson (concussion) and Lardarius Webb (back) were both present and working on Wednesday. Webb has yet to play in the 2014 season despite having practiced fully over the last couple weeks while Jackson sustained his concussion in the second quarter of the win over the Steelers.

Asked by reporters about his status, Webb said he’s feeling good but will continue to defer to head coach John Harbaugh, who continued to give no injury updates on Wednesday. Webb told reporters last week that he was ready to make his season debut against the Steelers before being deactivated for the second straight game.

The Ravens were practicing in helmets, shells, and shorts in their first open practice of the week.

Meanwhile, Cleveland is expected to be without running back Ben Tate (knee), meaning Towson product Terrance West is expected to receive the start against the Ravens. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo (shoulder) and tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) were both limited participants in the Browns’ practice on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: QB Joe Flacco (illness), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Asa Jackson (concussion), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Ben Tate (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Jordan Cameron (shoulder), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Travis Benjamin (knee), DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DL John Hughes (hamstring), P Spencer Lanning (shoulder), OL Paul McQuistan (ankle), CB Buster Skrine (thumb)

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 3

Posted on 16 September 2014 by Luke Jones

Every week, we’ll take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is rising and falling …

STOCK RISING

Justin Forsett
Skinny: Even though Bernard Pierce received most of the workload against Pittsburgh, you still get the sense that Forsett is more comfortable running in a zone-blocking system and the veteran is superior to Pierce in pass protection. His size and age make you think he’ll continue to be the complementary back in the Baltimore running game, but Forsett has already provided a nice return on a one-year contract that garnered little attention in the offseason.

Kelechi Osemele
Skinny: Any lingering concerns about the left guard’s ability to return from last season’s back surgery have been quelled after Osemele turned in an All-Pro performance against Cincinnati in Week 1. A key to offensive improvement in 2014 was better play from the interior line and Osemele, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, and center Jeremy Zuttah have received the highest grades of anyone on the offense, according to Pro Football Focus.

Brandon Williams
Skinny: Though limited to only nine defensive snaps against Pittsburgh because the Ravens used their nickel package for most of the game, Williams has done exactly what the Ravens have asked of him by disrupting run plays with a good push at the line of scrimmage. The second-year nose tackle has even put a little heat on the quarterback in the rare opportunities he’s had to play in passing situations. 

Jeremy Zuttah
Skinny: His pass blocking hasn’t stood out, but Zuttah’s ability to get a strong push off the line of scrimmage has been evident on inside run plays through the first two weeks of the season. Sunday will mark his first road game with the Ravens, which will be a test in terms of making the proper protection calls with crowd noise being a factor, but it’s difficult not to be pleased with the sizable upgrade Zuttah has provided over last year’s starter Gino Gradkowski. 

STOCK FALLING

Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson
Skinny: These two are grouped together, because it’s apparent there will still be significant concern at the No. 3 cornerback position when Lardarius Webb does return. Brown is still too vulnerable in coverage on the outside while Jackson has missed several tackles from the nickel spot, factors that prompted the Ravens to use safety Matt Elam at the nickel position against Pittsburgh. It remains to be seen whether Jackson will be cleared to return Sunday from last week’s concussion.

Kyle Juszczyk
Skinny: The second-year fullback looked like he would carve out a nice role in the passing game based on his preseason play, but Juszczyk has been limited to just 43 snaps in two games and has been targeted only once as a receiver out of the backfield. Even more concerning has been his vulnerability as a lead blocker as he hasn’t been able to generate much of a push to create space for Pierce or Forsett to maneuver behind him. 

Daryl Smith
Skinny: His first season in Baltimore was a pleasant surprise, but the 32-year-old veteran’s struggles against the run late last season have carried over in the first two games of 2014 as he has struggled to shed blocks to make tackles closer to the line of scrimmage. Smith’s biggest strength is in pass coverage, but you do wonder if the Ravens’ inside linebackers will wear down against the run as the year goes on with the light C.J. Mosley playing next to the veteran in the starting defense. 

Marlon Brown
Skinny: One of the few bright spots in a horrendous offense last year, the second-year receiver has all but disappeared in Gary Kubiak’s system after seeing just three offensive snaps against the Steelers a week after being targeted only once. Drop-off was to be expected with Steve Smith, Owen Daniels, and a fully-healthy Dennis Pitta now in the mix, but the 6-foot-4 receiver struggled to grasp the offense over the summer and hasn’t even been a factor in the red zone through the first two games.

 

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Secondary remains fluid as Ravens turn attention toward Cleveland

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Secondary remains fluid as Ravens turn attention toward Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Returning to work to begin preparations for a Week 3 showdown with the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens weren’t offering clues about the projected state of their secondary.

With starting cornerback Lardarius Webb (back) still waiting to make his 2014 debut and reserve Asa Jackson sustaining a concussion against Pittsburgh last Thursday, the third level of the defense remains fluid as the Ravens look to improve to 2-1 in their three AFC North contests to begin the regular season. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t shed any light on the status of Jackson or Webb when he met with reporters on Monday afternoon.

“I’m just not going to get into injuries,” Harbaugh said, “because there is just no strategic advantage for us in doing it and putting that information out there. … I’m really optimistic about all our guys — I will say that, with [Jackson] included — but I’ve been optimistic in the past and guys haven’t played. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”

Webb has practiced fully over the last two weeks, but the sixth-year defensive back missed all of training camp and the preseason after suffering back spasms on July 25, the second day of full-team workouts. The Ravens and Webb are reportedly targeting this Sunday’s game for him to make his return, but doubts will remain until he’s suited up to play on Sunday.

After going with the trio of Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown, and Jackson in the nickel package in the season opener, defensive coordinator Dean Pees used a different alignment against the Steelers with strong safety Matt Elam defending the slot and reserve Jeromy Miles playing safety in the nickel alignment. Smith and Jackson started the game at the outside corner spots — with Brown on the sideline — before a concussion ended Jackson’s night in the first half and forced Brown into duty.

With Brown shaky in outside coverage throughout the summer and Jackson missing a couple tackles from the nickel spot against the Bengals, the Ravens went with the versatile Elam to provide more support from the nickel against the run. Harbaugh complimented Elam’s ability to pick up the intricacies of playing the position to provide more flexibility for the Baltimore defense.

“We’re blessed with safety depth, so it’s not a bad thing to get those guys on the field,” Harbaugh said. “But a guy like Matt being in there playing [the nickel] gives you a nice little run-nickel package, because he’ll fly around and hit you and tackle you. He’ll be the first to tell you he tackled better in the second half than he did the first half. It builds our defensive package in good ways, because now you have a guy in there playing that can really defend the run, too.”

Against Pittsburgh, Elam played all 59 defensive snaps — most of them from the nickel position — while Miles participated in 48, a major change for a fifth-year safety primarily known for his special-teams ability.

West playing hometown team

Former Towson standout and Northwestern High product Terrance West’s NFL career is off to a strong start with the Browns, which has drawn plenty of attention from Ravens fans who clamored for the organization to draft him back in May.

West became the first rookie running back to collect at least 90 yards from scrimmage in his team’s first two games since Chris Johnson and Matt Forte — two Pro Bowl running backs — did it in 2008. In the wake of the Ray Rice release, it would be understandable for the Ravens to lament the inability to come away with the local product after he was selected with the 94th overall pick by Cleveland. Baltimore selected safety Terrence Brooks with the 79th overall pick and tight end Crockett Gillmore at 99th after West had just come off the board.

“Terrance is a guy that we really liked, as you know,” Harbaugh said. “We had designs on him in the draft, certainly, and Cleveland jumped up there and got him, and he has not disappointed. He has played really downhill, [and is a] hard runner, make-you-miss type of back [who] understands the scheme they’re running really well.”

West is receiving a heavier workload than anticipated with Browns veteran Ben Tate currently sidelined with a knee injury.

Hill reinstated before Week 7?

Despite reports suggesting suspended safety Will Hill could have his ban reduced under the terms of the NFL’s new drug policy, Harbaugh offered no indication whether that would happen when posed the question.

Hill is in the midst of a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. After receiving limited reps in the summer due to his situation, he could be an intriguing option at the safety position whenever he is reinstated.

“I have no sense of [a possible reduction] at all,” Harbaugh said. “No one has spoken to me about that, and I don’t know a thing about that right now. I’m interested in it though.”

Odds & ends

Harbaugh defended linebacker Courtney Upshaw’s technique on the penalized hit against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the opening drive of Thursday’s game, insisting he did exactly what he’s been coached and to play it differently would have put him at risk for injury. “We’re never going to put our player in position to coach him to drop his head. Football has always been about seeing what you hit — heads-up football keeping your eyes up.” … Asked about the chances of seeing Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel on the field, Harbaugh said the Ravens will be prepared for the first-round pick while also going out of his way to praise starter Brian Hoyer. “He’s the best quarterback they’ve had in a number of years. He’s playing great. Then, they have Johnny Manziel as part of their arsenal. So, it’s something to contend with for sure.” … The Ravens signed rookie free agent cornerback Lou Young to their practice squad Monday to fill the spot vacated by cornerback Jamell Fleming, who was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs to their 53-man roster last week.

 

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