Tag Archive | "Ravens"

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Five questions pondering Arrieta, 2015 Ravens draft, Gonzalez

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or did Thursday bring a cruel juxtaposition with ex-Oriole Jake Arrieta earning his 15th win while T.J. McFarland was mopping up in a blowout loss? More than two years later, it’s painfully obvious that Dan Duquette’s decision to trade Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger was the wrong move. The long man spot in the bullpen occupied by the then-Rule 5 pick McFarland would have been the perfect role for Arrieta, who would flash brilliance with Baltimore but was clearly struggling to establish himself with a 5.46 ERA in 69 career games (63 starts) and was out of minor-league options in 2013. Having blossomed into one of the best pitchers in the National League, Arrieta may never have found that success with the Orioles, but seeing McFarland toil as no better than a fringe reliever two years later just reinforces the organization’s strange obsession with the Rule 5 draft and how it’s often hurt them while providing little return.

2. Is it just me or is the perceived difficulty of this year’s training camp preparing the Ravens for a brutal start to the regular season? More than a few players have talked about the challenge of this camp compared to past years even though John Harbaugh already owned a reputation for working his players hard. That reality and the trip to Philadelphia to practice with the Eagles for three days ahead of Saturday’s preseason game have to be considered the tuneup for the start of the regular season that features five of the first seven on the road and two long-term road trips out west in which the Ravens will cut down on travel time between games. Harbaugh loves the expression “iron sharpens iron” and his team will need to be tough early to avoid an uphill climb to the postseason in the second half. If the Ravens can start no worse than 4-3, they should be in good shape for the rest of the season that features three consecutive home games in November and three of the last four at M&T Bank Stadium.

3. Is it just me or does the Miguel Gonzalez situation need to be handled delicately if you’re Buck Showalter? Many disagreed with Showalter stating Friday that the right-hander remains the club’s “best option” for the rotation and there’s little defending a 6.48 ERA since his return from the disabled list in late June, but this is a different situation than the one with Bud Norris when Kevin Gausman was ready and waiting earlier this year. With Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright both sidelined with injuries, there isn’t an alternative beyond bringing up a non-prospect type like Chris Jones just for the sake of doing it. Even if the Orioles do remove Gonzalez from the rotation, it would be wrong to completely bury him for the long haul as he not only has a remaining minor-league option, but he is under club control for a couple more seasons. Unlike Norris who was a pending free agent and little more than an average starting pitcher before 2014, Gonzalez pitched at a strong level for three full years before the struggles of the last two months and that shouldn’t be forgotten when looking toward the future.

4. Is it just me or is the Ravens’ 2015 draft class standing on its head right now? With first-rounder Breshad Perriman injured and second-round tight end Maxx Williams still working to establish himself, you do wonder how quickly the Ravens’ top two choices from this year’s draft will be ready to contribute. However, a pair of late-round picks have earned attention this summer as fifth-round tight end Nick Boyle and sixth-round wideout Darren Waller continue to make plays in practices. Boyle has dropped passes at times, but the football continues to be thrown his way as he turned heads during the practices in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-6 Waller is ahead of where most thought he’d be in his development after playing in a triple-option attack at Georgia Tech. Neither player is going to start, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Waller and Boyle involved more in the passing game — particularly in the red zone — than most would have predicted for their rookie seasons.

5. Is it just me or is Marlon Brown a player who needs to be careful not to land himself on the bubble? While Waller has established himself as a viable option for the 53-man roster, the 6-foot-5 Brown has battled back and hamstring injuries this summer and hasn’t done much to stand out when he has been on the practice field. Even in the spring, I thought Brown needed to have a strong camp to be a roster lock and that simply hasn’t happened, making you wonder if his spot could be in some jeopardy with other young receivers such as Waller, Jeremy Butler, and DeAndre Carter jockeying for roles. The University of Georgia product did improve as 2014 progressed, but he finished his second NFL season with just 24 receptions and no touchdowns after a 49-catch, seven-touchdown rookie campaign. For now, I’d still bet on Brown making the team, but he needs to pick up his play over the next couple preseason games to put a slow start behind him.

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ko

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Osemele returns to practice while nursing Achilles issue

Posted on 21 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Completing their second day of practice against the Eagles in Philadelphia, the Ravens continued to be less than 100 percent along their offensive line with a few players dealing with injuries.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele returned to the practice field on Thursday for the first time since playing in the preseason opener a week ago. A lingering Achilles tendon issue has plagued Osemele for the last couple weeks as the Ravens try to manage giving him enough rest against the need for him to receive the necessary reps to prepare for the start of the season.

“It’s a tough balance, because I think we’re going to err on the side of making sure he is ready to go,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We do that with everybody, really. K.O. can always use the reps. He and Eugene [Monroe] can definitely work together. By the same token, you need him ready to go when you need him ready to go. We’ve been kind of doing that balancing act with all of our guys.”

In addition to the injury being a concern for the Ravens, Osemele is entering the final year of his rookie contract and would appear to be in line for a significant payday should he have a strong 2015 season.

While Osemele was on the field for the first time in a week, right tackle Rick Wagner was held out of Thursday’s practice against the Eagles after being shaken up a day earlier.

The Ravens have limited Wagner’s practice reps at times this summer after he missed the entire spring while recovering from last December’s Lisfranc injury, but he has shown few effects of the injury. Harbaugh did not indicate following Thursday’s practice that the third-year lineman was dealing with a new injury.

“Rick has been rehabbing a foot. He had foot surgery in the offseason,” Harbaugh said. “He fell into a pile yesterday, so we decided to give him a little rest.”

Fifth-year reserve Jah Reid is listed as the primary backup to Wagner, but the former third-round pick has been sidelined all week with a sore back. It’s an unfortunate but familiar development for a much-maligned player who has had a good summer after years of injuries and disappointing play.

Second-year lineman James Hurst worked with the first-team offense with Wagner and Reid both sidelined on Thursday.

“Jah had back spasms three days ago just doing nothing,” Harbaugh said. “It just locked up on him, so they’re trying to loosen those things up right now.”

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Perriman undergoes MRI on sprained knee

Posted on 18 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Nearly three weeks after suffering a sprained knee on the first full-squad day of training camp, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam that revealed nothing abnormal.

The rookie hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee while diving for a pass on July 30, but the ailment was initially described as a bruise that would not keep the first-round pick out for more than a day or two. Perriman underwent the MRI on Monday and has now missed 13 consecutive practices in addition to the preseason opener against New Orleans.

“[The results] came back, essentially, normal. We were looking for anything [unusual],” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It has just gone slower than our doctors anticipated it would, so we wanted to get an MRI and see if there was something in there that we didn’t know about, and there wasn’t. It was normal.

“[There is] still a little bit of swelling and still a little bit of sprain — that’s what they call it — and we just have to keep working on it and get him back.”

Though more than three weeks remain until the season opener in Denver, Perriman has missed valuable practice time as the Ravens hope he can provide a vertical threat in the passing game before eventually developing into the No. 1 wideout to replace the retiring Steve Smith at the end of the season. Prior to the injury, the organization believed the 6-foot-2, 218-pound receiver was well ahead of where former Raven Torrey Smith was at the same point in his rookie year before he caught 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.

Selected with the 26th overall pick of the first round on April 30, Perriman is listed as the backup behind No. 2 receiver Kamar Aiken on the Ravens’ current depth chart. His absence and the extensive time missed by third-year receiver Marlon Brown have led to more opportunities for the likes of Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller to work with the first-team offense in three- and four-receiver formations.

Now all but guaranteed that Perriman will miss the Ravens’ second preseason game in Philadelphia, he would likely need to return at some point over the next several days to have a good chance to play in the all-important third preseason game against Washington on Aug. 29. Harbaugh typically does not play his starters in the preseason finale, meaning Perriman may not have the opportunity to gain live-game experience with quarterback Joe Flacco before the start of the regular season on Sept. 13.

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Brooks activated, Pitta to remain on PUP list to begin season

Posted on 18 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Just over eight months after suffering a serious knee injury, Ravens safety Terrence Brooks was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday.

The 2014 third-round pick returned to the practice field and has progressed quickly from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Dec. 14. General manager Ozzie Newsome initially said in the offseason that Brooks would begin the regular season on the PUP list, but the Florida State product made great strides in the spring, taking part in voluntary workouts.

“I was already up really early before my alarm clock went off,” said Brooks, who added that he hasn’t taken any time off from the rehabilitation process since injuring his knee. “I was ready to get here, but it was a good day. I definitely didn’t want to sit out this whole year. I put in my mind that I was going to come back and be even stronger than before.”

Describing his knee injury as a “wake-up call” after being disappointed with his rookie year, Brooks’ return boosts depth at the safety position, which was thin behind starters Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill. The Ravens lost 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam to a torn biceps in the first week of training camp.

The plan is to bring Brooks along slowly as he was noncommittal about playing in the Ravens’ second preseason game in Philadelphia on Saturday. But Tuesday’s activation made it clear that Baltimore believes Brooks will be ready to contribute in time for the season opener in Denver.

“We’ve been talking about this for about the last week,” Harbaugh said. “We felt like he’s way ahead of his rehab. He has really done a great job. I don’t think you ever really know how well a guy is going to move around, football-wise, until he starts moving around [in that way].”

Pitta won’t return until mid-season at earliest

With Brooks being activated on Tuesday, tight end Dennis Pitta is the only Ravens player remaining on the active PUP list and Harbaugh confirmed his return is not imminent.

The 30-year-old will remain on the PUP list to begin the regular season, meaning he will miss at least the first six weeks of action after suffering serious right hip injuries in consecutive years. However, it remains unclear if the 2010 fourth-round pick will play again as the Ravens have prepared for the possibility that Pitta’s playing career could be over.

“There’s more to it than just, ‘Can he play? Should he play? Will he be cleared to play?'” Harbaugh said. “And what [does] being ‘cleared to play’ entail in terms of liability and things like that? There’s a lot to it that has to be worked out. I get the impression that he wants to play. He’s rehabbing like crazy. But he’s going to have to make the decision if it’s the best thing for him going forward.”

After taking Crockett Gillmore in the third round of last year’s draft, the Ravens selected Minnesota’s Maxx Williams in the second round and Delaware’s Nick Boyle in the fifth round this spring, moves that reflected the uncertainty with Pitta’s future. Quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged earlier this summer that he’s gotten used to not having his close friend on the field with the veteran tight end having played in only seven games over the last two seasons.

Tuesday’s injury report

In addition to Brooks, the Ravens also welcomed the returns of cornerback Asa Jackson (knee), wide receiver Michael Campanaro, and rookie offensive lineman Robert Myers (concussion) to the practice field on Tuesday.

Myers had missed nearly two weeks of action since suffering a concussion. Harbaugh added that fellow reserve offensive lineman John Urschel was also close to being cleared after he was also concussed on Aug. 6.

Cornerback Lardarius Webb (hamstring), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee), left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), tight end Maxx Williams (undisclosed), linebacker Steven Means (groin), and offensive linemen Jah Reid (undisclosed) and Darryl Baldwin (undisclosed) did not participate in Tuesday’s workout. Webb has responded slowly to a hamstring strain suffered on Aug. 10.

“He had a little bit of a feel for it [and] couldn’t go in the game,” Harbaugh said. “He came out the next day and didn’t feel good the next day. Maybe he aggravated it a little, perhaps. You’ll have to ask him exactly. But it’s not right, right now, and he’s just nursing it and working it and trying to get it right.”

Rashaan Melvin and veteran Kyle Arrington have handled most of reps with the starting defense in Webb’s absence.

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Ravens receivers continue shuffling in and out of practice

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Health at the receiver position continues to be one of the Ravens’ biggest concerns of the summer with players shuffling in and out of workouts.

Monday brought the return of Kamar Aiken (foot) and Marlon Brown (back) to the practice field while second-year wideout Michael Campanaro (undisclosed) joined rookie Breshad Perriman as an absentee. Of course, the most pressing issue has been with Baltimore’s first-round pick, who hasn’t practiced since sustaining a knee injury on July 30.

Head coach John Harbaugh said over the weekend that he still expects Perriman to return during the preseason, but he has missed extensive practice time, making you wonder how prepared he’ll be to play a meaningful role by Week 1. Projected to be the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 receiver, Brown has also missed extensive practice time during training camp and only worked on a limited basis on Monday.

Those absences have led to more prominent looks for Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, and Darren Waller, but the Ravens know Perriman is the only wideout on the roster likely to be a high-ceiling threat in the vertical passing game.

“We’re disappointed for him, No. 1, that he can’t be out there to work,” said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman about Perriman’s extended absence. “There’s nothing we can do [about] it. We have to turn it into a positive, and the guys do so by understanding they have a great opportunity here to have another rep, another opportunity. We’ve got to continue to work to develop the guys we’re with, and that’s the positive side of it.

“That’s all we can control in this moment. We can’t control Breshad being out there. We’ll just go from there, and we’re very, very hopeful that he’ll be with us soon.”

Monday also brought the return of defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson, who primarily worked on an individual basis after missing a week with what Harbaugh described only as a strain.

In addition to Perriman and Campanaro, the Ravens were missing several other key players on Monday including left guard Kelechi Osemele (foot), cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), linebacker Steven Means (knee), and reserve offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Jah Reid (undisclosed). Jackson injured his knee in the preseason opener after he was given the first opportunity to return punts and kickoffs against New Orleans.

Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was pleased with the performance of both Jackson and Campanaro returning punts as the former returned two for 17 yards and the latter registered a 10-yard return. However, both players have dealt with injuries too often in their young careers.

“It’s a long way to go; we have a lot of practice [to go],” Rosburg said. “We get good opportunities again this week against Philadelphia in practice. Then, hopefully, we’ll make them punt a lot and get some more opportunities in the game. We can’t control the injuries; they are what they are. Hopefully, we get them back soon.”

Several players dealt with heat-related challenges throughout Monday’s practice as rookie wide receiver Darren Waller and tight end Maxx Williams both left the field early and did not return. Wideout Jeremy Butler left the field during practice but later returned.

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Sizing up the 2015 Ravens roster after the preseason opener

Posted on 17 August 2015 by Luke Jones

With the preseason opener against New Orleans in the rear-view mirror, I take a look at projecting the Ravens’ 53-man roster for the first time since the end of mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

My current look at the roster suggests 44 players are locks if the deadline to trim the roster to 53 took place today. My rough assessment of the 90 players currently on the preseason roster lists 17 players on the bubble. Not all bubble players are on equal footing, with certain positions lacking depth and others enjoying an abundance of talent.

Though general manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, and the remainder of the coaching staff and front office are aware of the number of players at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of wide receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens will look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their position.

The Ravens must trim the roster from 90 players to 75 on Sept. 1 and will go down to the regular-season number of 53 on Sept. 5.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players currently on the roster at that given position. Bubble players’ names that are underlined are currently on my projected 53-man roster as of Aug. 17.

QUARTERBACKS (3)
LOCK: Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Bryn Renner
Skinny: Renner was the hero in the preseason opener, but he still profiles as no more than a candidate for the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (7)
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Fitz Toussaint
LONG SHOT: Kiero Small, Terrence Magee
Skinny: Special-teams play could allow Touissant to steal one of the final roster spots while Magee looks like an intriguing practice-squad candidate.

WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
LOCK: Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman, Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro
BUBBLE: Darren Waller, Jeremy Butler, DeAndre Carter
LONG SHOT: Aldrick Robinson, Daniel Brown, Trent Steelman, Tom Nelson
Skinny: Plenty of competition remains at the receiver position, but it will be interesting to see how many the Ravens will keep, making the next two weeks critical for the second tier of wideouts.

TIGHT ENDS (6)
LOCK: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Konrad Reuland
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
INJURED RESERVE: Allen Reisner
Skinny: With Pitta expected to begin the year on the PUP list, there isn’t much drama here in terms of roster spots, but it will be intriguing to see how quickly Williams can close the gap on Gillmore.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (17)
LOCK: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Rick Wagner, Eugene Monroe, Jeremy Zuttah, John Urschel, James Hurst
BUBBLE: Robert Myers, Jah Reid, Ryan Jensen
LONG SHOT: Leon Brown, Kaleb Johnson, Marcel Jones, Nick Easton, Darryl Baldwin, Blaine Clausell, De’Ondre Wesley
Skinny: It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Ravens take advantage of an injury to stash the rookie Myers on injured reserve, which would open up a spot for the improved Jensen on the 53-man roster.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
LOCK: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy
BUBBLE: DeAngelo Tyson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi
LONG SHOT: Micajah Reynolds
INJURED RESERVE: Brent Urban
Skinny: After two years missed due to injuries, Lewis-Moore hasn’t been impressive this summer and now looks like he could be on the wrong side of the bubble without improvement.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (6)
LOCK: Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr
BUBBLE: Albert McClellan, Arthur Brown
LONG SHOT: Andrew Bose
Skinny: The Ravens could find a way to keep five inside linebackers, but it was telling that Brown, the 2013 second-round pick, didn’t play extensively on defense until the fourth quarter against New Orleans.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (7)
LOCK: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Za’Darius Smith
BUBBLE: Steven Means
LONG SHOT: Brennen Beyer, Zach Thompson
Skinny: Means’ leg injury sustained in the preseason opener could change the picture at this position, but the Ravens want to be sure to have enough depth behind Suggs and Dumervil.

CORNERBACKS (10)
LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker, Rashaan Melvin
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Quinton Pointer
LONG SHOT: Cassius Vaughn, Tramain Jacobs, Chris Greenwood
Skinny: Jackson is nursing a knee injury, but his status as the potential return specialist factors more heavily to his standing than his play at cornerback, meaning the surprising Pointer could still grab a spot.

SAFETIES (7)
LOCK: Will Hill, Kendrick Lewis, Anthony Levine
BUBBLE: Brynden Trawick, Nick Perry
LONG SHOT: None
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Terrence Brooks
INJURED RESERVE: Matt Elam
Skinny: Depth is a concern at safety with Elam likely done for the year and Brooks’ status up in the air for at least the start of the regular season, meaning Newsome should be looking to add depth here.

SPECIALISTS (5)
LOCK: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Justin Manton, Patrick Scales
Skinny: There’s just nothing to see here.

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Harbaugh still expecting Perriman back during preseason

Posted on 15 August 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One of the Ravens’ biggest concerns as they begin their third full week of training camp continues to be the status of first-round pick Breshad Perriman.

The rookie wide receiver hasn’t practiced since injuring his knee during the first full-squad workout on July 30, but head coach John Harbaugh remains optimistic that Perriman will return soon. Initially described as a bruise that would sideline the Central Florida product for a day or two, Perriman’s knee issue has now cost him 11 straight practices as well as the preseason opener.

A few days after the injury, Harbaugh mentioned the possibility of there being a minor strain, but the organization has remained tight-lipped about the specifics of the injury over the last two weeks.

“He’s got whatever they want to call it with his knee situation there,” Harbaugh said. “It’s not something that’s going to keep him out for a long period of time, they tell me. If I was a doctor, I’d give you more. [Head athletic trainer] Mark Smith’s right in there. You can walk right in there and ask him yourself, [but] I doubt he’d talk to you.”

The Ravens were without three of their top four projected receivers on Saturday as Kamar Aiken (undisclosed) and Marlon Brown (back) were also sidelined. Veteran No. 1 wideout Steve Smith tweaked his ankle during Saturday’s practice, but it did not appear serious as he finished the workout on a limited basis.

Selected with the 26th overall pick in this year’s draft, Perriman is being counted on to provide a vertical threat for the Baltimore passing game following the offseason departures of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.

The Ravens were pleased with Perriman’s work during spring workouts and have credited his mental approach to the game, but there’s no sugarcoating how much valuable practice time has been lost for the 6-foot-2, 218-pound wideout. At this point, his status for the second preseason game against Philadelphia appears cloudy at best.

“He’ll be back sometime here in training camp, hopefully soon,” Harbaugh said. “I hate that he’s missing it, hate that he’s not out here. I’ve got a knot in the pit of my stomach in some ways about it. In other ways, I know it’s out of our control.”

Other players missing from Saturday’s practice included cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Asa Jackson (knee), defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain), linebacker Steven Means (leg), and offensive linemen John Urschel (concussion), Robert Myers (concussion), and Darryl Baldwin (undisclosed). Tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and safety Terrence Brooks (knee) remain on the active physically unable to perform list.

The Ravens did see the return of starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who missed a few days of practice with a foot injury and did not play in the preseason opener.

Players will have Sunday off before returning to Owings Mills for two days of workouts before traveling to Philadelphia for a three-day practice session with the Eagles ahead of next Saturday’s preseason game.

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Five questions pondering Ravens preseason opener

Posted on 14 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens

Every Friday, I’ll ponder five topics related to the Ravens or Orioles (or a mix of both).

Five questions …

1. Is it just me or was rookie Carl Davis the most impressive player on the field for the Ravens on Thursday? With Timmy Jernigan, Chris Canty, and DeAngelo Tyson all sitting out the preseason opener, the third-round defensive tackle was told to not only expect to start but play extensively and he did, taking 41 snaps and not exiting the game until the fourth quarter when he began cramping up. Davis consistently controlled the line of scrimmage, maintaining gap control while also making a tackle for a loss and batting down a pass. Assuming Jernigan’s foot issue isn’t a long-term concern, it appears the combination of him and Davis will be more than sufficient in helping fill the void left behind by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said last week that the Ravens need Davis to contribute immediately, and he looks more than capable of doing so.

2. Is it just me or was the handling of Jimmy Smith a reflection of just how important the Ravens think he is to their success? Even though head coach John Harbaugh also sat Lardarius Webb against New Orleans, the decision to rest Smith showed how critical he is to the Ravens’ fate in 2015. The fifth-year corner has played very well in training camp, showing no effects of the season-ending Lisfranc injury suffered last October, but it was wise for the Ravens to keep his surgically-repaired foot off the turf at M&T Bank Stadium with a month remaining until the start of the regular season. Now, Smith can make his preseason debut on natural grass in Philadelphia before then playing on the home turf in the all-important third preseason game as a final tuneup for the regular season. Questions remain about Webb and the rest of the secondary, but Smith appears to only be getting better.

3. Is it just me or is the writing on the wall for former second-round pick Arthur Brown? Watching special-teams standouts Albert McClellan and Zach Orr struggle at inside linebacker for much of the evening spoke volumes about Brown, who didn’t see extensive playing time on defense until the fourth quarter. In his 21 defensive snaps, Brown made six tackles — one for a loss — but that all came against the Saints’ third-string offensive players. Perhaps the struggles of the other two and Brown’s fourth-quarter showing earn him an earlier look over the next three preseason games, but he’s consistently been behind McClellan and Orr during practices and doesn’t have the same special-teams prowess. The Ravens hate giving up on their early draft picks and there’s still time for Brown to turn his career around, but it’s fairly obvious that he finds himself firmly on the roster bubble this summer.

4. Is it just me or was Jeremy Butler a disappointment after much hype this spring and summer? While I haven’t been quite as enamored with the 6-foot-2 Butler as some observers, there’s no denying that he’s played well in practices, making his showing against the Saints an underwhelming development. After dropping what would have been a nice catch, Butler was too passive on a curl route and allowed backup Matt Schaub’s pass to easily be intercepted, a play that was mentioned by Harbaugh after the game. Butler caught one pass for 14 yards, but he played 40 snaps, more than any other receiver on the roster. In fairness to him, none of Baltimore’s young wideouts really stood out beyond Michael Campanaro, but Thursday seemed like a golden opportunity for Butler to shine with first-round rookie Breshad Perriman and third-year receiver Marlon Brown both on the sideline.

5. Is it just me or did the Saints do a disservice to their kickoff team — and the Ravens — by booting the ball through the end zone all night? Understanding New Orleans is currently having a kicking competition between Zach Hocker and Dustin Hopkins, I’m still not sure what the Saints got out of simply kicking six touchbacks on Thursday. Of course, this is only being mentioned because Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is trying to determine who will be his returner after Jacoby Jones was jettisoned in the offseason, but you’d think the Saints would want to evaluate their coverage team with the understanding that the weather won’t always allow you to kick touchbacks. As for the Ravens’ competition, the oft-injured Asa Jackson appears to be the early leader in the clubhouse, but we’ll wait to see where he stands after tweaking his knee on Thursday.

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Ravens come away from preseason opener with good feeling

Posted on 14 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Watching the Ravens veterans celebrate from the sideline in the closing seconds told the story of the preseason opener.

Of course, we know Bryn Renner’s touchdown run with two seconds remaining to give Baltimore a 30-27 comeback win was a fun moment but inconsequential to the fate of the 2015 season. If we’re being honest, most of what we saw on Thursday will have no bearing on the future.

But that sideline scene reflected the Ravens being able to come away from their first preseason game with a good feeling, and that’s all that matters with still a month remaining until they kick it off for real in Denver on Sept. 13. Head coach John Harbaugh knows his team has much of work to do between now and then, but that’s no different than any other team in the NFL with Super Bowl aspirations.

In their first and only drive of the night, Joe Flacco and the starting offense orchestrated a masterful 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by backup running back Lorenzo Taliaferro on fourth-and-goal. It was success in a short-yardage situation, an area in which an otherwise-stout offensive line struggled at times a year ago.

“In the first preseason game, you always feel a few nerves,” said Flacco, who completed five of six passes for 33 yards and added a 17-yard run on his only drive of the night. “You really want to do well, because you’re not playing that many reps and you need to make the most of them. It was a great way for us to start off the game.”

It was a good beginning for the starting unit under new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, but that’s all it was. The passing game remains a work in progress with rookie first-round receiver and vertical threat Breshad Perriman still sidelined with a knee injury and a young group of tight ends still finding their way in the offense, but the presence of a franchise quarterback and a healthy offensive line instantly puts the Ravens in promising position at this early stage.

A starting defense playing without cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb and defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan and Chris Canty wasn’t tested by a Drew Brees-less New Orleans offense as the Ravens forced two three-and-outs before many starters gave way to backups in the second quarter.

The defensive standout of the night was rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis, who nearly played the entire game and offered plenty of reasons why the Ravens were excited to nab him in the third round of this year’s draft. Davis finished with three tackles (one for a loss), a quarterback hit, and a batted pass at the line of scrimmage before being succumbing to mild leg cramps in the fourth quarter.

“It’s hard to start the season any better than that,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs about the starting defense. “The only thing we could have done better is to have some turnovers. Having two three-and-outs from the [starters], I think we can live with that. We didn’t have a lot of our starters in, so this is a good thing to build on.”

For all intents and purposes, the night could have concluded at the end of the first quarter for the Ravens as they enjoyed a 14-0 lead — backup quarterback Matt Schaub connected with second-year receiver Michael Campanaro on a 45-yard touchdown for the second score — and held the Saints to just 11 total yards in the first 15 minutes of play.

The rest of the evening didn’t go as smoothly as the second and third defensive units offered little resistance against the New Orleans backups. On the offensive side of the ball, a young group of receivers jockeying for roster spots behind Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Perriman, and Marlon Brown didn’t do much to distinguish themselves beyond Campanaro’s touchdown catch.

But the Ravens could rest easy in escaping the preseason opener without any catastrophic injuries to their most important players. Harbaugh did not provide injury updates on cornerback and return man Asa Jackson or outside linebacker Steven Means after the game, but he did announce that reserve tight end Allen Reisner suffered a lower leg fracture, an unfortunate outcome for someone who was a long shot to make the 53-man roster.

Ultimately, we know health is the most critical storyline on which to dwell this time of year.

So, if you can come away with that and strong play from your starters in the first preseason game, you can feel good about yourselves — regardless of the final score — before immediately getting back to work.

Because it will mostly be forgotten in the coming days anyway.

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Ravens-Saints: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 August 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens kicked off their 20th preseason in Baltimore by welcoming the New Orleans Saints to M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night.

While many starters were only expected to play a couple series in the preseason opener, head coach John Harbaugh will get his first look at new offensive coordinator’s Marc Trestman’s unit in live-game action against another opponent. Many principles of Gary Kubiak’s blocking schemes remain the same, but Trestman has added wrinkles to a passing game expected to include more use of the shotgun formation.

As expected, rookie first-round receiver Breshad Perriman did not play after injuring his knee in the first full-squad practice of training camp two weeks ago. His recovery has been slower than anticipated as the Ravens initially projected him only to miss a couple days.

Though he’s practiced throughout the summer after last year’s season-ending Lisfranc injury, starting cornerback Jimmy Smith did not play in the first preseason game. It’s likely that the Ravens wanted to keep his toe off the stadium turf with still a month remaining until the start of the regular season.

Other players who weren’t suit up for pre-game warmups included wide receiver Marlon Brown (back), guards John Urschel (concussion) and Robert Myers (concussion), defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain), Timmy Jernigan (foot), and Chris Canty, and outside linebacker Zach Thompson.

The referee for Thursday’s game was Clete Blakeman.

The Ravens wore white jerseys with black pants while New Orleans donned its black tops with gold pants.

Baltimore is 46-29 in all-time preseason play and 19-9 under Harbaugh. The Ravens and New Orleans are meeting in the preseason for the third time with Baltimore having won the first two played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Teams are not required to release a list of inactive for preseason games, but below was an unofficial list of Ravens players on the 90-man roster who were not playing on Thursday night:

CB Jimmy Smith
WR Breshad Perriman
WR Marlon Brown
G John Urschel
G Robert Myers
DE DeAngelo Tyson
DT Timmy Jernigan
DE Chris Canty
LB Zach Thompson
TE Dennis Pitta
S Terrence Brooks
S Matt Elam
DE Brent Urban

 

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