Tag Archive | "Robert Griffin III"

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Ravens-Broncos: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 September 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will be without two key defensive players for their Week 3 meeting with the Denver Broncos.

Ten days after suffering a bone bruise in his left knee, three-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is inactive and will miss only the third game in his NFL career. The news wasn’t surprising as the 2014 first-round pick sat out Friday’s practice after participating in Thursday’s session on only a limited basis. Rookie young Kenny Young is expected to make his first NFL start next to fellow inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor for the Baltimore defense, and safety Eric Weddle will relay calls from the sideline in the defensive huddle as he did in the second half of the Week 2 loss at Cincinnati.

The other concerning Week 3 absence for the Ravens is defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who missed practices all week with a foot injury. The Broncos entered Sunday ranked second in the NFL in rushing offense, so not having Pierce’s 6-foot, 340-pound frame in the defensive line rotation will be significant. With Pierce inactive and Willie Henry still recovering from August hernia surgery, rookie defensive lineman Zach Sieler — active for the first time in his career — and Patrick Ricard will need to offer contributions behind starters Brandon Williams, Chris Wormley, and Brent Urban.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active and will start despite injuring his right elbow late in the fourth quarter of the Bengals game. He practiced with a brace on his right arm all week, but the Ravens waiving reserve offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor on Saturday signaled that Stanley would play against the Broncos.

Linebacker Albert McClellan, cornerback Robertson Daniel, and wide receiver and return specialist Tim White are all active after being added to the 53-man roster this week. White will take over the return duties for Janarion Grant, who was waived Saturday after fumbling a return in each of the first two games. Daniel gives Baltimore a fifth healthy cornerback after rookie Anthony Averett injured his hamstring late in the week.

Broncos defensive back Adam Jones (thigh) is inactive, but starting right tackle Jared Veldheer will play for Denver after passing concussion protocol late in the week.

As was the case in the season opener two weeks ago, rain will be a factor as Weather.com forecasts a 90-percent chance of light-to-moderate precipitation throughout the afternoon with temperatures in the low 60s. Winds will be six to seven miles per hour, making for a better playing environment than what we saw in Week 1.

Sunday’s referee is Ron Torbert.

The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with white pants while Denver dons white tops with white pants for Week 3.

Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis is Sunday’s “Ravens Legend of the Game” and will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony

Sunday marks the 12th all-time meeting between these teams with the Broncos holding a 6-5 advantage and winning the last three regular-season encounters. The Ravens are 5-1 against Denver in regular-season games at M&T Bank Stadium and, of course, topped the Broncos in their 2000 and 2012 playoff runs that resulted in Super Bowl championships.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Robert Griffin III
WR Jordan Lasley
CB Anthony Averett
LB C.J. Mosley
DT Willie Henry
TE Hayden Hurst
DT Michael Pierce

DENVER
QB Kevin Hogan
CB Adam Jones
S Dymonte Thomas
LB Alexander Johnson
DE DeMarcus Walker
OT Elijah Wilkinson
G Sam Jones

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 September 2018 by Luke Jones

CINCINNATI — The Ravens look to begin a season 2-0 for the third straight year as they meet Cincinnati on Thursday Night Football.

There were no surprises on their inactives list after cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh), tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), and defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery) were already ruled out on Wednesday. For the second straight week, reserve quarterback Robert Griffin III is a healthy scratch, meaning rookie Lamar Jackson will be Joe Flacco’s only backup against the Bengals.

Rookie wide receiver and return specialist Janarion Grant is active and will play despite being listed as questionable to play with a hand injury. His ability to catch the ball will be something to monitor, especially early in the game.

A pair of rookie free agents will make their NFL debuts as cornerback Darious Williams and just-promoted running back De’Lance Turner are active. Williams is likely to serve in a special-teams capacity while Turner is now the No. 3 running back with Kenneth Dixon going on injured reserve on Wednesday.

The Bengals will be without starting middle linebacker Preston Brown, who is out with an ankle injury. Cincinnati is already dealing with the suspension of starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict, leaving its defensive vulnerable at the second level.

Thursday’s referee is Walt Anderson.

The Ravens have broken out a new uniform combination in prime time as they’ll wear purple pants with white jerseys for the first time in team history. These pants have a white and black side stripe and are similar to those introduced two years ago as part of the all-purple “Color Rush” uniforms. Cincinnati will wear black jerseys with white pants.

Thursday marks the 45th meeting in the all-time regular-season series with each team owning 22 wins and the Bengals having a 14-8 record in their home stadium. The Ravens have lost five of the last six played at Paul Brown Stadium, but they broke a five-game losing streak in Cincinnati last year with a 20-0 win in Week 1.

Below are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Robert Griffin III
WR Jordan Lasley
CB Maurice Canady
DT Willie Henry
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
TE Hayden Hurst
DT Zach Sieler

CINCINNATI
WR Cody Core
WR Auden Tate
RB Mark Walton
LB Preston Brown
G Christian Westerman
OT Cedric Ogbuehi
DT Josh Tupou

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Ravens-Bills: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 09 September 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The 2018 season will begin with less-than-ideal weather conditions as the Ravens host the Buffalo Bills.

According to Weather.com, significant rain will fall throughout the afternoon with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds 10 to 20 miles per hour with stronger gusts possible. Going back to last December, this will be the third straight regular-season home game with poor weather conditions after last Week 16 included heavy rain and the 2017 finale brought the coldest temperature for a home game (19 degrees) in franchise history.

Aiming to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, the Ravens will be without their top draft pick as rookie tight end Hayden Hurst will not play as he continues recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. Defensive tackle Willie Henry is also inactive after undergoing hernia surgery in late August. Third-year defensive lineman Michael Pierce will start in Henry’s place.

After much external debate this week about their backup quarterback plans, the Ravens will make rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson the game-day backup to starter Joe Flacco. Veteran Robert Griffin III is inactive, but he figures more prominently into Baltimore’s plans if Flacco were to miss an extended period of time.

As anticipated, cornerback Maurice Canady (hamstring) and inside linebacker Kenny Young (knee) are both active despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report. The Ravens deactivated rookie cornerback Darious Williams, which should reinforce their confidence in Canady’s health after an extended absence. Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman is also unlikely to be slinging the ball all over the field in such poor conditions.

Two rookies, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and center Bradley Bozeman, will be the only active reserve offensive linemen for the Ravens on Sunday since second-year lineman Jermaine Eluemunor was a healthy scratch.

The most interesting inactive note on the Buffalo side was the healthy scratch of former Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, who signed with the Bills in February and was competing for a starting job with Phillip Gaines this summer. Gaines will start on the outside opposite standout Tre’Davious White with rookie Taron Johnson serving as the nickel.

Sunday’s referee is Shawn Hochuli, the son of retired NFL referee Ed Hochuli.

The Ravens are wearing their white jerseys with white pants while Buffalo dons blue tops with white pants for Week 1.

Sunday marks the eighth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-3 series advantage. Buffalo is opening the season at M&T Bank Stadium for the second time in three years after Baltimore won a 13-7 final on Sept. 11, 2016. The Ravens are looking for their third straight season-opening win and are 7-3 in Week 1 games under head coach John Harbaugh.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Robert Griffin III
WR Jordan Lasley
CB Darious Williams
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
DL Zach Sieler
TE Hayden Hurst
DT Willie Henry

BUFFALO
CB Vontae Davis
TE Khari Lee
CB Ryan Lewis
WR Ray-Ray McCloud
OL Conor McDermott
LB Julian Stanford
G Wyatt Teller

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Even with three quarterbacks, Ravens shouldn’t overthink game-day plans

Posted on 06 September 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After months of discussing and practicing ways to incorporate explosive rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson in the flow of the offense, the Ravens are suddenly tight-lipped.

It’s hardly surprising since this is what NFL coaches do the week of a game that actually counts, but the decision to keep Robert Griffin III — giving Baltimore three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster to begin a season for the first time since 2009 — has led many to wonder what the game-day plan will be at the position behind starter Joe Flacco. Teams may activate only 46 players for each game.

“We’ll see,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “We’ll see how that goes.”

Carrying three quarterbacks is far from a novel approach despite the Ravens’ near-decade-long trend of keeping just two, but teams rarely activate all three for games as each active spot is valuable when accounting for the many reserves and special-teams players who contribute to winning games. For one example, Pittsburgh kept three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster all last season, but only two were active for each game.

There were only two instances last season in which the Ravens activated a player and didn’t use him other than sole backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, speaking to how extensively they use backups and special-teams players. In Week 11, offensive tackle Andrew Donnal was active as left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed the game with a concussion, but he was only going to play in an emergency after being claimed off waivers just days earlier. In Week 16, running back Terrance West was activated after a long layoff due to injury, but he was only an insurance policy after starter Alex Collins was banged up in the previous week’s game.

The Ravens leaving themselves vulnerable in another area to devote a third game-day spot to a quarterback unlikely to play would be surprising.

So, if only two quarterbacks are active, do they go with Jackson or Griffin behind Flacco?

The organization certainly values Griffin’s presence to step in should something happen to Flacco that would force him out of action for a few games, but the immediate appeal of drafting Jackson was to utilize his unique skills in creative ways, adding a play-making element to this offense that’s sorely needed. Deactivating Jackson in favor of Griffin might put the Ravens in a slightly better position in the event of an in-game injury to Flacco, but it would also stunt the offense’s potential upside and strip the rookie of experience. We don’t know whether Jackson will become a successful franchise quarterback in the future, but there’s no doubting his ability to contribute in certain situations right away.

The truth is backups receive very few practice reps with the starting offense over the course of the week, inevitably throwing any team into some degree of panic when the starter goes down in the middle of a game. Should that happen to the Ravens with Jackson as the only backup, they should just embrace that chaos by breaking out gadget plays, relying on their rushing attack, and leaning on their stout defense to get them through the game. Of course, if Flacco were to miss the following week’s game as well, Baltimore would turn to Griffin as the starter with Jackson remaining in his same game-day backup and hybrid role. Such an arrangement would seem to be the logical balance between optimizing the use of game-day roster spots and taking advantage of Jackson’s explosive athleticism.

“We’ll do whatever is best for our team,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “Any given Sunday, we’ll have the 46 guys up that give us the best chance to be successful, and we’ll just see what that is every week.”

Starting right tackle decided — for now

Mornhinweg confirmed veteran James Hurst will begin the season as the starting right tackle after the summer competition with rookie Orlando Brown.

It looked like the third-round pick might win the job as Hurst worked exclusively at right guard filling in for Marshal Yanda over the first few weeks of training camp and in preseason games, but Hurst began practicing at right tackle with the first-team line upon Yanda’s return to practice in August. Hurst has started 32 games in his career, but previous stints were all the result of injuries including left guard Alex Lewis’ season-ending shoulder injury last summer that led to Hurst starting all 16 games in 2017.

“Last year was kind of an injury circumstance with Alex,” Hurst said. “That was a goal. All preseason, I knew that I wanted to be a starter; I wanted to earn that starting spot and have that faith from the coaches. It’s very exciting for me, but it’s a stepping stone. You’ve got to build off that.”

The Ravens have frequently deferred to veterans in position battles in the past, but that doesn’t mean Brown won’t be able to unseat Hurst in the near future, especially if the veteran struggles on the outside as he did in past stints at both tackle spots.

“Orlando is coming. Orlando had just an outstanding preseason and training camp,” Mornhinweg said. “Orlando is ready to go. Now, that preparation is going to be key for him. James is a heck of a player, and Orlando’s on the come up.”

McClellan departs

The decision to release longtime reserve linebacker Albert McClellan may have been the Ravens’ most difficult last weekend.

Harbaugh has acknowledged the possibility of McClellan returning at some point, but special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg expressed his gratitude for the veteran’s contributions over the years.

“Albert made the meeting easy; he was amazing like you might expect him to be I guess,” Rosburg said. “Hopefully, I heard it mentioned that perhaps this is not over. I hope that’s the case, but we’ll see what goes on down the road. I know I owe a great deal to him personally. He’s been a big part of my life, and I know our club has been better for him being here, both as a player and a person.”

One of McClellan’s final acts was helping out the rookie who took his place on the 53-man roster. Chris Board, an undrafted free agent from North Dakota State, is expected to serve as a special-teams contributor and backup inside linebacker.

“He definitely taught me a lot, especially as far as special teams,” Board said. “He was kind of my mentor throughout this whole process [with] me being a rookie not knowing what to expect. I definitely have some really big shoes to fill.”

Thursday’s injury report

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Willie Henry (abdomen), TE Hayden Hurst (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Maurice Canady (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Kenny Young (knee)

BUFFALO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury), WR Ray-Ray McCloud (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Julian Stanford (nose)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of 2018 season opener

Posted on 04 September 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens opening the 2018 season by hosting Buffalo on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I’m more optimistic about the Ravens than I’ve been in a few years, but it has very little to do with the 5-0 preseason beyond staying pretty healthy. The Indianapolis game was the only time Baltimore played at full strength — or close to it — against another team at full strength.

2. Is it more surprising that Alex Collins, Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead combined to touch the ball only eight times in the preseason or that no one is talking about that? To be clear, that’s not a criticism, but it speaks to the unknown still at work here.

3. Is anyone else tired of talking about the backup quarterback situation? A healthy Joe Flacco playing at a higher level is the key to this season — not whether Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III is backing him up. In a perfect world, Griffin doesn’t take a snap all season.

4. Bills coach Sean McDermott made the right call naming Nathan Peterman his starting quarterback and protecting first-round pick Josh Allen from playing on the road against a tough Baltimore defense that’s frequently eaten rookie quarterbacks alive over the years. That won’t save Peterman though.

5. Remember how the Ravens had $17 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2015, the year they finished 5-11? Fresh off their first playoff appearance of the millennium, the Bills are carrying an unthinkable $53.1 million in dead money on this year’s cap. You can’t win that way.

6. Willie Henry’s early absence could change things, but I like the decision to shift Brandon Williams back to nose tackle after he played more of the 3-technique spot with Michael Pierce at the nose last year. Williams is excellent against the run, so you want to maximize his biggest strength.

7. The practice-squad signings of Cyrus Jones and Tim White should signal to Janarion Grant not to get too comfortable as the return specialist. I’m not convinced the Ravens have found their answer in this department or if that individual is currently in the organization.

8. I’m not sure how long rookie cornerback Darious Williams will be on the 53-man roster, but he began his Alabama-Birmingham career as a walk-on and stayed put through the football program’s temporary disbandment and two-year hiatus from playing games. That’s quite a journey to the NFL.

9. Four teams making waiver claims on Carl Davis and his release even after Henry’s injury should speak to the depth of the Baltimore defensive line. Seeing Cleveland grab the versatile Davis wasn’t remotely surprising.

10. The Ravens are starting their second decade of the John Harbaugh-Flacco era. Some would argue that isn’t a good thing, but that kind of continuity isn’t fully appreciated until it’s gone. Over the last decade, the Browns have had six head coaches and used 19 starting quarterbacks.

11. Questions remain about the circumstances that led to Kaare Vedvik being found with head and upper-body injuries early Saturday in East Baltimore. I feel for the 24-year-old as he had a good chance to be kicking in the NFL this year, but the outcome could have been much worse.

12. Kudos to the Ravens for naming Anquan Boldin their “Legend of the Game” for the opener. Does this reverse the “Boldin Curse” that’s resulted in four non-playoff seasons since he was traded for a sixth-round pick five weeks after Super Bowl XLVII?

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Breaking down the 2018 Ravens’ initial 53-man roster

Posted on 01 September 2018 by Luke Jones

It’s important to remember Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will continue to explore additions and other changes to the roster with a move or two likely before the Sept. 9 opener against Buffalo, but below is a breakdown of the 53-man roster as it stood on Saturday evening:

QUARTERBACKS (3) — Joe Flacco, Robert Griffin III, Lamar Jackson
Analysis: The skeptic would say the Ravens drafted a quarterback in the first round and don’t even trust him to be the backup, but a few players going on injured reserve in recent days made it easier to keep Griffin on the 53-man roster — at least for now. I still believe Jackson would be perfectly fine handling the No. 2 job, but I’m indifferent to backup quarterback conversation and the Ravens would be in trouble with either reserve at the helm if Flacco were to miss more than a game or two.

RUNNING BACKS (4) — Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard
Analysis: There were no surprises with this group other than perhaps Dixon not making a stronger push for touches behind Collins and Allen this summer. The 2016 fourth-round pick remains a wild card in this rushing attack, but health issues have continued to stunt his development. Ricard could find himself earning even more snaps on the defensive line than at fullback after the summer he had.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6) — Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant
Analysis: Lasley and Grant were the last men standing in a very underwhelming competition among the young wide receivers and return specialists in camp. It would have been a bad look for the Ravens to cut a fifth-round pick with their draft history at the wide receiver position, and Grant cleanly beat out Tim White despite losing a fumble in the preseason. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Ravens scan the waiver wire for another option in the return game.

TIGHT ENDS (4) — Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst
Analysis: Hurst’s absence due to a foot injury made Williams’ blocking ability indispensable in Baltimore’s run-blocking schemes, but the Ravens need someone to emerge in the passing game until the first-round rookie returns. Andrews, a third-round rookie, finally had a strong showing against backups in the final preseason game, but he had an underwhelming summer beyond that.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) — Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda, Orlando Brown Jr., James Hurst, Jermaine Eleumunor, Bradley Bozeman
Analysis: Head coach John Harbaugh should feel good about right tackle after the rookie Brown’s performance in the preseason, but center remains a concern with Skura looking shaky and the Ravens apparently preferring to keep Lewis at guard after giving him some center reps this summer. Hurst’s versatility is valuable, but Eluemunor and Bozeman didn’t inspire confidence with their preseason play. Adding a quality depth piece or two should be the top priority for Newsome in the coming days.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6) — Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Chris Wormley, Zach Sieler, Willie Henry
Analysis: With Henry sidelined for a few weeks due to hernia surgery, I thought the Ravens might value Carl Davis’ versatility a little more, but there’s more than enough depth to feel good about this group as Ricard gives them a seventh defensive lineman. Wormley worked outside and inside this summer, so the Ravens hope he can add some quality versatility after a quiet rookie year. Is this the year Urban finally stays healthy and fulfills his potential?

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) — C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board
Analysis: Albert McClellan’s release suggests the knee injury suffered by Young in the preseason finale isn’t too serious. Onwuasor figures to receive the veteran courtesy in what will be an early timeshare at the spot next to Mosley, but the fourth-round rookie Young looks too promising to keep off the field for long. Board is the latest rookie free-agent linebacker to make the Ravens roster, joining the likes of Bart Scott, Jameel McClain, Dannell Ellerbe, Zach Orr, and Onwuasor over the years.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5) — Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser
Analysis: Williams looked like the most improved player on the roster this summer and should receive more pass-rushing snaps after an underwhelming rookie campaign. A groin injury cost Bowser valuable practice time, but he needs to take a step forward as the backup “Sam” linebacker to Judon. Suggs is still going strong entering his 16th season, but younger options showing improvement would allow the Ravens to keep the 35-year-old on more of a pitch count to keep him fresh late in the year.

CORNERBACKS (6) — Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett, Darious Williams
Analysis: This group isn’t as impressive at the top with Jimmy Smith serving a four-game suspension, but Young’s return from last year’s ACL injury and the 2018 fourth-round pick Averett’s strong summer make you feel better about the current depth. Williams’ inclusion on the roster was a surprise likely aided by Stanley Jean-Baptiste breaking his arm in the preseason finale. The key for the present and future will be Humphrey playing like a No. 1 corner, something he has the ability to do.

SAFETIES (4) — Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
Analysis: This group may lack someone with a dynamic center-field presence, but Weddle’s mental prowess and the versatility of the other three give new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale the ability to use various sub packages in passing situations. The Ravens appear committed to playing Jefferson closer to the line of scrimmage more consistently, but this is a big year for him to justify the big contract he received last year.

SPECIALISTS (3) — Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
Analysis: This trio enters its seventh consecutive season together. You rarely find continuity like that in the NFL.

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Ravens cut Perriman, keep Griffin to form initial 53-man roster

Posted on 01 September 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens parted ways with a former first-round pick while keeping another back from the football wilderness a year ago to shape their initial 53-man roster for the 2018 season.

Disappointing 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman headlined a list of 18 cuts on Saturday, officially bringing an end to his time in Baltimore. Perriman led the Ravens in receptions and receiving yards this preseason, the first healthy summer of his career, but the 24-year-old was no better than fifth on the receiver depth chart and hadn’t logged a single special-teams play in the preseason. Those realities made him expendable as he entered the final year of his rookie contract.

Perriman will go down as arguably the worst first-round pick in team history as he recorded just 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns in 27 career games. He is the only first-round selection in franchise history not to play out his entire rookie contract.

On the flip side, former first-round quarterback Robert Griffin III completed his NFL comeback by making the 53-man roster as a backup to veteran starter Joe Flacco and a mentor to rookie first-rounder Lamar Jackson. The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and 2012 Pro Bowl quarterback was out of the league last year following mounting injuries and poor play with Washington and Cleveland, but his 87.8 passer rating in four preseason games apparently sparked Baltimore to enter the regular season with three quarterbacks for the first time since 2009.

It’s worth noting, however, that Griffin continues to draw trade interest from other teams, according to Sports Illustrated.

In a scary development, the Ravens placed rookie kicker and punter Kaare Vedvik on the reserve non-football injury list after he sustained head and upper-body injuries in an early Saturday incident the Baltimore Police Department is still investigating. Vedvik had been drawing interest from other teams with the Ravens being set in the kicking department with former Pro Bowl selections Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. His injuries are not life-threatening, according to Baltimore Police.

Other notable cuts on Saturday included longtime special-teams standout and reserve linebacker Albert McClellan, 2017 fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa, former third-round defensive linemen Carl Davis and Bronson Kaufusi, and reserve tight ends Darren Waller and Vince Mayle. McClellan had been one of the longest-tenured members of the organization and appeared in 90 games from 2011-16 before suffering a season-ending knee injury last summer. The versatile Davis started nine games last season, but he and Kaufusi were the victims of deep numbers along the defensive line.

Siragusa has been slow to recover from a serious knee injury suffered early in his first training camp last summer and could be a candidate for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

In addition to keeping all 12 members of their 2018 draft class in the organization — three were placed on injured reserve earlier this week — the Ravens have extended their streak of keeping at least one rookie free agent on the 53-man roster to 15 years. Return specialist and wide receiver Janarion Grant, linebacker Chris Board, and cornerback Darious Williams all made the active roster on Saturday. Grant made it over fellow return specialist and wide receiver Tim White, who was waived after spending the 2017 season on IR.

The Ravens also cut the following players on Saturday afternoon: offensive linemen Randin Crecelius, Cameron Lee, and Maurquice Shakir; running backs Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner, and Christopher Ezeala, defensive end Myles Humphrey, wide receiver Andre Levrone, and quarterback Josh Woodrum.

 

 

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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2018 preseason

Posted on 31 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the 2018 preseason in the books, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 9.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of Baltimore’s 53-man roster ahead of the regular season with general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh making cuts by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the first 53-man squad as the Ravens will explore outside moves and additions over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, arbitrarily keeping a specific number of receivers or linebackers or defensive linemen isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53-player combination with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that could potentially result in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens always look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions. They must also consider recent injuries to players who won’t be available for the first few games of the season and make sure they’re covered from a depth standpoint.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson
OUT: Robert Griffin III, Josh Woodrum
Skinny: Even with Griffin sitting against Washington, I’ll stick with two quarterbacks, especially with the growth shown by Jackson over the last two games. I don’t think Harbaugh saying Griffin “looks like a starter” was by accident as the Ravens will try to find a trade partner in hopes of acquiring a modest depth piece such as an offensive lineman or someone with return experience. Of course, I won’t be shocked if Griffin stays, but it’s strange that a team that was content with Ryan Mallett backing up an ailing Flacco last year would suddenly change its backup standard so much with its first-round pick.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (4)
IN: Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Patrick Ricard
OUT: Gus Edwards, Mark Thompson, De’Lance Turner
PRACTICE SQUAD ROSTER EXEMPTION: Christopher Ezeala
Skinny: I’d be surprised not to see at least one of these rookie free agents on the practice squad as they all had their moments this preseason, but this group appears set. Ricard may also find himself with a bigger role in the defensive line rotation after the way he played this summer.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)
IN: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley
OUT: Tim White, Janarion Grant, Breshad Perriman, Andre Levrone, DeVier Posey
INJURED RESERVE: Jaleel Scott
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Quincy Adeboyejo
Skinny: Neither White nor Grant did enough this summer to warrant a roster spot as a return specialist, but the Ravens should be able to get one of them to the practice squad while searching for an outside addition. Moore did a good job returning kickoffs last year, and Snead could serve as a conservative punt returner mostly calling fair catches. Lasley had a disappointing preseason, but he showed enough potential during training camp to justify not giving up on him so quickly.

TIGHT ENDS (5)
IN: Hayden Hurst, Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, Darren Waller
OUT: Vince Mayle, Nick Keizer
Skinny: With the young wide receiver competition never materializing and Hurst out for at least the first couple games, Waller surprisingly sneaks onto the roster primarily as a special-teams player, and his size and athleticism make him a potential option in the red zone and as a bigger slot receiver. Andrews’ performance in the preseason finale was encouraging as the Ravens need someone from this group to be at least a moderate factor in the passing game until Hurst returns from the foot injury.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, Orlando Brown Jr., James Hurst, Bradley Bozeman, Jermaine Eluemunor
OUT:  Nico Siragusa, Andrew Donnal, Maurquice Shakir, Randin Crecelius, Justin Evans, Cameron Lee
INJURED RESERVE: Greg Senat
Skinny: Brown’s development at right tackle was one of the biggest positives of the summer, but the center position remains a concern and no one beyond the top six has inspired confidence as a depth piece. Newsome will likely be working the phones trying to add some veteran help for this group. Given his status as a former fourth-round pick, Siragusa making the roster wouldn’t be surprising, but he just doesn’t look 100 percent after last summer’s serious knee injury.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)
IN: Brandon Williams, Willie Henry, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Brent Urban, Zach Sieler, Carl Davis
OUT: Bronson Kaufusi, Myles Humphrey, Christian LaCouture
Skinny: Before the news of Henry undergoing hernia surgery, I may have left Davis on the outside looking in, but his ability to play all three defensive line spots in the base defense makes him more attractive for the time being. Kaufusi had an excellent game against Washington, but he was way too quiet this summer and all last season to put too much stock into one performance.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, Chris Board, Albert McClellan
OUT: Alvin Jones
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Bam Bradley
Skinny: The Kamalei Correa trade and a potential knee injury for Young have changed the makeup of this position group. Board looks like the near-annual long shot the Ravens could keep and develop while he contributes on special teams. I had been predicting McClellan wouldn’t make it, but Correa and veteran departure Steven Johnson combined to play over 600 special-teams snaps last year. I’m not convinced Jerry Rosburg is just going to hand over that much responsibility to inexperienced players, and not playing McClellan on Thursday would be a tough way to send out the longtime Raven.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams, Tyus Bowser
OUT: none
Skinny: Tim Williams was the defensive star of the preseason and should receive more opportunities as a situational pass rusher, but Bowser missing so much of the summer with a groin injury has certainly tempered expectations of him taking a big leap in his second season.

CORNERBACKS (5)
IN: Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, Anthony Averett
OUT: Darious Williams, Jackson Porter, Robertson Daniel
SUSPENDED: Jimmy Smith
RESERVE PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Jaylen Hill
INJURED RESERVE: Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Skinny: You have to feel for Jean-Baptiste, who looked like he was on his way to grabbing a roster spot before suffering what’s believed to be a broken arm in the preseason finale. Assuming Canady is ready to go for Week 1, the Ravens should be fine with only five cornerbacks since Anthony Levine is capable of playing some nickel in a game-day pinch. Regardless of the number of corners the Ravens keep, not having Smith for the first four games will be a challenge.

SAFETIES (4)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine
OUT: Kai Nacua, Bennett Jackson
INJURED RESERVE: DeShon Elliott
Skinny: With the long-term injuries suffered by Elliott and Jean-Baptiste in consecutive weeks, Nacua may have an outside shot to stick on the roster as a special-teams player, but four safeties should be fine.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox
OUT: Kaare Vedvik, Trent Sieg
Skinny: After watching him hit a 56-yard field goal to cap a very impressive summer, I get the feeling another team is going to be happy to have Vedvik in the not-too-distant future. A team with a lesser kicking battery would be thinking long and hard about making a change.

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perriman

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Ravens-Redskins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 29 August 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens conclude their longer-than-usual preseason schedule against Washington on Thursday night as final decisions loom to formulate their first 53-man roster of the 2018 season.

The next few days mark one of the most difficult times of the year for teams saying goodbye to players who’ve spent months — even years — proving their worth both on and off the field. Teams must trim their rosters from 90 to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday.

“I would say that we care about our guys, [and] our guys matter to us,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We love our players. … Yet as far as the decisions that are made, no, there’s no sentimentality. It’s all about what gives you the best football team that you can have.”

Very few starters will play in the preseason finale with the Sept. 9 opener against Buffalo less than two weeks away, but the Ravens presumably still have a few roster spots up for grabs. One of the biggest remaining questions is how general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh will fill out their depth along the offensive line behind the top six of Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Matt Skura, James Hurst, and rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr.

Brown has impressed in the competition with Hurst for the starting right tackle job, but the depth behind those established players remains unproven with second-year linemen Jermaine Eluemunor and Nico Siragusa and rookies Bradly Bozeman and Greg Senat vying for roster spots. Senat being sidelined with a case of turf toe could make him a candidate for injured reserve, but the Ravens surely would like to see one or two of these candidates step up on Thursday to make the decisions easier.

“I feel like it’s developing. I think we have some guys,” said Harbaugh of the offensive line depth. “Orlando has really probably proven himself as a viable guy. Then after that, I think those guys are in the process of developing into viable guys. But we have candidates. In that, I mean they haven’t probably done it consistently as well as the other guys, but they’ve done it enough to make you feel like they can do it and they just have to keep stacking [good days].”

Of course, Newsome could still look for outside help to shore up the offensive line between now and the start of the season, but that’s a task many executives prioritize this time of year. The Ravens acquired guards Luke Bowanko and Tony Bergstrom in the days leading up to last year’s opener.

Thursday marks the 11th time the Ravens and Washington will face off in the preseason with Baltimore owning a 7-3 advantage. The all-time regular-season series is tied 3-3 with the Redskins winning the last two meetings in 2012 and 2016.

The Ravens own a 32-12 record in the preseason in the Harbaugh era and have won an improbable 12 straight exhibition contests.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what one would look like if it were to be released ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not include the many veterans expected to be held out of action as is typically done in the final preseason affair.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: TE Hayden Hurst (foot), DT Willie Henry (hernia surgery), CB Maurice Canady (muscle strain), OT Greg Senat (toe), S DeShon Elliott (forearm), LB Alvin Jones, LB Bam Bradley (knee), CB Jaylen Hill (knee), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps)
DOUBTFUL: S Bennett Jackson
QUESTIONABLE: LB Patrick Onwuasor, RB Gus Edwards (foot), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), OL James Hurst, G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/ankle)

Five players to watch Thursday night

QB Robert Griffin III

The former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has been one of the feel-good stories of the summer, returning from a one-year league hiatus to make a strong impression to put himself in the running for a roster spot. There’s little debating Griffin being the better quarterback than rookie Lamar Jackson in the present, but the Ravens haven’t kept three quarterbacks to begin a regular season since 2009 and have other roster considerations, especially with the recent injuries to tight end Hayden Hurst and defensive tackle Willie Henry. This decision is more about the current confidence level in Jackson to step in for Flacco in the event of an injury, but watching Griffin against his old team will be fun either way.

DT Carl Davis

Despite starting nine games last year, the 2015 third-round pick could land on the wrong side of the roster bubble as he enters the final year of his rookie contract, but Henry being sidelined opens up a spot in the defensive line rotation. Davis’ ability to play multiple positions in the trenches make him a more attractive piece, but a strong Thursday performance would serve him well before final decisions are made. The Ravens have also done everything they can to hoard defensive linemen in recent years.

OL Bradley Bozeman

The sixth-round rookie played extensively at center last Saturday and brings impressive collegiate experience as a multi-year starter at Alabama, but his lack of strength and slow feet have frequently been exposed. Harbaugh said he’s better suited for center than guard, but he’s not in the running to challenge projected starter Matt Skura, leaving something to be desired in terms of his versatility. In a perfect world, his development would continue on the practice squad, but the Ravens may not have that luxury.

LB Chris Board

Many had predicted one spot coming down to veteran Albert McClellan or 2016 second-round pick Kamalei Correa, but the latter being traded could prompt the Ravens to take a longer look at a young inside linebacker like Board, who has flashed this preseason. The North Dakota State product is hardly a household name and entered training camp as a long shot, but so did the likes of Zach Orr and Patrick Onwuasor in past summers. His usage on special teams Thursday could say much about his chances.

WR Breshad Perriman

It would be surprising if Thursday isn’t the final time Perriman suits up for the Ravens as he’s failed to impress as a receiver or special-teams player despite this being the first healthy summer of his career. Perhaps his time in Baltimore would have been different had he not gotten injured as a rookie, but a clean break is best for both sides. Perriman works hard and is well liked in the building, but he’ll have an easier time elsewhere where he’ll be viewed as a reclamation candidate and not as a first-round bust.

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jamesurban

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New quarterbacks coach Urban a breath of fresh air for Ravens offense

Posted on 29 August 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Working with three former first-round picks could have been a daunting challenge for new Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban.

No quarterback rises to such heights without having great confidence and, frankly, some ego to go with his talents, but Urban has effectively managed a room that includes a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and a Heisman Trophy winner drafted four months ago using a balance of fun and attention to detail. That atmosphere and plenty of hard work have left starter Joe Flacco, veteran Robert Griffin III, and rookie Lamar Jackson trending upward as the preseason concludes Thursday night.

Flacco appears poised for his best season in a few years, Jackson is coming off his best performance of the summer, and Griffin has impressed so much after a year away from the NFL that the Ravens are considering entering a season with three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009. Fourth-string quarterback Josh Woodrum even has a 98.5 passer rating in limited preseason snaps while serving as a knowledgeable asset in the classroom and on the practice field.

So, what stands out about Urban, who spent the last seven years as the wide receivers coach of the Cincinnati Bengals?

“The thing that I think he does the best is allows you to feel like a football player, not a robot,” said Griffin after taking a playful dig at Urban’s short stature. “Not like pushing this button and then you go there, and pushing this button and you go there. I think he allows you to feel the game. He wants you to feel like you’re being fluid in the pocket, that you’re moving naturally. He’s also a stickler for, ‘Hey, when versus this coverage or versus this coverage, you’re supposed to go here.’ But he understands that maybe sometimes somebody gets through or you felt something and that’s why you made that throw.

“He doesn’t try to coach the playmaker out of you.”

Such a philosophy easily relates to mobile quarterbacks like Griffin and Jackson, but one of the first things Urban noted about Flacco this spring was his natural arm talent, something that hasn’t been utilized effectively in recent seasons. It’s no coincidence the Ravens have placed more emphasis on the deep passing game in training camp with Flacco regularly connecting with explosive newcomer John Brown as well as the improving Chris Moore during practices.

Flacco is practicing better than he has in years, even if everyone has at least a slightly different theory as to why. The 33-year-old is healthier than he’s been in a long time as he’s now three years removed from a serious knee injury and completely over the back ailment that cost him the entire 2017 preseason and lingered into the regular season. The offseason additions of Brown, Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and first-round tight end Hayden Hurst give Baltimore a more diverse set of skill position players after too many years of halfhearted attempts to put better talent around the veteran quarterback.

Opinions vary on just how much Jackson’s selection has impacted Flacco, but it’s human nature in any line of work to feel more urgency when the boss brings in a potential threat to your livelihood, even if the starting job is unquestionably his for the foreseeable future. Shoddy footwork was a common criticism of the Super Bowl XLVII MVP over these last few years, but Urban has seen a player more than willing to be coached entering his 11th season.

“They’re little things,” said Urban, who immediately emphasized mobility, movement in the pocket, and footwork timing during spring workouts. “Generally, Joe has not balked at a single thing: not any drill work, not any extra little conditioning drill work, not extra meeting time, nothing. He’s been open, willing, ready, and wants to [succeed] very badly, and that’s just evident. I love how he’s competing in practice.”

Much has been made about the time Urban spent with Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia to help revitalize Michael Vick’s career with many naturally connecting those experiences to Jackson. However, their rapport goes beyond the rookie’s development as Mornhinweg admits the challenge of handling both coordinator and quarterbacks coaching duties was enjoyable but “a long, hard grind” as the Ravens offense struggled the last two seasons.

The new arrangement allows Mornhinweg to spend more time on the big picture of the entire offense and less with the quarterbacks while Urban serves as the liaison. That change shouldn’t be overlooked as Mornhinweg will be tasked with trying to take advantage of Jackson’s athleticism in some special packages while not upsetting the overall rhythm of the offense. Assistant head coach Greg Roman and Urban will also have input in that process with both having experience coaching mobile quarterbacks.

“Just the way [Urban] talks, the way we get in that room and the way he coaches it up, I think him and Marty have a connection, and they can talk the same lingo,” Flacco said. “I think that definitely helps when you get in the room. Last year, Marty was in our meetings constantly. Now, it allows him to go be a coordinator and bounce around from meeting to meeting, go up and spend some time by himself and work on the game plan. I think James has handled it well. He does a great job relaying that message. He’s somebody that we can talk to in meetings and bounce ideas off of, and then he can go relay them to Marty. It’s just a very good situation.”

While the 2018 performance of Flacco and the offense remains paramount as the Ravens try to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, the long-term development of Jackson will remain important. Much progress has been made as the Louisville product has adjusted to more complicated verbiage — which is quite common transitioning from college football — and to playing under center more frequently. Urban has worked with Jackson to widen the base of his throwing motion in hopes of improving his accuracy and has even had him practice calling plays in front of a mirror to express the terminology in the huddle more naturally.

Each quarterback has noted enjoying working with Urban, but the 44-year-old is not afraid to offer tough love when necessary. Jackson noted this past week that the quarterbacks coach was critical of him for not getting sufficiently warmed up before the Indianapolis game, his worst performance of the summer. He made a point to be ready upon entering the game in Miami before running for a touchdown and throwing another while completing 70 percent of his passes.

Many have expressed concern about the hits Jackson has absorbed this preseason, but Urban says it’s a delicate balance between wanting to keep him safe and not eliminating what attracted the Ravens to him in the first place. Urban and Griffin have coached and mentored Jackson about the importance of sliding and avoiding contact when possible, but both acknowledge taking some hits is going to be part of the 21-year-old’s maturation process.

“Lamar has been a sponge,” Urban said. “Lamar shows just enough personality that you really like, but he’s respectful. If he said it once, he’s said it a bunch of times: ‘Joe Flacco has won a Super Bowl. That dude is real.’ That kind of thing — it’s been great.”

Every image or morsel of information regarding Flacco and Jackson has been over-analyzed from the moment general manager Ozzie Newsome traded back into the first round to take the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner in April, something Urban made a point to joke about in the spring to break the ice and ease any tension that could have existed. The two may not be best friends ready to rent an apartment complete with bunk beds, but any notions of chilliness are overblown.

“There’s absolutely no animosity,” Woodrum said. “The media loves to make up stories just because they know people will read them. There’s no animosity or anything. Our unit in there is just awesome. We have a great time. We bounce ideas off each other. We try to help each other be the best we can because there’s only one of us on the field at once. If one of us shines, it makes the whole room look pretty good.”

There’s no telling what the future might hold for Flacco and Jackson beyond this season — and for Griffin and Woodrum much sooner than that — but Urban has catered to each individual’s needs this summer, leaving the quarterbacks, Mornhinweg, and the entire offense in a better place entering the season.

It’s a breath of fresh air the Ravens hope will translate to more success.

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