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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 14-13 win over New Orleans

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding a 4-0 preseason with a 14-13 win over New Orleans, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Ryan Mallett playing in the exhibition finale can be taken as a good sign regarding Joe Flacco’s status, but it also reflects how disappointing his play was this summer that the coaching staff wanted to see him take more snaps after starting the first three preseason games.

2. Receiving his only extensive action of the preseason, Marlon Humphrey was strong in run support and showed the signs of why he’s a first-round talent. He was flagged twice, but that many live-game reps were valuable for the 21-year-old cornerback going into the regular season.

3. Chris Moore caught a 1-yard touchdown, but seeing him on the field in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game says a lot about his status. Even with Breshad Perriman missing a month, the second-year receiver did little to establish himself as a trustworthy option in the passing game.

4. It was a disappointing summer for the entire batch of young receivers behind veterans Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin. Yes, the quarterback play was poor, but this group got very little separation in routes, something Brian Billick observed repeatedly in Thursday’s telecast.

5. Carl Davis has been identified as a bubble player because of the depth on the defensive line, but he did everything he could to put that discussion to rest. His interception showed off his athleticism, and he was disruptive at the line of scrimmage.

6. Willie Henry also applied pressure in the pocket with three quarterback hits, but he committed his fifth penalty of the preseason. His talent makes him worthy of the 53-man roster, but that lack of discipline quickly lands you in the coaching staff’s doghouse.

7. With Albert McClellan suffering a season-ending knee injury last week, Bam Bradley had a great opportunity to state his case for a roster spot and responded with five defensive tackles and three special-teams stops. The Ravens could use a veteran inside backer for depth, but Bradley has impressed.

8. So many are rooting for Keenan Reynolds to play in the NFL, but his fumbled punt return was disappointing to see. Perhaps he’ll be invited back to the practice squad for another season, but I’m just not seeing it with the former Navy quarterback. I hope I’m wrong.

9. Tim Williams didn’t register a tackle or a sack, but you could again see how disruptive he can be as a pass rusher. His limitations as a special-teams player could hinder his game-day status to start the season, but the potential is there coming off the edge.

10. The top three are set, but the remaining short-term cornerback depth suddenly looks shaky with Sheldon Price sustaining a concussion Thursday and Jaylen Hill and Robertson Daniel apparently banged up as well. Brandon Boykin also missed the final three preseason games.

11. Bobby Rainey had a strong night running the football, but the veteran’s playing time throughout the summer doesn’t suggest he’s even on the bubble. At least he comes away with some solid tape for other teams to consider after cut-down day.

12. I had to chuckle when John Harbaugh started walking toward the center of the field after Saints kicker Wil Lutz missed a 59-yard field goal try and then realized there were still 13 seconds remaining. I can hardly blame the head coach for wanting fake football season to be over.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 31 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the final chapter of a difficult preseason.

Having already endured a number of season-ending injuries and the summer-long absence of quarterback Joe Flacco, Baltimore concludes its exhibition schedule against New Orleans on Thursday night. Since teams are no longer required to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason contest, very few notable players are expected to see action.

The rule change certainly won’t make for a better product in the eyes of most casual fans, but head coach John Harbaugh appreciates having the extra roster flexibility with the season opener now only 10 days away.

“There is no way you are going to play certain guys in this game,” Harbaugh said. “This gives us a chance to put a good game out there, for one thing, but it also gives guys a chance to play. Young guys who are fighting for a spot on this team still or on other teams, they get a chance to get out there and play more reps rather than be sitting home looking at the phone.”

The Ravens and New Orleans are meeting in the preseason for the fourth straight year and the fifth time overall with Baltimore having won all four of the previous contests. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens own a 27-12 record in preseason games.

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 the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many starters and key reserves who will be held out of the final preseason game due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), LB Albert McClellan (knee), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

RB Taquan Mizzell

The undrafted free agent from Virginia leads the Ravens in both rushing and receiving in the preseason to put himself on the radar. His skill as a receiver out of the backfield is intriguing with Danny Woodhead currently sidelined, and he fared well when given snaps against Buffalo’s starting defense last week. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound back shows some upside in a group not having much of it.

DT Carl Davis

The 2015 third-round pick has had a solid preseason, but there may not be enough roster space for him, 2016 fourth-round selection Willie Henry, and rookie free agent Patrick Ricard. The fact that the latter two are under team control for a longer period of time could work against Davis, but he showed early promise as a rookie before missing the entire 2016 season due to injury.

WR Chris Matthews

Nothing beyond Matthews’s 6-foot-5 frame stands out as it relates to being a wide receiver, but he’s been a mainstay on most special-teams units this summer and at least looks the part of a red-zone target, something the Ravens are lacking right now. Other young receivers have failed to distinguish themselves, leaving the door open for Matthews’ special-team prowess to break any ties.

CB Robertson Daniel

Signed to the practice squad last October, Daniel is someone the Ravens have liked enough to keep in the organization, but the depth at outside cornerback ahead of him is stout. His 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame has allowed him to take a few reps at safety, the kind of versatility that doesn’t hurt a player’s chances. He and Sheldon Price could be competing for one spot on the 53-man roster.

OT De’Ondre Wesley

The 6-foot-6, 331-pound specimen really hasn’t done much this summer, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley just returned from injury this week and reserve left tackle James Husrt may end up starting at left guard, presumably creating a need for another offensive tackle. The Ravens have to be disappointed that Wesley and Stephane Nembot haven’t stepped forward in their development, but finding tackle depth isn’t easy.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 13-9 win over Buffalo

Posted on 27 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 in the preseason with a 13-9 win over Buffalo, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The narrative remained the same for the third preseason game with the defense excelling and the offense struggling to move the ball. Maybe the defense will be up to the task in 2017, but winning 13-9 games leaves very little margin for error.

2. I’ve said this before, but the defensive depth continues to impress as there’s been little drop-off in play from the opening quarter to the final minutes of each game. Ozzie Newsome isn’t going to be able to keep a few defensive players who definitely would have stuck in the past.

3. After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of the first two preseason games, the Ravens gained 41 yards on 16 carries in the first two quarters against the Bills. The running game is even more important with Joe Flacco’s situation, but it hasn’t shown many encouraging signs.

4. Baltimore was credited with six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The secondary has been strong and the young outside linebackers have received plenty of attention, but this deep defensive front has been very disruptive this summer.

5. Watching Justin Tucker make tackles or even pick up a fumble in Miami last week makes for a fun story until he suffers a close call like he did on Saturday night. The Ravens really need their All-Pro kicker to show more restraint, especially in a meaningless preseason game.

6. Rather than asking whether Jaylen Hill makes the roster, I’m now wondering how long it will be before he carves out a meaningful role on the defense. Lardarius Webb has had a strong summer at the nickel, but there’s a reason why he was moved to safety two years ago.

7. Nothing enhances the enjoyment of preseason football more than a combined 17 penalties for 156 yards in the first half. Our poor eyes.

8. Patrick Onwuasor alternating series with Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker was one of the more interesting developments of the third preseason game. He’s only 227 pounds, but Onwuasor plays with a mean streak that was evident in his rookie season and just continues to improve.

9. Filling in for the injured Danny Woodhead, Taquan Mizzell presented himself well by catching six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His skill set is similar to Woodhead’s, which hurts his roster chances and makes him intriguing at the same time.

10. Bubble players filling a prominent role on special teams included Chris Matthews, Sheldon Price, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Robertson Daniel, and Vince Mayle. That doesn’t mean they’re all making the roster, of course, but that tends to be an indication of any tiebreaker with another bubble player.

11. Marshal Yanda has been one of my favorite players for a long time, but seeing him as the last offensive player out of the tunnel during stadium introductions says a lot about the current state of that side of the ball.

12. Breshad Perriman and Marlon Humphrey showed encouraging signs before the game. Perriman ran at three-quarters speed and was cutting and running routes effectively while Humphrey looked like someone ready to return to the field, backpedaling and sprinting at full speed.

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Five new absences from Ravens practice after second preseason game

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to practice with five new absences after their preseason win over Miami on Thursday night.

Veteran running back Danny Woodhead, 2017 first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey, wide receiver Chris Matthews, linebacker Donald Payne, and defensive back Robertson Daniel were among those missing from the field during the portion of Saturday’s workout open to reporters. All five played in the 31-7 victory over the Dolphins.

Head coach John Harbaugh said after the game that the Ravens were being cautious with Humphrey after he’d recently been dealing with a “soft tissue” injury. Humphrey took part in just six defensive snaps and three special-teams plays on Thursday, leading one to assume he aggravated the previous injury against Miami. The Alabama product missed five straight workouts with the ailment earlier this month and had only returned to practice last Saturday.

Other players missing on Saturday included quarterback Joe Flacco (back), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), offensive lineman Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), and cornerbacks Brandon Boykin (undisclosed) and Maurice Canady (knee). Harbaugh said after Thursday’s game that Flacco is not expected to return to practice this week.

The newly-signed Jeremy Zuttah was present and working a day after rejoining his former team. The veteran offensive lineman was assigned No. 64 since his old No. 53 is currently being worn by linebacker Bam Bradley.

Former Ravens tight end and Ring of Honor inductee Todd Heap was visiting practice and was greeted with a hug from former teammate Terrell Suggs.

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Ravens elevate Elam to 53-man roster for Sunday’s game

Posted on 05 November 2016 by Luke Jones

After it looked like his career with the Ravens might be over a few months ago, 2013 first-round pick Matt Elam will get a final chance beginning with Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.

The fourth-year safety was elevated to the 53-man roster on Saturday after being designated to return from injured reserve during the bye week. Elam has practiced for the last two weeks after missing the final two preseason games and the first seven games of the regular season while recovering from knee surgery.

“He’s healthy. He could do it,” said head coach John Harbaugh on Friday about the possibility of Elam being activated. “It’s just a matter of whether we decide to do it this week or not in terms of is he ‘football ready’ to play in a game [and is] physically and mentally ready to play well in a game.”

The Ravens waived cornerback Robertson Daniel to make room for Elam on the active roster. The moves came a day after Baltimore cut cornerback Will Davis and claimed cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris off waivers from Cincinnati.

Regarded as one of the most disappointing draft picks in franchise history, Elam hasn’t played in a real game since the end of the 2014 postseason. The University of Florida product missed the entire 2015 season with a torn biceps suffered early in training camp.

In 32 career games (26 starts), Elam has collected 127 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, seven pass breakups, and one-half of a sack. The 5-foot-10, 208-pound safety lost his starting role during the 2014 season as he continued to struggle in pass coverage and missed too many tackles.

Elam is in the final year of his rookie contract after the Ravens declined to pick up his fifth-year option last offseason.

The Ravens also announced that they waived tight end Nic Jacobs from their practice squad, which means they will have just two tight ends active for Sunday’s game — Dennis Pitta and Darren Waller. Crockett Gillmore was ruled out with a thigh injury on Friday after missing the entire week of practice.

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Ravens activate Taliaferro, promote cornerback from practice squad

Posted on 22 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The banged-up Ravens made multiple moves to their roster a day before their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

Third-year running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has been activated from the physically unable to perform list after returning to practice this week. The 2014 fourth-round pick has appeared in just three regular-season games over the last two seasons, but he is expected to immediately fill a meaningful special-teams role.

In 16 career games, Taliaferro has rushed for 339 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries. His career has largely been derailed by a chronic foot injury that required season-ending surgery last season.

Baltimore also promoted cornerback Robertson Daniel from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. The secondary lost cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (concussion), Jerraud Powers (groin), and Shareece Wright (hamstring) to injuries last week, and all three remained on this week’s injury report with Wright doubtful to play and the other two questionable for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens signed Daniel to their practice squad less than two weeks ago. The 6-foot-1 Brigham Young product was an undrafted free agent originally signed by Oakland in 2015 and also spent time with Green Bay and Washington.

To make room for Taliaferro and Daniel on the 53-man roster, the Ravens waived tight end Daniel Brown and placed safety Kendrick Lewis on injured reserve. Lewis suffered a setback with a lingering thigh injury during Thursday’s practice and had been listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

The Ravens did not promote practice-squad quarterback David Fales to their 53-man roster on Saturday, a clear sign that starter Joe Flacco will be active for Sunday’s game. The 31-year-old missed practices this week with a right shoulder injury, but he was a full participant in Friday’s workout.

On Saturday, the Jets made roster moves of their own, promoting linebackers Victor Ochi and Julian Stanford. A rookie free agent from Stony Brook, Ochi spent the 2016 preseason with the Ravens and collected two sacks before being waived in early September.

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