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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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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 12 August 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens move a step closer to beginning their 20th season in Baltimore by welcoming the New Orleans Saints to M&T Bank Stadium in their preseason opener on Thursday night.

Most starters figure to receive little more than a cameo of one or two series as head coach John Harbaugh traditionally removes most starters by the end of the first quarter. Select veterans will play less — or not at all — while younger starters could see playing time into the start of the second quarter.

“It’ll be similar. We have a way that we like to do it here,” Harbaugh said. “It’s individualized to a great extent, but it’ll be similar to what you’ve seen in the past.”

Thursday may not mean much for the likes of Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, and Terrell Suggs, but the preseason presents a critical opportunity for young players to establish themselves as trustworthy contributors and for relative unknowns to leave impressions garnering roster consideration.

With heavy competition at a number of positions, many players will be looking to shine on Thursday, but Harbaugh warns that he and his coaching staff are looking for consistency in both practices and games. There are typically few surprises in their eyes despite fans and media still trying to become familiar with the 90-man preseason roster.

“The games are big, because that’s when the lights are on,” Harbaugh said. “Rarely do you see a guy that doesn’t do anything in practice and all of a sudden it comes out, and [he] lights it up in the game. If you had a guy who did that, you’d be suspicious of that. Is this guy for real? Was it a fluke situation? It’s the guy that does it every day in practice and then goes out and does it again in the game, that’s the guy who really gets your interest.”

Thursday marks the second straight year in which the Ravens will play the Saints in the preseason after they traveled to New Orleans for the 2014 preseason finale. The teams then met again at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the regular season with Baltimore prevailing in a 34-27 final on Nov. 24, 2014.

The Ravens are 2-0 against the Saints in the all-time preseason series and 5-1 against them in their regular-season history.

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 night’s game against New Orleans.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. This list, of course, will not include any veterans who may be held out of the preseason opener due to the coaching staff’s preference. The Ravens could also elect to hold out select veterans such as No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith and starting offensive linemen Jeremy Zuttah and Rick Wagner, who have not missed practice time this summer but are coming off health concerns that sidelined them in the offseason.

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

OUT: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (hip), S Terrence Brooks (knee), S Matt Elam (biceps), DE Brent Urban (biceps)
DOUBTFUL: G John Urschel (concussion), G Robert Myers (concussion), DE DeAngelo Tyson (unspecified strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DT Timmy Jernigan (foot), WR Marlon Brown (back), DE Christo Bilukidi (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: CB Lardarius Webb (hamstring), S Kendrick Lewis (leg)

Five players to watch Thursday night

CB Lardarius Webb

It’s been a rocky start to training camp for the veteran cornerback after he failed his conditioning test upon reporting to Owings Mills. The 29-year-old passed the next day and missed only the first practice, but he has looked slower in coverage and doesn’t have the same explosiveness in changing direction as he once showed. The Ravens will be patient with Webb, but the memories of the Pro Bowl-caliber player he was in 2011 continue to fade, making you wonder if Rashaan Melvin and Kyle Arrington could push for his starting job as the season progresses.

“He has to go out and play and play well and make plays and get back to that level,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Then he’ll feel good about himself. If anybody has played any kind of ball at all, the only way to feel good about yourself is if you do something right. There’s nothing anybody can dream up for you.”

TE Crockett Gillmore

With there still being no real sign that Dennis Pitta will play this season and Maxx Williams developing slowly as most rookie tight ends do, the Ravens are going to need Gillmore to step up quickly. The organization is quietly expecting a good season from the 2014 third-round pick after he caught only 10 passes as a rookie. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound target has clearly established himself as the leader in a very young group of tight ends, but offensive coordinator Marc Trestman would rest easier if Gillmore can be productive in the passing game during the preseason.

“I have high hopes for Crockett Gillmore,” Harbaugh said. “I really don’t want to shy away from that. I believe in him. I believe he’s going to be a really special player in this league. Now, it’s up to him to go do it.”

LB Za’Darius Smith

The comparisons to Pernell McPhee began immediately after Smith was selected in the fourth round of this spring’s draft, but the Ravens need him to be able to lend a hand as a pass rusher to fill that void. Whether he lines up on the edge or is moved around in sub packages, Smith figures to pick up many of McPhee’s valuable reps in passing situations and in spelling Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Kentucky product still has room to improve, but he’s flashed strength and impressive quickness in his first NFL training camp and will be someone to watch throughout the month.

“He’s so gifted, he’s talented. I think he’ll do it all, honestly,” Dumervil said. “He can play the run some inside, so I don’t want to cap him. The sky is the limit for him. Whatever he can retain as a rookie, I’m sure the coaches will do a great job using him.”

WR Jeremy Butler

Fans have heard coaches, players, and media sing the praises of Butler since the spring when he seemingly caught everything thrown his way and he’s carried that over with a good start to camp. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Butler originally turned heads last summer before the Ravens took advantage of his shoulder injury to give him a “redshirt” season. With Perriman and Brown missing extensive time, Butler has received a nice share of first-team reps when the Ravens use three- or four-wide sets and he’s held his own, but now you want to see him carry over that performance against outside competition.

“Jeremy has done well. He shows some great body control going up and making plays on the sideline,” Harbaugh said. “You always look for that in a receiver. Guys that can do that are very valuable — for him and for everybody else. Other guys are making plays, too. It’s just, can you sustain it? Can you stack it from one day to the next? I know he’s going to be determined to do that.”

QB Matt Schaub

Outside observers have seen the new Ravens veteran backup struggle in the spring and summer, but Harbaugh and his coaching staff have gone out of their way to stick up for the 34-year-old whenever asked. To no surprise, there’s a dramatic drop-off in watching Schaub throw compared to Flacco, but the Ravens were drawn to his similar style of play and felt the former Houston Texans quarterback would give them a better shot to win in the event of an injury than former backup Tyrod Taylor did. Needless to say, that assessment remains up for debate based on how he’s practiced.

“There’s no concern about that,” said quarterbacks coach Marty Mornhinweg about Schaub’s ability to fill in for Flacco if necessary. “He had the one [tough year] in Houston, and then last year in Oakland, things didn’t go quite the way [he hoped]. He’s a very good quarterback, he has an awful lot of strengths, he’s very consistent and he knows much of this offense already. He’s just an excellent leader.”

 

 

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Forsett once again named AFC Offensive Player of the Week

Posted on 26 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The accolades keep coming in a dream season for Ravens running back Justin Forsett as he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old rushed for a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the Ravens to a 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. It’s the second time this season Forsett has won the award after being recognized for his 112-yard, two-touchdown performance against Tennessee in Week 10.

Forsett has already rushed for a career-high 903 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with the Ravens. He leads all NFL running backs with a 5.8 yards per carry average.

In addition to Forsett taking home AFC Player of the Week awards twice this season, quarterback Joe Flacco received the honor for his five-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay in Week 6. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October.

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McPhee continues doing dirty work for Ravens defense

Posted on 25 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens had a number of huge performances in the 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints, but one of their better ones came from a defensive player who didn’t even make a tackle Monday night.

While Elvis Dumervil (two), Terrell Suggs, and C.J. Mosley combined for four sacks, it was situational rush specialist Pernell McPhee who brought the most pressure against Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Playing 28 defensive snaps, McPhee produced four hurries and three quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.

Regularly credited for doing the dirty work up front while Dumervil and Suggs produce higher sack totals, McPhee has been effective as either an edge rusher spelling one of the veterans or as an interior lineman in obvious passing situations. The 280-pounder’s combination of strength and quickness has made him arguably the Ravens’ best inside rusher since Trevor Pryce, so it only made sense that he’d exploit a suspect interior part of the New Orleans offensive line.

McPhee doesn’t produce as many sacks because it’s generally easier for quarterbacks to recognize pressure and get rid of the ball when it’s right in front of them — he primarily lines up inside in sub packages — instead of dealing with rushers coming off the edge, but the 2011 fifth-round pick effectively collapses the pocket and is a key cog in helping to run stunts for others to pick up sacks. Playing fewer snaps than Suggs or Dumervil this season, McPhee leads all Ravens defensive players with 14 quarterback hits and 26 quarterback hurries, per PFF.

The Ravens knew they had something with McPhee in his rookie season when he collected six sacks as a situational rusher, but an array of nagging injuries limited his performance over the last two seasons. McPhee has stayed healthy in 2014 and has proven himself as a productive rusher in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ rotation.

Keeping McPhee on a pitch count with his playing time appears to have maximized his production while also allowing Suggs and Dumervil to remain fresh, but it will be interesting to see how much interest the Mississippi State product draws this offseason when he becomes a free agent for the first time. In that regard, McPhee collecting only four sacks to this point in the year might be a blessing when trying to quantify his value on the open market.

Despite a suspect secondary that’s dealt with a number of injuries, the Ravens rank fifth in points allowed and 15th in total defense because of the strong play of their front seven with McPhee playing a vital part.

Even if it’s gone unnoticed for large stretches of time like it did Monday night.

 

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Ravens-Saints: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 24 November 2014 by Luke Jones

NEW ORLEANS — Returning to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time in the regular season since Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens will try to keep pace in the AFC North by handing the New Orleans Saints their third straight home defeat.

With Cleveland and Cincinnati picking up road wins on Sunday, the urgency has only increased for the Ravens, who started the day in sole possession of last place despite a 6-4 record that leaves them in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

Coming off their bye week, the Ravens’ 53-man roster is in good shape from a health standpoint as wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (broken hand) were the only players scratched due to injury.

After being active for the Ravens’ last two games, second-year linebacker Arthur Brown is inactive for the ninth time this season. Brown only saw time as a special-teams player against Pittsburgh and Tennessee.

Defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson is also inactive for a second straight game after making four starts earlier this year in place of the injured Chris Canty. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will once again use Lawrence Guy in the defensive line rotation with Tyson and veteran Terrence Cody both listed as healthy inactives.

Meanwhile, the Saints will be without backup running back Khiry Robinson, but they will welcome back veteran Pierre Thomas, who will play in his first game since Week 7. Thomas had been sidelined with shoulder and rib injuries sustained against Detroit on Oct. 19.

The Saints are also reeling in the secondary with safety Rafael Bush suffering a season-ending leg injury last week. Cornerback Keenan Lewis is active and will start, but he has been slowed by a knee injury recently.

Veteran wide receiver Robert Meachem (ankle) is inactive after being limited in practices all week. The Saints lost rookie wideout Brandin Cooks for the season last week, so quarterback Drew Brees will have fewer weapons at his disposal against the league’s 21st-ranked pass defense.

The Ravens will be playing New Orleans for the sixth time in their regular-season history as they own a 4-1 record. Baltimore won the only regular-season meeting between the teams in New Orleans back in 2006. Quarterback Drew Brees will be trying to beat Baltimore for the first time in his career, which would give him a victory over all 32 NFL teams in his impeccable career.

The referee for Monday’s game will be Bill Leavy.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with black pants while New Orleans dons its black tops with black pants.

Below are Monday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
NT Terrence Cody
WR Michael Campanaro
LB Arthur Brown
DE DeAngelo Tyson
C Gino Gradkowski
CB Rashaan Melvin
OL Jah Reid

NEW ORLEANS
WR Robert Meachem
RB Khiry Robinson
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste
CB Terrence Frederick
LB Kyle Knox
OT Nick Becton
DE Brandon Deaderick

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Ravens-Saints: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 23 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Fresh off their bye week and trying to complete a 2014 sweep of the NFC South, the Ravens return to the site of Super Bowl XLVII to take on the reeling New Orleans Saints Monday night.

Baltimore hopes that a Week 11 bye coupled with the Saints’ two-game losing streak will create enough momentum to snap New Orleans’ 14-game winning streak in prime-time home games. The 4-6 Saints are trying to find some semblance of consistency in a division in which no team has made a strong claim as a viable playoff contender.

The Ravens are 5-1 in games coming off their bye week in the John Harbaugh era and will attempt to win their third road game of the season. While they were able to find success against an underwhelming Tennessee offense in Week 10, the Baltimore secondary will have its hands full against the league’s third-ranked passing attack.

Monday marks the sixth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-1 advantage. This is the first contest between these teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since the 2006 season — which resulted in a 35-22 win for Baltimore — but the Ravens are obviously familiar with the surroundings after winning the Super Bowl in New Orleans two years ago.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 7-4 to keep pace in the AFC North …

1. Will Hill will draw the bulk of the assignment against Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who will catch a touchdown and eclipse 80 receiving yards. Much was made about Cincinnati’s physicality last week in limiting the All-Pro tight end to just three catches for 29 yards, but the Ravens haven’t exactly been imposing in the back end of the defense aside from Terrence Brooks’ big hit on Tennessee’s Delanie Walker two weeks ago. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will try to mix it up as much as possible against Graham, but Hill is the best fit with his 6-foot-1, 207-pound frame and ability in coverage. The Ravens have held tight ends in check for most of the season, but they haven’t encountered a talent like Graham and he will bounce back from a tough week against the Bengals with a strong game in Week 12.

2. Steve Smith and Marlon Brown will catch touchdowns passes against a banged-up New Orleans secondary. A week off and a meeting with an old foe he tormented year after year as a member of the Carolina Panthers are just what the doctor ordered for the 35-year-old Smith whose production has declined in recent weeks. The Saints are down to their third-string free safety and top cornerback Keenan Lewis has been dealing with a knee issue, which will lead to the veteran wideout finding the end zone for the first time since Week 6. Looking to boost their 19th-ranked red-zone offense, the Ravens will rediscover Brown as a viable option inside the 20 as the 6-foot-5 receiver will rein in a pass in the back of the end zone for his first touchdown of the 2014 season.

3. The Ravens will contain top rusher Mark Ingram, but a returning Pierre Thomas will create problems as a receiver out of the backfield. After a very slow start to his NFL career, Ingram has emerged in 2014 with a 4.5 yards per carry average to take over the feature back role for New Orleans, but the Baltimore defense has allowed only 3.4 yards per carry and won’t have an issue keeping him in check. The return of Thomas — who hasn’t played since Week 7 — will be critical for a passing game that will miss the injured Brandin Cooks, who was becoming the Saints’ second-best receiver behind Graham as a short-to-intermediate target. With the secondary providing plenty of cushion and linebackers paying close attention to wherever Graham is, the Saints will slip Thomas free out of the backfield repeatedly to move the chains.

4. C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith will both collect sacks as the Ravens use inside blitzing to try to get to Drew Brees. Pees knows his defense must create pressure in the pocket against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but Saints tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief have been the strengths of their offensive line, meaning it won’t be a given that Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will create enough heat. The best way to pressure Brees is up the middle where center Jonathan Goodwin and guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs have struggled in pass protection. Smith and Mosley have both been effective as A-gap blitzers, making it a good bet that the Ravens will try to ambush Brees up the middle. The strategy will pay off with each inside linebacker collecting a sack on Monday night.

5. Joe Flacco and Brees will each throw for over 250 yards, but the veteran will be a little better in a 31-23 win for New Orleans. A few weeks ago, it would have been tough to give the Ravens much of a chance in this one following the injury to Jimmy Smith on top of the Saints’ reputation for playing so well at home. But New Orleans is difficult to figure out with two straight losses at home that came after blowing out mighty Green Bay less than a month ago. On the other hand, a solid performance against the Titans isn’t enough to ease concerns that the Ravens secondary will be able to prevent the Saints from passing up and down the field all night. Flacco and the offense will put together one of their better road performances of the year, but it won’t be quite enough to put the Ravens over the top on Monday night.

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Yanda, Juszczyk probable for Saints game on Monday night

Posted on 22 November 2014 by Luke Jones

As expected after coming off their bye week, the Ravens will enter Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints in good shape from a health standpoint.

Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (knee) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (foot) were listed as probable on the final injury report of the week after both were full participants in Saturday’s practice. Yanda sat out practice on Wednesday while Juszczyk was added to the injury report with a foot issue on Friday afternoon.

The Ravens officially ruled out rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and veteran offensive lineman Jah Reid (broken hand) after neither practiced all week while recovering from their respective injuries.

Linebackers Daryl Smith and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and tight end Owen Daniels were all listed as probable after each received a practice off this week with the extra day to prepare for a Monday night game.

Meanwhile, the Saints received good news with the status of starting cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) as he was designated as probable to play against the Ravens after being limited to just 10 snaps in their loss to Cincinnati last week. Lewis sat out Thursday’s practice before being listed as a limited participant on Friday and Saturday.

Starting linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) and running backs Pierre Thomas (ribs/shoulder) and Mark Ingram (shoulder) were all listed as probable for Monday night. Veteran wide receiver Robert Meachem (ankle) is questionable for Monday’s game.

The referee for Week 12 will be Bill Leavy, who officiated the Ravens’ Week 3 win in Cleveland earlier this season.

Below is the final injury report ahead of Monday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), T Jah Reid (hand)
PROBABLE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), FB Kyle Juszczyk (foot), DT Haloti Ngata (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (knee)

NEW ORLEANS
OUT: LB Kyle Knox (hand), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Robert Meachem (ankle)
PROBABLE: RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring), RB Mark Ingram (shoulder), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), T Zach Strief (chest), RB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder)

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Juszczyk added to injury report as limited participant

Posted on 21 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was added to Friday’s injury report as the Ravens moved closer to their Week 12 meeting with the New Orleans Saints.

Juszczyk was a limited participant with what was described as a foot issue. It’s unclear whether the injury was sustained during Friday’s practice or it was a previous issue that flared up. He practiced fully on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) and offensive lineman Jah Reid (hand) missed practice once again as both are expected to miss Monday night’s game in New Orleans. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Friday that Campanaro hasn’t been cleared to return to practice this week despite hopes that he’d be ready to resume playing right after the bye.

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (knee) was upgraded to full participation on Friday.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata were both given the day off Friday after linebacker Daryl Smith and tight end Owen Daniels took Thursday’s practice off.

The Saints saw the return of starting cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) and starting inside linebacker Curtis Lofton (ankle) to the practice field on Friday.

The final injury report of the week will be released on Saturday afternoon, but below is the official injury report for Friday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), DT Haloti Ngata (non-injury), T Jah Reid (hand), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: FB Kyle Juszczyk (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), G Marshal Yanda (knee)

NEW ORLEANS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Kyle Knox (hand), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring), CB Keenan Lewis (knee), LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), WR Robert Meachem (ankle), RB Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Mark Ingram (shoulder), T Zach Strief (chest)

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