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New Orleans elects not to match Snead’s offer sheet with Ravens

Posted on 20 April 2018 by Luke Jones

(Updated: Monday 11:15 a.m.)

The Ravens have taken another step in addressing the wide receiver position by signing restricted free agent Willie Snead to a two-year offer sheet that won’t be matched by New Orleans.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the deal is worth $7 million, which includes a $2 million signing bonus and an additional $3.4 million in incentives. New Orleans had until Wednesday to match the offer and will not receive any compensation for the former undrafted free agent’s departure. According to the NFLPA, the Saints entered Monday with just over $6 million in salary cap space, a limited amount for a team that recently signed wide receiver Cameron Meredith.

Snead is coming off a forgettable season in which he caught only eight passes for 92 yards in 11 games. He was suspended for the first three games of 2017 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, a penalty stemming from charges of driving while intoxicated and failing to maintain proper control of a vehicle last June. The Ball State product also dealt with a hamstring injury for a large portion of last season, another factor leading to him falling out of the mix.

However, the 25-year-old was a major contributor for Drew Brees and the Saints offense in the previous two seasons, catching a combined 141 passes for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Snead will serve as Baltimore’s slot receiver, a position general manager Ozzie Newsome had yet to fill after Jeremy Maclin was released and Michael Campanaro signed a one-year deal with Tennessee.

With the Ravens landing Snead, they have added a possession receiver and red-zone weapon in Michael Crabtree, an outside speed target in John Brown, and now a slot receiver to a passing game that ranked 29th in the NFL last season. The three offer diverse skills and have all enjoyed success in the past, but they combined for just 87 catches for 1,009 yards and 11 touchdowns last season with Crabtree accounting for most of that production. In other words, Newsome has invested quite a bit in a trio of targets needing bounce-back seasons.

Signing Snead is expected to take the Ravens out of the running for former Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant, who hasn’t publicly expressed any interest in signing with Baltimore. The Ravens would be wise to still make drafting another receiver or two a priority this week since none of the aforementioned receivers can be viewed as long-term solutions at this point.

Snead worked out for the Ravens in late March and caught passes from quarterback Robert Griffin III, who also signed with the team earlier this month.

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Former Ravens tight end Watson returns to New Orleans on one-year deal

Posted on 28 March 2018 by Luke Jones

After contemplating retirement earlier this offseason, former Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson is going back to New Orleans.

On Wednesday, the 37-year-old agreed to a one-year contract with the Saints, the team he left two offseasons ago to sign a two-year, $8 million deal with Baltimore. Watson was reportedly moving toward a deal with Kansas City last week, but a reunion with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees proved too enticing as he caught a career-high 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with New Orleans in 2015.

Watson led the Ravens with 61 receptions and tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches last season, completing an impressive comeback after missing the entire 2016 season with a torn Achilles tendon. He was highly respected on the field and for his work in the community as he was the team’s 2017 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, but Baltimore hopes to add more youth and play-making ability to the position to go along with blocking tight ends Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams.

How the Ravens will do that remains to be seen with few appealing options remaining on the free-agent market and history suggesting it’s an unwise gamble to count too heavily on a rookie tight end. This year’s draft class lacks an elite talent at the position, but Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State, Mike Gesicki of Penn State, and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are considered good prospects

“We’re going to try and get one,” said head coach John Harbaugh at the owners meetings in Orlando on Tuesday. “Not to take anything away from Maxx and Nick — I think those guys have skills and stuff. I think they both have excellent hands and they can make plays for you, especially underneath moving the chains and those kinds of things. But I also think those guys are excellent blockers. They’ve proven that. Those guys have a huge role on our team. I love those two guys.

“A pass-catching tight end is someone that can stretch the field, make some big plays for us. That’s something that we want to have.”

Watson is the Ravens’ third unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere this offseason, joining center Ryan Jensen (Tampa Bay) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (Philadelphia). He will be entering his 15th NFL season and has caught 495 passes for 5,485 yards and 42 touchdowns over his career spent with New England, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Baltimore.

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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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Healthy Perriman shows Ravens exactly what they wanted to see

Posted on 01 September 2016 by Luke Jones

Two catches on the first two plays of the night for Breshad Perriman were the highlight for the Ravens in their 23-14 win over New Orleans to conclude the preseason on Thursday night.

Playing in a live game for the first time in almost two years, the 22-year-old wide receiver not only showed fans that, yes, he does exist but flashed glimpses of why the organization was so excited to select him with the 26th overall pick of the 2015 draft. Most importantly, Perriman came out of the game healthy, clearing a hurdle that was as much mental as physical.

So far, so good.

“It went real well I think. I know I’ve got a lot to work on, but I have no doubt in my mind that I’m going to get it done,” Perriman said in a second-half interview on the TV broadcast. “As far as how I was feeling, I was very nervous before the game, but once I finally got to the stadium, it was like everything went away. I just went out there and had fun.”

His debut may not have been electric, but the New Orleans secondary immediately respected Perriman’s speed as he ran a simple hitch route for a nine-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage. On the next play, the 6-foot-2 receiver then ran a dig toward the middle of the field before reining in a Ryan Mallett pass thrown behind him for a 16-yard gain and a first down.

Perriman later got too far outside on a skinny post route and then dropped a short pass on a wide receiver screen late in the first half, but he showed physicality and looked fairly comfortable against press coverage. It’s important to remember that Perriman is far from a finished product as he declared for the NFL draft after his junior year and wasn’t considered a great route runner, but we could finally start to see the talent on Thursday night.

The Ravens couldn’t have asked for more considering it was less than three months ago that Perriman suffered a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury that was initially feared to cost him the season after a right knee injury had already sidelined him for his rookie year. He’s now on track to be ready for the season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 11.

Perriman is the kind of talent who brings intriguing upside for a team needing it to bounce back from a 5-11 season. It’s no secret that the Ravens are depending on a number of older players to fill meaningful roles, but that makes it even more important for dynamic young players to step forward in 2016 and beyond.

The healthy presence of Perriman as well as the additions of veteran Mike Wallace and rookie fourth-rounder Chris Moore give the Ravens more vertical threats than they’ve had in quite some time. That’s exactly what quarterback Joe Flacco needs to throw the deep ball and open up the short-to-intermediate portion of the field for the likes of Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken, Crockett Gillmore, and Dennis Pitta.

It’s no secret that the Ravens have lagged behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the skill position department over the last few seasons, but the potential appears to be there this season to begin closing that gap. Perriman headlines that list of young players carrying intrigue.

Healthy and flashing ability in an otherwise meaningless preseason finale.

It was all the Ravens needed to see from Perriman after a painfully long wait for his debut.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 01 September 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the light at the end of the preseason tunnel and conclude the summer with a trip to New Orleans on Thursday night.

Most starters — and possibly even a few key reserves — won’t play against the Saints as head coach John Harbaugh has annually shied away from using his most important players in the final preseason game, but a handful of jobs could still be on the line for those individuals on the roster bubble. After cutting their roster to 75 players earlier this week, the Ravens will make their final cuts to the 53-man limit by Saturday afternoon.

“It will be about the things that fit us and that we need,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a fine line, and in a lot of ways, it’s fine slicing for sure. We have some good choices and some tough choices, and that’s a good problem to have. That’s what we’re facing.”

While we will wait to see the 2016 debuts of veterans Steve Smith and Elvis Dumervil until the season opener on Sept. 11, wide receiver Breshad Perriman could make his preseason debut on Thursday, which would mark the first time he’s played in a game since he was in college and Central Florida played North Carolina State in the St. Petersburg Bowl on Dec. 26, 2014.

The 2015 first-round pick said Tuesday that he has been fully cleared to play, but it will be up to the coaching staff to determine whether he sees action. Harbaugh said at the beginning of the week that he would like to see Perriman get some live-game reps if the training staff allowed it.

“It’s very exciting,” said Perriman, who made it clear that he wants to play against New Orleans. “I’ve been waiting for a long time. It’s finally coming.”

Thursday marks the fourth time these teams have met in the preseason — including each of the last three years — with the Ravens holding a 3-0 edge to go with their 5-1 advantage in all-time regular-season games against the Saints. Baltimore has built a 23-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

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 remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many veteran players and starters who will likely be held out of the preseason finale due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (finger/hip), TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed), S Matt Elam (knee)
DOUBTFUL: LB Za’Darius Smith (ankle), S Kendrick Lewis (undisclosed), G John Urschel (contusion), DT Brandon Williams (undisclosed), CB Jerraud Powers (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Breshad Perriman (knee), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), WR Steve Smith (Achilles), CB Shareece Wright (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), RB Buck Allen (undisclosed), CB Lardarius Webb (back)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

LB Arthur Brown

The writing appeared to be on the wall late last year when he still couldn’t get on the field as the Ravens were playing out the string in a lost season, but the 2013 second-round pick will have a final chance to make an impression on Thursday night. In three preseason games, Brown has collected two tackles and a pass breakup, but he’s done little to distinguish himself this summer, a common theme for what was once thought to be a promising talent. With second-round rookie Kamalei Correa ahead of him on the depth chart, Brown’s time could finally be up as he doesn’t offer as much versatility as other options.

OT James Hurst

The third-year offensive lineman made 13 starts in his first two years with the Ravens, but he owns the dubious distinction of being pushed back into the left knee of Joe Flacco last November, causing the season-ending injury. Even putting that moment aside, the former rookie free agent from North Carolina has frequently looked overmatched whenever he’s been on the field. With fellow rookie Alex Lewis capable of backing up new left tackle Ronnie Stanley, Hurst has also worked at guard this summer, but it doesn’t appear like there’s a roster spot for him unless an injury or two occurs.

LB Chris Carter

Carter is an interesting case as a veteran linebacker with the ability to play inside and outside and to excel on special teams. With both Albert McClellan and Zach Orr — two special-teams standouts — expected to receive more playing time on defense, Carter might be an attractive choice to help pick up the special-teams slack and ease their workloads. At the same time, the Ravens only have so much room on the roster with younger linebackers such as Correa and Matt Judon now in the picture. Carter may not find his way onto Baltimore’s 53-man roster, but he’s likely to catch on elsewhere if he doesn’t.

WR Keenan Reynolds

It’s easy to root for the former Navy quarterback and college football legend, but there just hasn’t been enough progress to like his chances to make the 53-man roster. Reynolds hasn’t shown sure hands as a returner and has struggled to gain separation when working as a receiver. Because of his status as a sixth-round pick and his immense popularity, Reynolds could still be stashed on injured reserve or signed to the practice quad to continue developing. Maybe he can still be the next Antwaan Randle El or Julian Edelman one day, but it just doesn’t look like it will happen this year.

CB Maurice Canady

A nagging hamstring injury has cost the sixth-round rookie extensive practice time this summer, but the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Canady has flashed promise as an outside corner, a spot where the Ravens are light behind starters Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright. Canady played extensively at the University of Virginia and does show more polish than the typical late-round cornerback, but Thursday will be a big opportunity to prove he’s deserving of one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. It could come down to one roster spot for either Canady or Sheldon Price, but both have had health issues this summer.

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Ravens sign former New Orleans receiver Joe Morgan

Posted on 04 November 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Trying to improve a dire wide receiver situation during their bye week, the Ravens officially added veteran Joe Morgan to their 53-man roster on Wednesday.

Baltimore signed the former New Orleans Saints wideout after he and two other receivers — Hakeem Nicks and Chuck Jacobs — worked out for the team on Tuesday. The Ravens created an open spot on their 53-man roster once they officially move Steve Smith to injured reserve.

The 27-year-old Morgan had one of the best performances of his career against the Ravens when he registered a 62-yard reception and a 67-yard run in a Monday night game last Nov. 24.

“We all remember that — his speed on that,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He is a guy that has been up and down on their roster throughout the course of the season, and our scouts had identified him as a potential roster-add early on, and we’ve been talking about him in our personnel meetings all season.”

A 6-foot-1 product from Walsh University, Morgan was released by New Orleans last month after appearing in just two games and not registering a catch. He has 14 receptions for 471 yards in his career — an impressive 33.6 yards per catch — making him a deep-ball threat if nothing else.

His best season came in 2012 when he caught 10 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns. Morgan missed the entire 2013 campaign with a knee injury and caught four passes for 92 yards last season.

“As a speed receiver, the main thing they want me to do is run,” said Morgan, who sees plenty of similarities between offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s system and what he was running in New Orleans. “I can run with the best of them. You tell me to go out and run a go route, that’s simple enough. You can go out and run a go route; there’s no play to that at all. I’ve been saying my whole career I want to be labeled as more than just a speed receiver.”

The Ravens also added Jacobs to their practice squad and released tight end Konrad Reuland on Wednesday.

Pondering Jacoby

Harbaugh said he hadn’t learned about Jacoby Jones’ release from the San Diego Chargers until after Wednesday’s practice, leading one to believe the former Ravens return specialist is unlikely to return.

However, given the respect he has for Jones’ contributions to the organization, Harbaugh wasn’t about to dismiss any notion of interest in a reunion — at least publicly.

“At some point in time, Ozzie [Newsome] had pulled the trigger on [signing Morgan and Jacobs on Tuesday],” Harbaugh said. “That’s the first I’d heard of Jacoby’s situation [this morning]. I would assume it’s something that we’ll talk about today a little bit and see where we’re at.”

Jones had signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with San Diego in March after being released by the Ravens in late February.

Bye week rest

After practicing on Tuesday and Wednesday of their bye week, Ravens players are now off through Sunday, leaving them four straight days of rest as mandated by the collective bargaining agreement. Coaches will take off Friday through Sunday before returning to the team’s training facility in Owings Mills.

The Ravens haven’t had a player arrest since former running back Bernard Pierce was charged with driving under the influence in March, but Harbaugh reminded players of the expectations the organization has during their downtime.

“I don’t expect anything to happen with our guys,” Harbaugh said. “We have a bunch of guys that [we] have full faith and confidence in that they’ll make the right choices and do the right thing. If somebody stubs his toe, then, obviously, there are always consequences of some kind for that.”

Injury report

Harbaugh was optimistic about the status of starting center Jeremy Zuttah, who left Sunday’s win over San Diego with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Zuttah, left tackle Eugene Monroe (shoulder), and guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele did not practice on Wednesday.

“Things do look good for Jeremy,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll know more Monday — see if he practices Monday, Wednesday — but things do look good.”

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Brett Martel weighs in on slow start for Saints in ’15

Posted on 22 September 2015 by WNST Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brett Martel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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