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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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Ravens cornerback Jackson returns to practice field

Posted on 21 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson returned to the practice field Friday for the first time since injuring his toe in the Oct. 5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Jackson was placed on injured reserve-designated to return on Oct. 8 and is now aiming for a return in Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins, the first game in which he’s eligible to play. Under NFL rules, an injured player must remain on IR-designated to return for six weeks before practicing and a minimum of eight weeks before returning to game action.

“I felt good. Pain-free for the most part,” Jackson told reporters following the workout. “Hopefully, I don’t have any more setbacks and will be ready to go when my time is here.”

Starting four of five games and making 19 tackles before suffering a significant turf toe injury, Jackson would provide some much-needed depth to a secondary that lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith for the season. Baltimore is currently relying on former reserve safety Anthony Levine and journeyman Danny Gorrer to play meaningful snaps opposite veteran Lardarius Webb.

The Ravens plan to bring Jackson along slowly to make sure the toe is sound, but the hope is he’s ready to go for the final month of the season as they try to make it back to the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years.

“We didn’t have him in too many of the main drills today,” head coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “I’ll have to watch the tape and talk to some of the guys that worked with him in more of the individual drills. But it’s good to see him out there. It’s good to know that he’s now basically been activated to prepare. The first opportunity for him to play would be against the Dolphins, so we’ll be hoping for that.”

Meanwhile, Harbaugh confirmed that rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro will miss Monday night’s game in New Orleans while continuing to recover from a hamstring injury suffered against Cincinnati on Oct. 26. The head coach had previously expressed optimism that the seventh-round pick might be ready to return after the bye week.

Campanaro has six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown this season.

“There was no setback. It’s just not ready yet,” said Harbaugh about Campanaro’s hamstring. “When it’s ready, he’ll be out there. We were hoping for this week, and that was the original time frame, but he wasn’t cleared to go this week.”

History isn’t on the Ravens’ side Monday as they try to not only improve to 7-4 to keep pace in a very competitive AFC North but also end the Saints’ incredible run of home success in prime-time games. New Orleans has won 14 prime-time home games in a row and hasn’t suffered a defeat since 2009. However, the Saints are reeling after losing two straight games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and have limped to a 4-6 start this season.

Asked about the Saints’ long run of success in prime-time contests, Harbaugh used the opportunity to take a playful dig at the NFL — that certainly had some truth to it.

“Getting to play a Monday night at home, is there something to that? I wouldn’t really know,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I don’t know much about that. We don’t get those chances too often.”

Of course, the Baltimore coach is referring to the fact that his team has only played one Monday night home game in his seven-year tenure, which came against Cincinnati in the 2012 season opener. The Ravens are 5-3 in Monday night games in the Harbaugh era.

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Marlon Brown key to Ravens unlocking more red-zone production?

Posted on 20 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Some expected wide receiver Marlon Brown’s production to dip this year after a 2013 campaign in which he caught 49 passes for 524 yards as the Ravens’ most surprising rookie.

The free-agent acquisitions of Steven Smith and Owen Daniels as well as the expected presence of a healthy Dennis Pitta meant the 6-foot-5 undrafted free agent from the University of Georgia would likely fall down at least a couple pegs in the receiving hierarchy, but Brown has been an afterthought through the first 10 weeks of the 2014 season. Catching only 10 passes for 93 yards in eight games — he missed two games with a pelvic injury — Brown keeps waiting and working for his opportunity while learning from seasoned veterans who weren’t on the roster when he was a rookie.

“I’m a competitor and I love to make plays and make the team [better],” said Brown, who has seen more playing time recently and has caught five passes for 45 yards over the Ravens’ last two games. “Obviously, I would like to be able to make more plays and be put in that position. At the end of the day, I tip my hat to Owen Daniels and Steve Smith. Those are the vets. I’m learning every day from these two greats, so I can’t complain about anything.”

Anyone who watched Brown play as a rookie knew his extensive playing time was as much about attrition at the wide receiver position as any other factor, but it was difficult not to be impressed with his size and potential as a target inside the 20. The Ravens ranked 31st in the red zone in 2013, but Brown was often their only option in that area of the field as he made all seven of his touchdown receptions on plays starting inside the opponent’s 20.

A year later, the Baltimore offense is much better under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, ranking 12th in total yards and tied for seventh in points per game. But the red zone remains an area in which the Ravens could improve as they’re eighth in the NFL in trips inside the 20, but they’ve scored touchdowns on only 54.1 percent of those drives, ranking 19th in the league.

“We need to be more efficient down there. We had some bad games early,” said Kubiak, pointing to the Week 2 win over Pittsburgh when the Ravens were only 2-for-6 inside the 20. “That puts you behind the eight ball pretty quick. But the red zone is an interesting stat, because sometimes you may come out of a game 2-for-2 and you didn’t win the game. It’s about the importance of when you’re down there, in my opinion, and it’s fixing to get very important here over the next six weeks. Usually, we’re at our best when we run the ball pretty well.”

The dramatic improvement with the offense this year has largely been the result of a consistent ground game, but the question lingers over who quarterback Joe Flacco can really depend on inside the red zone after Pitta was lost for the season in Week 3.

Smith has been Baltimore’s leading receiver this year, but his 5-foot-9 frame and ability to work in space is neutralized in a constricted area as he’s caught only four passes for 22 yards inside the 20 this season. Torrey Smith caught two touchdowns inside the red zone against Tampa Bay in Week 6, but he’s generally not the receiver who’s going to attack the ball when it’s up for grabs.

All three of Daniels’ touchdown receptions this season have come inside the red zone, but opposing defenses have keyed on him in the middle portion of the field as the Ravens move closer to the goal line, meaning someone else needs to emerge.

Despite his encouraging work inside the red zone during his rookie year, Brown has yet to be targeted inside the 20 in 2014. He’s an option Kubiak would be wise to consider as the Ravens have rarely used the jump ball in the end zone. Brown’s frame makes him the perfect candidate for occasionally featuring that strategy close to the goal line.

“He’s much more involved right now,” Kubiak said. “He has a big body, a chance to make some plays. So, it’s going to take all of us, and I’m sure Marlon will get his opportunities.”

At this point, Brown shouldn’t be mistaken for a starting-caliber receiver or a player on which you can rely to run precise routes all over the field, but his size is something the Ravens should try to utilize. And even if the offense has more overall talent than it did a year ago, Brown made plays against NFL defenses inside the red zone last season, proving he has the ability to contribute in an area that needs more efficiency.

It’s worth giving him a look as the Ravens try to make it back to the postseason in their final six games.

“I’m definitely trying to improve as a player, as a receiver in all the routes,” said Brown, who downplayed any difficulty he had learning Kubiak’s system as some have speculated. “I don’t want to be a guy who just runs red-zone routes or just runs [certain] routes. I want to run all the routes. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from all these guys while they’re here. I’m just trying to take advantage and soak in anything.”

Brown soaking in a few touchdowns inside the red zone would be an encouraging development for the Ravens down the stretch.

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