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Bittersweet day for former Ravens linebacker Johnson in leaving for San Diego

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Bittersweet day for former Ravens linebacker Johnson in leaving for San Diego

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Luke Jones

After nine productive years in Baltimore, longtime Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson became the team’s second defensive starter to depart on Wednesday.

Johnson has signed a four-year contract with the San Diego Chargers, leaving a void at outside linebacker for the Ravens. The 30-year-old linebacker was rumored to be of interest to the Indianapolis Colts, but the Chargers were looking for help at outside linebacker in a thin market at the position.

It was a bittersweet day for Johnson, who struggled with the juxtaposition of a new opportunity with the San Diego defense while acknowledging the difficulty of leaving the only franchise he’s known in his professional career.

“It’s been a weird day and a weird process,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “On one side, you’re really excited and thrilled about a new opportunity. On the other hand, you have a lot of relationships, and it’s just [a team you've] been through so much with.”

Johnson would not divulge specifics of any contract talks with the Ravens or whether he gave his former team a chance to match San Diego’s offer, but given the Ravens’ limited cap space and previous comments made leading up to the start of free agency, it was apparent he knew he would not be returning to Baltimore. However, he holds no ill feelings toward the organization.

“They made it clear,” Johnson said. “They were very respectful and handled it with class like they always do, but it was clear it was my time to go.”

Johnson will now play for first-year defensive coordinator John Pagano. Previously a longtime defensive assistant in San Diego, John is the brother of former Ravens defensive coordinator and new Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

In making his decision to join the Chargers, Johnson said the most difficult part of the day was sending a long text message to many of his former teammates. Aside from veterans Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, no player on the current roster had a longer tenure in Baltimore than Johnson, who came into the league the same year as fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs.

“I got pretty choked up, and it was tough to send that out and say goodbye.”

Unlike the departure of defensive end Cory Redding, the loss of Johnson leaves the Ravens without a comfortable replacement currently on the roster. Pass-rush specialist Paul Kruger would be the most logical current option, but he has never shown the ability to be an every-down player in his first three seasons in Baltimore.

Linebacker Sergio Kindle was drafted in 2010 as Johnson’s eventual replacement in the starting defense, but a fall down two flights of stairs only days before the start of his rookie training camp has derailed the early part of his career. Kindle was only active in two of 16 games last season after missing the entire 2010 season with a fractured skull.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2003 draft, Johnson began his career as a reserve defensive lineman before transitioning to linebacker and becoming a full-time starter in 2007. Always overshadowed by bigger defensive names such as Lewis, Reed, and Suggs, Johnson provided strong run support and durability as he never missed a game due to injury in his nine years with the Ravens (he was inactive for one game due to a coaches’ decision in his rookie season).

His blue-collar style on the Baltimore defense made him a fan favorite. Never one to dance or draw attention to himself on the field, Johnson said he will always remain appreciative of the overwhelming support from Ravens fans.

“I’m just really thankful for the way the fans accepted me,” Johnson said. “I was kind of my own unique personality. Nothing brings a player more pride than looking into the stands and seeing someone wearing your number.”

Johnson finishes his run in Baltimore with 382 tackles, 20 sacks, and three interceptions in nine seasons and holds the franchise record of 129 consecutive regular-season games played.

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

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Stay or leave: Forecasting the fate of Ravens’ free agents

Posted on 08 March 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m., it’s time to predict who remains and who departs among the Ravens’ 12 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and seven exclusive rights free agents.

As of Thursday afternoon, the 2012 salary cap had yet to be set, but most reports indicate it will remain right around the $120 million used for the 2011 season. The Ravens are projected to have somewhere between $11 and $12 million in cap space, depending on what the final cap number will be.

Franchise tag

RB Ray Rice: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement with Rice or he will play for the $7.7 million salary mandated by the franchise tag for running backs.

Unrestricted free agents

G Ben Grubbs: LEAVES
Skinny: General manager Ozzie Newsome expressed optimism at the NFL Combine, but the Ravens won’t engage in a bidding war when Grubbs hits the open market. 

C Matt Birk: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens will meet with Birk’s agent Joe Linta next week and could sign the veteran to a cap-friendly, short-term deal to finish his career in Baltimore. 

LB Jarret Johnson: LEAVES
Skinny: Despite little depth at outside linebacker, the Ravens appear ready to move on and won’t be able to afford Johnson in a thin market for linebackers. 

LB Jameel McClain: LEAVES
Skinny: Assuming the Ravens do not strike a deal for Grubbs, some of that money could be allocated to retain McClain, but other teams historically throw too much money at Baltimore linebackers in the open market. 

DE Cory Redding: STAYS
Skinny: Though third-year defensive lineman Arthur Jones could step into the starting lineup, Redding might have more value to the Ravens than other potential suitors at this stage in his career. 

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo: STAYS
Skinny: With the lack of depth at inside linebacker and Ayanbadejo’s ability in pass coverage, the Ravens will hold onto the 35-year-old at a lower rate than the four-year contract he signed with the team in 2008. 

S Tom Zbikowski: LEAVES
Skinny: After four years serving primarily as a backup, the former Notre Dame product is looking for an opportunity to start elsewhere and doesn’t bring enough to the table as a special teams player to warrant overpaying. 

S Haruki Nakamura: STAYS
Skinny: In the same position as Zbikowski, Nakamura’s versatility as a defensive back as well as his special teams prowess will force the Ravens to pony up a little extra to keep him in Baltimore. 

OL Andre Gurode: LEAVES
Skinny: With the Ravens looking to select an interior lineman or two in April’s draft, the five-time Pro Bowl center will continue his career elsewhere. 

DT Brandon McKinney: STAYS
Skinny: A solid member of the defensive line rotation, McKinney won’t figure to draw a ton of interest on the open market, and the Ravens want to maintain their depth up front. 

TE Kris Wilson: LEAVES
Skinny: Adding a veteran tight end was a shrewd move after Todd Heap’s release last season, but Wilson’s spot will be assumed by a younger, cheaper option. 

LB Edgar Jones: LEAVES
Skinny: Injuries opened the door for Jones’ return last season, but he wouldn’t figure to fit into the team’s plans for the 2012 season. 

Restricted free agents

(The Ravens can offer a first-round, second-round, or low tender to any of these players, giving them the right to match any offer from an opposing team or to receive that team’s draft pick that matches the designation. The low tender awards a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted.)

CB Lardarius Webb: STAYS
Skinny: Webb will receive the first-round tender worth roughly $2.75 million as the Ravens will explore a long-term agreement with the fourth-year cornerback. 

CB Cary Williams: STAYS
Skinny: A report indicated the Ravens will offer Williams a first-round tender, but the second-round designation (an estimated $1.9 million) saves money and would still deter teams from trying to pry away the biggest surprise of the 2011 season.

LB Dannell Ellerbe: STAYS
Skinny: The Ravens could roll the dice and offer the low tender ($1.25 million) to the inconsistent linebacker, but that would mean they wouldn’t receive a pick (Ellerbe was an undrafted free agent) if they declined to match a potential offer sheet.

RB Matt Lawrence: LEAVES
Skinny: Even with little depth at running back behind Ray Rice, there’s no way to justify even offering the low tender to the oft-injured running back entering his fourth season.

Exclusive rights free agents

(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

Posted on 15 February 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on March 13 and the draft to follow in late April, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

After evaluating the biggest offensive needs on Monday, I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football by ranking the biggest positions of need entering the offseason.

1. Outside linebacker

For a team as rich as any at the linebacker position over the last 15 years, it’s unusual to see the Ravens with such glaring needs within the unit. Veteran Jarret Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and will be 31 by the start of the 2012 season, suggesting he would be a necessary casualty when addressing a list of 13 unrestricted free agents.

However, there isn’t a single option on the roster with which the Ravens would feel comfortable as a starting strongside linebacker. Paul Kruger shows ability as a pass rusher but has not shown the necessary ability in pass coverage or run defense to consider him an option as a three-down player at this point.

After appearing in only two games this past season, former second-round pick Sergio Kindle is probably more likely to be cut than to find himself in the starting lineup next season. The former Texas product has struggled to learn the Baltimore defense and still feels effects of a fractured skull suffered just days before what would have been his first training camp in 2010, but the 24-year-old will benefit from a full offseason at the team’s Owings Mills facility. Along the same lines as Kindle, Michael McAdoo — who spent the 2011 season on injured reserve — is an intriguing name to monitor but shouldn’t be in the discussion for a starting position at this point.

With that in mind, the Ravens might be more inclined to re-sign Johnson than many would think. Much like they did with Ray Lewis in the winter of 2009, the Ravens will allow the veteran linebacker to explore his value in the open market and see if they can come to an agreement that makes sense for both sides. Of course, new Indianapolis head coach and former Ravens defense coordinator Chuck Pagano could try to overpay for Johnson to bring a Baltimore flavor to the Colts defense. One factor working against the Ravens is a relatively-thin market for outside linebackers, which would not only drive up the price for Johnson but also mean they’d still have to pay handsomely for a replacement.

The Ravens would love to find a young outside backer who can play the run as effectively as Johnson while showing more ability in pass coverage. They could look to a draft prospect such as North Carolina’s Zach Brown, Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis, or Utah State’s Bobby Wagner in the early rounds, but the Ravens have rarely shown enough confidence in rookies to step into a starting job at the linebacker position.

The dream scenario would be to find an outside linebacker with enough pass-rushing ability to alleviate attention from Terrell Suggs on the opposite side, but Kruger did an adequate job in getting after the quarterback in passing situations.

2. Inside linebacker

The talk has only grown louder regarding the need to find the heir apparent to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the Ravens first need to figure out who will be playing next to him in 2012.

Jameel McClain is an unrestricted free agent and while the Ravens have to be pleased with his development after signing him as a rookie free agent in 2008, the 26-year-old will likely command more money than Baltimore is willing to pay to retain his services. This would leave Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan, and Josh Bynes as potential replacements. Ellerbe is an restricted free agent while the latter two are exclusive rights players, meaning all three are very likely to return.

Veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo is also a free agent, meaning the Ravens could be in danger of losing arguably their best linebacker in terms of pass coverage.

Ellerbe has shown impressive potential in limited doses, but his work ethic has come into question on a number of occasions to draw the ire of coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens might be content with plugging Ellerbe into the other inside linebacker spot for now, but he’s far from a safe bet to be an answer beyond the 2012 season.

The Ravens face a difficult proposition in how to handle Lewis, who still plays the run effectively but is a liability in pass coverage. The prudent answer would be to limit the veteran to action on first and second down, but explaining that to one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history is easier said than done. You also need to have a viable replacement before you tell the defensive leader he comes off the field in passing situations.

While there has been plenty of talk over the last year or two to find Lewis’ eventual replacement, this year’s draft appears to be a critical time to find an up-and-coming inside linebacker. The Ravens have been linked to both Dont’a Hightower of Alabama and Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State in various mock drafts. The problem is Hightower may be off the board by the time the 29th pick rolls around and Burfict’s character has come into question with a reputation for delivering cheap shots and reportedly sucker-punching a teammate in practice last August.

3. Safety*

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

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Sizing up the Ravens’ 2012 free-agent class

Posted on 26 January 2012 by Luke Jones

In the aftermath of the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship on Sunday, the finality of the season coming to an abrupt end was accompanied by the all-too-familiar feeling knowing that same team will never be together again.

The reality of the NFL’s offseason brings substantial change to all 32 teams — some more than others — and forces players to say goodbye to others for the final time as teammates.

“It’s tough to really think about that,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “You know it’s going to happen, but you don’t know which guys it’s going to be, so it’s tough to be in our shoes and go through that. You finally just take it for what it is, and before you know it, you hope you had a good relationship with everybody on the team and said as much as you could say to that guy. We hope we can bring as many people back as we can.”

While other moves will be made — cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr and wide receiver Lee Evans are the strongest candidates to be cut despite being under contract for the 2012 season — the Ravens have 13 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and four exclusive-rights free agents entering the offseason. I’ve included the entire list with a brief thought on each player’s potential future in Baltimore.

Two dates to keep in mind as the offseason begins are the March 5 deadline to designate a franchise player and the start of free agency on March 13 at 4:00 p.m.

Unrestricted free agents

RB Ray Rice
2011 stats: 16 starts, 2,068 yards from scrimmage, 15 touchdowns
Skinny: Rice isn’t going anywhere as the Ravens will either use their franchise tag on the Pro Bowl back or sign him to a long-term deal, though the latter would certainly create more cap space for 2012.

G Ben Grubbs
2011 stats: 10 starts, first Pro Bowl selection
Skinny: The Ravens clearly would like to bring the left guard back, but with Marshal Yanda receiving a sizable deal a few months ago, can the organization afford to invest so much money in the guard position?

C Matt Birk
2011 stats: 16 starts
Skinny: After 14 seasons in the league, Birk may decide to retire, but the Ravens could elect to go with the slightly-younger Andre Gurode or look to the draft for the center position.

LB Jarret Johnson
2011 stats: 16 starts, 56 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks
Skinny: With Johnson on the wrong side of 30, it might be time to part ways with the veteran linebacker, but the Ravens lack a logical replacement on the current roster with the disappointing development of 2010 second-round pick Sergio Kindle and the limitations of pass rusher Paul Kruger.

LB Jameel McClain
2011 stats: 16 starts, 81 tackles, one sack, one interception
Skinny: The former undrafted free agent credits Ray Lewis for his growth, so you have to wonder if McClain becomes the next Baltimore linebacker to receive an inflated contract elsewhere.

DE Cory Redding
2011 stats: 15 games (11 starts), 43 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks
Skinny: Before an ankle injury slowed Redding over the final month of 2011, he was having his best season in years, but the Ravens could elect to go with younger — and cheaper — defensive lineman Arthur Jones at this position.

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
2011 stats: 16 games, 27 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, nine special teams tackles
Skinny: The 35-year-old intends to play in 2012 and expects to be back with the Ravens, but the nickel linebacker may not be on the same page as Baltimore in terms of a contract to make his return feasible.

S Tom Zbikowski
2011 stats: 14 games (four starts), 16 tackles, one sack
Skinny: Largely a forgotten man after Bernard Pollard wrestled away the strong safety job early in the season, it appears Zbikowski will likely try to find a new home where he can start.

S Haruki Nakamura
2011 stats: 15 games, three tackles, nine special-teams tackles
Skinny: In a similar position to Zbikowski, the Ravens will likely make a harder push to keep Nakamura due to his exceptional ability as as special teams player.

OL Andre Gurode
2011 stats: 13 games (five starts)
Skinny: Signed as an insurance policy behind Matt Birk, the 10-year veteran wound up being needed at left guard for an injured Grubbs and could be the short-term replacement at center next season.

DT Brandon McKinney
2011 stats: 12 games, 14 tackles
Skinny: A regular part of the rotation along the defensive line, it’s hard to envision teams beating down McKinney’s door, but the Ravens may try to go younger and cheaper than the six-year veteran.

TE Kris Wilson
2011 stats: 15 games, four special teams tackles
Skinny: His touchdown catch in the divisional round was his claim to fame, but the veteran’s competent special teams ability may not be enough to keep him in Baltimore next season.

LB Edgar Jones
2011 stats: nine games, three special teams tackles
Skinny: Though he was active all nine games after being signed in early November, there’s a reason why Jones was unemployed when the Ravens were looking for special-teams depth.

Restricted free agents
(The Ravens can offer a tender attached to a draft pick and then have the right to match any offer from an opposing team and would receive that team’s draft pick if they choose not to match it.)

CB Lardarius Webb
2011 stats: 16 games (15 starts), 68 tackles, five interceptions, sack
Skinny: With another season like he had in 2011, Webb will be looking for a large payday and deservedly so.

CB Cary Williams
2011 stats: 16 starts, 77 tackles, two forced fumbles
Skinny: Easily the most pleasant surprise on the Baltimore defense, Williams will battle 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Smith for a starting corner job in training camp.

LB Dannell Ellerbe
2011 stats: nine games (three starts), 17 tackles
Skinny: The third-year linebacker always leaves you wanting more but could find himself in position to compete for a starting role depending on how the Ravens address the inside linebacker position this offseason.

RB Matt Lawrence
2011 stats: Did not play (injured reserve)
Skinny: Though a competent special-teams player when he’s been healthy in his three-year career, you have to think the Ravens are ready to cut ties with the injury-plagued back.

Exclusive-rights free agents
(These are players with two or fewer accrued seasons and own no negotiating rights.)

LS Morgan Cox
2011 stats: 16 games
Skinny: There’s no reason to think the Ravens are displeased with Cox’s performance as the long snapper.

CB Danny Gorrer
2011 stats: 11 games, three tackles, four pass breakups
Skinny: Considering he was pushing Chris Carr for the No. 4 corner spot by season’s end and was strong on special teams, Gorrer should have no reason to think the Ravens won’t bring him back.

LB Sergio Kindle
2011 stats: two games
Skinny: The Ravens will bring Kindle back, but he’ll need to make major strides in the offseason and training camp to make the 53-man roster again.

LB Albert McClellan
2011 stats: 16 games (one start), seven tackles, 12 special teams tackles
Skinny: He drew a start for the injured Ray Lewis on Thanksgiving night and is one of the best special teams players on the team, making his return a certainty.

 

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Ravens musings for Week 15

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Ravens musings for Week 15

Posted on 13 December 2011 by Luke Jones

The task is clear even if the obstacle standing in their way appears more daunting than a few weeks ago.

A win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night lands Baltimore in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but the Ravens have much greater goals in mind, needing to win their final three games to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC for the first time in the 16-year history of the franchise. However, 6-7 San Diego suddenly looks more like the team it was projected to be at the start of the season after winning two straight to snap a horrific six-game losing streak and keep its faint playoff hopes alive.

As the Ravens return to Owings Mills to begin preparations for the Chargers on Wednesday, here are five thoughts to ponder about 10-3 Baltimore …

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1. Now that Jimmy Smith has eight games under his belt following the ankle injury that sidelined him for six weeks, it’s time for the rookie to begin earning his first-round reputation. With No. 1 cornerback Lardarius Webb dealing with a turf toe injury that could sideline him for Sunday night’s game in San Diego, the Ravens’ top draft pick in April would make his first NFL start against the likes of tall receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. Smith’s talent is obvious as the rookie has collected two interceptions in recent weeks and broke up two passes against Indianapolis on Sunday. However, you still find him guessing and being caught out of position from time to time. Coach John Harbaugh said it best on Monday in saying Smith is still learning to playing football at the professional level where his talent is often matched by the opposition. The biggest factor working in Smith’s favor in addition to his 6-foot-2 frame and athleticism? The Colorado product is more than confident in his ability, a trait shutdown corners need to have in the NFL.

2. He may never live up to his pre-accident potential, but it was nice to see linebacker Sergio Kindle making some strides against Indianapolis on Sunday. Given the relative state of health the Ravens had on Sunday, it was more than a surprise to see Kindle active for the first time since Week 4 when multiple injuries forced the second-year linebacker into action against the New York Jets. The former Texas standout performed well on special teams and even received some defensive snaps late in the second half. Many want to point to Kindle’s status as a second-round draft pick in 2010 in questioning why he hasn’t played this season and overlook the cruel fact that he nearly died in a fall down two flights of stairs in the days leading up to what was to be his first training camp a year ago. The accident left him virtually deaf in one ear and has forced Kindle to basically learn how to play football all over again, according to Harbaugh. In my conversations with Kindle through the course of the season, he expressed the need to put in the necessary work to earn playing time via special teams and conceded how difficult it was to iron out a role in such a talented defense. Kindle has clearly made some poor choices off the field, but you can’t help but root for him to carve out a spot on the team in which he can contribute on a more regular basis in the future. He may never be the defensive starter the Ravens envisioned when they drafted him, but a strong work ethic could turn him into a role player in the future.

3. John Harbaugh will offer a hand to his brother Jim, but insider trading tips are more common than you think. The elder Harbaugh was asked whether he would be on the phone giving extra information to the 49ers in anticipation of their Monday night showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in San Francisco, and while he admitted there could be some of that, it’s not really an uncommon practice in the NFL. Head coaches and assistants alike are connected through a thick web of relationships with the high turnover rate in the career field, leading to open channels of communication. In reality, there are few secrets in the NFL, and it’s unlikely John will provide anything earth-shattering to his brother that would make a dramatic difference in Monday’s outcome. In addition to essentially assuring the Ravens of an AFC North title with a win over Pittsburgh, the 49ers desperately need a win to solidify their chances for the No. 2 seed in the NFC with New Orleans currently holding an identical 10-3 record.

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Ravens-Colts: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Colts: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 11 December 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Looking to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC North, the Ravens welcome Indianapolis to town and will try to defeat the winless Colts for the first time in over a decade this afternoon.

Including the postseason, Indianapolis has bested the Ravens eight straight times, but the Colts never had to do so without quarterback Peyton Manning under center. Needless to say with an 0-12 record, Indianapolis never recovered from the absence of Manning this year and has now turned to journeyman Dan Orlovsky after Curtis Painter was unable to provide a sufficient level of productivity for the Colts offense.

Baltimore looks for its first nine-game home winning streak in franchise history and will try to improve to 10-3 for just the second time in the 16 years of the team (2006 being the other).

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Kicker Billy Cundiff (left calf) is active and will handle kicking duties today after the Ravens worked out Shayne Graham and had the veteran on standby this weekend in case Cundiff was unable to go. Should Cundiff’s calf flare up during the game, punter Sam Koch would handle kicking duties and practiced field goals during Thursday’s practice.

In pregame warmups, Cundiff appeared to connect on all four of his attempts, including the longest from 48 yards.

As expected, Ray Lewis is inactive for the fourth straight game, but reports persist that the veteran linebacker will aim to make his return when the Ravens travel to San Diego next Sunday night. Dannell Ellerbe will start in Lewis’ place.

On an interesting note, linebacker Sergio Kindle is active for just the second time this season. His only other game this season came against the New York Jets in Week 4. Defensive tackle Brandon McKinney is inactive for the first time since the first two weeks of the season.

For Indianapolis, talented tight end Dallas Clark is active and will start after missing the Colts’ last three games with a leg injury.

Here are today’s inactives:

Baltimore
LB Ray Lewis
CB Chris Carr
LB Chavis Williams
WR LaQuan Williams
WR Tandon Doss
NT Brandon McKinney
RB Anthony Allen

Indianapolis
QB Peyton Manning
WR Anthony Gonzalez
DB Mike Holmes
LB A.J. Edds
LB Kevin Bentley
OT Quinn Ojinnaka
DE Jerry Hughes

Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the day as Nestor Aparcio, Drew Forrester, and I bring live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium and stay right here for post-game reaction as well as plenty of interviews in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault.

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Ravens-Rams inactives for Sunday

Posted on 25 September 2011 by Luke Jones

***For inactives and breaking news sent directly to your mobile device, subscribe to the WNST Text Service right here. And, as always, for the quickest updates and analysis regarding everything purple, follow WNST on Twitter.***

The Ravens will try to jump-start an offense that stalled last week against Tennessee, but they’ll be without two key offensive starters while trying to do it.

Starting left guard Ben Grubbs will miss his second consecutive game after failing to practice all week while trying to recover from a right toe injury. There had been cautious optimism that Grubbs might try to play after being listed as questionable — he was doubtful against the Titans — but the fifth-year lineman has not practiced since the Ravens’ season-opening win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11. With offensive lineman Mark LeVoir also inactive, veteran Andre Gurode will make the start at left guard.

Wide receiver Lee Evans (ankle) was ruled out on Friday along with cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) and return specialist David Reed (shoulder). Evans has battled a left ankle injury since the Ravens’ win over the Redskins in the third preseason game last month. With Evans out, Baltimore will rely on rookies Torrey Smith, LaQuan Williams, and Tandon Doss — who is active for the first time this season — to pick up the slack in the passing game.

The Ravens have also deactivated cornerback Domonique Foxworth in a surprising move reflecting John Harbaugh’s comments made earlier in the week that they’d have to contemplate sitting down Evans and Foxworth until their health improved to the point that they could better help the team. The decision to sit Foxworth puts more pressure on the returning Chris Carr, who sat out the Titans game with a hamstring injury and has dealt with the ailment since training camp. Cornerbacks Danny Gorrer and Chykie Brown are both active.

Linebacker Sergio Kindle is inactive for the third straight game and has yet to play a snap this season.

For St. Louis, running back Steven Jackson (quad) is active and will play despite being a limited participant in practice on Thursday and Friday. Backup running back Cadillac Williams (hamstring) is also active against the Ravens.

Baltimore
CB Domonique Foxworth
G Ben Grubbs
OL Mark LeVoir
LB Sergio Kindle
WR Lee Evans
CB Jimmy Smith
WR David Reed

St. Louis
WR Danny Amendola
S Jermale Hines
RB Quinn Porter
LB Jabara Williams
TE Stephen Spach
WR Greg Salas
DE C.J. Ah You

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Mocking The 53: A Look At Roster Ahead of Preseason Finale

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to meet the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night, the final opportunity for players on the roster “bubble” to impress Head Coach John Harbaugh and coordinators Cam Cameron, Chuck Pagano and Jerry Rosburg.

As I am no longer the Ravens beat reporter here at WNST I have deferred to Luke Jones for most of our coverage during Training Camp. I have had the chance to get out to 1 Winning Drive this week, so I decided I would bring back “Mocking The 53″ to get a look at how the team may trim the roster from 80 players to 53.

As I’ve explained before, the team does not have a certain number of players they keep at each position, so I have never done this breakdown by position. Instead, I offer what is more like a “power ranking” of players from 1-80.

Keep in mind, GM Ozzie Newsome is likely to make an addition or two (a veteran backup quarterback-perhaps still Marc Bulger namely) before either Saturday’s cut day or the team’s opener September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

1. DT Haloti Ngata
2. QB Joe Flacco
3. LB Terrell Suggs
4. RB Ray Rice
5. WR Anquan Boldin
6. S Ed Reed
7. LB Ray Lewis
8. G Ben Grubbs
9. G Marshal Yanda
10. CB Jimmy Smith

Whether or not Smith is a starter on September 11 is the only issue in this group. All of these guys are clearly on the team and significant contributors.

11. OT Michael Oher
12. WR Lee Evans
13. FB Vonta Leach
14. DE Cory Redding
15. P Sam Koch
16. TE Ed Dickson
17. S Bernard Pollard
18. K Billy Cundiff
19. DT Terrence Cody
20. LB Jarret Johnson

Like the first group, the players in the group above are all safely on the roster and are expected to be significant contributors.

21. CB Cary Williams
22. S Tom Zbikowski
23. C Matt Birk
24. OT Bryant McKinnie
25. CB Chris Carr
26. S Haruki Nakamura
27. TE Dennis Pitta
28. RB Ricky Williams
29. LB Jameel McClain
30. WR Torrey Smith

There’s no drama in this group either. McClain still appears to be the frontrunner for the other starting ILB job, while the team has remained steadfast in their support of Torrey Smith despite struggles. There’s a chance he’s not the third receiver on September 11, but he’s absolutely safe on the roster.

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I’ll Defer Here…10 Quick Thoughts on Ravens-Chiefs

Posted on 19 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

Before Ryan Chell and I hop back on AM1570 WNST & WNST.net for the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” presented by Poor Boys in Dundalk, I figured I’d share ten things that stuck out with me from the first half of Ravens-Chiefs.

Feel free to chime in at 410-481-1570 as the game is wrapping up to share your thoughts as well.

1. I still don’t like the lack of offensive rhythm. I’d just like to see a cohesive drive. It has to start up front, and we’re just not seeing that right now. It will bring me to my second point.

2. Jah Reid was pretty good, Michael Oher was okay, Oniel Cousins was okay. The penalties….the penalties are just completely inexcusable.

3. This was clearly not a night Joe Flacco will want to think about moving forward. There were a couple nice throws to Lee Evans, but otherwise he was terribly inconsistent. He was often forced to throw the ball away when flushed, which is at least better than a sack.

4. Lee Evans was exciting to watch. He can’t work sideline routes because of his size, but looked good in the go and on the wheel. He also showed sure hands over the middle, which is a good sign.

5. I like the Ray Rice/Ricky Williams combination. It wasn’t perect Friday night, but you can see how they complement each other. Meanwhile, Vonta Leach is tough. But we were expecting that. The head lowering “boom” was fun.

6. Cary Williams was clearly impressive in the first quarter, but struggled a bit in the second quarter. He’s not a starter despite working with the first team tonight, but he’s making it very clear why he should be ahead of Lardarius Webb on the depth chart.

7. Jimmy Smith might eventually be able to handle good receivers-even Pro Bowl receivers like Dwayne Bowe. He’s not quite ready to do that yet however. He has the physical tools, it will just take a little more time to adjust to the NFL level. I still think he’s going to be good, perhaps as early as this season.

8. There was a time when I didn’t think Sergio Kindle would ever play in Charm City. I’ve done a 180. I think he’s going to be a player, perhaps a good one. He hasn’t shown “quarterback menace” yet, but his speed and power are impressive. Pernell McPhee, Arthur Jones and Paul Kruger each also looked good.

9. Billy Cundiff might have made his field goal from 65 yards out. Stunning news I know, he has a hell of a boot.

10. John Harbaugh would not leave the postgame interview room without answering a question about the decision to defer if I were at the game. As far as I’m concerned, it wouldn’t really matter what his answer was either. There’s just no excuse for deferring in a preseason game. You defer as part of a strategy to win a football game. Winning doesn’t matter in the preseason.

It was a puzzling decision that set the tone for a lack of offensive continuity to open the game.

I expect more deferrals in the regular season as the kickoff rule nearly assures receiving teams will start at the 20 yard line, but there’s absolutely no explanation for deferring in the preseason.

Talk to you at 10:30 on the postgame show.

-G

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Cory Redding: “We don’t have a long off-season for these guys to learn our plays”

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Cory Redding: “We don’t have a long off-season for these guys to learn our plays”

Posted on 19 August 2011 by Ryan Chell

It may only be a preseason game, but tonight versus the Kansas City Chiefs is going to be a good test for a Ravens defense continuing its tradition of being stout on the run.

And despite seeing him in limited action tonight at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens know they will face backs this year like KC running back Jamaal Charles, who finished 2nd in the AFC last year with 1,467 yards rushing.

Throughout the 2011 season, it’s going to be on guys like DL Cory Redding, who joined Glenn Clark this week on his afternoon live after practice, to bottle up the run.

Cory Redding

And with one game in the books-despite giving up only 13 points in the Ravens preseason loss-Redding and the Ravens defense wants to improve game-by-game even if they don’t matter.

“The biggest thing that we take from the first game is that we don’t want to give up seven,” Redding said. “We were kind of disappointed with how few mistakes we made [that] we allowed them to get in the end zone.”

Now, with another game under their belt, every member of the Ravens defense-from younster to a veteran like Redding-are hoping to improve and get themselves ready for the Week1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“This is preseason, and we can’t take too much out of it,” Redding said, “but in the terms of hustling and working hard, those things are going to come. Just be where you’re supposed to be when you are supposed to be there, and everything will work out.”

As a veteran, Redding hopes they work things out sooner rather than later, so that the Ravens defense has that good feeling sitting on the sidelines.

But at the same time, Redding knows that even when his time on the field is over, it’s a teaching and learning experience for him till the final seconds wind down on the clock.

“Guys are fighting for jobs,” Redding said. “They will make mistakes and they are learning. We don’t have a long off-season for these guys to learn our plays with our complex defense…so they could be going to the wrong gap, so our defense can get weak at times.”

Redding has seen three second-year guys in particular that  haven’t been doing that-Arthur Jones, Terrence Cody, and Sergio Kindle-and that aspect of the Baltimore youth movement on defense is a sight to see.

“Art is doing good,” Redding said. “Arthur is a lot better understanding where and why we want him in certain places. He is understanding the system a lot more and he is letting the game come to him unlike the rest panicking when tough situations occur on the field.”

With Cody, Redding said that the defensive tackle may be the quickest learner in this shortened off-season so far. In other words, if there is a most-improved player, Redding threw his hat in Cody’s corner.

“Terrence came in shape and of course with the heat and all, everyone had tough days but he fought through it and he’s out there making tremendous plays for us.”

In essence, Cody looks like he could be a valuable asset to this defense given his inability to get on the field last year due to injury or conditioning.

“He’s holding the gap and he’s chasing balls down,” Redding said from a glance. “He looks like he’s lost two people. He looks really good, and he’s a big man who’s moving well for his size.”

“We are looking for good things out of him and he’s having a really good time right now.”

And finally, Redding said that when he’s lined up in practice and when the whistle blows in practice, there has always been one guy around the ball on every play-the linebacker hailing from the same school as Redding in the University of Texas-Sergio Kindle.

“It’s good to see my younger star,” Redding laughed.  “He’s out there playing like a little kid. He’s excited to be out there playing again being out for a year…it is pretty awesome.”

Overall, it’s on all these guys developing together that’s going to make  Chuck Pagano’s job that much easier-and easier for a old veteran like Cory Redding.

And for the team prepping for Pittsburgh Week 1 on September 11th.

“That is what its all about and that is huge and that is what we want,” said Redding.  You want to know all the way, to see and be the kind of team you want to be, an opener with you rival what better game to start off the season than with the Steelers”

Tune into WNST following Ravens-Chiefs tonight for your Nasty Purple Post-Game Show!

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