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Ravens-Rams preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 28 August 2013 by Luke Jones

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The Ravens have reached the light at the end of the preseason tunnel as they’ll conclude the summer against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night.

From an entertainment standpoint, the preseason finale has rarely been one in which you can cut the electricity with a knife as Joe Flacco has already been confirmed by head coach John Harbaugh to be a spectator on Thursday. The starting quarterback won’t be alone as many starters will not take the field at all at the Edward Jones Dome in a game that means nothing for players who have already sewn up spots on the 53-man roster.

Of course, Harbaugh and the coaching staff will be expecting a strong performance from the players who will see action, many of whom are fighting for no more than a few jobs.

“We’re getting ready to go play St. Louis,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to do our best to go out there and try to win that game within the parameters of what helps our football team going forward into the regular season.”

In all reality, most roster decisions have already been made with the preseason finale not doing much to change the dynamics of the 53-man squad that must be finalized by Saturday at 6 p.m. Players with no realistic shot of making the team are hoping to put forth a good performance that might garner attention from other teams looking to fill out their rosters and practice squads in the coming days.

Potential competitions remain for the third running job, the No. 3 tight end, and the fourth safety job if the Ravens elect to keep each of those positions. And, of course, much attention will be paid to the wide receivers currently on the bubble, but you have to wonder how many conclusions the coaching staff can draw from the wideouts playing with reserve quarterback Caleb Hanie and potentially the newly-signed Dayne Crist.

Harbaugh was asked Tuesday how many times he could recall roster spots being decided by just a play or two made in the preseason finale.

“Probably not often, in all reality,” Harbaugh said. “But I would say in this game, there are a couple of those. There are a couple guys that, perhaps if they really, really play well, they could really play themselves on [to the 53-man roster]. Or, guys could play themselves off. It’s possible.”

The Ravens will be meeting the Rams for the fourth time ever in the preseason as St. Louis enters the game with a 3-0 all-time mark in the exhibition contests. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series by a 3-2 margin and won a 37-7 blowout in St. Louis in the teams’ last meeting in 2011.

Harbaugh is now 15-8 in preseason games with the Ravens holding a 42-28 overall mark in the preseason. Baltimore has won 14 of its last 19 preseason games.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to produce 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.

Of course, the final preseason game will include many players sitting out due to Harbaugh’s preference with the regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos just a week from Thursday night. This estimated report does not reflect any of the veterans who will watch from the sidelines and is only an indication of the team’s current health.

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (wrist) are no longer on the active roster and are no longer included in the injury report.

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

OUT: WR Deonte Thompson (foot), LB Pernell McPhee (knee), OL Ryan Jensen (foot), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DOUBTFUL: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Arthur Jones (personal health issue), QB Tyrod Taylor (head)
PROBABLE: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Lardarius Webb (knee)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. RB Delone Carter

While few fans are enthused to watch the fourth and final preseason game consisting of few starters, the contest will offer the first glance of Carter, who was acquired from Indianapolis in the David Reed trade. At 5-foot-9 and 232 pounds, Carter is a low-to-the-ground power runner with the reputation of being effective at the goal line and in short-yardage situations, two areas in which the Ravens struggled at times last season.

The real question may be how much of an impact Carter can bring to special teams as the potential No. 3 running back with third-year veteran Anthony Allen strong in that regard and Bobby Rainey having intriguing potential as a backup return specialist. Much discussion of last impressions being made in the preseason finale is overblown, but Carter has only had a couple practices to show off his ability, meaning Thursday will be critical for his potential future in Baltimore.

2. WR LaQuan Williams

It’s difficult to predict whether the performance of any of the bubble receivers on Thursday night will carry much stock in final roster decisions if the likes of Hanie and Crist are under center, but Williams hasn’t followed up his strong performance in the preseason opener in the way he would have liked. Always a good special-teams player, Williams has lacked consistency as a wideout this summer and saw rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette receive opportunities with the first-team offense in recent weeks while he only received a few token reps here and there.

A standout play or two on special teams would likely put an exclamation point on his case for a spot on the 53-man roster for the third straight season, but Williams would like to leave a lasting impression as a wide receiver as well. The coaching staff has always been complimentary of his work ethic, but Williams doesn’t have the impressive height or blazing speed of other receivers with which he’s competing and his value on special teams can only go so far with so much uncertainty at the wide receiver position as a whole.

3. DE DeAngelo Tyson

It’s remarkable to think how far the defensive line has come since last season when Tyson was seeing critical snaps in the second half of Super Bowl XLVII after Haloti Ngata went down with a knee injury. The 2012 seventh-round pick hasn’t necessarily had a poor summer, but he is clearly seventh in the pecking order of a deep group of options with various skills against the run and pass.

Tyson’s fate will come down to the simple numbers as the coaching staff decides whether players at other positions would be better fits for roster spots than keeping Tyson as a seventh defensive lineman. Statistics usually aren’t a great indication of how well a defensive lineman has fared, but Tyson’s two tackles reflect the quiet preseason we’ve observed from the Georgia product.

4. TE Billy Bajema

Following the Ravens’ decision to terminate the contract of veteran Visanthe Shiancoe last weekend, many assumed this opened the door for rookie Matt Furstenburg to be the No. 3 tight end, but veteran Billy Bajema is a reliable blocking tight end with some ability as a pass catcher when given opportunities. He saw a great deal of action late last season when Ed Dickson was sidelined with a knee injury and held up well as the blocking tight end behind Dennis Pitta.

In most cases, teams will go with the younger, cheaper option when rookies and veterans are evenly matched in a competition for a roster spot, but the Ravens were using Bajema over Furstenburg with the starting offense prior to the free-agent signing of Dallas Clark a couple weeks ago. Bajema is also a positive special-teams contributor, which is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when the Ravens make their final decision on a potential third tight end.

5. S Anthony Levine

Fellow safety Omar Brown might be more of a household name after a strong 2012 preseason, but Levine has appeared to receive more opportunities with the starting special-teams units during the preseason, which could be an indication of which way the Ravens are leaning for the fourth safety spot — if they decide to keep one. Levine is bigger than Brown and was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad last November before eventually going on injured reserve, which paved the way for Brown to be promoted in December.

This might be a rare roster battle that comes down to a matter of who can make a play or two in the preseason finale to sell the coaches on a potential decision. Levine has eight tackles this summer while Brown has five; however, Levine has made one special-teams tackle but appeared to be one of the guilty parties to misplay his lane assignment in the Ted Ginn Jr. 74-yard punt return for a touchdown last week in Baltimore.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 27 August 2013 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Pro Wrestling-WWE Live Show (Sunday 5pm Verizon Center); WNBA: Washington Mystics @ Atlanta Dream (Wednesday 7pm from Atlanta live on NBA TV); USA Hockey Training Camp Public Day (Tuesday 7am Kettler Capitals IcePlex)

10. Live/Kelly Bell Band (Saturday 2pm/6pm Baltimore Grand Prix); Luke Bryan (Wednesday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Maze feat. Frankie Beverly (Saturday 7pm Verizon Center); John Mayer (Saturday 7:30pm Jiffy Lube Live); Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (Thursday 8pm Wolf Trap); Anthony Hamilton (Wednesday & Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre), Salt-N-Pepa (Saturday 8pm Howard Theatre); Three Dog Night (Wednesday & Friday 7:30pm Birchmere); Fall Out Boy (Thursday 7:30pm Maryland State Fair), Three Days Grace (Sunday 7:30pm Maryland State Fair); Franz Ferdinand “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Hyperbole be damned. Live is one of the most consistently fantastic bands of the last 25 years. It’s a shame things couldn’t stay together.

The Kelly Bell Band…or as you know them…David Modell and I’s favorite band…

I know what John Mayer is now. I also know that there was a time I half enjoyed him.

I have probably enjoyed WAY more Fall Out Boy songs in my life than I’d ever like to admit.

9. Maryland State Fair (Tuesday-Monday Timonium Fairgrounds); Maryland Renaissance Festival (Saturday-Monday RenFest Fairgrounds); Finesse Mitchell (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Jake Johannsen (Wednesday-Sunday DC Improv);  The Great Gatsby” and “Pain & Gain” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday)”

I’ll make an appearance in Timonium this week. When I do, there will be a peach sundae involved.

And yeah, maybe a red velvet funnel cake.

Don’t judge.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top Seven- Mid-season MLB Rankings

Posted on 02 July 2013 by WNST Staff

Here’s Drew’s top seven in Major League Baseball

7) Atlanta Braves

6) Pittsburgh Pirates

5) Boston Red Sox

4) Baltimore Orioles

3) Texas Rangers

2) Detroit Tigers

1) St. Louis Cardinals

Here’s Ryan’s Top Seven

7) Detroit Tigers

 

6) Baltimore Orioles

5) Pittsburgh Pirates

4) Texas Rangers

3) Boston Red Sox

2) Cincinnati Reds

1) St. Louis Cardinals

 

 

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Former Terp Reed selected by Cardinals in MLB Draft

Posted on 09 June 2013 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – University of Maryland senior lefthander Jimmy Reed was selected Friday in the sixth round (185th overall) of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Reed is the ninth Terp to be drafted over the last three years and is the highest-selected Terrapin since Brett Cecil was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round (38th overall pick) of the 2007 draft.

“I’m pretty ecstatic right now,” said Reed. “When my name was called, I screamed. It is really awesome to be picked in the sixth round by the Cardinals. The Cardinals are an amazing organization with a proven track record of developing pitchers. It’s honestly the best situation for me.”

In his first full season in the weekend rotation, Reed served as the Terps’ Friday night starter. The Gaithersburg, Md., native posted a 6-4 record with a career-high 74 strikeouts. He finished the 2013 season with a 2.33 ERA, which ranks eighth in the ACC, en route to earning second team All-ACC honors and finished his career with 70 appearances, the ninth-highest total in program history.

Reed was at his best in the final month of the season. In three starts, Reed posted a 1.42 ERA and tossed at least eight innings in all three starts. He struck out a career-best 11 at then-No. 18 Clemson on May 6 and followed that performance up by tying the total in his final start on May 16 against Boston College.

In 2013, Reed is one of six ACC pitchers to throw two or more complete games and one of six pitchers to throw a complete-game shutout.

The lefthander tossed his first career complete game shutout in a 1-0 win at Duke on April 26 en route to his first of two ACC Pitcher of the Week awards becoming the first Terrapin pitcher to accomplish the feat. Reed won the award again on May 6 after a 7-2 win against the Tigers.

“It speaks volumes for the work Jimmy put in following his junior season,” said head coach John Szefc. “Obviously, he had a very good junior year. He put a plan in place to come back to school for his senior year and wanted to get into the single-digit rounds so that he would have a better opportunity to move through the system, and that is what he did.”

Reed was drafted in the 21st round by the New York Yankees in 2012, but chose to return to Maryland for his final season of eligibility.

The 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft continues through Saturday. Friday’s selections will conclude at the end of the 10th round. Rounds 11-40 will be held on Saturday.

 

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Former Steeler Harrison, Amendola drawing interest from Ravens

Posted on 13 March 2013 by Luke Jones

The best rivalry in the NFL has taken some hits over the last couple years due to retirements and anticipated free-agent departures, but a piece of news on Tuesday could breathe instant life into showdowns between the Ravens and Steelers.

A source told WNST.net that the Ravens have reached out to former Steelers linebacker James Harrison and the organization is apparently interested in acquiring the services of the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Harrison was released last weekend after the Steelers and agent Bill Parise were unable to come to terms on a renegotiation. The 34-year-old was scheduled to make $6.57 million this year and was previously signed through the 2014 season.

Originally signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent in 2002, Harrison spent some time with the Ravens organization — and was allocated to NFL Europe — before he was re-signed by the Steelers and eventually exploded onto the scene by becoming a starter in 2007. After making five straight Pro Bowls and accumulating 54 sacks from 2007 through 2011, Harrison was limited to just six sacks in 13 games last season.

For the right price, Harrison could be a good short-term fit to fill the situational pass rusher role previously held by Paul Kruger, who signed a $41 million contract with the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday. However, it’s fair to wonder how much production Harrison has left in the tank with his 35th birthday coming up in May.

Another name to keep an eye on is St. Louis Rams free-agent wide receiver Danny Amendola, who has reportedly drawn some interest from the Ravens in light of the trade of Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers on Monday. However, there has been some conflicting information as CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported Wednesday morning that the Ravens haven’t shown interest in the wideout.

The 5-foot-11 slot receiver made 63 receptions for 666 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games as Sam Bradford’s primary target in 2012.

Amendola was an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech in 2008 but eventually found a niche with the St. Louis Rams. Injuries have been a concern for the 27-year-old Amendola over the last two seasons as a broken arm cost him nearly the entire 2011 season and suffered a dislocated clavicle last season.

No one should confuse his ability in the slot with the physical approach of Boldin over the last three seasons, but Amendola could be a nice fit as a part of the equation to replace Boldin’s production in the Baltimore offense.

According to a Pro Football Talk report, Amendola is planning to visit two teams in free agency, but those teams have yet to be disclosed.

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Ravens-Rams pre-game notes

Posted on 30 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Traveling to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis for their final preseason game, the Ravens will rest most of their starters and provide fringe players and rookies a final chance in staking a claim for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Though an official inactive list wasn’t released by the team prior to kickoff, quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Ray Rice, linebacker Ray Lewis, and safety Ed Reed headline a long list of starters who will not see action. That means younger players such as backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and rookie running back Bernard Pierce will start and see extensive playing time against the Rams.

Interestingly enough new head coach Jeff Fisher intends to play the St. Louis starters well into the second half, which will provide a good physical test for the Ravens’ backups and young players to see how they stack up to known commodities in the NFL.

The Ravens must make final cuts to get down to the maximum of 53 players on their roster by 9 p.m. Friday night. Coach John Harbaugh will meet with the media at 12:30 p.m. on Friday after the team conducts a walk-through.

Tonight’s game can be seen on WBAL-TV and Comcast SportsNet at 7 p.m., but be sure to follow along with WNST.net as we chime in with updates and analysis on our official Twitter account.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 27 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: WNBA-Washington Mystics @ Indiana Fever (Tuesday 7pm from Indianapolis live WNBA.com), Washington Mystics @ Atlanta Dream (Thursday 7pm from Atlanta live on NBA TV), Washington Mystics @ New York Liberty (Saturday 4pm from New York live on NBA TV); Boxing: Gennady Golovkin vs. Grzegorz Proska (Saturday 9:45pm from Verona, NY live on HBO)

10. Rascal Flatts/Little Big Town (Sunday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Jimmy Buffett (Saturday 8pm Jiffy Lube Live), UPROAR Festival feat. Shinedown/Godsmack/Staind/Papa Roach/P.O.D. (Sunday 1pm Jiffy Lube Live); Okkervil River (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head Live); Sponge (Friday 7pm Recher Theatre); Hugh Laurie with the Copper Bottom Band (Monday 8pm Rams Head on Stage); Steve Vai (Tuesday 8pm Howard Theatre); Charlie Daniels Band (Thursday 7:30pm Rams Head Center Stage); Alanis Morissette “Havoc and Bright Lights” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

I don’t care much for Rascal Flatts, but I can’t hide my love for Little Big Town. They’re excellent. Their series of covers on YouTube is about as it gets for country music…

I’ll be at JLL Saturday night…anyone else? I plan to bring marshmallows. For throwing. That’s still a thing, right?

I haven’t always been a Shinedown fan, but I enjoy their new song more than you’d expect…

Same for P.O.D….please don’t tell anyone…

9. Maryland State Fair (Tuesday-Monday Timonium Fairgrounds); Maryland Renaissance Festival (Friday-Monday Revel Grove); “Lawless” out in theaters (Wednesday); Finesse Mitchell (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Jake Johannsen (Wednesday-Sunday DC Improv)

I’ll be at the fair Monday. No promises regarding whether I’ll be wearing trousers. I’ll DEFINITELY be enjoying one of these…

Yeah, that’s a fried Oreo. Or really, it’s America.

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Start time changed for Ravens’ final preseason game in St. Louis

Posted on 16 August 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Kickoff for the Ravens’ final preseason game at the St. Louis Rams on Thursday, Aug. 30, has been moved to 7 p.m. ET.

The game was previously scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET, but has been changed due to the television broadcast of the Republican National Convention.

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Ravens add veteran TE Bajema

Posted on 01 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Needing to add depth after the loss of Dennis Pitta for the remainder of the preseason with a broken hand, the Ravens announced the signing of veteran tight end Billy Bajema to the 90-man preseason roster.

Entering his eighth season, the 29-year-old made 12 starts and played in all 16 games for the St. Louis Rams last season. He caught nine passes for 71 yards and is regarded as a blocking tight end.

With 2009 fifth-round pick Davon Drew and rookies Bruce Figgins and Matt Balasavage the only healthy tight ends on the roster behind starter Ed Dickson, Bajema brings a veteran presence and could potentially compete with Drew for the No. 3 tight end job. Of course, that’s assuming the Ravens elect to keep three tight ends when they trim the roster down to 53 at the beginning of September.

Bajema’s best season came in 2010 when he made 14 receptions for 145 yards and caught two touchdowns. He spent four seasons in San Francisco before playing the last three with the Rams, accumulating 38 catches for 398 yards and two receiving touchdowns.

He was a seventh-round pick from Oklahoma State in the 2005 draft.

In a corresponding move, rookie quarterback John Brantley was released.

 

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Ravens sign former St. Louis center Tony Wragge as mandatory minicamp begins

Posted on 12 June 2012 by Luke Jones

Conducting their mandatory minicamp this week, the Ravens have signed veteran interior lineman Tony Wragge to add depth along the offensive line.

The 32-year-old started eight games for the St. Louis Rams last season after spending the previous five years in San Francisco. Wragged has played in 82 games over his eight-year career, starting 23.

An undrafted free agent from New Mexico State in 2002, Wragge began his career with the Arizona Cardinals by bouncing between the active roster and the practice squad before being released in 2004. He played in the Arena Football League with the Los Angeles Avengers in 2005 before joining the 49ers a year later.

Wragge started the Rams’ final eight games of the season last year, assuming a starting role in Week 10.

To create room on the 90-man off-season roster, the Ravens waived defensive lineman Elliott Henigan.

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