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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

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MobTown Sports Beat Monday Ravens Roundup

Posted on 23 September 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

The Ravens improved to 2-1 on the season yesterday with a one-sided, 30-9 win over the Houston Texans. After the way that the Texans handled the Ravens last season, there were a number of reasons to be concerned beforehand. Truth be told, I had a much worse feeling about what might happen against Houston than I did before the beat down the Ravens suffered in Denver in Week1. Hindsight however is 20/20, so here’s a quick rundown of what we know now after the Ravens latest victory:

5. Justin Tucker is Back on Track

…for now at least. Maybe it was the reception that Billy Cundiff received from the Ravens faithful last week that had Tucker out of sorts. Maybe it was just the presence of Cundiff in the building that infected Tucker’s right foot last Sunday. Regardless, Tucker made enough big kicks in his rookie year to have some equity built up with fans. That equity though wouldn’t have lasted through too many 0-for-2 performances like he had last week vs. Cleveland, especially if those misses began to cost the Ravens games.

While concern over the kicking game was mild at most, it was nice to see Tucker get back on track with a 3-for-3 game against the Texans, hitting from 28, 45 and 43 yards. Even though the two from 40+ came in late, low leverage situations, any concerns fans had about the Ravens kicking game can be shelved…for now.

4. Dirty Birds

After struggling with penalties last year, the Ravens still appear to have some work to do in that regard. The 2013 Ravens have 20 penalties for 181 yards through 3 games, including 10 for 87 yards in yesterday’s affair. Despite their most penalized performance of the season vs. Houston, the Ravens still managed to win the “penalty battle” as the Texans racked up 14 for 113 yards.

3. Cheering for Laundry

On the day that Ed Reed returned to Baltimore as a member of a new team, and Ray Lewis returned to be honored by the Ravens, it was the guys who suited up in their places that stole the show. James Ihedigbo picked up 9 tackles, 2 for a loss along with 2 defended passes and simply seemed to be everywhere while covering Ed Reed’s old spot. Daryl Smith, playing in Ray Lewis’ former domain plucked a Matt Schaub pass away from a waiting Owen Daniels, and at a time where the Ravens offense was struggling to make hay, made some on his own, hustling it 37 yards to pay dirt.

For all of the Ravens off-season pick-ups, Daryl Smith might have been the least heralded. He was grabbed on the same day the Ravens visited the White House and his signing went basically under the radar. If he continues to play like he did on Sunday, he could be the team’s most impactful addition. It’s also pretty encouraging that his big play came defending a tight end, which has been an issue for the Ravens of late.  

2. Doss is a Boss

What more can you say about a guy who was shown the door by the team when they pared down to their final 53 men, only to come back with an emphatic impact? Life out of football, brief as it may have been, seems to have brought out the best in Tandon Doss who is making the most out of his second chance with the Ravens. Maybe in the coming weeks Doss can become more a part of the Ravens passing game, and finally show fans those hands we heard so much about from the team about throughout his first 2 seasons. It’s not like the Ravens offense couldn’t use a pair of hands that they can trust between the hash marks.

1. Who Says Joe Flacco Can’t Act?

While Joe Flacco’s increased, post-Super Bowl public profile has led to some pretty clunky performances as a pitchman in various commercials, Flacco’s acting skills were on full display yesterday. After last season’s debacle at the hands of the Texans, JJ Watt and the rest of the Houston pass rush broke the huddle with their ears pinned back more often than not on Sunday. Flacco used that aggression against the Texans inducing 5 encroachment or defensive offsides penalties on the anxious Texans defense.

Elsewhere in the AFC North

The Bengals picked up a big win and remain tied with the Ravens at 2-1 atop the division. For now at least, it’s shaping up to be an interesting battle between these 2 for the division. They’ll meet again in Week 17 this year, maybe with something actually on the line this time.

The Steelers looked really bad to start against the Bears on Sunday night, but showed some real resilience closing the gap from 24-3 to 27-23. It looked like Pittsburgh had really found their resolve in the face of an 0-3 start. In the end though, their comeback attempt was little more than a chance for Ben Roethlisberger to cough up the ball in a late critical situation…it’s kind of their thing.

Leave it to the Browns to all but announce that they’re going into full tank mode by trading RB Trent Richardson and skipping right over Jason Campbell on the depth chart to 3rd stringer Brian Hoyer to replace injured starter Brandon Weeden, and then pick up a win on Sunday. There are even reports that the Browns are shopping receivers Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Of course the Browns can’t even tank right. If they had only known that the best way to win was to actually try to lose, they could have saved themselves and their fans years of heartache.

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Our Ravens/Texans “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Texans “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 22 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each (Tim Horsey played the role of Ryan Chell for Week 4.)

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 30-9 win over the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Gino Gradkowski

 

4. Dean Pees

 

3. Haloti Ngata

 

2. Torrey Smith

 

1. Daryl Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens’ depth, versatility paying off at outside linebacker

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Ravens’ depth, versatility paying off at outside linebacker

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Though the Ravens’ 1-1 start has been anything but seamless, the hype surrounding the pass-rushing combination of Terrell Suggs and free-agent acquisition Elvis Dumervil has been justified for the Baltimore defense.

Entering the 2013 season with eight Pro Bowl selections and 148 quarterback sacks between them, Suggs and Dumervil have collected a combined four sacks and 10 quarterback hits in their first two weeks together. Considering the money and resources invested by general manager Ozzie Newsome at the outside linebacker position, you expect that kind of production, but another reason to feel optimistic about Suggs, who will turn 31 next month, and the 29-year-old Dumervil being productive over the entire 16-game regular season is the depth and versatility behind them in the Baltimore defense.

With younger players such as Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee spelling the veterans in certain situations, it decreases their total number of opportunities to rack up sacks and pressures but provides an ability to maximize their production when they are on the field. Both Suggs and Dumervil have welcomed younger players receiving opportunities defensively.

“That’s a good thing. You want guys getting after it,” Suggs said following Sunday’s win. “Everybody’s fighting for it.”

With Cleveland expected to establish the running game as opposed to Denver’s wide-open passing attack from Week 1, it was no surprise to see Upshaw start the game at the strong-side linebacker position with Dumervil on the sideline. Ideally, Dumervil is better suited for Suggs’ rush linebacker position than the Sam linebacker spot responsible for setting the edge and focusing more on stopping the run.

Upshaw played 42 of the Ravens’ 63 defensive snaps against the Browns while Dumervil was on the field for 39 plays. This didn’t prevent Dumervil from being a major thorn in the side of Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden as he collected a sack, three quarterback hits, and two hurries in 28 pass-rush situations, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Upshaw was a major part of a run defense that limited the Browns to just 3.3 yards per carry and 65 yards on the ground.

“Upshaw is a hell of a player, and he’s only [in] year two, so the sky is the limit for him,” Dumervil said prior to the start of the season. “I think the staff does a great job of putting guys where it’s suited best for them, and as a player, you have to be respectful towards what is trying to be accomplished.”

Dumervil wasn’t the only standout linebacker to receive some rest over the course of the game as Suggs took 49 defensive snaps and third-year pass-rush specialist Pernell McPhee participated in 20, often spelling Suggs at his rush linebacker spot. McPhee was converted to outside linebacker in the offseason and while he lacks the skill set of Suggs against the run and in pass coverage, the position change allowed him to shed some weight to take some pressure off his problematic knees and to help keep the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year fresh over the course of games when possible.

Of course, there will be occasions against tougher competition in which the Ravens will lean more heavily on Suggs and Dumervil, but the ability for defensive coordinator Dean Pees to lighten the workload of his veteran outside linebackers will keep them more productive down the stretch when the Ravens will need them at their best.

Dead end with tight ends

The tight end position has been a hot topic for discussion ever since starter Dennis Pitta went down with a serious hip injury in the first week of training camp, and there are no indications that the problem is being fixed until his potential return late this season.

The Ravens showed their level of concern by working out free-agent tight ends Jake Ballard and Matt Mulligan after the season opener, but it’s difficult to expect any addition off the street to make a significant impact. Ed Dickson has struggled mightily to catch the football while 34-year-old Dallas Clark has looked slow running routes and dropped a sure touchdown right before halftime in the Week 1 loss at Denver.

“Those guys need to be a big part of what we are doing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They are fully capable of making catches. Ed should be a big-play guy up the seam, over routes, and all those kinds of things. We need to get Ed going.”

On paper and in practices, Dickson looks like the prototypical tight end with size, good speed, and strong blocking ability, but trying to cure the mental issue of having a case of the drops isn’t easy. After Dickson dropped a Joe Flacco pass that would have been a nice gain over the middle of the field on the first play of the game on Sunday, the quarterback didn’t target him again.

It spoke volumes for both Dickson and Clark that No. 3 tight end Billy Bajema — known mostly for his blocking — turned in the best performance of the day by making an 18-yard reception. Whether we see more of him, versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk, or the eventual promotion of Matt Furstenburg from the practice squad, the Ravens need to see improvement from the tight end spot considering the similar questions facing the wide receiver position.

In two games this season, Ravens tight ends have combined for 10 catches and 126 yards. In comparison, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham had eight catches for 156 yards and a touchdown in the first half of the Saints’ win against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

That type of production from their tight ends in two games just simply isn’t enough in the modern NFL.

Running game concerns

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Torrey Smith 23 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 6 (3rd quarter)

4. Marlon Brown 10 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 7 (3rd quarter)

3. Brandon Stokley 11 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 8 (3rd quarter)

2. Marlon Brown 5 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (4th quarter)

1. Brandon Weeden deep pass intended for Chris Ogbonnaya incomplete (3rd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net to offer “Pats on the Ass” to players who have done something to deserve the honor.

We give pats to two defensive players, two offensive players and one “Wild Card”-either another offensive or defensive player, a Special Teams player or a coach. We offer a “Pat on Both Cheeks” to someone who stands out, our version of a “Player of the Game.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Arthur Jones

4. Elvis Dumervil

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Daryl Smith

1. Torrey Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens bring back Doss to aid concerns at receiver, returner

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Ravens bring back Doss to aid concerns at receiver, returner

Posted on 09 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The wide receiver and tight end carousel continues for the Ravens as they are bringing back wide receiver Tandon Doss.

The 2011 fourth-round pick will rejoin the organization that drafted him after being waived on Aug. 31. Entering the summer with significant expectations to help fill the void created by the offseason trade of Anquan Boldin, Doss had a disappointing preseason and was left off the Ravens’ 53-man roster.

“It helps to have a guy that’s been here when you can bring someone like Tandon who knows the offense and is ready to plug right in and play for us,” coach John Harbaugh said. “There’s no teaching we have to do. he knows what to do. It’s a big plus for us.”

To make room for Doss, general manager Ozzie Newsome released veteran linebacker Robert James, who was claimed on waivers from the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 1.

The knee injury suffered by Jacoby Jones in the season-opening loss at Denver created depth concerns at wide receiver and in the return game where Doss has the ability to return punts. Jones is expected to miss at least a month with a sprained right MCL. Starting cornerback Lardarius Webb returned punts after Jones’ exit in the second quarter against the Broncos while No. 2 running back Bernard Pierce handled kickoff returns.

It’s believed that the Ravens would prefer not to use Webb in the return game since he is coming back from his second ACL surgery in four years.

“We’ll just go with the best guys we have,” Harbaugh said. “As a coach, you play with the guys you’ve got, so we’ll put the guy out there who gives us the best chance to hold onto the football and get us some yards. That’s what you have to do.”

In two seasons with the Ravens, Doss caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown on 20 targets. He was expected to be the team’s slot receiver as many hoped his reputation for having good hands and running crisp routes to be a poor man’s version of Boldin.

Doss caught seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in the preseason but was heavily criticized for misreading a pressure and running the incorrect route on a Joe Flacco pass returned for a touchdown in the third preseason game against Carolina.

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Ravens cut Doss, seven others to get roster down to 53

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Ravens cut Doss, seven others to get roster down to 53

Posted on 31 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens started Saturday with 63 players on their roster and wasted no time working to get down to the NFL-mandated 53 by 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Wide receiver Tandon Doss headlined a list of cuts that included tight ends Matt Furstenburg and Billy Bajema, running back Bobby Rainey, defensive lineman Cody Larsen,offensive linemen J.J. Unga and Antoine McClain, and safety Omar Brown.

A fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Doss was expected to play a larger role in the passing game following the offseason trade of Anquan Boldin, but the third-year wideout struggled with consistency in both practices and preseason games. His five-catch, 75-yard performance in the preseason finale against St. Louis apparently wasn’t enough to change the Ravens’ minds about his roster fate.

The decision to jettison Doss left roster space for third-year wide receiver LaQuan Williams, who has consistency issues of his own but is a more versatile special-teams player than Doss. On Friday, head coach John Harbaugh painted a positive picture for the chances of rookies Marlon Brown and Aaron Mellette to make the 53-man roster and the departure of Doss only confirmed that.

Parting ways with both Furstenburg and Bajema as well as Rainey was surprising in that it leaves the Ravens with just two healthy tight ends and two running backs on their 53-man roster, which would be unusual for most NFL rosters. However, backup fullback Kyle Juszczyk could be viewed as the third-string option at each position should the Ravens elect to stay with that roster breakdown.

Last season, third-string running back Anthony Allen had 16 carries while Bajema made zero receptions as the Ravens’ No. 3 tight end. It reflects the reality of those final spots on the 53-man roster being much more about special-teams contributions than positional depth.

After deciding to cut Brown, the Ravens kept five safeties with Anthony Levine and Brynden Trawick backing up the trio of Michael Huff, James Ihedigbo, and first-round pick Matt Elam. Baltimore only has four active cornerbacks on the roster at the moment, so the decision to carry five safeties eases depth concerns in the secondary since Huff has experience playing corner in the NFL. Trawick blocked a punt in the preseason opener and played well in the fourth exhibition game, but he was considered by most pundits to be trailing both Brown and Levine in the hunt for a roster spot.

With defensive backs Asa Jackson and Christian Thompson both beginning the season on the reserve-suspended list, the Ravens now have 53 active players on their roster. However, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen remains on the roster for now despite breaking his foot early in training camp. He has long been considered a candidate for injured reserve and could easily be placed there should general manager Ozzie Newsome claim another player off waivers as early as Sunday.

Further complicating the roster picture is tight end Dennis Pitta, who cannot be placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list until Tuesday. This essentially means the Ravens had to cut their roster to 52 healthy players, but it could open the door for either Bajema or Furstenburg to be re-signed if they don’t catch on elsewhere.

All but one of the Ravens’ 10 selections in the 2013 draft survived final cut-down day with only seventh-round cornerback Marc Anthony being let go. Sixth-round defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was placed on the non-football injury list last week as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered in January.

Anthony was the organization’s first draft pick to be cut in the same year he was selected since 2009 when fifth-round tight end Davon Drew and sixth-round running back Cedric Peerman were both waived.

Here’s the official look at the 53-man roster and corresponding moves as of Saturday’s 6 p.m. deadline:

QB: Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor
RB: Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce
FB: Vonta Leach, Kyle Juszczyk
TE: Ed Dickson, Dallas Clark, *Dennis Pitta
WR: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, Brandon Stokley, Marlon Brown, Deonte Thompson, Aaron Mellette, LaQuan Williams
OL: Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher, A.Q. Shipley, Jah Reid, Rick Wagner, Ryan Jensen (injured)

DL: Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, Brandon Williams, Terrence Cody, DeAngelo Tyson
OLB: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, Pernell McPhee, John Simon
ILB: Daryl Smith, Josh Bynes, Arthur Brown, Albert McClellan
CB: Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham, Jimmy Smith, Chykie Brown
S: Michael Huff, James Ihedigbo, Matt Elam, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick

Specialists: Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

*Pitta may be placed on injured reserve-designated to return on Tuesday afternoon.
____________
Injured-reserve: Adrian Hamilton, D.J. Bryant
Reserve-suspended: Asa Jackson, Christian Thompson
Physically unable to perform: Jameel McClain
Non-football injury: Kapron Lewis-Moore

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Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

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Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

Posted on 26 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens are less than a week away from making final decisions for their 53-man roster with no position currently in more flux than wide receiver.

After an offseason full of discussion around a young but unproven group of wide receivers, the preseason has provided little knowledge in projecting how the Ravens plan to flourish in the passing game without 2012 key targets Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. The decision to sign 37-year-old Brandon Stokley and 34-year-old tight end Dallas Clark after the preseason opener was all you needed to know about the level of concern general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh felt after an underwhelming start to the summer for the passing game.

Just days away from the preseason finale that’s likely to feature very few starters, the Ravens have three locks to make the roster at the wide receiver position: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Stokley. Smith remains the only option at the position with which you feel comfortable while Jones’ speed and Stokley’s ability to move the chains from the slot receiver position are specialized skills that will work well in different formations.

After that? Unknown commodities and unfulfilled promise fill out the rest of the pack.

Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown? A 2013 seventh-round pick and a rookie free agent respectively.

LaQuan Williams? A solid special-teams player but inconsistent as a wide receiver in both practices and preseason games.

Deonte Thompson? Injured since the preseason opener.

And Tandon Doss? He’s become the whipping boy of a concerned fan base after a very disappointing summer.

The discussion over who stays and who goes has heated up over the last couple weeks as fans and media alike try to predict how many receivers will make the regular-season roster.

“I’m not quite certain of what the numbers will be,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “That’s John and Ozzie — they take care of that. They look at it and determine [and] look at the entire team.”

While many fixate on a given number of receivers to make the final roster — five, six, even seven? — the Ravens look at the roster from a global view in determining which 53 players will be the best fit to win games in 2013. As unlikely as it might be, all eight receivers could make it through final cuts if Harbaugh and his staff determine they contribute enough both offensively and through special teams.

Caldwell has even suggested that strength in numbers might be the unit’s best bet while also providing more time to determine which receivers build the best rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco in the early weeks of the season. Eight receivers would certainly be a stretch, but it’s not difficult envisioning scenarios in which seven wideouts crack the 53-man roster without too much trouble.

It comes down to special-teams play, team health, and positional needs — or the lack of needs — elsewhere.

“There could be a situation where we’re using quite a few guys at the wide receiver position, which I think is a plus for us because it helps us mix up personnel packages,” Caldwell said. “We do have some versatility because we have a number of guys who can play multiple positions.”

With that in mind, it’s time to make the case for and against each of the five wide receivers projected to be on the roster bubble.

Each receiver’s career NFL regular-season numbers are noted in parentheses.

Tandon Doss (seven catches, 123 yards, 20 targets)

The case for: The Ravens typically don’t give up on their high draft picks easily and the 2011 fourth-round pick has practiced well at different points over the last three years despite a very underwhelming preseason performance of just two catches for 10 yards and a touchdown in three games this summer. He hasn’t stepped up in the manner the Ravens had hoped in filling Boldin’s shoes as the slot receiver, but the rest of the bunch hasn’t outperformed him so dramatically to make him out to be the slam-dunk cut that some critics have made him out to be over the last few days. Another factor helping Doss’ case for a roster spot is the lack of a healthy option behind Stokley as a slot receiver in the passing game with Thompson currently injured. He’s shown good hands and route-running ability in practices, which still counts for something despite magnified mistakes in preseason games.

The case against: It never speaks well for your future when two rookies appear to have leapfrogged you on the depth chart after Brown and Mellette saw playing time before Doss against Carolina in the third preseason game. His inability to recognize a blitz led to a Flacco interception against the Panthers, and the third-year wideout didn’t exactly come across as a player trying to take accountability in his explanation after the game. Doss can serve as a backup punt returner, but his ability to play special teams is very limited beyond that. Of the five players currently on the bubble at the position, he has received the greatest number of opportunities and has done very little with them, making you wonder how much patience the Ravens have left. Expectations were high for him, but he’s performed poorly in the preseason.

Marlon Brown (rookie)

The case for: The undrafted product did what no other young receiver had done all summer last Thursday when he took advantage of an opportunity to work with the starting offense by making four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. You can’t teach 6-foot-5 height, and Brown has shown the potential to be the tall red-zone target the Ravens envisioned with the selection of the recently-cut Tommy Streeter in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Brown runs solid routes and has shown consistent hands for much of the summer in both practices and games while working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last fall. His performance in a nationally-televised preseason game makes it highly unlikely that he will clear waivers to allow the Ravens to sign him to their practice squad as they may have planned a couple weeks ago.

The case against: It’s important to remember one preseason performance means very little in the big picture as the Ravens aren’t exactly sure how Brown will fit in the short-term future or whether he will pan out in the long term. Despite being a five-star recruit for the University of Georgia, he didn’t exactly live up to expectations playing in the SEC, the greatest stage college football has to offer. Brown has occasionally missed some practice time this summer while working his way back to 100 percent, so that will be something to watch in his first season in the NFL where rookies can often hit the proverbial wall late in the 16-game schedule.

Aaron Mellette (rookie)

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Concerns rising over Ravens’ lack of options in passing game

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Concerns rising over Ravens’ lack of options in passing game

Posted on 16 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Unless you’re heavily invested in the futures of such Ravens players as Tyrod Taylor, Aaron Mellette, and Asa Jackson, there wasn’t much to like Thursday night despite a 27-23 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Head coach John Harbaugh said it all as the first half ended with the Ravens trailing 20-7 after the offense was held to just 131 total yards, the defense had surrendered 255 yards, and the team had committed five penalties for 42 yards. The effort was sloppy, out of rhythm, and unlike anything the sixth-year coach could remember in his tenure in Baltimore — even if it was only the second preseason game of the summer.

“That first half was about as poorly as we could play,” Harbaugh said at halftime. “I can’t remember us playing worse since we came here.”

Speaking with more perspective after a 21-point fourth quarter that propelled the Ravens to a 2-0 start in the preseason, the coach acknowledged that many of the first-half mistakes were correctable and he was right. As shaky as the defensive effort was, Dean Pees’ unit has several new pieces that need to gel over these next three weeks prior to the regular-season opener. The secondary will be aided by the return of top cornerback Lardarius Webb, and most players on which the Ravens are counting have track records that create a certain comfort level.

The penalties are a concern when you recall the Ravens being plagued by them last year — ranking 31st in the NFL — but they weren’t of the variety causing you to lose too much sleep.

Of course, the area raising the most concern for the second week in a row is the stagnant performance of the offense as the Ravens couldn’t run nor throw the ball with any level of consistency in the first 30 minutes of play. The lone highlight was a 77-yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith on a crossing pattern over the middle of the field on the first play of their second offensive series.

Aside from that one play, the Ravens were held to 54 yards on 18 plays and managed just three first downs before halftime. Baltimore carried the ball 10 times for just 13 yards in the first half as the starting offensive line opened few running lanes with Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda not quite ready for game action.

Wide receivers not named Smith were held to one catch for four yards on six targets prior to Mellette’s 40-yard touchdown to open the fourth-quarter scoring.

“We kind of beat ourselves with penalties and certain miscues, and it’s tough to play from behind,” Smith said. “When you’re not playing many plays, it’s tough to recover from that, but we’ll be fine. We know what the mistakes were that we made, and you can’t make penalties, so obviously we need to correct that.”

There are only so many times you can go to the “throw a quick slant to Torrey Smith for a touchdown” trick in the playbook.

The results of Thursday night’s game are truly inconsequential as we’ll all forget the score of the game in just a few weeks, but the current state of the passing offense continues to look like one of panic. Beyond Smith, not a single receiver emerged as Jacoby Jones was held to one reception and newly-signed veteran Brandon Stokley wasn’t targeted after playing only a handful of plays in the slot.

With Ed Dickson still sidelined with a hamstring injury, current starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was targeted twice in the first half — one negated by a penalty — and failed to record a reception.

It was Jones again running a questionable route that contributed in part to a second Flacco interception in as many weeks.

“I threw it into a bee’s nest,” said Flacco about the second-quarter pick. “I thought Jacoby might be able to get around the Sam linebacker, so I kind of threw it off of his shoulder, but Jacoby was just getting behind there, so I threw it into too many people.”

It’s becoming apparent that the Ravens are discovering what the Houston Texans did about Jones’ limitations as a wide receiver. The Pro Bowl return specialist’s ideal role is the one he served last year as a vertical threat on the outside in three-wide sets and as a player you can use for a handful of gadget plays over the course of the year.

But Jones hasn’t been as disappointing as third-year receiver Tandon Doss, who didn’t even draw any playing time with the starting offense on Thursday as Stokley took the reps in the slot. Though not the deciding factor by any stretch, Doss was viewed as a real piece of the puzzle along with tight end Dennis Pitta this offseason to replace veteran Anquan Boldin’s production.

Instead, it’s been a quiet summer for the 2011 fourth-round pick, who has struggled to gain separation in practices and each of the first two preseason contests. Doss suffered a drop on a pass originally ruled to be a fumble in the third quarter before he did manage to make up for it with a 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

“That was really, really great to see,” Harbaugh said. “Consistency is important, too. You’ve got to stack good plays. We’ll have to go back and look at that and just see for every guy how that plays out. You really need to watch the tape and kind of see where the situation is to evaluate it fairly.”

Harbaugh’s correct and much of what he saw on both sides of the ball was correctable, but he’ll also find a group of wide receivers and tight ends that struggled to gain separation over the first three quarters of play. And while it’s only a preseason game for the established veterans with track records, these are the precious opportunities to find out as much as you can about the unknown commodities on your roster.

The likes of Doss, David Reed, LaQuan Williams (who followed a strong preseason opener with two drops Thursday night), and the injured Deonte Thompson haven’t looked up to the task for the most part in the two preseason games or practices, leaving the door open for Stokley and newly-signed veteran tight end Dallas Clark to receive extensive opportunities in the all-important third preseason game.

Four weeks into the summer, a long-term and potentially season-ending hip injury to Pitta and a disappointing Doss have left the plan to replace Boldin in shambles as the Ravens are now looking for any help they can get to augment the passing game.

Beyond Smith and Ray Rice out of the backfield, who can you trust as pass catchers?

Flacco has talked a good game all spring and summer about trusting his young receivers, but you wonder how much of that is the sixth-year quarterback trying to be a good teammate at this point as he can’t truly rely on anyone but Smith in the current batch of healthy receivers and tight ends.

At least there’s always Rice and the check-down to count on.

“We really don’t think about it too much besides when we’re questioned about it,” Flacco said about the perceived offensive struggles. “You guys look more at that stuff. We just go out there and play and do it with who we have out there. I think the guys are doing a great job.”

Who we have out there.

Whether he intended to or not, the quarterback said it all with that portion of his response.

And Thursday made you continue to doubt if who the Ravens have out there will be enough this year.

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Ravens-Falcons preseason primer: Five players to watch

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Ravens-Falcons preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 14 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Looking to build on an uneven performance from their starting units in the preseason opener, the Ravens return to M&T Bank Stadium for their first live-game action at home since last season in hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.

Though starters won’t see their most extensive action until next week against Carolina, the first-team units will likely play deep into the second quarter before giving way to backups.

“It will be somewhere in that neighborhood,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Usually the second preseason game is a half, but again, like we say every time we play a preseason game, it will depend on different guys. Different guys will be on different plans, so it’s hard to say exactly.”

The second preseason game is often the best opportunity for younger players to make their biggest impression with the coaching staff since starters often play into the third quarter in the third preseason game. As a result, many rookies and backups won’t receive as many live-game reps again until the fourth preseason game after most 53-man roster decisions have already been made internally.

With veteran additions being made at wide receiver and tight end over the last week, fringe players at those positions find themselves in a precarious position trying to stand out despite the reality of there now being one or two fewer roster spots available to win.

“If you play well enough, you’re going to make it,” Harbaugh said. “And if you play well enough and you don’t make it here, you’ll make it somewhere else. It’s really more of a competition against yourself and how well you can play and how good you can get and then see what happens. That other stuff is pretty much out of their control, and I think they understand that.”

The Ravens and Falcons will meet in the preseason for the 10th time as Baltimore holds a 6-3 record. The two teams are tied 2-2 in the all-time regular-season series as Atlanta won the most recent meeting in 2010.

After last week’s 44-16 win over the Buccaneers, the Ravens are now 41-27 all-time in the preseason and 14-7 in the Harbaugh era. Baltimore has now won 13 of its last 17 preseason games and has produced seven wins in the last eight preseason contests played at M&T Bank Stadium.

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.

Most of the players ruled to be out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will be in question. Cornerback Lardarius Webb is not expected to play as he continues to increase his level of activity in 11-on-11 sessions during practices. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda just returned to the practice field on Monday on a limited basis but could take part in the third preseason game of the summer.

Newly-signed tight end Dallas Clark is not expected to play against the Falcons while veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley could see some very limited action as each player tries to learn offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s system. Both are good bets to receive extensive action in next week’s nationally-televised game against the Panthers.

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

OUT: TE Ed Dickson (hamstring), WR Deonte Thompson (foot), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), LB Jameel McClain (neck), OL Ryan Jensen (foot), DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
DOUBTFUL: DT Marcus Spears (hamstring), CB Lardarius Webb (knee), CB Chris Johnson (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Ramon Harewood (knee), LB Bryan Hall (hamstring), WR Marlon Brown (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: WR David Reed (groin), S James Ihedigbo (neck), CB Chykie Brown (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Thursday night

1. WR Tandon Doss

With Stokley still in the process of picking up the offensive system, Doss must show the coaching staff that he can be a viable option working out of the slot after a disappointing performance in the preseason opener. It’s largely been a quiet summer for the third-year receiver who has a reputation for good hands and running crisp routes in practice.

Next week, you would expect the Ravens to take long looks at both Stokley and Clark working the middle of the field in the passing game, meaning Doss has a critical opportunity against the Falcons to show he can be more than just an afterthought offensively. It’s time for Doss to show why the Ravens thought highly enough of him to draft him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

2. DT Terrence Cody

The fourth-year defensive lineman has been maligned for much of his run in Baltimore, but Cody has received positive reviews from the coaching staff this summer as he’s finally healthy after offseason hip and elbow surgeries. His roster standing appears to be safer now than it was at the start of camp, but he’s fighting for playing time in what’s shaping up to be a crowded defensive line rotation.

Cody may never live up to his original second-round billing, but the Ravens need a strong option to back up Haloti Ngata at nose tackle, which will allow defensive coordinator Dean Pees to be more creative in moving the Pro Bowl defensive tackle around when warranted. There’s no reason why Cody can’t feast against the Falcons’ second-team offense and further impress the coaching staff as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

3. LB Courtney Upshaw

Many have been surprised to see Upshaw work so extensively with the starting defense — and ahead of pass-rush standout Elvis Dumervil — but all you have to do is focus on his ability against the run to see why the Ravens are high on him. He has shed the excess weight he was carrying in the spring and looks to be carving out his spot as the starting strongside outside linebacker who will play against offensively-balanced teams in early-down situations.

Upshaw’s ability against the run allows Pees to be more judicious in how he uses both Dumervil and starting rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, which will hopefully keep both veterans fresher over the course of games and the entire season. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but Upshaw will factor heavily in what the Ravens expect to be a stout run defense.

4. LB Arthur Brown

Brown’s athleticism and ability in pass coverage have been impressive, but he just doesn’t look the part of a three-down linebacker right now with his 235-pound frame, which is probably a generous listing. That said, Brown will serve an important role as a nickel linebacker spelling Josh Bynes in passing situations.

The second-round pick may not become a full-time starter until he can benefit from a full offseason to put on 10 pounds of muscle, but the Ravens struggled to cover tight ends over the short-to-intermediate middle portion of the field over the last few years and Brown can be a major boost in that department. Brown has a bright future, but he has a lot of work to do in order to close the gap between him and Bynes for the starting weakside inside linebacker spot next to veteran Daryl Smith.

5. TE Matt Furstenburg

Furstenburg is just one of several young players who are feeling the effects of the recent veteran signings as he now trails Ed Dickson, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Clark and is battling veteran Billy Bajema for the fourth spot on the depth chart. The Maryland product’s most realistic destination is the practice squad at this rate, but he will have an opportunity to distinguish himself Thursday like Doss and the other young wide receivers fighting for playing time and roster spots.

A factor that many will overlook in the tight end battle is blocking and neither Shiancoe nor Clark are particularly strong in that department. Of course, much will depend on the status of Dickson’s injured hamstring in a couple weeks, but there could be a potential spot available to Bajema or Furstenburg if their blocking ability proves to be a necessary asset.

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