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Ex-Ravens Woodrum, Mizzell, Payne claimed off waivers

Posted on 03 September 2017 by Luke Jones

Three players cut by the Ravens over the weekend were claimed by other NFL teams on Sunday.

Quarterback Josh Woodrum, running back Taquan Mizzell, and linebacker Donald Payne all had strong preseasons and were candidates to be re-signed to the practice squad had they passed through waivers. Instead, Woodrum was claimed by Cleveland, Mizzell is going to Chicago, and Payne was picked up by Jacksonville, meaning all three are now on the 53-man rosters of their new teams.

The Ravens were not awarded any players off waivers on Sunday.

Woodrum garnered much attention after completing 25 of 36 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. He easily outperformed incumbent backup Ryan Mallett from a statistical standpoint, but Woodrum saw most of his playing time against second- and third-team defenses.

With starter Joe Flacco only returning to practice Saturday after missing the entire summer with a back injury, the Ravens will presumably look to add another quarterback to their practice squad.

An undrafted free agent out of Virginia, Mizzell led the Ravens in both rushing and receiving yards in the preseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh elected not to keep a fourth running back behind Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, and Buck Allen. Woodhead returned to practice on Saturday, alleviating short-term concerns about the depth at the position.

Payne recorded 15 tackles in the preseason and played very well on special teams, but he was beaten out by fellow undrafted free agent Bam Bradley for the fourth inside linebacker spot on the 53-man roster behind two-time Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley, 2016 second-round pick Kamaeli Correa, and second-year player Patrick Onwuasor. The season-ending knee injury suffered by veteran Albert McClellan late last month paved the way for Bradley to win a roster spot.

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Mizzell, Skura, Matthews among final Ravens cuts to get to 53

Posted on 02 September 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens made their final subtractions to form their initial roster for the 2017 regular season without any major surprises.

Running back Taquan Mizzell, offensive lineman Matt Skura, and wide receivers Chris Matthews and Quincy Adeboyejo headlined a list of 14 cuts made to trim the preseason roster down to the 53-man limit. Baltimore also placed veteran cornerback Brandon Boykin on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.

A trio of rookie free agents — cornerback Jaylen Hill, linebacker Bam Bradley, and defensive lineman and hybrid blocking fullback and tight end Patrick Ricard — made the team, meaning the Ravens have kept at least one undrafted rookie on their 53-man roster for the 14th consecutive season. Hill and Ricard turned heads with their performance even dating back to spring workouts while Bradley made plays on defensive and special teams during the preseason and benefited from a numbers standpoint after the season-ending knee injury suffered by veteran Albert McClellan.

Mizzell led the team in both rushing and receiving in the preseason, but general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to keep only three running backs. Fellow rookie free agent Ricky Ortiz was also waived, meaning the Ravens do not have a traditional fullback on the current roster. Both would appear to be reasonable candidates to be signed to the practice squad.

Skura had started all four preseason games at left guard, but the acquisitions of offensive linemen Tony Bergstrom and Luke Bowanko left him and former starting center Jeremy Zuttah on the outside looking in. The Ravens would likely be open to re-signing Skura to the practice squad for the second straight season.

Matthews had played a prominent role on special teams throughout the summer, but the Ravens elected to keep only five receivers on their roster with 2016 fourth-round pick Chris Moore receiving the nod. A rookie free agent from Mississippi, Adeboyejo turned heads with big plays early in training camp, but he dealt with a nagging knee issue as the summer continued and was unable to duplicate his success in preseason contests.

The Ravens also cut linebackers Boseko Lokombo and Donald Payne, tight end Ryan Malleck, cornerback Reggie Porter, guard Maurquice Shakir, and quarterback Josh Woodrum. A candidate for the practice squad, Woodrum earned attention for his performance in the second preseason game at Miami, but he did little to distinguish himself as a serious roster candidate in the final two exhibition contests.

Outside linebacker Brennen Beyer, cornerback Robertson Daniel, and offensive tackle Stephane Nembot were all waived with injury designations.

As expected, injured cornerback Maurice Canady was included in the initial 53-man roster, a move that makes the 2016 sixth-round pick eligible for the designation to return later in the season. He underwent knee surgery early in training camp and is out indefinitely.

With starter Joe Flacco returning to practice on Saturday, the Ravens have elected to enter a season with only two quarterbacks for the eighth consecutive season.

Below is a look at the initial 53-man roster:

Quarterbacks (2): Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
Running backs (3): Terrance West, Danny Woodhead, Buck Allen
Wide receivers (5): Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore
Tight ends (4): Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams, Vince Mayle
Offensive linemen (8): Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, James Hurst, Austin Howard, Jermaine Eluemunor, Tony Bergstrom, Luke Bowanko

Defensive linemen (8): Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Chris Wormley, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Patrick Ricard
Inside linebackers (4): C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
Outside linebackers (5): Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
Cornerbacks (6): Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark

Specialists (3): Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, Morgan Cox

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Predicting Ravens’ initial 53-man roster at end of 2017 preseason

Posted on 01 September 2017 by Luke Jones

With the 2017 preseason now over, the Ravens turn their attention toward the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

First, it’s time to go on the record with the final projection of the Ravens’ 53-man roster to begin the regular season with head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome making their final decisions by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Of course, this will only be the initial 53-man squad as the Ravens will look to add other players who could be made available over the next few days.

Though the coaching staff and the front office are aware of the numbers at each position, trying to boldly pinpoint a specific number of receivers or linebackers isn’t the most accurate way of projecting the roster. Ultimately, the organization wants to keep the best 53 players with positional preference serving more as a tiebreaker than as a hard rule that results in keeping an inferior player. In filling out the back end of their roster, the Ravens look carefully at players’ special-teams abilities in addition to what they bring to their offensive or defensive positions.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of players they are projected to keep at that given position.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
IN: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett
OUT: Josh Woodrum, Thaddeus Lewis
Skinny: The fate of the 2017 campaign lies on the health of Flacco’s back, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Woodrum land on the practice squad as a No. 3 option.

RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS (3)
IN: Terrance West, Buck Allen, Danny Woodhead
INJURED RESERVE: Kenneth Dixon
OUT: Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ricky Ortiz, Bobby Rainey
Skinny: Mizzell looks like a prime practice-squad candidate, and the Ravens could still seek an outside option for the fullback position in the coming days.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
IN: Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Chris Matthews
INJURED RESERVE: Tim White
OUT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Keenan Reynolds, Griff Whalen, C.J. Board
Skinny: Moore and Matthews make the roster because of their special-teams contributions, but neither did much to solidify a role in the passing game this preseason.

TIGHT ENDS (3)
IN: Nick Boyle, Benjamin Watson, Maxx Williams
OUT: Vince Mayle, Larry Donnell, Ryan Malleck
Skinny: The depth here is shaky at best, but it’s reasonable to think Mayle or Donnell could be re-signed in the not-too-distant future when other roster questions are addressed.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Ryan Jensen, Austin Howard, James Hurst, Jermaine Eluemunor, Jeremy Zuttah, Matt Skura
INJURED RESERVE: Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa
OUT: De’Ondre Wesley, Stephane Nembot, Jarell Broxton, David Nelson, Jarrod Pughsley, Roubbens Joseph, Maurquice Shakir
Skinny: This is not an impressive group on paper, so you’d hope Newsome can add another viable piece to the mix between now and the start of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)
IN: Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard
OUT: None
Skinny: Keeping eight defensive lineman is unusual and likely not tenable, but there’s too much talent here to let someone go in favor of an inferior player at another position.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
IN: C.J. Mosley, Kamalei Correa, Patrick Onwuasor, Bam Bradley
INJURED RESERVE: Albert McClellan
OUT: Donald Payne, Brennen Beyer
Skinny: Bradley has a chance to help fill the special-teams void left by McClellan, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a veteran inside linebacker added in the near future.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
IN: Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, Za’Darius Smith, Tim Williams
OUT: Boseko Lokombo, Randy Allen
Skinny: Smith answered the challenge this summer to solidify his standing on the 53-man roster, but this talented young group behind Suggs must now show up when the lights come on for real.

CORNERBACKS (6)
IN: Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jaylen Hill, Sheldon Price, Maurice Canady
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Tavon Young
OUT: Robertson Daniel, Trevin Wade, Brandon Boykin, Reggie Porter
Skinny: The injured Canady needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible for the designation to return from injured reserve, but the outside corner depth is as good as it’s been in a long time.

SAFETIES (5)
IN: Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Lardarius Webb, Anthony Levine, Chuck Clark
OUT: Otha Foster
Skinny: With Webb and Levine both filling meaningful roles in the dime package to begin the season, Clark becomes more of a necessity for depth and will fill a large special-teams role.

SPECIALISTS (3)
IN: Sam Koch, Morgan Cox, Justin Tucker
OUT: Kenny Allen, Taybor Pepper
Skinny: This trio of specialists stays together for the sixth consecutive season, which is quite a rarity in today’s NFL.

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Ravens-Saints preseason primer: Five bubble players to watch

Posted on 31 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have reached the final chapter of a difficult preseason.

Having already endured a number of season-ending injuries and the summer-long absence of quarterback Joe Flacco, Baltimore concludes its exhibition schedule against New Orleans on Thursday night. Since teams are no longer required to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 before the final preseason contest, very few notable players are expected to see action.

The rule change certainly won’t make for a better product in the eyes of most casual fans, but head coach John Harbaugh appreciates having the extra roster flexibility with the season opener now only 10 days away.

“There is no way you are going to play certain guys in this game,” Harbaugh said. “This gives us a chance to put a good game out there, for one thing, but it also gives guys a chance to play. Young guys who are fighting for a spot on this team still or on other teams, they get a chance to get out there and play more reps rather than be sitting home looking at the phone.”

The Ravens and New Orleans are meeting in the preseason for the fourth straight year and the fifth time overall with Baltimore having won all four of the previous contests. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens own a 27-12 record in preseason games.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Thursday’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider the many starters and key reserves who will be held out of the final preseason game due to the coaching staff’s preference.

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

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), LB Albert McClellan (knee), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)

Five bubble players to watch Thursday night

RB Taquan Mizzell

The undrafted free agent from Virginia leads the Ravens in both rushing and receiving in the preseason to put himself on the radar. His skill as a receiver out of the backfield is intriguing with Danny Woodhead currently sidelined, and he fared well when given snaps against Buffalo’s starting defense last week. The 5-foot-10, 192-pound back shows some upside in a group not having much of it.

DT Carl Davis

The 2015 third-round pick has had a solid preseason, but there may not be enough roster space for him, 2016 fourth-round selection Willie Henry, and rookie free agent Patrick Ricard. The fact that the latter two are under team control for a longer period of time could work against Davis, but he showed early promise as a rookie before missing the entire 2016 season due to injury.

WR Chris Matthews

Nothing beyond Matthews’s 6-foot-5 frame stands out as it relates to being a wide receiver, but he’s been a mainstay on most special-teams units this summer and at least looks the part of a red-zone target, something the Ravens are lacking right now. Other young receivers have failed to distinguish themselves, leaving the door open for Matthews’ special-team prowess to break any ties.

CB Robertson Daniel

Signed to the practice squad last October, Daniel is someone the Ravens have liked enough to keep in the organization, but the depth at outside cornerback ahead of him is stout. His 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame has allowed him to take a few reps at safety, the kind of versatility that doesn’t hurt a player’s chances. He and Sheldon Price could be competing for one spot on the 53-man roster.

OT De’Ondre Wesley

The 6-foot-6, 331-pound specimen really hasn’t done much this summer, but left tackle Ronnie Stanley just returned from injury this week and reserve left tackle James Husrt may end up starting at left guard, presumably creating a need for another offensive tackle. The Ravens have to be disappointed that Wesley and Stephane Nembot haven’t stepped forward in their development, but finding tackle depth isn’t easy.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 13-9 win over Buffalo

Posted on 27 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 in the preseason with a 13-9 win over Buffalo, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The narrative remained the same for the third preseason game with the defense excelling and the offense struggling to move the ball. Maybe the defense will be up to the task in 2017, but winning 13-9 games leaves very little margin for error.

2. I’ve said this before, but the defensive depth continues to impress as there’s been little drop-off in play from the opening quarter to the final minutes of each game. Ozzie Newsome isn’t going to be able to keep a few defensive players who definitely would have stuck in the past.

3. After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of the first two preseason games, the Ravens gained 41 yards on 16 carries in the first two quarters against the Bills. The running game is even more important with Joe Flacco’s situation, but it hasn’t shown many encouraging signs.

4. Baltimore was credited with six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The secondary has been strong and the young outside linebackers have received plenty of attention, but this deep defensive front has been very disruptive this summer.

5. Watching Justin Tucker make tackles or even pick up a fumble in Miami last week makes for a fun story until he suffers a close call like he did on Saturday night. The Ravens really need their All-Pro kicker to show more restraint, especially in a meaningless preseason game.

6. Rather than asking whether Jaylen Hill makes the roster, I’m now wondering how long it will be before he carves out a meaningful role on the defense. Lardarius Webb has had a strong summer at the nickel, but there’s a reason why he was moved to safety two years ago.

7. Nothing enhances the enjoyment of preseason football more than a combined 17 penalties for 156 yards in the first half. Our poor eyes.

8. Patrick Onwuasor alternating series with Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker was one of the more interesting developments of the third preseason game. He’s only 227 pounds, but Onwuasor plays with a mean streak that was evident in his rookie season and just continues to improve.

9. Filling in for the injured Danny Woodhead, Taquan Mizzell presented himself well by catching six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His skill set is similar to Woodhead’s, which hurts his roster chances and makes him intriguing at the same time.

10. Bubble players filling a prominent role on special teams included Chris Matthews, Sheldon Price, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Robertson Daniel, and Vince Mayle. That doesn’t mean they’re all making the roster, of course, but that tends to be an indication of any tiebreaker with another bubble player.

11. Marshal Yanda has been one of my favorite players for a long time, but seeing him as the last offensive player out of the tunnel during stadium introductions says a lot about the current state of that side of the ball.

12. Breshad Perriman and Marlon Humphrey showed encouraging signs before the game. Perriman ran at three-quarters speed and was cutting and running routes effectively while Humphrey looked like someone ready to return to the field, backpedaling and sprinting at full speed.

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