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Ravens stock watch entering Week 6

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Ravens stock watch entering Week 6

Posted on 07 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Every week, we’ll take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is rising and falling …

STOCK RISING

C.J. Mosley
Skinny: The rookie inside linebacker was the best player on the field for the Ravens in Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis as he finished with 14 tackles, a quarterback hit, a pass breakup, and an interception. Baltimore has used plenty of high draft picks on defensive players in recent years with mixed results, so it’s encouraging to see Mosley emerging as a game-changer on that side of the ball with so many aging players around him. Veteran Daryl Smith’s strong play last year was a pleasant surprise the year after Ray Lewis’ retirement, but Mosley has been the better player of the two in 2014.

Marshal Yanda
Skinny: Coming back from offseason shoulder surgery a year ago, the Pro Bowl right guard wasn’t his usual self in 2013, but Yanda has again been one of the best players in the NFL at his position so far in 2014. According to Pro Football Focus, the eighth-year guard is the Ravens’ highest-graded offensive player this season and the running game has been particularly potent with him and second-year tackle Rick Wagner opening running lanes on the right side. The offensive line struggled against Indianapolis, but Yanda had another strong day despite the loss.

Pernell McPhee
Skinny: The Ravens have had difficulty sustaining a pass rush, but the reserve specialist has arguably been their best weapon in that department, whether lining up at end or sliding inside in passing situations. McPhee may have only picked up his first sack of the season against the Colts, but the 2011 fifth-round pick leads the Ravens in Pro Football Focus’ quarterback hurries category despite playing less than Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens try to limit McPhee’s snaps to keep him healthy after dealing with nagging knee issues in past years, but he’s been one of their best defensive players this season.

STOCK FALLING

James Hurst
Skinny: The undrafted rookie free agent was a pleasant surprise in his first career start against the Carolina Panthers, but his second game as the starting left tackle was disastrous as Indianapolis beat him repeatedly in the process of harassing quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens didn’t provide Hurst with enough help on the left side, so they’ll need to adjust as they play another road game against Tampa Bay in Week 6. Veteran Eugene Monroe was noncommittal last week when asked when he anticipated returning, so the Ravens can only hope that Hurst bounces back to play like he did against Carolina.

Terrell Suggs
Skinny: The veteran linebacker hasn’t played as poorly as some have suggested while focusing on the fact that he only has 1/2 sack so far this year, but it’s apparent the nagging groin injury he’s been dealing with is taking its toll as he was a non-factor against Indianapolis. Suggs is eighth on the team in tackles and has looked more like the player he was in the second half of 2013 than the linebacker who collected nine sacks in the first eight games of last season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old is still solid against the run, but you have to wonder if his days as a consistent high-impact player are coming to an end.

Torrey Smith
Skinny: Dropping the fourth-down pass from Flacco on the Ravens’ final offensive play of the game Sunday was just the latest example of concern as Smith has just 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown through five games. Gary Kubiak’s West Coast offense depends on short-to-intermediate routes that Smith often struggles in running, leaving the fourth-year wideout uncomfortable and on a different page than Flacco for much of the season. Smith has been able to draw a number of pass interference penalties on deep balls, but you wonder how much his struggles are wearing on him in a contract year.

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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

Posted on 06 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The highlights were few and far between for the Ravens in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley was seemingly all over the field.

Whether he was getting lower than lead blocker Jake Doyle to blow up a fourth-and-1 run by Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the opening drive of the game or maneuvering through blockers to minimize the damage on several short passes, there was a certain familiarity in watching the 2014 first-round pick make plays everywhere at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was almost — almost –  reminiscent of a certain inside linebacker who famously did it better than anyone for the vaunted Baltimore defense.

Mosley has a long way to go to routinely even be mentioned in the same breath as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the sheer fact that many fans and media alike watching Sunday’s game made the comparisons spoke to how well he played in Sunday’s defeat. Finishing the game with 14 tackles, an interception, a quarterback hit, and a pass breakup, Mosley at least looked the part of the rookie version of Lewis in leading the defense in tackles and making several impressive plays throughout the afternoon.

“He had three screens out there where he made the tackles pretty much single-handedly,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “The posse was coming, but he was the guy there and weaved through blockers and made tackles. He tipped passes. He had [quarterback hits]. C.J. is playing really, really well.”

Mosley’s feel for the game has been praised from the moment the Ravens selected him with the 17th overall pick of May’s draft, but his game speed only gets better each week as he leads the team in tackles through the first five games of his NFL career. No, the University of Alabama product is not a finished product as he was beaten in coverage by tight end Dwayne Allen for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Mosley has quickly justified why general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to draft another inside linebacker with an early-round pick after taking Arthur Brown in the second round a year ago.

For a defense in transition and in need of game-changing youth with five key members of the front seven over the age of 30, Mosley appeared to be playing at a faster speed that everyone else on the field attempting to slow the Indianapolis offense.

“It’s all about knowing what you have to do, doing your job, and watching film,” Mosley said. “When you know what you’re doing, you can play fast like that.”

The Baltimore defense is still finding its way this season, trying to get more from its aging pass rush while also dealing with health issues and deficiencies in the secondary. Investing a plethora of high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, the Ravens have seen mixed results with only Jimmy Smith emerging as a consistent game-changing player to this point.

It appears that Mosley is on his way to joining the top cornerback in that category, which is good news with perennial Pro Bowl players Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata nearing the end of their run as standout players. Coaches and teammates view Mosley as the kind of player who will never be satisfied with reaching a certain level of play, always expecting more from himself.

It’s a mindset that sounds awfully familiar as well.

“He’s not a guy that’s going to sit there and say, ‘OK, I had a couple good games, and I’ve arrived,’” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to want to stack that success and build a body of work up behind him. And that’s probably why he’s as good as he is right now. That’s how he looks at it.”

Having already impressed veteran teammates by cracking the top of the depth chart next to fellow inside linebacker Daryl Smith early in training camp, Mosley has been everything the Ravens expected as a three-down player only getting better as he gains more experience.

The Ravens’ overall play in Indianapolis was forgettable as they dropped their first road game of the season, but it was a standout performance by the rookie that will be remembered. And his showing against the Colts had teammates feeling the urgency to step up their own game to match him.

“I think he played phenomenal. We’ve all got to catch up to him,” Suggs said after Sunday’s loss. “He was out there making a lot of plays. We knew the kid was special coming in, and that’s why we brought him in and Ozzie drafted him. He had a hell of a day [Sunday].”

 

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Ravens-Colts: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Colts: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 05 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens appear ready to give cornerback Lardarius Webb his second look at game action this season as they take on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

For just the second time this year, the sixth-year defensive back is active after not being listed on the injury report for the second straight week. After missing all of training camp and the preseason with back spasms, Webb is continuing to work himself back into better playing shape in terms of explosiveness and flexibility, according to head coach John Harbaugh.

The Ravens would certainly benefit from a healthy Webb against quarterback Andrew Luck and Indianapolis’ top-ranked passing game, but it remains to be seen how much action the veteran cornerback will see at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (groin) is active and will play despite missing two practices this past week and only working on a limited basis on Friday. However, defensive end Chris Canty (illness/knee) and third-string tight end Phillip Supernaw (thigh) were both listed as inactive for Sunday’s game.

Third-year defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson is expected to get the start in place of Canty, and the recently-acquired Lawrence Guy is active for the first time after being claimed off waivers from San Diego two weeks ago. The former Chargers and Colts defensive end will likely back up Tyson at the 5-technique spot.

As expected, left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee surgery) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus) remained out with their respective injuries.

For Indianapolis, defensive tackle Arthur Jones was inactive after already being ruled out on Friday. The former Ravens lineman hoped to be able to play against his old team, but the high ankle sprain he suffered a few weeks ago has yet to fully heal.

The referee for Sunday’s game is Walt Anderson.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with black pants while Indianapolis dons blue tops with white pants.

The roof will be opened at Lucas Oil Stadium with temperatures in the mid-50s with cloudy skies and winds up to 12 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Sunday marks the 11th all-time meeting between the Ravens and Indianapolis in the regular season with the Colts holding a 7-3 lead in the series. Baltimore is without a win in five total trips to Indianapolis and is 1-2 in postseason play against the Colts.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DE Chris Canty
LB Arthur Brown
LT Eugene Monroe
G John Urschel
TE Phillip Supernaw
DL Timmy Jernigan
WR Michael Campanaro

INDIANAPOLIS
CB Jalil Brown
LB Chris Carter
OL Khaled Holmes
OT Jamon Meredith
DT Kelcy Quarles
G Jack Mewhort
DT Arthur Jones

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Suggs questionable, Canty doubtful for Sunday’s game in Indianapolis

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Suggs questionable, Canty doubtful for Sunday’s game in Indianapolis

Posted on 03 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens could be without two starting pieces of their front seven for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts as linebacker Terrell Suggs is questionable and defensive end Chris Canty was designated as doubtful on the final injury report of the week.

Suggs did return to practice on a limited basis Friday after resting a groin injury he’s dealt with since the Ravens’ Week 3 win at Cleveland. The veteran pass rusher missed two practices last week before playing in last Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers, but he aggravated the groin in the fourth quarter of the 38-10 final.

Canty missed practice all week with an illness, but he had also been dealing with a knee injury that forced him out of three practices last week before he was still able to play against the Panthers. If he is unable to go, third-year lineman DeAngelo Tyson would likely receive the start at the 5-technique defensive end spot.

Though both are listed as doubtful and not officially out just yet, left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee surgery) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus) will not play against the Colts.

Third-string tight end Phillip Supernaw is listed as questionable after being limited with a thigh injury during Friday’s practice. He was not on the injury report earlier this week, making it possible he suffered the injury in the final workout of the week before the Ravens travel to Indianapolis on Saturday.

Cornerback Chykie Brown (neck) and running back Bernard Pierce are listed as probable as are tight end Owen Daniels and wide receiver Steve Smith, who both received the day off from practice on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis officially ruled out former Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who has been sidelined for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: DE Chris Canty (illness), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Terrell Suggs (thigh), TE Phillip Supernaw (thigh)
PROBABLE: CB Chykie Brown (neck), TE Owen Daniels (NIR), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh), WR Steve Smith (NIR)

INDIANAPOLIS
OUT: DT Arthur Jones (ankle), G Jack Mewhort (ankle)
PROBABLE: LB Jerrell Freeman (hamstring), S Colt Henderson (groin), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (NIR), LB D’Qwell Jackson (NIR), LB Andy Studebaker (hamstring), G Hugh Thorton (ankle), WR Reggie Wayne (NIR), LB Erik Walden (NIR)

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Suggs, Canty stil missing from practice

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Suggs, Canty stil missing from practice

Posted on 01 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens were without two key defensive starters Wednesday as they continued preparations for their Week 5 meeting with the Indianapolis Colts.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (groin) and defensive end Chris Canty (illness) were listed as non-participants in addition to left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee surgery) and rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus). Monroe is expected to miss his second straight game as he recovers from last week’s arthroscopic surgery.

After being limited to just one practice last week, Suggs played in last Sunday’s win against Carolina but re-aggravated a groin injury and left late in the fourth quarter with the Ravens holding a 38-10 lead. The veteran linebacker downplayed the severity, but it wasn’t surprising to see him sitting out on Wednesday as a result.

Canty was active and started against the Panthers despite missing practice all last week with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis was without former Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who continues to recover from a high ankle sprain that’s kept him sidelined for the last two games. Veterans D’Qwell Jackson and Reggie Wayne both were given the day off on Wednesday.

Here is Wednesday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (illness), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Chykie Brown (neck), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

INDIANAPOLIS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (NIR), LB D’Qwell Jackson (NIR), DT Arthur Jones (ankle), G Jack Mewhort (ankle), WR Reggie Wayne (NIR)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Jerrell Freeman (hamstring)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Colt Henderson (groin), LB Andy Studebaker (hamstring), G Hugh Thorton (ankle)

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Suggs listed as probable, Canty questionable against Carolina on Sunday

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Suggs listed as probable, Canty questionable against Carolina on Sunday

Posted on 26 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens received good news with the return of Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs to the practice field as they made final preparations for the Carolina Panthers on Friday.

After missing practices on Wednesday and Thursday with a groin injury suffered in last Sunday’s win over Cleveland, Suggs is listed as probable for Sunday’s game after being a full participant on Friday. He appeared to be moving well as he ran the width of the field during the media viewing portion of the workout.

Defensive end Chris Canty (knee), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee), and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (knee surgery) were the only Ravens players absent from Friday’s practice. With Monroe and Jernigan already ruled out, Canty is the Ravens’ only big question mark for Sunday’s game against Carolina as he was listed as questionable on the final injury report and hasn’t practiced all week.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels returned to the practice field after receiving a veteran day off on Thursday. They are both listed as probable on the final game status report, but neither player is dealing with an injury.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee/ankle) and running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) are probable and were both present and working after being listed as full participants on Thursday. Smith missed Wednesday’s practice after being banged up against the Browns.

Meanwhile, Carolina listed linebacker Thomas Davis (hip) and running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) as questionable. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera indicated Davis is further along in his recovery and has a better chance to play on Sunday, but both he and Stewart are considered game-time decisions.

Starting running back DeAngelo Williams (thigh) is probable after practicing fully all week.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Craig Wrolstad. He’s a new referee for the 2014 season after serving as an NFL field judge prior to the promotion.

According to Weather.com, Sunday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the low 80s with partly cloudy skies, no chance of precipitation, and winds up to five miles per hour.

The Ravens will be wearing black jerseys and black pants for the first time this season on Sunday. They announced earlier in the week that they’d be wearing their alternate jerseys against the Panthers.

Here is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Chris Canty (knee)
PROBABLE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (knee/ankle), WR Steve Smith (non-injury), LB Terrell Suggs (thigh)

CAROLINA
DOUBTFUL: RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), T Garry Williams (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Thomas Davis (hip), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh), CB Charles Godfrey (ankle), S Roman Harper (knee), RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh)

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Jimmy Smith returns to practice; Suggs, Canty remain sidelined

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Jimmy Smith returns to practice; Suggs, Canty remain sidelined

Posted on 25 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The injury report remained troubling for the Ravens Thursday as they continued preparations for their Week 4 meeting with the Carolina Panthers.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee/ankle) returned to the practice field and appeared to be moving well during the media viewing portion of the workout, but linebacker Terrell Suggs (groin), defensive end Chris Canty (knee), and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) all remained sidelined with various ailments. Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe hasn’t been officially ruled out for Sunday’s game yet, but Wednesday’s knee surgery is expected to sideline him for at least a few weeks.

The Ravens claimed former San Diego Chargers defensive end Lawrence Guy off waivers on Wednesday, which could be an indication of concern for Canty’s availability against Carolina. Guy has been assigned No. 67 with his new team.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels were also non-participants during Thursday’s practice as they received a veteran day off. Smith was watching practice without being suited up while Daniels, who is now the starting tight end after the season-ending hip injury suffered by Dennis Pitta, was absent from the field.

Running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) was present and working fully for the second straight day after being listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report.

The Ravens were practicing indoors in helmets, shells, and shorts as rain hit the Owings Mills area for most of the morning and early afternoon on Thursday.

For Carolina, starting outside linebacker Thomas Davis (hip) was upgraded to limited participation while cornerback Charles Godfrey (ankle) and safety Roman Harper (knee) were full participants a day after missing practice.

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (knee), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (thigh), WR Steve Smith (non-injury), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (knee/ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

CAROLINA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Jonathan Stewart (knee), RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), T Garry Williams (back)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Thomas Davis (hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Charles Godfrey (ankle), S Roman Harper (knee), WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh), RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh)

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Four Ravens starters missing from Wednesday’s practice

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Four Ravens starters missing from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 24 September 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens returned to the practice field Wednesday to prepare for their first non-divisional game of the season against the Carolina Panthers without four veteran starters participating.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (leg), linebacker Terrell Suggs (groin), left tackle Eugene Monroe (knee), and defensive end Chris Canty were absent during the portion of practice open to media. In addition to the four veterans, rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan remains sidelined with a meniscus injury that forced him to miss last Sunday’s game against the Browns.

Head coach John Harbaugh revealed after practice that Monroe underwent knee surgery on Wednesday afternoon and will be sidelined for “some number of weeks.” Rookie free agent James Hurst is expected to fill in at left tackle.

Even with their 23-21 win against Cleveland, the Ravens were clearly banged up after playing their third straight game against an AFC North opponent. Suggs was clearly limited at the end of the game, but the 12-year linebacker downplayed the significance of his groin injury after the win.

The good news during Wednesday’s practice was the return of running back Bernard Pierce (thigh) after he missed last Sunday’s game.

The Ravens were practicing in full pads on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers had six players sidelined during their first practice of the week including starting linebacker Thomas Davis, starting strong safety Roman Harper, and running back Jonathan Stewart. However, the Panthers received good news with wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and starting running back DeAngelo Williams practicing fully.

Here is the full Wednesday injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (knee), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee), T Eugene Monroe (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (knee/ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Bernard Pierce (thigh)

CAROLINA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Thomas Davis (hip), CB Charles Godfrey (ankle), S Roman Harper (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee), RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), T Garry Williams (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Jerricho Cotchery (thigh), RB DeAngelo Williams (thigh)

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 20 September 2014 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will attempt to go 2-1 against the AFC North to begin the 2014 season, but the Cleveland Browns stand in their way while feeling good about themselves following last week’s surprising win over the New Orleans Saints.

While Baltimore has benefited from extra rest after a Thursday night win over rival Pittsburgh in Week 2, Cleveland has used a strong running game led by Towson product Terrance West while committing no turnovers through the first two weeks of the season. The Browns’ summer quarterback controversy between veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel has also subsided with the former off to an efficient start in his return from a season-ending knee injury last season.

Sunday marks the 31st all-time meeting between these AFC North rivals with the Ravens enjoying a 22-8 advantage and a 10-5 edge at FirstEnergy Stadium. Baltimore is 11-1 against the Browns since 2008 with last year’s 24-18 loss in Cleveland the first defeat over that stretch.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to win their sixth game in seven tries in Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era …

1. Torrey Smith finally gets his 2014 season going, making six catches for 95 yards and a long touchdown reception. Aside from a long touchdown to Steve Smith on a broken play in the season opener, quarterback Joe Flacco hasn’t taken many deep shots, but that could change on Sunday with the Browns looking to clean up their run defense and fully aware of Gary Kubiak’s use of Steve Smith and the tight ends in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Torrey Smith has been held to just four catches for 60 yards in his first two games, but that will change on Sunday as he catches a 40-plus-yard touchdown to beat Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine in the first half.

2. The Browns running game picks up 130 yards on the ground to win the time of possession battle. The Ravens defense was very physical against Pittsburgh, but it’s difficult to determine how much of that was about playing their biggest rival in a prime-time game and handling an inferior offensive line. Cleveland has averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry and won’t match that impressive clip, but West and fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell will grind out tough yards to keep the Baltimore defense on the field too long. A key matchup will be Pro Bowl center Alex Mack going up against second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams, and the Browns will have the edge there to find some running room inside.

3. Terrell Suggs collects his first sack of the year in a difficult battle against Browns tackle Joe Thomas. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has more career sacks (15) against Cleveland than any opponent, but only seven have come since 2007 when the Browns drafted the seven-time Pro Bowl selection Thomas. Even though the Ravens insist Suggs has played very well and Pro Football Focus has graded Suggs as the team’s best defensive player through two weeks, the 12-year pass rusher has collected only one sack in his last 10 games dating back to last season and hasn’t been making high-impact plays since the first half of 2013. Suggs and fellow rusher Elvis Dumervil need to put heat on Hoyer, and Suggs will break through for his first sack since Week 16 of last year.

4. Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins beats a rusty Lardarius Webb for a touchdown catch from the slot. With Webb listed as probable on the final injury report, it appears the Ravens will have their full secondary at their disposal for the first time since the beginning of training camp. However, it remains to be seen how much rust the sixth-year corner will need to shake off even after practicing fully for the last three weeks. Meanwhile, the Browns are without suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon, but the shifty Hawkins has been very effective out of the slot where he has lined up more than half of the time, leading the team with 14 catches for 157 yards. He’ll catch his first touchdown on a quick out route as Webb misses the tackle on the play.

5. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by West is the difference as the Ravens’ road struggles from last season carry over to Sunday in a 20-17 loss to Cleveland. It’s easy to be encouraged by what Baltimore did playing at home last Thursday night, but the Ravens have almost always played well at home even in some of their worst seasons. A 2-6 road record in 2013 is difficult to forget, particularly because it was the Ravens defense that struggled in allowing 26.4 points per game on the road compared to 17.6 points surrendered per home contest. A typical, ugly game between the Browns and Ravens will play out once again, but the Cleveland defense bounces back from its poor start to the season while the Baltimore defense is worn down by the running game in the final quarter.

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Will Ravens rise to occasion after tumultuous week?

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Will Ravens rise to occasion after tumultuous week?

Posted on 10 September 2014 by Luke Jones

A national audience will be hoping the Ravens fail when they take on the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.

Virtually everyone outside Baltimore will be rooting against an organization viewed in a negative light for its handling of the Ray Rice saga over the last seven months before the ultimate release of the disgraced running back earlier this week. The integrity of the organization has come into question as owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged in a letter Tuesday that the Ravens needed to do more to investigate what happened between Rice and then-fiancée Janay Palmer instead of simply deferring to the New Jersey legal system.

Needless to say, it’s been a rocky 19 months for the Ravens since winning Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3, 2013. In addition to Rice, four players on the current 53-man roster were arrested this offseason while there have been other examples of questionable choices — don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the “Sweet Pea” saga — over the last 12 months or so.

The former heart and soul of the Ravens — Ray Lewis and Ed Reed — have both questioned leadership at different times over the last calendar year. The roster turnover has been clear with only 25 members of the current 53-man roster having been with the organization for Super Bowl XLVII. Veteran leaders have departed in addition to Lewis and Reed, including Anquan Boldin and Matt Birk.

And even if too much emphasis is put on the impact of leadership and off-field issues in terms of on-field results, Baltimore has gone a mediocre 8-9 in the regular season since raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans. However you want to explain it, the Ravens haven’t been particularly good since winning their second NFL championship.

Is it fair to ask if the Ravens, who long held an excellent reputation, have lost their way? There’s little disputing that the aura of the organization has taken a severe hit over how it handled the Rice situation over these last seven months.

“I don’t think of it that way,” said head coach John Harbaugh when asked if he’s concerned about the Ravens’ image taking a hit. “You do your best with the situations that are put before you and try to handle things the right way and do the right thing.”

Shifting their attention back to the field after a few difficult days, the Ravens are as close as you get to facing a “must-win” game in Week 2 as they’ve already lost to the Cincinnati Bengals and would fall to 0-2 with a defeat to the hated Steelers Thursday night. According to NFL Network research, no team has ever made the playoffs after dropping two divisional games at home to start a season.

Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have dealt with difficult losses before and have consistently answered the bell in the face of adversity. But Rice’s release stems from something that goes beyond football or the business of the salary cap. It isn’t the loss of a standout player because of retirement or a season-ending injury but due to his cruel actions that the entire world saw on video Monday morning.

And players have faced more questions about Rice than ones about what it will take to slow Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers this week. The focus began to shift on Tuesday when some semblance of normalcy — in the context of preparing for a football game, of course — returned to the facility in Owings Mills, but the challenge of playing on a short week is hefty enough despite the Ravens owning the home-field advantage and seeing a familiar opponent.

“We’re going to be playing really soon, so we have to get our minds right,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “But more importantly, we have to do everything we can to physically feel good by the time that whistle blows on Thursday night, and that’s what we’re doing.”

While everyone else will be talking about the individual who is no longer with the organization on Thursday night, the Ravens must focus on getting off to a much quicker start offensively while also trying to slow a Steelers offense that produced 30 points and 490 yards against what was expected to be a good Cleveland defense last week. The general consensus among the so-called experts before the season was that Baltimore and Pittsburgh were fairly evenly matched — both finished 8-8 last year — so the the Ravens will need to hold serve on their home field and put the bad taste of last week’s loss behind them.

Over the course of his seven-year run in Baltimore, Harbaugh has typically been able to rally his team in these types of games to perform at their best and secure a much-needed win. But he hasn’t dealt with a situation quite like this before.

And there is evidence of cracks in the foundation — both on and off the field — since the Ravens reached the pinnacle of the NFL less than two years ago. We saw it late last year when the Ravens were 8-6 and needed only one win to secure their sixth consecutive trip to the postseason before losing their final two games by a combined 51 points.

A win calms nerves and puts the Ravens back at .500 as they receive the extra rest that follows a Thursday night game before preparing for a third straight division game. A defeat puts the Ravens in an early-season hole in the AFC North while the rest of the world mocks their misfortune.

The best teams come together under these circumstances, even when their organization is guilty of its own mistakes as the Ravens were with Rice. The lesser ones wilt under such adversity.

The Ravens know they already face a crucial game Thursday with the season less than a week old. They’re out to prove they haven’t lost their way on the field.

“It’s everything. You don’t want to come out of an 0-2 hole, especially giving up two at home,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “Wins in the NFL are hard to come by, so that’s why you’ve got to win your home games. We unfortunately dropped one; [the Bengals] cashed in and they won one — a division game. We’ve definitely got to cover up some ground, but it all starts with this one on Thursday.”

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