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Ravens not buying uncertainty surrounding Roethlisberger’s status

Posted on 02 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Longtime Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs says he’s seen this Ben Roethlisberger movie before.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith quipped that he has “no question” in his mind that the Pittsburgh quarterback will play unless his leg literally isn’t intact.

Despite undergoing surgery on the torn meniscus in his left knee less than three weeks ago, the 34-year-old Roethlisberger has returned to practice on a limited basis and the early reviews of how he’s looked have been favorable. Since an early Sunday morning report casting doubt about his status for Week 9, more signs are pointing to what the Ravens believe to be the obvious outcome after witnessing him overcome past injuries to return to action sooner than anticipated.

“He’s going to act like, ‘I am not playing; I don’t know. I did individuals today; I threw a little bit. I still don’t know,'” said Suggs, who has sacked Roethlisberger 16 1/2 times over more than a decade of competition. “Then he’s going to walk his big ass on out there. I’ll be like, ‘How you doing, Benjamin?’ He’ll be like, ‘What’s up, Sizzle?’ Then, it’s on. Don’t fall for that.”

Ironically, Roethlisberger has missed more games against the Ravens (seven) in his career than he has against fellow AFC North foes Cincinnati and Cleveland combined (two). The Steelers are just 1-6 against Baltimore without their franchise quarterback under center since he became their starter early in the 2004 season. The Ravens are 7-9 in regular-season games started by Roethlisberger and 1-2 in the playoffs.

Both teams have plenty at stake at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with just a game separating them in the division standings. Desperate for a win after an 0-for-October that crushed the good vibes of a 3-0 start, the Ravens are playing a 4-3 Steelers team that’s dropped two straight games and is struggling defensively despite being in first place in an underwhelming AFC North race.

“This is not an ideal situation to go into, especially against a team like this,” said Smith, referencing the Ravens still carrying a four-game losing streak out of the bye. “It’s not going to make or break our season, but we obviously have to have this win.”

The pre-game narrative centers around the status of Roethlisberger and the overall health of both teams, but the aura of this longstanding rivalry often supersedes what can appear to be a mismatch on paper. Last December, it was the recently-signed Ryan Mallett leading an injury-ravaged Ravens team to an upset win over the playoff-bound Steelers. In 2012, 37-year-old backup Charlie Batch led Pittsburgh to a comeback victory that snapped the 15-game home winning streak of the Ravens, who would then win Super Bowl XLVII two months later.

Whether Roethlisberger plays or not, you can expect a close game with 13 of the 16 regular-season games played between these teams in the John Harbaugh era decided by a single possession. That seems appropriate with the Ravens’ current stretch of 21 of their last 23 regular-season games being decided by eight or fewer points.

It’s no secret that Baltimore is below .500 and has just one playoff appearance since its last championship four years ago, making it all the more interesting that the Ravens have won five of the last six overall meetings with the Steelers.

“I’m talking to our young guys like, ‘These games will define you — hate or not,'” said Suggs, who missed both games with Pittsburgh last season due to a torn Achilles tendon and will attempt to play with a torn biceps on Sunday. “There was a time here where we couldn’t get over that Steeler hump, and you had to become a different kind of player when you played them. I love this game.”

The Ravens are searching for that killer instinct to which Suggs referenced as they try to stop the bleeding from October and avoid missing the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. They hope to welcome some of their own reinforcements back to the field, a list including Suggs, wide receiver Steve Smith, linebacker C.J. Mosley, and offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley.

And despite the uncertainty expressed by the Steelers and the outside world, the Ravens’ minds are made up that Roethlisberger will be out there trying to continue their 2016 misery.

“I am telling my boys that ‘7’ is playing,” Suggs said. “Not only that, he’s going to try and light our ass up, so prepare.”

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Mosley returns to practice as Ravens continue waiting on Steve Smith

Posted on 02 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Holding their first practice open to media since the bye, the Ravens welcomed back a key defensive player while continuing to wait on one of their top offensive contributors.

Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley practiced for the first time since injuring his hamstring in the second half of Baltimore’s Week 5 loss to Washington on Oct. 9. The 2014 Pro Bowl selection worked on a limited basis and was doing various agility drills during the portion of practice open to media.

“We felt like three weeks would be a good enough time to try to get back out there and test things,” Mosley said. “This whole time I’ve just been physical therapy, biking, and running on the turf. This is the actual [first] time to be really running and cutting and making moves. It felt pretty good.”

Wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle) was not present for Wednesday’s workout, leaving his status for Sunday’s critical meeting with Pittsburgh in question. The 37-year-old sprained his ankle in the first quarter of the Washington game and hasn’t played since then as the Ravens offense has continued to struggle in the midst of a four-game losing streak. With Smith enduring such a lengthy absence, one would think he would need at least a couple days of practice to get ready for a return to live-game action.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) was also absent on Wednesday and appears unlikely to play against the Steelers. The five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher has appeared in just two games this season in a frustrating recovery from offseason foot surgery.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps), offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and Ronnie Stanley (foot), return specialist Devin Hester (groin), and defensive backs Shareece Wright (hamstring) and Lardarius Webb (hamstring) were all present and working. Suggs and Yanda returned to the field during the bye-week practices after missing action in October.

The Ravens are hoping to have their entire starting offensive line on the field together for the first time since Week 3 after both Yanda and Stanley practiced fully on Wednesday.

“We’re excited about it. Everybody is working hard out there,” said Yanda, who missed his first regular-season action since the end of the 2012 regular season. “We’re just putting together a good game plan and getting ready to go out and have a good game on Sunday. That’s what it’s all about. We’re taking those steps toward Sunday.”

Tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) and linebacker Kamalei Correa (thigh) were absent during the portion of practice open to media. Correa appeared to leave the field with the injury during last Tuesday’s workout and did not participate in the Ravens’ final workout last week, but Gillmore appeared to be a full participant in bye-week activities, making his sudden absence more curious.

Baltimore signed tight end Nic Jacobs to the practice squad on Wednesday, a day after releasing running back Stephen Houston.

Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) and running back DeAngelo Williams (knee) practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday. Roethlisberger is attempting to return less than three weeks after undergoing left knee surgery.

“We’re going to take it one day at a time,” Roethlisberger told reporters in Pittsburgh prior to Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t know anything new. We’ll go out today and see how it feels.”

Below is the first full injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (bicep), CB Lardarius Webb (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Tavon Young (concussion)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G David DeCastro (non-injury), C Cody Wallace (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: QB Ben Roethlisberger (left knee), RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Antonio Brown (hip), OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle), DE Cameron Heyward (hamstring), S Shamarko Thomas (groin), WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder)

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Suggs, Yanda return to practice as Ravens hit bye week

Posted on 25 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With improving their health one of their biggest objectives during a much-needed bye week, the Ravens welcomed a pair of Pro Bowl players back to practice on Tuesday.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps) and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) were present and working during the portion of the workout open to media. Suggs suffered a torn left biceps in the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants, an injury that kept him out of Sunday’s 24-16 loss to the New York Jets.

The 34-year-old intends to return for the Nov. 6 meeting with Pittsburgh as the Ravens try to snap a four-game losing streak to get their season back on track. The six-time Pro Bowl pass rusher played with a right biceps tear late in the 2012 season, giving him experience dealing with the injury.

“I come from an era where this is just a bump in the road,” said Suggs, who will wear an apparatus on his left arm similar to the one worn by Ray Lewis in the 2012 playoffs. “It may be season-ending for somebody else, but it is not season-ending for a Raven. I played through it before. It was always the plan. Last time I tore it, I missed the first game, came back, and struggled through the second game. Then, I slowly but surely got it back.”

Despite returning from his second Achilles tendon injury in a four-year period, Suggs leads the Ravens with five sacks and has provided the only semblance of a pass rush from the edge with Elvis Dumervil limited to just two games this season. Suggs is also an underrated defender against the run as the Ravens allowed a season-high 155 yards on the ground without him in Week 7.

Suggs acknowledges the pain tolerance involved in playing with the injury, but he doesn’t want to go to injured reserve unless he absolutely has to after missing 15 games last season. The 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year remains optimistic about the Ravens reversing their current woes with veteran players returning from injuries after the bye.

The 3-4 Ravens trail the Steelers by just one game and are tied with Cincinnati in the AFC North.

“We are getting a lot of the pieces back, and that can change a season,” Suggs said. “We are definitely banking on getting our veteran guys back. It all starts with the guys that we have now. That is why we are all here working. We are going to continue to work. We have a tremendous amount of fight; we are warriors. There isn’t any quit in us.”

Yanda was taking part in his first practice since injuring his shoulder in the Week 5 loss to Washington. Specifics about the injury remain unclear, but Yanda hadn’t missed a game since the end of the 2012 regular season, leading one to wonder how serious the ailment is and how it could hinder him the rest of the year.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) was once again practicing after missing his fourth straight game on Sunday. The rookie first-round pick has now worked on at least a limited basis in every practice open to media dating back to Oct. 13.

The entire offensive line group being on the practice field was an an encouraging sign for a Ravens offense that was held to an embarrassing 42 yards in the second half of the Jets loss. Baltimore has already used five different starting combinations along its offensive line this season.

Ten players remained absent from Tuesday’s practice, a list including Dumervil, wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle), Kamar Aiken, and Devin Hester (thigh), running back Terrance West (ankle), tight end Dennis Pitta, defensive backs Lardarius Webb (hamstring) and Shareece Wright (hamstring), and inside linebackers C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and Albert McClellan.

The Ravens also welcomed back safety Matt Elam and have appointed him as their one player designated to return from IR. The 2013 first-round pick underwent knee surgery in August and could carve out a depth role in the secondary with veteran Kendrick Lewis being placed on IR over the weekend and Webb leaving Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.

Despite the disappointing start to Elam’s career, coaches expressed optimism about his performance in the spring and summer before he injured his knee in the second preseason game.

“He was really, really playing very well and moving very well [before the preseason injury],” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “The only thing we need to see is now take it to the field in live action. Based on everything he did on the [practice] field and getting himself ready physically and mentally, he did everything he was supposed to do. Now we just have to hope we’re back there again, and we’ll see when he takes it to the field.”

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Ravens-Jets: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 23 October 2016 by Luke Jones

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Ravens are looking to stop the bleeding before a much-needed break as they face the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Playing at MetLife Stadium for the second straight week, Baltimore is dealing with a plethora of injuries, but starting quarterback Joe Flacco is active after practices this week with a right shoulder injury. Flacco was designated as questionable to play, but he appeared to be throwing the ball well in the portion of Friday’s workout open to reporters.

It was interesting to note, however, that Flacco did not do his typical throwing on the field before full-team warmups, an indication that he isn’t 100 percent and is trying to take care of his shoulder.

The rest of the injury report isn’t as encouraging as the Ravens officially deactivated linebacker Terrell Suggs (biceps), wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), and right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) after all three former Pro Bowl selections were listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring) were ruled out on Friday.

With Suggs and Dumervil out, Za’Darius Smith and rookie Kamalei Correa were lining up was the starting outside linebackers during pre-game warmups. Albert McClellan was once again working at inside linebacker with Mosley sidelined.

The biggest surprise was the deactivation of rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) after he practiced fully all week. The first-round pick has now missed four straight games, continuing to leave the Ravens vulnerable on the left side of the offensive line.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith is active after going through the concussion protocol this week. He practiced on a limited basis wearing a red non-contact jersey, but the veteran defensive back was obviously cleared over the weekend to play against the Jets.

Veteran return specialist Devin Hester (thigh) is also active after returning to practice on Friday.

With all seven inactives being injured players this week, rookie defensive tackle Willie Henry is active for the first time this season. Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Robertson Daniel are also active after being moved to the 53-man roster on Saturday.

Meanwhile, New York will be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) after he was listed as questionable on the final injury report. His absence clearly leaves a big void on the defensive line for the struggling Jets.

Sunday’s referee will be Walt Anderson

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures reaching the low 60s and winds up to 23 miles per hour.

The Ravens will wear white jerseys with black pants while the Jets don green tops with green pants.

Sunday marks the 10th regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding an 8-1 advantage and having won the last eight games. The Jets haven’t beaten the Ravens since a 19-16 overtime final on Nov. 2, 1997.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Shareece Wright
LB Terrell Suggs
LB C.J. Mosley
LB Elvis Dumervil
G Marshal Yanda
OT Ronnie Stanley
WR Steve Smith

NEW YORK
DL Muhammad Wilkerson
QB Christian Hackenberg
QB Bryce Petty
WR Jeremy Butler
LB Darron Lee
OT Brent Qvale
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

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Injury report not looking much better for Ravens on Thursday

Posted on 20 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Thursday brought little good news for the Ravens on the injury front as starting quarterback Joe Flacco again headlined a list of eight players absent from practice.

Flacco missed his second straight practice while nursing a right shoulder injury, creating more concern about his status for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Jets. Not counting the season-ending knee injury he sustained last November, the ninth-year quarterback hadn’t missed consecutive regular-season practices in recent memory.

Outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), and cornerback Shareece Wright (thigh) were also absent for the second consecutive day.

Reserve cornerback Jerraud Powers (groin) was the only player to return on Wednesday after missing the previous day’s workout. However, wide receiver Kamar Aiken (thigh) and safety Kendrick Lewis (thigh) were added to the reporter as limited participants on Thursday.

Top cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion) was practicing for the second straight day, but he was once again sport a red non-contact vest over his jersey, indicating he has not yet been fully cleared in the concussion protocol. Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is not on the injury report, but he continues to wear a red vest as well.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner were practicing for the second straight day as they both appear poised to return to action in Week 7.

The Jets were without five players during their Thursday practice as head coach Todd Bowles ruled out linebacker Darron Lee (ankle) for Sunday’s game.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Kamar Aiken (thigh), S Kendrick Lewis (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Brent Qvale (neck), DL Sheldon Richardson (non-injury), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), OL Nick Mangold (knee), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Nine Ravens players absent from practice on Wednesday

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already dealing with a litany of injuries, the Ravens added starting quarterback Joe Flacco to the list as they continued preparations for their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

The 31-year-old signal-caller was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he deals with a right shoulder injury. He played all 83 snaps in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, but the veteran appeared to be banged up in the post-game locker room after the game.

Flacco said he did not feel any discomfort during the game and only felt “a little something” in the post-game locker room on Sunday.

“We’re just going to see how the thing goes during the week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play. I don’t know what the percentage is. No one gave me a percentage on it. I believe he has a legitimate chance to play.”

The Ravens were also without wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and cornerbacks Shareece Wright (thigh) and Jerraud Powers (groin) on Wednesday.

Harbaugh said Monday that Suggs and Yanda are unlikely to play until after next week’s bye, but he didn’t rule out the former trying to play against the Jets if his arm were to improve.

“Last time he [tore his other biceps], he played the game after the first game,” Harbaugh said. “If he comes up and says he can play, then we’ll put him out there. He’s not a long-term deal, either.”

The good news for Baltimore was the presence of cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion), who was practicing with a red non-contact vest over his jersey. His limited participation would mean he’s reached the penultimate step in the concussion protocol before being cleared to return to full action.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace (ribs) and Breshad Perriman were also practicing with red vests during the open portion of practice, but they were not listed on the injury report.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) were both present and working during practice, a good sign for their availability against the Jets. Stanley was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 3 while Wagner wasn’t even listed on Wednesday’s report.

As expected, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Asa Jackson were both practicing. Taliaferro has begun his 21-day practice window after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list while Jackson is currently on the practice squad and could be an option for depth with the current injuries in the secondary.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially named Geno Smith their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling mightily in the midst of a 1-5 start.

Left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (knee), and defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) were absent from Wednesday’s practice for New York.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Nick Mangold (knee), OL Brent Qvale (neck), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Ravens not optimistic about Suggs, Yanda playing against Jets

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If the Ravens are to snap their three-game losing streak, they’ll likely have to do it without two of their three longest-tenured players in linebacker Terrell Suggs and right guard Marshal Yanda.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed reports that Suggs suffered a left biceps tear in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants. As he did late in the 2012 season when he tore his right biceps, the 34-year-old linebacker will try to continue playing. Suggs missed only one game after that injury before returning to action and finishing the remainder of that season that culminated with a win in Super Bowl XLVII.

“He’s played with that injury before, so he has a chance to come back soon,” said Harbaugh, who added that he was unaware if surgery was still a possibility for Suggs. “How soon remains to be determined. I’m not going to say anything this week yet. I think this week would be tough for him, but I don’t put anything out of Terrell Suggs’ possible ability to overcome. We’ll see how that goes.”

Suggs leads Baltimore with five sacks and is the only edge rusher who’s put any semblance of pressure on quarterbacks, but even the six-time Pro Bowl selection hasn’t been nearly as disruptive in the pocket as he has been in the past.

After missing his first game since the end of the 2012 regular season on Sunday, Yanda will be a “stretch” to play against the New York Jets in Week 7, according to Harbaugh. The five-time Pro Bowl selection is dealing with a shoulder injury that’s likely to sideline him until after the bye week.

Ryan Jensen started at right guard in Yanda’s place against the Giants on Sunday.

Harbaugh offered no further specifics on the Ravens’ other injured players, a lengthy list that includes wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), linebackers Elvis Dumervil (foot) and C.J. Mosley (hamstring), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), return specialist Devin Hester (thigh), and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (concussion) and Jerraud Powers (groin). Of those names, Dumervil could be the biggest return after being shut down yet again in his return from offseason foot surgery.

With the bye arriving next week, the Ravens could be tempted to take a conservative approach with any injured player who would benefit a great deal with an additional week of rest. Of course, Baltimore desperately wants to avoid falling to 3-4 with a challenging second-half schedule still to come.

Harbaugh also confirmed that running back Lorenzo Taliaferro will return to practice this week. The 2014 fourth-round pick is on the reserve physically unable to perform list and will begin a 21-day window in which the Ravens will be able to evaluate his progress coming back from foot surgery last year. At the end of the practice window, the organization would be forced to activate him, waive him, or leave him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.

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Ravens just can’t seem to escape malaise of mediocrity

Posted on 17 October 2016 by Luke Jones

The Ravens just couldn’t shake it in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, another winnable game that wasn’t won.

Yes, the injuries are piling up and the rest of the AFC North is conveniently a mess, but those factors only deflect from the reality that’s becoming more apparent every week, especially after three straight losses to cancel out a 3-0 start.

The Ravens are stuck in a malaise of mediocrity that’s rapidly becoming their identity. Truthfully, it’s what they’ve mostly experienced since Super Bowl XLVII, going just 26-28 with one playoff appearance over that time. Their 2014 campaign that included a postseason win and a trip to the divisional round used to be the norm, but it’s been Baltimore’s ceiling since raising the Lombardi Trophy four years ago.

Look no further than Sunday being the Ravens’ 20th game decided by a single possession since the start of 2015. They’re not terrible, but they’re not particularly good, either. Especially after last season’s 1-6 start, the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” routine is starting to fall on deaf ears with close games becoming the norm in the NFL.

The Ravens are what their record says they are.

“We’re a .500 team. We’re 3-3 in tight games,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’ve won some, we’ve lost some. You could easily say we could be 5-1, 6-0 or we could be 0-6 or 1-5.”

Everyone deserves blame, from the coaching staff to the players to the front office.

The Ravens entered Week 6 tied for 22nd in the NFL in penalties before adding 15 more for 111 yards against the Giants, several of those short-circuiting offensive drives like we’ve seen all too often this season. Coaches and the players themselves need to be accountable for the weekly routine of shooting themselves in the foot.

Baltimore entered Sunday ranked fifth in pass defense and held the Giants to just seven points and 133 yards in the first half, but the absence of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith led to Eli Manning throwing for 296 yards after halftime, most of that going to Odell Beckham Jr. Losing Smith obviously hurt, but allowing passing plays of 75, 43, and 66 yards in one half is inexcusable.

Of course, a pass rush that continues to be nonexistent beyond the occasional flash from the now-injured Terrell Suggs hasn’t helped one bit. With Suggs and Elvis Dumervil both sidelined, the Ravens continue to wait for their young pass rushers to step up.

With three starters missing on Sunday, the offensive line played about how you’d expect, but opposing defenses aren’t going to feel sorry for the Ravens. They’ve got to figure out a way to make it work in the meantime.

On Sunday, John Harbaugh received too much criticism for going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to begin the fourth quarter — that was the correct decision in a game in which his pass defense was rapidly falling apart — but he’s deserved plenty of blame for bizarre choices in recent weeks. During a losing streak, a head coach needs to find solutions and not be part of the problem as has been the case over the current three-game slide.

The coaching issues go beyond simply firing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman last week.

Even Joe Flacco — who generally receives too much blame during tough times — played his worst on the final drive of Sunday’s game when the Ravens still had a chance to win, missing a wide-open Mike Wallace and making some questionable decisions with the football. The franchise quarterback isn’t high on the list of current problems, but he’s only been OK and not much better than that this season, which isn’t good enough from the highest-paid player on the roster.

It’s certainly not helping Flacco that we’re again asking who the play-makers are on this roster, something that’s become an annual question for longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office. Steve Smith still being the Ravens’ best receiver is both a compliment to the 37-year-old and a clear indictment of the front office.

The Ravens received much praise for the Weddle signing this offseason, but even that came after wasting early draft picks and making bad free-agent signings at the safety position over the last few years.

The Odell Beckhams of the league don’t grow on trees, but when are the Ravens going to find a special player or two — on either side of the ball — to make the difference in these one-score games? Ed Reed had a Hall of Fame career of doing exactly that, allowing Baltimore to snatch numerous victories from the jaws of defeat.

The Ravens’ current list of injured players includes five over the age of 30. This is an aging roster short on high-impact young players, which is why the Ravens find themselves stuck in neutral.

They’re springing too many leaks to inspire much confidence, especially with a difficult second-half schedule looming. Even when they begin fixing an issue such as the special teams playing better in Week 6, another pops up elsewhere with the defense collapsing in the second half of a winnable game.

Yes, there’s plenty of football to play and the AFC North is wide open with Cincinnati two games below .500 and 4-2 Pittsburgh losing Ben Roethlisberger to a knee injury for the time being, but that doesn’t change the truth about the Ravens.

From top to bottom, it just feels too mediocre.

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Seven Ravens starters missing from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 12 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Turning the page with new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg after a two-game losing streak, the Ravens were without seven starting players for Wednesday’s practice.

Wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), offensive tackles Rick Wagner (thigh) and Ronnie Stanley (foot), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (non-injury) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), and guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) were absent during the portion of practice open to reporters on Wednesday morning. Suggs received a veteran day off and was available to reporters on Wednesday.

How many will be available for the Week 6 meeting with the New York Giants remains to be seen.

“As far as any of the injury stuff, I’m sure you guys saw who was practicing and who is not and all of that,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m just not going to get into any of that right now. There are various reasons for different guys.”

Smith, Mosley, and Wagner all left Sunday’s game against Washington with injuries. The reappearance of Dumervil on the injury report has to be a concern after quiet performances in his first two games since making his return from offseason foot surgery.

The newly re-signed Vlad Ducasse was working with an offensive line group that was without three starters during the workout. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens might line up against the Giants should Stanley miss his third straight game and Wagner not be able to play. In the second half of Sunday’s loss to Washington, Yanda shifted to right tackle with Ryan Jensen entering the game at right guard when Wagner could not continue after halftime.

Concerns about the injured offensive linemen only grew in the late afternoon when the Ravens claimed former Miami guard Billy Turner off waivers. Baltimore released linebacker Chris Carter to make room on the 53-man roster.

As he did last week, Stanley expressed optimism that he could make his return this week, but the 2016 first-round pick acknowledged he would need at least a little bit of work on the practice field before Sunday.

“I believe one would be fine enough for me,” Stanley said. “It’s really all mental, especially at this level figuring out what the guy that you’re going against likes to do and his tendencies and what not and really the whole defensive scheme. That’s just through studying and film work.”

Wide receiver Mike Wallace (ribs) was practicing on Wednesday, but he was wearing a red non-contact vest over his jersey. He took a hard shot to the chest area on the Ravens’ final offensive play against the Redskins.

“I’m a little sore, but that’s football,” Wallace said. “I’ll be alright for the game though. That’s normal — a normal week’s work. Sometimes you get hit hard in some games more than others, but I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go Sunday.”

The Giants are also feeling the effects of a number of injuries with four starters not participating in Wednesday’s practice. That list included two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is dealing with a groin injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), WR Steve Smith (ankle), OT Ronnie Stanley (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), OT Rick Wagner (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RS Devin Hester (thigh), WR Mike Wallace (chest), CB Shareece Wright (back)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Eli Apple (groin), S Nat Berhe (concussion), LB Devon Kennard (concussion), OT Marshall Newhouse (calf), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), S Darian Thompson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Larry Donnell (concussion), WR Dwayne Harris (toe), RB Rashad Jennings (thumb), CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), DE Olivier Vernon (wrist)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 5 loss to Washington

Posted on 11 October 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling to 3-2 after a 16-10 home defeat to Washington on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. There’s no real rivalry with Washington despite how the fans might feel, but it’s quite a coincidence that the Ravens have now fired an offensive coordinator after their last two losses to the Redskins. That sounds like something straight out of a college rivalry, doesn’t it?

2. Much has been made about the lack of rushing attempts, but the Ravens didn’t even have a tailback on the field for 27 offensive snaps. They view fullback Kyle Juszczyk has their best pass blocker, but that makes an offense awfully predictable if he’s never going to carry the ball.

3. Rookie Tavon Young has impressed at the nickel all season, but injuries pressed him into action as an outside cornerback in the base defense. Despite being only 5-foot-9, Young held up well against an above-average passing game and finished with three tackles.

4. Going from Marc Trestman to Marty Mornhinweg at offensive coordinator won’t matter if the Ravens can’t get their offensive line healthy and straightened out. According to Pro Football Focus, Baltimore surrendered a league-worst 23 quarterback pressures on Sunday. Playing with backups or not, that’s unacceptable against a bad defense.

5. After missing the first four games with a knee injury suffered in the preseason, rookie Kenneth Dixon touched the ball on all four of his offensive snaps in the first quarter and didn’t play after that. One only hopes that was a coaching decision and not another physical setback.

6. Anyone else reminded of Jacoby Jones in 2014 when watching Devin Hester? He’s put the ball on the ground twice in five games and isn’t playing with the confidence of a Hall of Fame returner as he twice made questionable decisions to let punts bounce in the final quarter.

7. Zach Orr missed a tackle on the return touchdown and C.J. Mosley fumbled his interception return through the end zone, but the inside linebacker play has been much better in 2016. Orr forced a fumble and recovered it in the second quarter while Mosley leads the team with three interceptions.

8. There were worse decisions, but the Ravens showing shotgun on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 8 before taking a delay of game to begin the second quarter was puzzling. Why not show a heavy formation and use a hard count to try to draw Washington offside there?

9. Despite being initially praised for addressing so many needs, the 2015 draft class hasn’t been much of a factor. Breshad Perriman has 10 catches, Maxx Williams and Carl Davis are on injured reserve, Za’Darius Smith has offered little as a pass rusher, and Buck Allen is barely seeing the field.

10. It’s a far cry from the 2000 Ravens, but this defense has been underappreciated so far. The offense and special teams have put a ton of pressure on Dean Pees’ group, but the Ravens rank seventh or better in total defense, run defense, pass defense, scoring defense, and third-down defense.

11. Making the defensive success more remarkable is how little the Ravens have gotten from their edge pass rushers. Terrell Suggs has four sacks and still flashes, but the 34-year-old isn’t a consistent force anymore. Meanwhile, Elvis Dumervil and Smith have been virtually invisible so far.

12. I felt all along that the Ravens needed to be 5-2 entering the bye with a second-half schedule including four games with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and trips to Dallas and New England. It can still be done, but it won’t be easy with back-to-back road games at MetLife Stadium.

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