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Ravens-Jaguars preseason primer: Five position battles to watch

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Moving ever closer to games that actually count, the Ravens will play their third preseason contest of the summer Thursday as they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to M&T Bank Stadium.

Coach John Harbaugh is planning to play his starters well into the third quarter as Baltimore meets Jacksonville in the preseason for the first time ever. Traditionally, the third preseason game is considered the final real test for the regular season as starters see their most extensive action before barely making a cameo — if they even do that — in the final preseason game.

The Ravens will try to find more rhythm on both sides of the football, but the vanilla looks we saw in each of the first two preseason games will remain as the coaching staff does not game-plan for opponents in the preseason. For this reason, some downplay the significance placed on the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason.

“I guess that’s the way we’re trained to kind of look at it, just because that is the game [the starters] play the most in,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “We want to go out there and put good work forward and good footage that we can look at and learn from. This week is kind of the same. We want to go out there and we want to play well, but at the same time, we need to clean some things up and see what we’re getting better at and see what we still need to work on maybe even a little bit more.”

As is always the case, the preseason holds the most significance for players competing for starting positions or spots on the 53-man roster, but the coaching staff wants to see rhythm and communication improve as some starters will be playing together in a game for the final time before the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.

Issues facing the Ravens in the offseason such as becoming more efficient in the red-zone offense and establishing a pass rush without Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs have carried into the preseason, and Harbaugh would like to see glimpses of optimism in those areas with the season set to kick off in less than three weeks.

“The performances of certain players are a really big part of it, but the performances of groups and units together is probably more important, because that’s how the game is played,” Harbaugh said. “We would expect that to be the case – guys working together better, fewer communication mistakes, being more synchronized.”

Even for longtime veterans such as 17-year linebacker Ray Lewis, the third preseason game provides a nice tuneup to not only be on the field for an extended period but to provide the emotional charge they’ll experience in beginning their quest to return to the AFC Championship game — and try to advance a step further — in 2012.

And while it’s not on the list of priorities for Thursday’s game, the Ravens’ embarrassing 12-7 loss to Jacksonville last season was on the mind of at least one Baltimore defensive player. The Jaguars ran for 132 yards against the Ravens on Oct. 24 of last season, but 105 came from the legs of running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently holding out over a contract dispute.

“This is a good test for us,” Lewis said. “These guys run the ball pretty well, and for us to come in and have this type of test right now, being our third preseason game, yeah, I’m a little ready.”

Unofficially (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 at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Though not dealing with an injury, defensive end Pernell McPhee’s status for Thursday remains unknown as he’s been away from the team since the weekend due to the death of a family member.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: OT Jah Reid (calf), LB Josh Bynes (back), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (leg), LB Sergio Kindle (shoulder), S Sean Considine (head), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin)
PROBABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), G Bobbie Williams (ankle)

Five positions to watch Thursday night

1. Left guard – Bobbie Williams and Kelechi Osemele

Should starting right guard Marshal Yanda be held out Thursday after accidentally being undercut by linebacker Chavis Williams during Monday’s practice, it will be more difficult to get a read on where the Ravens stand with their left guard position. It appears the coaching staff has finally settled on veteran Bryant McKinnie at left tackle and Michael Oher on the right side — the two have practiced in those spots exclusively since the second preseason game — but Osemele has begun working at guard more extensively with the 35-year-old Williams still dealing with scar tissue breaking up in his surgically-repaired ankle.

Interestingly enough, Williams was working at right guard in Yanda’s place, which seemed odd for the lineman expected to start on the left side, but it was the position the veteran primarily played in his years with the Cincinnati Bengals. Osemele has been very impressive this summer, making you wonder if he could eventually unseat Williams in the starting lineup. His ankle makes you question whether Williams will hold up over a 16-game schedule, but the Ravens feel confident that Osemele can be a contributor as a rookie if necessary.

My gut choice if the season started today: Williams gets the nod due to experience, but the Ravens won’t hesitate to go with Osemele if the veteran struggles as the season progresses.

2. Defensive end – Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee

Thursday would be a golden opportunity for Jones to make up ground if McPhee remains away from the team due to a death in the family. A hip flexor injury cost Jones valuable practice time, allowing McPhee to receive the bulk of the reps and take the lead in the push for the starting job. A 2011 fifth-round pick out of Mississippi State, McPhee had the reputation of being stronger against the run prior to a surprising rookie season that included six sacks, and he played well against the run in the Ravens’ first two preseason games.

Jones has a strong lower body that translates well in run-stopping situations, but he doesn’t stand out when asked to get after the quarterback, which led many to believe he would see time on first and second downs with McPhee spelling him in passing situations. However, it now appears McPhee can handle the duties of a three-down lineman, and Jones could find himself as more of a situational player like he was last season. Regardless of which player the Ravens anoint as the starter, both will factor heavily into the defensive line rotation.

My gut choice if the season started today: McPhee has stood out on the defensive line as a more complete player and would be the choice as the starter even though Jones will still see plenty of opportunities.

3. Rush linebacker – Albert McClellan and Courtney Upshaw


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Ravens-Lions preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 16 August 2012 by Luke Jones

Poised for a better showing after a poor first half in their 31-17 win in the preseason opener, the Ravens welcome the Detroit Lions to M&T Bank Stadium on Friday night.

Welcoming Detroit head coach and Mount St. Joseph graduate Jim Schwartz to town and taking on the Lions for the third time ever in the preseason — Baltimore holds a 2-0 mark — the Ravens hope to begin with a better tempo than they did in Atlanta last week when they were outgained 191-9 in total yards through the first 15 minutes of play. After struggling in all three phases of the game last week, the Ravens will encounter an explosive passing offense that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson as well as an intimidating defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh.

“We always want to come out and get a fast start, but there’s nothing better than a great finish,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. “If you have to choose, you are going to want to finish well. I thought our guys finished well. I thought the first group finished well on their last opportunity, and that’s a big thought for us, finishing everything we are doing.”

The Ravens have won 11 of their last 13 preseason games as coach John Harbaugh said we can expect to see starters for most of the first half. As was the case last week, some starters will see more extensive action than others and it will all depend on the flow of the game.

Many will continue to monitor the performance of replacement officials as the NFL continues to impose a lockout of its regular officials. While the most notable problem from the Ravens’ preseason opener was referee Craig Ochoa referring to the Falcons as “Arizona” on a few occasions, there were other problems throughout the league ranging from spotting the ball incorrectly to mismanaging the opening coin toss.

Baltimore is trying to take the high road when it comes to any potential critiques of replacement officials.

“Basically we said, ‘You respect them.’” Harbaugh said. “They are the officials, and these guys are guys that have been doing it for quite a while, and they know what they are doing. I thought our last game they did pretty well for the first time out there. There are always some miscues. We had plenty of miscues ourselves.”

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 at what the injury report would look like if there were one.

Harbaugh would not offer much Tuesday about the status of any player dealing with an injury, leaving us to wonder whether the likes of wide receiver Torrey Smith and cornerback Jimmy Smith will suit up and play against the Lions. It will also be interesting to see if the Ravens clear rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw for his first preseason action. His level of participation in practices increased this week as he continues to recover from a sprained shoulder.

Again, this is not meant to be an official injury report:

OUT: LB Josh Bynes (back), LB Darryl Blackstock (groin), TE Dennis Pitta (hand), TE Ed Dickson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (Achilles tendon), WR David Reed (knee), DL Ryan McBean (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: WR Tandon Doss (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Torrey Smith (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (back), LB Courtney Upshaw (shoulder), G Bobbie Williams (ankle), OT Jah Reid (calf), WR Devin Goda (undisclosed)
PROBABLE: RB Bernard Pierce (hamstring), WR Jacoby Jones (leg), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), C Matt Birk (back), S Ed Reed (knee)

Five players to watch Friday night

1. OL Kelechi Osemele

Most of us have assumed that Bryant McKinnie would eventually man the left tackle spot and Michael Oher would play on the right side after the former reported late to training camp as he said he was dealing with a back injury, but the Ravens still don’t appear to have decided on what they want to do at those positions. The rookie Osemele has complicated the situation further by playing at an impressive level during training camp as the Ravens feel they got an absolute steal with the 60th overall pick in April.

Osemele’s great athleticism and maturity beyond his years have contributed to the coaching staff giving him extensive consideration at right tackle even though the safe play would be to revert back to last year’s tackle combination of McKinnie and Oher. The Iowa State rookie still needs to become a more consistent pass blocker, but he appears to be a far more serious candidate to start than anyone would have realistically expected at the start of camp. His ability to move inside is also a nice insurance policy to have with left guard Bobbie Williams coming off major ankle surgery in the offseason.

2. K Billy Cundiff

I stated at the start of training camp that rookie Justin Tucker would only be able to win the kicking job if he performed at an extremely high level while the veteran Cundiff stubbed his toe along the way. Tucker has been outstanding throughout training camp even though Cundiff had also been very good until this week.

On Monday, Cundiff missed short field goals from 24 and 34 yards and couldn’t convert a pair beyond 50 yards on Wednesday while Tucker continued to kick with ice water in his veins, only missing a 52-yard field goal this week while making all other tries. The veteran will really be feeling the pressure if he doesn’t have a good night in front of a home crowd that hasn’t exactly been forgiving in the realm of social media whenever his kicking miscues have been reported this summer.

Regardless of how Cundiff performs, the crowd response alone will be interesting to watch.

3. TE Billy Bajema


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Ranking the Ravens’ biggest defensive needs

Posted on 15 February 2012 by Luke Jones

With free agency set to begin on March 13 and the draft to follow in late April, the Ravens continue to evaluate their needs in all three phases of the game.

After evaluating the biggest offensive needs on Monday, I offer my thoughts on the defensive side of the football by ranking the biggest positions of need entering the offseason.

1. Outside linebacker

For a team as rich as any at the linebacker position over the last 15 years, it’s unusual to see the Ravens with such glaring needs within the unit. Veteran Jarret Johnson is an unrestricted free agent and will be 31 by the start of the 2012 season, suggesting he would be a necessary casualty when addressing a list of 13 unrestricted free agents.

However, there isn’t a single option on the roster with which the Ravens would feel comfortable as a starting strongside linebacker. Paul Kruger shows ability as a pass rusher but has not shown the necessary ability in pass coverage or run defense to consider him an option as a three-down player at this point.

After appearing in only two games this past season, former second-round pick Sergio Kindle is probably more likely to be cut than to find himself in the starting lineup next season. The former Texas product has struggled to learn the Baltimore defense and still feels effects of a fractured skull suffered just days before what would have been his first training camp in 2010, but the 24-year-old will benefit from a full offseason at the team’s Owings Mills facility. Along the same lines as Kindle, Michael McAdoo — who spent the 2011 season on injured reserve — is an intriguing name to monitor but shouldn’t be in the discussion for a starting position at this point.

With that in mind, the Ravens might be more inclined to re-sign Johnson than many would think. Much like they did with Ray Lewis in the winter of 2009, the Ravens will allow the veteran linebacker to explore his value in the open market and see if they can come to an agreement that makes sense for both sides. Of course, new Indianapolis head coach and former Ravens defense coordinator Chuck Pagano could try to overpay for Johnson to bring a Baltimore flavor to the Colts defense. One factor working against the Ravens is a relatively-thin market for outside linebackers, which would not only drive up the price for Johnson but also mean they’d still have to pay handsomely for a replacement.

The Ravens would love to find a young outside backer who can play the run as effectively as Johnson while showing more ability in pass coverage. They could look to a draft prospect such as North Carolina’s Zach Brown, Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis, or Utah State’s Bobby Wagner in the early rounds, but the Ravens have rarely shown enough confidence in rookies to step into a starting job at the linebacker position.

The dream scenario would be to find an outside linebacker with enough pass-rushing ability to alleviate attention from Terrell Suggs on the opposite side, but Kruger did an adequate job in getting after the quarterback in passing situations.

2. Inside linebacker

The talk has only grown louder regarding the need to find the heir apparent to future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the Ravens first need to figure out who will be playing next to him in 2012.

Jameel McClain is an unrestricted free agent and while the Ravens have to be pleased with his development after signing him as a rookie free agent in 2008, the 26-year-old will likely command more money than Baltimore is willing to pay to retain his services. This would leave Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan, and Josh Bynes as potential replacements. Ellerbe is an restricted free agent while the latter two are exclusive rights players, meaning all three are very likely to return.

Veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo is also a free agent, meaning the Ravens could be in danger of losing arguably their best linebacker in terms of pass coverage.

Ellerbe has shown impressive potential in limited doses, but his work ethic has come into question on a number of occasions to draw the ire of coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens might be content with plugging Ellerbe into the other inside linebacker spot for now, but he’s far from a safe bet to be an answer beyond the 2012 season.

The Ravens face a difficult proposition in how to handle Lewis, who still plays the run effectively but is a liability in pass coverage. The prudent answer would be to limit the veteran to action on first and second down, but explaining that to one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history is easier said than done. You also need to have a viable replacement before you tell the defensive leader he comes off the field in passing situations.

While there has been plenty of talk over the last year or two to find Lewis’ eventual replacement, this year’s draft appears to be a critical time to find an up-and-coming inside linebacker. The Ravens have been linked to both Dont’a Hightower of Alabama and Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State in various mock drafts. The problem is Hightower may be off the board by the time the 29th pick rolls around and Burfict’s character has come into question with a reputation for delivering cheap shots and reportedly sucker-punching a teammate in practice last August.

3. Safety*

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John Harbaugh,  Joe Flacco

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Ravens have plenty on their plate during bye week

Posted on 02 January 2012 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With John Harbaugh giving his players two days off following their 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals that secured an AFC North title and a first-round bye, the coach was surprised to see roughly half the team at the Ravens’ training facility on Monday morning.

Of course, many were receiving treatment in the training room as the Ravens deal with a laundry list of ailments and injuries after completing the regular season with a 12-4 record. Securing their first bye since the 2006 season, the Ravens enjoy the benefit of extra time to heal while feeling the accomplishment of advancing to the divisional round without having to endure another 60 minutes of football.

“[The bye] counts as a win,” Harbaugh said. “This win was kind of a one-for-two. We won one game, we got two wins. So, that’s big.”

All 12 playoff teams would reap the benefit of an extra week off after the rigors of a four-month season, but the Ravens’ large number of injuries made the accomplishment all the more important for their Super Bowl aspirations. Listening to Harbaugh run down the list of injuries made it clear.

The most serious of the injuries appears to be the MCL sprain suffered by linebacker Jameel McClain. The injury is not considered serious, according to Harbaugh, but the inside linebacker will likely be held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Tom Zbikowski were feeling no lingering symptoms on Monday from the concussions they sustained against Cincinnati. They will need to be cleared this week, but Harbaugh remained optimistic about a quick recovery time for both. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is also improving despite being sidelined against the Bengals from the concussion he suffered against Cleveland on Christmas Eve.

Safety Bernard Pollard is dealing with a sprained wrist and an elbow contusion while defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered an elbow laceration. Despite suffering a left hip sprain during Sunday’s game, defensive tackle Terrence Cody was able to return.

After one of the guttiest performances in the history of the franchise, guard Marshal Yanda is dealing with soreness but made it through Sunday’s game without re-aggravating rib and thigh contusions.

Harbaugh also confirmed kicker Billy Cundiff felt good after resuming kicking duties against the Bengals. He will remain the Ravens’ kicker as long as he is healthy, leaving veteran Shayne Graham’s future in doubt as the Ravens move into the postseason.

“We’ll hold onto Shayne as long as we can now, but if we have to make a roster move, obviously, that’s the direction we would go,” Harbaugh said. “He did a great job. Why he’s not holding onto a job right now, I’m not sure, but we were very fortunate for him to be able to come in and fill that gap for us.”

The Ravens will also look forward to the return of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who practiced on a limited basis last Friday and was upgraded from “out” to “doubtful” on the final injury report released ahead of the Bengals game. Harbaugh confirmed last week that all swelling had subsided from the surgical procedure Boldin underwent to repair a partially-torn meniscus.

With six more to go before the Ravens even learn who they will be playing in the divisional round of the playoffs, they will primarily use this week to improve their overall health. However, players will also work on their strength and conditioning as well as a rare opportunity for self-evaluation without an opponent for which to prepare this week. The coaching staff is preparing for three potential opponents in the second round, but they will also use this week’s practices to continue to develop younger players, especially considering how many veterans are banged up.

Players will be off on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but linebacker Jarret Johnson expressed the team’s mindset to Harbaugh on the flight home after one of the biggest wins in the regular-season history of the franchise.

“Their whole mindset right now is to be the best football team we can be a week from Sunday at 1:00,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what our team is thinking about right now. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

Even with a weekend off from playing a football game, it’s apparent the Ravens are maintaining a workmanlike approach with their eyes focused on taking the next step toward Indianapolis.

Visit the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear Harbaugh’s entire Monday press conference from Owings Mills right here.

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Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens for Week 9

Posted on 08 November 2011 by Luke Jones

Below are our Tuesday Top 7 Ravens players in the thrilling last-second victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. We’ll track our rankings throughout the 2011 season with the following point system:

No. 1 – 7 points
No. 2 – 6 points
No. 3 – 5 points
No. 4 – 4 points
No. 5 – 3 points
No. 6 – 2 points
No. 7 – 1 point

Luke Jones’ Top 7 …

7) Ben Grubbs

6) Terrence Cody

5) Billy Cundiff

4) Dennis Pitta

3) Torrey Smith

2) Anquan Boldin

1) Joe Flacco

Drew Forrester’s Top 7 …

7) Cory Redding

6) Anquan Boldin

5) Billy Cundiff

4) Torrey Smith

3) Dennis Pitta

2) Cary Williams

1) Joe Flacco

Luke Jones:

1. Terrell Suggs (29 points)
2. Joe Flacco (27 points)
3. Ray Rice (26 points)
4. Haloti Ngata (24 points)
5. Anquan Boldin (20 points)
6. Torrey Smith (11 points)
7. Ed Reed (8 points)
7. Ray Lewis (8 points)
7. Terrence Cody (8 points)
7. Billy Cundiff (8 points)
11. Bernard Pollard (7 points)
11. Cary Williams (7 points)
13. David Reed (6 points)
14. Bryant McKinnie (5 points)
14. Lardarius Webb (5 points)
14. Dennis Pitta (5 points)
14. Jarret Johnson (5 points)
18. Sam Koch (4 points)
19. Cory Redding (3 points)
19. Jameel McClain (3 points)
19. Paul Kruger (3 points)
22. Matt Birk (1 point)
22. Ben Grubbs (1 point)

Drew Forrester:
1. Joe Flacco (27 points)
2. Ray Rice (22 points)
2. Terrell Suggs (22 points)
4. Haloti Ngata (18 points)
5. Anquan Boldin (17 points)
6. Ray Lewis (12 points)
7. Lardarius Webb (11 points)
7. Torrey Smith (11 points)
9. Ed Reed (10 points)
10. Bernard Pollard (9 points)
10. Billy Cundiff (9 points)
10. Dennis Pitta (9 points)
13. Cary Williams (8 points)
14. Bryant McKinnie (7 points)
14. Sam Koch (7 points)
16. Ed Dickson (6 points)
17. Jarret Johnson (5 points)
17. Paul Kruger (5 points)
19. Jameel McClain (4 points)
20. Marshal Yanda (2 points)
20. Andre Gurode (2 points)
22. Cory Redding (1 point)

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Live from Owings Mills: Reed, Cody practicing after Monday night collision

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Perhaps an even scarier scene than the Ravens’ horrific performance in a 12-7 loss on Monday was the fourth-quarter collision that left All-Pro safety Ed Reed and defensive tackle Terrence Cody lying on the ground in pain.

However, the two were back on the practice field Wednesday afternoon, confirming coach John Harbaugh’s comments suggesting little concern for either player’s shoulder injury. Reed returned to the game after the collision after suffering a “burner” in the opposite shoulder of the chronic nerve impingement the safety has dealt with since the end of the 2007 season.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was also back on the practice field after Harbaugh said the rookie did not take part in any defensive snaps due to soreness in the left ankle that sidelined him for six weeks. The first-round pick had not played since sustaining a high ankle sprain covering a kickoff early in the season opener.

Safety Tom Zbikowski (concussion) and cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring) were also taking part in the open portion of practice on Wednesday after both were inactive against the Jaguars. Zbikowski appeared to be more active after practicing on a limited basis last week, a possible indication that he’s been cleared for contact after being sidelined with a concussion sustained against the New York Jets on Oct. 2. Carr was fielding punts during the special teams portion of practice.

Wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle), guard Ben Grubbs (right toe), running back Anthony Allen (thigh), and Dannell Ellerbe (thigh) were not present during the portion of practice open to the media.

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Harbaugh making no excuses for Ravens’ offensive woes

Posted on 25 October 2011 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Less than 24 hours after the Ravens turned in one of their worst offensive performances in franchise history, coach John Harbaugh would not sugarcoat the fallout from a 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Baltimore mustered only 146 total yards and failed to register a first down in the first forty minutes of the game. It was even worse in the first half as the Ravens produced just 16 yards of offense in 25 plays, conjuring nightmares from their darkest offensive days of the 16-year history of the team.

“No excuses,” Harbaugh said. “[It] has to be a lot better. Not even close to the way we’re capable of performing on offense. Everybody realizes that. We’ve all got to do a better job, starting with me. I’ve got to do a better job making some decisions, and we’ve all got to do a better job of coaching, playing, executing, all those different things.”

Predictably, Cam Cameron has received a large amount of the criticism from fans on local talk radio and internet message boards after the Ravens were nearly shut out for the first time since 2002. The offensive coordinator has come under fire over the last two seasons in which the Ravens have failed to produce points with consistency — especially on the road.

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In three road games, the Ravens have scored 57 points, but 37 of those came in one game against the winless St. Louis Rams. In Baltimore’s three home games — against Pittsburgh, the New York Jets, and Houston — the Ravens have produced 98 points.

As many fans call for Cameron to be fired, Harbaugh thinks plenty of criticism needs to be spread around to everyone involved on the offensive side of the football.

“It’s warranted for all of us. I think we all deserve to have fingers pointed at us when the offense plays like that. That’s tough. It’s just a bad performance. Everybody knows it. Cam has broad shoulders. He’s a tough guy, and he’s been doing this for a long time. Everybody in this building respects him, and nobody’s going to fight harder to make this offense achieve what it’s capable of achieving. It’s still early in the season, but we can’t afford more performances like that. We all know that.”

One of the biggest criticisms was the lack of touches for star running back Ray Rice, who carried the football just eight times for 28 yards. Rice also found himself as the subject for potential controversy when the ESPN telecast suggested Rice had been removed from the game after a lost fumble in the second quarter and a second fumble that was overturned by a challenge replay.

However, Harbaugh flatly shot down the theory that Rice had been taken out due to ball security concerns. It was the first fumble for the fourth-year running back after 522 consecutive regular-season touches without a fumble.

“We had no conversation about [the fumble],” Harbaugh said. “He’s got to get more than eight carries. I also think when you’re a play-caller, you’re searching for things to get you going, to get you jump-started. It wasn’t like those eight carries were gashing them or anything like that either. I think we were looking for some things that we could do, searching a little bit for a way to get a first down.

“Eight carries is never going to be a winning formula for Ray Rice.”

The lack of touches by Rice didn’t go unnoticed in the Ravens locker room, where linebacker Terrell Suggs wondered aloud why Cameron didn’t call Rice’s number more often in comparison to Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew. Despite Baltimore having early success stopping the run, Jones-Drew carried the ball 30 times for 105 yards.

Suggs also went on to question why receiver Anquan Boldin wasn’t more involved in the offense despite the veteran being targeted 12 times and making four receptions.

Many have wondered how appropriate it was for Suggs to make his comments publicly to the media, but Harbaugh agreed with the sentiments brought forth by the Pro Bowl linebacker.

“The things he said are right, but that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Harbaugh, who expressed his respect for Suggs as both a player and leader in the locker room. “It’s not like we’re not trying to do the things he’s talking about doing. I think we’re all on the same page with that.”

Onside kick revisited

Harbaugh’s decision to try an onside kick with 2:02 remaining and two timeouts sparked plenty of discussion in the aftermath of the 12-7 loss. Many believed the Ravens should have elected to have Billy Cundiff boot one through the end zone, preserving the two-minute warning and allowing the Baltimore defense to get the ball back.

When pressed about the decision again on Tuesday, Harbaugh held firm on his decision to try to get the ball back as Cundiff’s kick came just short of the 10-yard requirement before Haruki Nakamura recovered it for the Ravens.

Apparently, the math supported his decision as well.

“Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m even more sure that it was the right [decision],” Harbaugh said. “I think you can go both ways on it, but we had a chance to do a probability study. The probabilities are for kicking the onside kick.”

Harbaugh acknowledged the rationale of kicking it deep, but pointed out that the Jaguars would have likely brought any kick out of the end zone if at all possible to burn the two-minute warning. Ultimately, even with the probability study, it came down to Harbaugh’s gut feeling on the onside play.

“I think it’s fair to say you can do it either way,” Harbaugh said. “I felt strongly about the onside kick, and the main reason was because I thought we were going to get it.”

But alas, the Ravens did not.

Injury updates

The news was positive on defensive tackle Terrence Cody and safety Ed Reed, who collided late in the second half of Monday night’s game. Neither injury is considered serious as the Ravens turn their attention to the Arizona Cardinals.

“Cody seems OK,” Harbaugh said. “Ed, I think he’s OK. I think he had a burner. It was in the other side from where he’s had his issues, but we’ll see. Those things are a little unpredictable. I don’t want to speak for Ed on that. That’s his, he owns that, but we’ll see how he does. He’s a pretty tough guy.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith returned to action for the first time since suffering an ankle injury against the Steelers in Week 1. However, the first-round pick was limited to special teams duty and did not play a defensive snap after he began feeling the effects of practicing all week and receiving his first game action in six weeks.

“His ankle started to get a little bit sore, and he was gimping around a little bit during the second half,” Harbaugh said. “Also, by the way I think the game went. Ankle’s a little sore, hasn’t had a lot of reps, hasn’t been on defense that much, tight football game — that probably limited his reps a little bit.”

Status quo for Evans, Grubbs

The weekly update on wide receiver Lee Evans and guard Ben Grubbs sounded just like the previous weeks, and Harbaugh’s frustration is apparent.

Grubbs has not played since Week 1 while Evans has sat out since an ineffective performance against Tennessee in Week 2. Harbaugh did not sound encouraged regarding either player.

“We’ll just have to see as the week goes on,” Harbaugh said. “I’m to the point now where I’m not even thinking about it until they come back. I think you give those guys a chance to heal fully where they’re not going to get re-injured again. That’s been a little bit of a mystery, and we’ve just got to let [them] heal.

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Our Ravens-Jaguars “Slaps on the Head”

Posted on 25 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

After Baltimore Ravens victories, Ryan Chell and I award players who made positive contributions with “Pats on the Ass” during the “Nasty Purple Postgame Show” on AM1570 WNST.net.

To just about everyone’s surprise, there were no Pats to be given following the Ravens’ game Monday, as they fell 12-7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.

So instead of offering “Pats on the Ass”, Ryan and I instead offered “Slaps on the Head” postgame. A slap on the side of the head from a coach tends to come along with them saying something along the lines of “you’ve gotta do better than that.”

Same rules as there were with Pats. Two offensive players, two defensive players, and a wild card (Special Teams player, coach, or another Offensive or Defensive player). One player gets “two slaps” (or a slap on both sides of the head), it’s the opposite of a “Player of the Game” honor.”

Here are our five Ravens that have “gotta do better than that.”

Glenn Clark’s Slaps…

Danny Gorrer


Joe Flacco


Brendon Ayanbadejo


Bryant McKinnie


Billy Cundiff (two slaps)


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Joe Flacco

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“Rating the Ravens” after Baltimore 29-14 victory over Houston

Posted on 17 October 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Ravens may have had some difficulty Sunday versus the Houston Texans getting in the end zone, but with Baltimore getting their third straight win, there is little to be upset about with the AFC North-leaders.

The Ravens (4-1,) not only earned another win to stay atop the division; they earned a quality win over a Houston Texans squad that was seen as an elite team in the AFC despite coming in with a 3-2 record.

The Texans of course were without All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, DE Mario Williams, and had injuries to their entire backfield Sunday in quarterback Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster, and fullback James Casey.

With another quality win under their belt and seeing some offensive production out of running back Ray Rice, receivers Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, and four sacks on defense, the Ravens should have a lot of confidence going forward as they take on the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars next Monday night.


Joe Flacco

After Joe Flacco’s poor performance two weeks ago against the New York Jets in which Flacco recorded 10-of-31 passes for just 136 yards (2 turnovers), it was on Flacco to have a rebound game.

Flacco finished Sunday 2o-of-33 for 305 yards and one interception versus the Texans. Give credit to Flacco for making plays on the run, being hit after letting go the ball, and not being able to fully step into his throws.

The Houston Texans built their team in the draft and in the off-season to off-set a dominant quarterback in their division in Peyton Manning, and it also affected Flacco Sunday.

Third-year man Tim Jamison stripped Flacco once and recorded two sacks of the Ravens quarterback, and rookies JJ Watt and Brooks Reed were breathing down Flacco’s neck all game long.

Flacco’s lone interception came on a tipped pass intended for tight end Ed Dickson that found its way into the hands of Texans CB Jonathan Joseph. Dickson could not have been more wide open, and Flacco sailed the ball.

Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith-on his highlight of the day, a 51-yard catch in the 3rd quarter that helped Baltimore go up 16-14with 5:06 in the third-had to go back to get Flacco’s pass.

But later on in the quarter, after Houston punted on downs, Flacco’s pass from his own 34 to Anquan Boldin-over the outstretched arms of Joseph-could not have been in a better spot for Boldin to get the ball.

Best assessment? A better game for Flacco.


Running Backs

Ray Rice

Ray Rice continues to show that he is the gas that makes the Ravens offensive car go. If anything were to happen to Rice, Ravens fans can make other plans the first couple of weeks of January. He had 161 yards of total offense against the Texans, and a lot of those yards were hard fought through an aggressive Texans defensive line and linebacking corps.

Giving the ball to Rice 23 times on the ground showed that Cam Cameron and the Ravens offensive coaching staff continue to realize that good things happen when you give him the ball, and his added five touches for 60 yards on passes down the field backed that statement up.

The only area of concern would be Rice’s inability to punch it in the goal line on back-to-back occasions at the end of the Ravens first drive that put them up 7-0 over Houston-one of which had a huge hole for him to run through.

Ricky Williams had a four-yard score in the four quarter to ice the game, 26-14. It was his first touchdown as a Raven, and given the team’s ineptness toward the goal line earlier in the contest and his ability to punch it in, he might be called on more in those opportunities.


Wide Receivers

Anquan Boldin

Glenn Clark said this on “The Nasty Purple Post-Game Show” following the game: this may have been the best/second best game Anquan Boldin has had in a Baltimore uniform. He did have 100-yard games twice against the Steelers and his 3-TD performance against Eric Wright and the Browns in 2010, but given the man going up against him in Jonathan Joseph, Boldin had a phenomenal game.

Boldin not only performed his role as a possession receiver (8 catches), he of course made plays down the field highlighted by his 56-yard grab in the third quarter, setting up the fourth quarter field goal by Billy Cundiff that put Baltimore up 19-14 with 14:44 left to go.

On the other side, Torrey Smith was frustrated after being bottled up by the New York Jets before the bye week. Smith had five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams three weeks ago, and his rookie flame faded against Darrelle Revis.

Torrey Smith

Flacco found Smith three times Sunday for 84 yards, highlighted by his 51-yarder that Smith made over Kareem Jackson. Smith did a great job coming back for Flacco’s ball to make the catch, and held it after the hit. Flacco barely missed Smith earlier in the game on a bomb in the back of the end zone, and they were toes away from a connection for a score.

No other receiver caught a pass, and tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson combined for four passes for 29 yards.


Offensive Line

This unit dominated. This unit also struggled as well. All depends when you were looking.

Early, the Ravens offensive line had issues protecting Flacco from the likes of bull rushers like Antonio Smith, Tim Jamison, JJ Watt, and Brooks Reed. They also had difficulty clearing a lane for Ray Rice and Vonta Leach to punch it in the Texans’ 1-yard line.

Four times. And they were aided by Antonio Smith’s two personal foul penalties mixed into those opportunities.

But as the game went on, the offensive line appeared to wear down the Texans defensive line. You have to play for 60 minutes of football in the NFL, and the O-line did help Ray Rice get over the century mark for yet another game this year.


Defensive Line

Matt Schaub

The Ravens got four sacks Sunday of Matt Schaub, and the defensive line earned two of those sacks (Haloti Ngata, Pernell McPhee). However, you can credit Clarence Brooks‘ unit with absorbing blocks to allow Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson to earn the other two sacks of Schaub. Schaub was constantly on the move in the pocket, and the Texans were forced to leave tight ends Joel Dreessen and Owen Daniels in to block Ngata and Terrell Suggs-taking away other options for Schaub.

Ngata still found a way to earn eight tackles Sunday through the double and triple-teams.

Also key in stopping the Texans was containing running back Arian Foster, the NFL’s leading rusher from a year ago. Foster earned 100 yards against the Ravens in their 2010 contest, and it was clear the Ravens saw him as a threat. They did a great job containing the back, only allowing him 49 yards on the ground on 15 carries.

They were disciplined in their over-pursuit of Foster as well, not allowing him the cut-back lane to get his signature extra yards.

Local guy Ben Tate did have some success in relief of Foster (9 carries, 41 yards), but he also had a fumble that ultimately helped the Texans earn one of their two scores.

Terrence Cody did an impressive job stuffing Arian Foster in several short-yardage situations, earning three tackles.

Terrence Cody



This unit was helped by the play of the guys in front of them.

Able to flow smoothly to the ball without fear of blocks, Ray Lewis led all tacklers with 12. Both he and Jarret Johnson (7 tackles) earned sacks blitzing from the right side of the Texans offensive line, and had clear lanes to the QB.

Brendon Ayanbadejo had four tackles-mostly in obvious passing situations, but he continues to prove that he is the best option the Ravens have at covering the opposing tight end or running back in the flat.

Much like the defensive line, give them credit for stopping Arian Foster and playing well in coverage a few yards off the line of scrimmage.

Arian Foster



This unit probably received the greatest news in the world last week when they heard that Texans WR Andre Johnson would miss Sunday’s game with that prolonged hamstring injury.

That left quarterback Matt Schaub without his weapon, and it was obvious that he was “naked” without Johnson in the lineup.

Schaub made his plays in short yardage in front of the receivers-taking few shots down the field. Mostly because he didn’t have the time to throw either with the Ravens pass-rush keeping him on the move.

Corners Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams, and safety Bernard Pollard combined for 17 tackles, and made sure that there weren’t any plays made after the catch and that no receiver got past them.

The longest play of the day for Houston came on Jacoby Jones‘ 32 yard touchdown in the third quarter that put the Texans up 14-13, and it appeared like there was a blown coverage on the play.

Ed Reed

Safety Ed Reed-who often takes risks in his own right-was left on his own against Jones, and the speedy Jones made a play behind Reed in the back of the end zone.

Fortunately for the Ravens secondary, it was the only mistake on their part.


Special Teams

The key here was Billy Cundiff, who went five-for-five on field goals on a windy Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. You could almost give him the game ball here.

Billy Cundiff

He continues to prove to the coaching staff that he is not a liability, and that his Pro-Bowl year from 2010 was not a fluke.

He had eight kickoffs-all of which reached the end zone-and seven of them were downed for touchbacks.

New CB Bryan McCann had two kickoff returns for 26 yards, and punter Sam Koch only had to line up twice.

Rating: “A”

Like my analysis? Disagree? Comment below, or tune in Monday afternoon on “The Reality Check” as Glenn Clark and I discuss Sunday’s win! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

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Our Ravens-Texans “Pats On The Ass”

Posted on 16 October 2011 by Glenn Clark

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

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

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 29-14 victory over the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium…

Glenn Clark’s Pats…

5. Ray Lewis


4. Terrence Cody


3. Joe Flacco


2. Billy Cundiff


1. Anquan Boldin (Pat on both cheeks)


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