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weddle

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How did Ravens defense stack up at each position in 2016?

Posted on 12 January 2017 by Luke Jones

We know the sum of their parts didn’t add up to a trip to the postseason for the Ravens, but where exactly did their defensive players stack up at each position across the NFL in 2016?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl or picking postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few realistically have the time — or want to make the effort — to watch every player on every team extensively enough to develop an informed opinion.

How many times did you closely watch the offensive line of the Tennessee Titans this season?

What about the Los Angeles Rams linebackers or the San Diego Chargers cornerbacks?

That’s why I appreciate projects such as Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 and the grading efforts of Pro Football Focus. Of course, neither the NFL1000 nor PFF should be viewed as the gospel truth of evaluation and they have their limitations, but I respect the exhaustive effort to grade players across the league when so many of us watch only one team or one division on any kind of a consistent basis.

Earlier this week, we looked at the rankings for Baltimore’s offensive players.

Below is a look at where Ravens defensive players rank at their respective positions, according to those outlets:

DE Timmy Jernigan
NFL1000 ranking: 17th among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: 41st among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The 2014 second-round pick appeared on his way to a breakout year, but he had only one sack after Week 7 and recorded one tackle over his last four games combined.

DE Lawrence Guy
NFL1000 ranking: 42nd among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: 36th among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The 6-foot-4 lineman doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, but he’s good against the run and was a solid contributor in his first full year as a starter.

DE Brent Urban
NFL1000 ranking: 40th among 3-4 defensive ends
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The 2014 fourth-round pick saw only 150 defensive snaps this season, but his ratings suggest that more playing time should be in order in 2017.

DT Brandon Williams
NFL1000 ranking: 18th among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 38th among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The fourth-year nose tackle saw more double teams and wasn’t as dominant as he was in 2015, but he is still on track to receive a strong payday as a free agent.

DT Michael Pierce
NFL1000 ranking: 31st among defensive tackles
PFF ranking: 26th among interior defensive linemen
Skinny: The rookie free agent from Samford was one of the good stories of 2016 and will likely step into a starting role if Williams signs elsewhere this offseason.

OLB Terrell Suggs
NFL1000 ranking: 17th among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 40th among edge defenders
Skinny: The 34-year-old played with a torn biceps for much of the season and is nearing the end of his career, but he still plays the run at a high level and remained Baltimore’s best pass rusher.

OLB Za’Darius Smith
NFL1000 ranking: 36th among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 93rd among edge defenders
Skinny: Instead of building on an encouraging rookie campaign, Smith struggled mightily against the run and managed only one sack in a disappointing season.

OLB Elvis Dumervil
NFL1000 ranking: 41st among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher was limited to just three sacks in eight games after undergoing offseason Achilles surgery and could be a salary-cap casualty this offseason.

OLB Matt Judon
NFL1000 ranking: 42nd among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 83rd among edge defenders
Skinny: The Grand Valley State product flashed promise with four sacks in 308 defensive snaps, but the Ravens will be counting on him to show more consistency in 2017.

OLB Albert McClellan
NFL1000 ranking: 45th among 3-4 outside linebackers
PFF ranking: 99th among edge defenders
Skinny: McClellan sets the edge better than Smith or Judon, but the veteran is very limited as a pass rusher and in coverage and is better suited for his standout special-teams role of past years.

ILB C.J. Mosley
NFL1000 ranking: 11th
PFF ranking: 11th
Skinny: Selected to his second Pro Bowl in three years, Mosley bounced back from a shaky 2015 season and is rapidly establishing himself as one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL.

ILB Zachary Orr
NFL1000 ranking: 20th
PFF ranking: 82nd
Skinny: Orr had some tackling issues from time to time and isn’t an effective blitzer, but PFF’s ranking appears to be way too low for the man who led the Ravens in tackles this season.

CB Jimmy Smith
NFL1000 ranking: seventh
PFF ranking: 48th
Skinny: The Ravens experienced dramatic drop-off without their top corner, but he’s now missed 22 games in his career and the injury bug always seems to bite when he’s playing his best football.

CB Tavon Young
NFL1000 ranking: 72nd
PFF ranking: 30th
Skinny: The truth probably lies somewhere in between these rankings, but the rookie fourth-rounder was a pleasant surprise and looks to be no worse than a quality slot cornerback moving forward.

CB Jerraud Powers
NFL1000 ranking: 90th
PFF ranking: 70th
Skinny: Powers wilted down the stretch in coverage and against the run, which will likely prompt the Ravens to look elsewhere for depth in 2017.

CB Shareece Wright
NFL1000 ranking: 116th
PFF ranking: 80th
Skinny: After arguably being the best Ravens defensive player on the field in Week 1, Wright lost all confidence and became a frustrating liability as the season progressed.

S Eric Weddle
NFL1000 ranking: sixth among strong safeties
PFF ranking: first among all safeties
Skinny: After three years of cycling safeties in and out of the lineup, the Ravens finally found high-quality stability in the back end of the defense with Weddle’s arrival in 2016.

S Lardarius Webb
NFL1000 ranking: 10th among free safeties
PFF ranking: 16th among all safeties
Skinny: His switch from cornerback made him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league, but Webb grew into his new position after a slow start and played well in the second half of the season.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 16 loss to Pittsburgh

Posted on 27 December 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling 31-27 to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day to be eliminated from postseason contention, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The sting of a Ravens loss shouldn’t discount appreciation for what was a classic between these AFC North adversaries. This rivalry has lost some juice in recent years, but both teams deserve praise for one that was as good as it gets without being a playoff game.

2. That sentiment aside, the fourth-quarter defense must be addressed. I’ve been a supporter of defensive coordinator Dean Pees and believe he has done a good overall job with a unit lacking star power, but the Ravens have allowed 102 of their 294 total points in the final period this season.

3. If this is it for Steve Smith, Sunday was a strong final performance in the national spotlight as he caught seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. He’s 35 yards shy of an 800-yard season, which is exceptional for a 37-year-old coming off a serious Achilles injury.

4. It looked like 2016 was going to be a breakout year for Timmy Jernigan after he collected a sack in each of the first three games, but he’s recorded just one quarterback takedown since the Week 8 bye and hasn’t even registered a tackle over the last three games.

5. Breshad Perriman had a bad drop on the Ravens’ final touchdown drive, but I liked seeing Joe Flacco go right back to him on the next play for a 15-yard completion on third-and-10. This is going to be a huge offseason for the 2015 first-round pick to improve.

6. Counting the postseason, Baltimore is 11-22 on the road since Super Bowl XLVII with two wins against teams that finished with a winning record. The first was the 2014 wild-card victory over Pittsburgh and the other against the Steelers last year when Mike Vick started in place of Ben Roethlisberger.

7. The toughness with which he runs is impressive, but Kenneth Dixon won’t become a three-down back until he improves in pass protection. That has to be a goal for both him and Terrance West to work on this offseason.

8. The Ravens masked it well this season, but their pass rush ultimately cost them. According to Pro Football Focus, Roethlisberger was pressured on just four of his 33 dropbacks. It’s tough trying to blitz with Jimmy Smith out, but the defense needs more disruption from a four-man rush.

9. Terrell Suggs deserves praise for how he played this year, but the 34-year-old has gone without a sack in his last four games and had a combined one tackle against New England and Pittsburgh this month. Ozzie Newsome needs to find high-impact help at the position to help him out.

10. We all know health is the major concern with Michael Campanaro, but watching him these last two weeks makes you wonder why the Ravens didn’t part ways with Devin Hester a month sooner. Campanaro, Perriman, and Chris Moore are young players who should play more against Cincinnati.

11. I understand it’s in a coach’s fiber to do everything he can to win, but the organization should consider the dangers of exposing its most important players to injury in a meaningless road game against the Bengals. Does anyone sincerely care about finishing 9-7 compared to 8-8?

12. The seat is warm for John Harbaugh after missing the playoffs in three of four years, but firing him would be harsh after only one truly lousy season (2015). A once-proud franchise, Buffalo has had six head coaches since Harbaugh’s hiring. Finding someone even as good is hardly a given.

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Jimmy Smith absent as Ravens begin preparing for Philadelphia

Posted on 14 December 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens began preparations for their Week 15 contest against Philadelphia without their top cornerback on the practice field.

Jimmy Smith was not present for Baltimore’s Wednesday walk-through as he recovers from a right ankle sprain suffered in Monday’s loss to New England. The 2011 first-round pick left the game late in the first quarter and did not return, but head coach John Harbaugh has offered no clarity on his status for Sunday’s game or beyond.

“I really don’t want to get into that, to be honest with you,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t really see any purpose to get into that. Thanks for asking.”

Should Smith not be able to play against the Eagles on Sunday, the Ravens would likely turn to Shareece Wright to start opposite rookie Tavon Young. Slot cornerback Jerraud Powers practiced on a limited basis despite leaving Monday’s game with a concussion.

Reserve defensive back Anthony Levine (toe) and linebacker Terrell Suggs were absent from Wednesday’s practice. Suggs received a veteran day off.

Tight end Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) made his return to practice on a limited basis after missing his sixth straight game. Rookie guard Alex Lewis (ankle) was a full participant after practicing on a limited basis last week. He appears poised to return against Philadelphia after missing four consecutive games.

Third-year wide receiver Michael Campanaro was officially promoted to the 53-man roster on Wednesday and is expected to be in the return specialist mix with veteran safety Lardarius Webb, according to Harbaugh. The Ravens waived four-time Pro Bowl returner Devin Hester on Tuesday.

“That was a little bit of a tough move just because we have so much respect for Devin and the effort he’s put in,” Harbaugh said. “I told him I feel like we didn’t get the job done. We didn’t do enough to make the return game productive enough to make it worthwhile.”

The Eagles were without top receiver Jordan Matthews (ankle) and veteran running back Darren Sproles (concussion) during their Wednesday practice.

The Ravens will wear their black jerseys for their home finale on Sunday. They own a 15-6 all-time record when wearing their alternate tops and are 12-3 under Harbaugh.

Below is the full injury report for Wednesday:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DB Anthony Levine (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Alex Lewis (ankle)

PHILADELPHIA
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Allen Barbre (hamstring), WR Jordan Matthews (ankle), RB Darren Sproles (concussion), OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Brandon Brooks (illness), TE Brent Celek (stinger), WR Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 13 win over Miami

Posted on 06 December 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens blowing out Miami in a 38-6 final on Sunday to remain tied atop the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. How badly did Joe Flacco need a performance like that? It was the first time he’d thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game against a team not named the Cleveland Browns in over a year.

2. Considering his salary cap figure is the second highest on the team and fourth among NFL safeties, Lardarius Webb stepping up in response to Eric Weddle’s recent challenge to elevate his play is an encouraging development. His end-zone interception in the second quarter was sensational.

3. Kyle Juszczyk might be the best fullback in the NFL, but he saw his lowest snap total on Sunday since Week 3. I couldn’t help but think that was a positive development in getting more dynamic receivers on the field to help the passing game.

4. Using the same starting offensive line for the third straight game — the first time the Ravens have done that since the first three weeks of the season — resulted in zero sacks and just two quarterback hits allowed against the Dolphins’ talented front four. Continuity is critical with line play.

5. Remember how the Ravens ranked last in the NFL with just six interceptions last season? Their three-pick performance against Ryan Tannehill gave them 14 for the season, which is tied for second in the league entering Week 14.

6. Count me among those who expected the Ravens to run the ball more in the second half, but I sometimes wonder if some care more about the run-pass ratio than scoring points and accumulating yards. Taking issue after the highest scoring output in over two years is silly.

7. I’m not sure I’ve seen linebackers more clueless in coverage than Miami’s were. Flacco and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg were smart to attack the middle of the field to exploit them.

8. Of the nine Ravens players selected on Day 2 of the draft since Super Bowl XLVII, just two — Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan — were active for Sunday’s game. That isn’t easy to overcome as an organization.

9. Terrance West has averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry this season, but Kenneth Dixon is gaining 5.9 yards per attempt over his last four games after averaging 1.5 yards per carry in his first four games back from injury. It’s getting tougher and tougher to hold the rookie back.

10. Miami’s complaints about the field at M&T Bank Stadium are noteworthy after the switch to natural grass this season, but the Ravens didn’t seem to have any problems. It will be interesting to see how the surface holds up for the Army-Navy game and the Philadelphia game in Week 15.

11. The Ravens have surrendered the fifth-fewest pass plays of 25 or more yards this season, but they’re on pace to produce fewer pass plays of 25 or more than they did last year when they lacked any viable vertical threat. This offense has disappointed, but I wouldn’t have guessed that.

12. I understand John Harbaugh’s team was really banged up at the time, but watching the New York Jets play Monday reminded how maddening that Week 7 loss was. The Ravens remain in good position now, but that one still hangs over their heads as a potential season-killer.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 11 loss to Dallas

Posted on 22 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens falling back into a first-place tie in the AFC North after a 27-17 loss to Dallas on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The defense squandering a first-and-30 on Dallas’ first touchdown drive was the turning point of the game, but Mike Wallace’s inability to get his feet inbounds on a deep pass inside the 5 on the ensuing possession was equally frustrating. Neither side of the ball could make the game-changing play.

2. If the second half of the Week 6 loss to the New York Giants wasn’t enough, Sunday offered another reminder of how valuable Jimmy Smith is to this defense. Without his game-changing talent in the secondary, the Ravens have an average group with no answer against an elite receiver.

3. The Ravens have certainly abandoned the run at times, but Week 11 doesn’t fit that narrative. Look at the play-by-play and you’ll find a spot or two for another run, but the ratio was skewed because of a multi-score deficit that led to 15 straight dropbacks to close the game.

4. On a day that produced a record 12 missed extra points, Justin Tucker remained perfect on the year and extended his league-long streak of 30 consecutive field goals. He hasn’t missed an extra point in his career. With kicking issues all over the place, don’t take that excellence for granted.

5. The secondary faced the bulk of the criticism on Sunday, but the linebacker coverage that’s been so good this year looked more like it did in 2015. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr have done a much better job against the pass in 2016, but they struggled against the Cowboys.

6. It’s difficult to recall too many offensive linemen who have shown the ability to switch positions and still play at a high level like Marshal Yanda. Jonathan Ogden is the undisputed top offensive lineman in franchise history, but Yanda is an easy No. 2 on the list.

7. Dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice, Timmy Jernigan played a season-low 21 snaps. You wonder if him being less than 100 percent put too much on the plates of Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams in the battle against the best offensive line in the NFL.

8. Looking at his final numbers, Joe Flacco turned in a solid performance against the Cowboys, but the problem is that feels like it’s become his ceiling this season. In a game screaming for a big play, Flacco was 0-for-4 on pass attempts traveling more than 20 yards through the air.

9. It was disappointing to see Breshad Perriman follow the best game of his career by failing to record a reception and not even being targeted on 23 snaps. The 2015 first-round pick still has a long way to go to become a consistent threat in the passing game.

10. After forcing punts on the first four possessions, the Ravens were too conservative on third down the rest of the way. After blitzing or showing blitz on the first four third-down stops, Baltimore rushed four or fewer on four of the next five third downs without a single stop.

11. Despite the incredible resources pumped into the position, the Ravens have received very little from the tight end spot. Dennis Pitta’s return has been a great story, but he’s piled up no more than 40 receiving yards in any of the last five games.

12. I’m torn whether penalties are a bigger reflection on the coaching staff or on undisciplined — and potentially overmatched — players, but piling up 136 penalty yards is unacceptable when you’re trying to beat one of the best teams in the NFL. It’s a tired problem.

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Ravens-Cowboys: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 November 2016 by Luke Jones

(Updated 12:40 p.m.)

The irresistible force against the immovable object.

The NFL’s top-ranked run defense takes on the No. 1 rush offense as the Ravens travel to Arlington, Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys, owners of the best record in the NFL.

Despite that being the marquee matchup of the afternoon, the Ravens were dealt a major blow to their pass defense with cornerback Jimmy Smith being deactivated for Sunday’s game. Smith is dealing with a back injury and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report.

His absence means defensive coordinator Dean Pees will lean on the likes of Tavon Young, Jerraud Powers, and Shareece Wright to try to slow two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant and the Dallas passing game. Keeping seven defenders in the box to slow rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott won’t be easy without that clear option in Smith to lock down Bryant.

Wright is making his return from a three-game absence with a hamstring injury and was working as a starter opposing Young during warmups. However, it wouldn’t surprising to see the Ravens use defensive back Anthony Levine as a hybrid defender against the run and pass in certain sub packages.

As expected, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) is also inactive despite returning to the practice field this week. He was a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday, but the five-time Pro Bowl pass rusher hadn’t been on the field in over five weeks as he continues to work his way back to full strength from offseason too surgery. Dumervil has appeared in only two games all season.

Starting left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) were already ruled out on Friday.

The good news for the Ravens on Sunday morning was the activation of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Both were listed as questionable to play with shoulder injuries this week.

In an interesting wrinkle, Yanda was working as the starting left guard during pre-game warmups with Vlad Ducasse again working at right guard where he started last week. It would Yanda’s first NFL start at that position as the Ravens will now use their seventh different starting combination of the season on the offensive line.

There were no surprises among the Dallas inactives as cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) were officially ruled out on Friday. Veteran quarterback Tony Romo (back) is active and will serve in his new role as rookie Dak Prescott’s backup.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

The roof will be closed at AT&T Stadium, making this the first indoor game for the Ravens this season.

Baltimore will wear purple jerseys with white pants while the Cowboys sport white jerseys with silver pants.

Sunday marks the fifth regular-season meeting between these teams with Baltimore holding a 4-0 advantage. Dallas is the only team not to have beaten the Ravens in the 21-year history of the latter franchise.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
CB Asa Jackson
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LB Elvis Dumervil
OL Ryan Jensen
OL Alex Lewis
TE Crockett Gillmore

DALLAS
QB Mark Sanchez
CB Morris Claiborne
RB Darius Jackson
S Barry Church
LB Mark Nzeocha
OT Chaz Green
DE Benson Mayowa

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J. Smith, Dumervil doubtful to play against Dallas on Sunday

Posted on 18 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Despite optimism about their status earlier in the week, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil were designated as doubtful to play against Dallas.

Earlier in the week, head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Smith’s back ailment and had said he expected the sixth-year defensive back to play against the Cowboys on Sunday. Smith was a limited participant on Friday after missing the previous two practices, but Harbaugh offered a different tone when asked again about his status for Week 11.

“He was out here today. Obviously, it’s a walk-through, so it’s not as physical, but he was out here today,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just wait and see what the doctors tell us. His back tightened up a little bit. We’ll just have to see how it [responds] — whatever the doctors say. He wants to play, and we’ll know. The fact that he was out here today I think is a good sign.”

It’s worth noting that the Ravens haven’t listed a single player as doubtful who ended up being active for that week’s game all season, but the revamped injury report designations for 2016 provide more wiggle room than in the past. The “doubtful” label used to mean a player had no more than a 25 percent chance of playing, but it now means only that an individual is “unlikely to play” in that week’s game.

Smith’s absence would spell bad news for the Ravens’ efforts to slow down two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant. Under normal circumstances, Baltimore would likely ask Smith to shadow the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant in pass coverage.

Dumervil being listed as doubtful was less surprising considering he had missed more than five weeks of action since last playing on Oct. 9. The 32-year-old has appeared in only two games this year after a slow recovery from offseason foot surgery, but he participated fully in workouts on Wednesday and Thursday before being listed as limited in Friday’s walk-through.

The work pattern appears similar to what he did in Week 3 when he practiced on a limited basis for two days before being listed as questionable and ultimately sitting out the Jacksonville game. He made his season debut the following week.

Dumervil told reporters after Thursday’s practice that he felt “really close” to being his old self after a frustrating rehabilitation filled with two setbacks since the start of training camp.

“He responded well. I don’t think he had any problems after the two workouts,” Harbaugh said. “He looked good. He looked quick and explosive, which is what I was looking for. I know Elvis wants to play, and I know I want him to play. It will be up to the doctors whether they allow him to play or not, but he sure looked good in practice.”

The Ravens listed right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring), and linebackers C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and Kamalei Correa (thigh) as questionable for Sunday’s game. Despite serious doubts about Yanda’s status for the rest of the season only a few days ago, the five-time Pro Bowl lineman was a full participant all week, putting him on track to play against Dallas.

Jernigan is the only other real concern among the remaining names as he missed the final two practices of the week. He was a full participant on Wednesday, making one wonder if he suffered an injury in practice.

Baltimore officially ruled out left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh) on Friday.

As expected, the Cowboys officially ruled out cornerback Morris Claiborne (groin) and safety Barry Church (forearm) for Sunday’s game. Though he is still expected to play, Bryant was added to the injury report on Friday with a back issue and is listed as questionable.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be John Parry.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday afternoon forecast in Arlington, Texas calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds up to 12 miles per hour. Of course, AT&T Stadium has a retractable roof should the forecast change over the weekend.

Below is the final injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), G Alex Lewis (ankle)
DOUBTFUL: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (back)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

DALLAS
OUT: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Dez Bryant (back), OT Chaz Green (foot/back), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), QB Tony Romo (back), OT Tyron Smith (back/hip)

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J. Smith, Jernigan absent from Thursday’s Ravens practice

Posted on 17 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Moving closer to their big Week 11 encounter with the Dallas Cowboys, the Ravens were without seven players during Thursday’s practice session.

Headlining the list was No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed his second straight workout with a back issue. Head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the ailment on Wednesday and expressed confidence that Smith would be able to play on Sunday.

Harbaugh also said that he expected Smith to practice this week, making his status for Friday’s workout worth monitoring. Assuming he is able to play, the sixth-year defensive back will likely be trusted to match up with two-time Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) was a new absences on Thursday after not being listed on the injury report a day earlier.

Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh), and left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) were also missing from Thursday’s practice. Taliaferro was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, making it likely that he suffered the injury during practice.

The Ravens also gave linebacker Terrell Suggs and center Jeremy Zuttah the day off. Zuttah played through a mild ankle sprain in last week’s win over Cleveland while it’s no secret that Suggs is playing with a torn left biceps.

For the second straight day, right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) were present and working as full participants. Dumervil wouldn’t confirm Thursday whether he would play against Dallas, but he believes he’s “really close” to being his old self from a physical standpoint after being shut down just over five weeks ago.

“Just the strength [is better],” said Dumervil, who has appeared in only two games this year after undergoing offseason foot surgery. “I think last time, as a competitor, as a winner, you just want to go out [and play]. Sometimes it is good to listen, and I learned that.”

Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (back/hip) returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Crockett Gillmore (thigh), DT Timmy Jernigan (shoulder), G Alex Lewis (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), CB Jimmy Smith (back), RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh), C Jeremy Zuttah (non-injury)
FULL PARTICIPATION: LB Kamalei Correa (thigh), LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)

DALLAS
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Barry Church (forearm), CB Morris Claiborne (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Chaz Green (foot/back), DE DeMarcus Lawrence (back), OT Tyron Smith (back/hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Tony Romo (back)

 

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Ravens, Cowboys looking to reign supreme in running game

Posted on 16 November 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Something has to give between the Ravens and the Cowboys on Sunday.

It’s the No. 1 run defense against the top rushing attack in the NFL.

The Cowboys have run for more than 100 yards in every game this season while Baltimore has allowed more than 65 rushing yards in a game just twice. It’s the kind of game outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has relished throughout his 14-year career while playing on some of the better defenses in franchise history.

These Ravens are out to prove they belong in that conversation.

“You want to play against the best,” Suggs said. “When you were 10 years old, you were like, ‘I want to go play in the NFL. I want to be considered one of the best players in the NFL.’ To be the best, you have to play the best. It is a challenge for our defense, but we accept it.”

No one anticipated this kind of success for the Cowboys, who have been led by two rookies on their way to an 8-1 start. Fourth-round quarterback Dak Prescott has taken the league by storm after replacing an injured Tony Romo in the preseason, but first-round running back Ezekiel Elliott has proven why he was the first running back selected in the top five overall picks of the draft in four years.

Leading the NFL with 1,0005 rushing yards and ranking fourth among qualified players in yards per carry (5.1), Elliott would have garnered much consideration from the Ravens had he fallen to the sixth overall pick, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The Ohio State product has emerged as a league MVP candidate with a combination of rare explosiveness and mature vision.

“I think he already had that. I don’t think they had to teach it to him,” Harbaugh said. “That’s why they drafted him where he was. He’s a special guy. The offensive line [also] deserves a lot of credit for the success they’re having.”

Though Elliott is a unique talent, the Dallas offensive line is the primary reason why he has a legitimate chance to break the rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards set by Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson in 1983. Comprised of three former first-round picks, the Cowboys unit is the highest graded in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Elliott has gained a whopping 439 rushing yards before contact, illustrating how much his offensive line has aided in his instant stardom. In contrast, the Ravens have run for a total of just 773 yards in 2016.

The Cowboys have played their share of shoddy run defenses — a list including San Francisco, Washington, Cincinnati, and Cleveland — but they largely had their way with top 10 run defenses in Green Bay, Chicago, and the New York Giants as well. In fact, the Packers entered Week 6 as the No. 1 run defense in the league and proceeded to give up 191 yards on 33 rushing attempts in a 30-16 home loss to Dallas.

“I definitely think they’re the most athletic,” said defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan about the Cowboys offensive line. “They can go from sideline to sideline, make the cut, blocks on the backside and those different things. It’s going to be a challenge for us. But at the same time, I don’t think they’ve seen a front like ours, either.

“It’s going to be on, and we’re going to be ready for the challenge.”

As impressive as the Dallas ground game has been, the Ravens’ run defense may own a more eye-popping résumé.

Consider that Baltimore has allowed a league-low 3.3 yards per carry while also giving up the longest run of the entire NFL season when Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell ran for an 85-yard touchdown in Week 2. That blemish can’t be erased, of course, but the Ravens have surrendered just under 2.9 yards per carry in opponents’ other 193 rushing attempts this season.

Baltimore has given up just two other runs of 20 or more yards this season while facing five teams — Buffalo, Cleveland, Oakland, Washington, and the New York Jets — currently ranking in the top 10 in yards per carry. Of the two occasions the Ravens have surrendered more than 65 rushing yards, one was the game in which Crowell recorded his league-long run and the other was against the Jets in Week 7 when Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley — two of the Ravens’ best run defenders — were out with injuries.

This stingy run defense falls well short of the 2000 Ravens who allowed a microscopic 2.68 rushing yards per carry in a historic season, but an imposing front seven led by nose tackle Brandon Williams, Mosley, and Suggs has its chance to make its biggest statement of the year by slowing Elliott and the red-hot Cowboys. That will be Baltimore’s best chance in trying to pull off the upset on Sunday.

Something will have to give.

“It’s what, nine games in? We’ve stopped the run, but are we going to slip up now and not be able to stop the run?” Harbaugh said. “You have to play every game the next week like it’s the most important game of the season. Our guys understand that. Our guys are going to get ready to play.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 9 win over Pittsburgh

Posted on 07 November 2016 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens having snapped their four-game losing streak in a 21-14 win over Pittsburgh to move into first place in the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Jimmy Smith and rookie Tavon Young could be the best cornerback duo the Ravens have had in a while. Smith is finally playing like he did before his foot injury two years ago, and the 5-foot-9 Young is making a strong case to be more than just a slot corner.

2. His broken brace earned attention, but a first-quarter sequence from Joe Flacco was inexcusable. After snapping the ball before his receivers were set — with 10 seconds still on the play clock — to negate a third-down conversion in the red zone, he then threw across his body for an ugly interception.

3. When Mike Wallace signed his two-year contract, it was mostly viewed as a one-season deal with a scheduled $8 million cap figure for 2017. He’s caught four of Flacco’s six touchdown passes and is on pace for 1,200 yards. The Ravens are cheapskates with their receivers, but shouldn’t be here.

4. Earning his first career interception in the third quarter, Timmy Jernigan fell to the ground after previously coughing up a fumble return deep in Baltimore territory in Week 7. It was good seeing him learn from a mistake and to be able to laugh, quipping how he’s a fast learner.

5. What are the odds of a rookie scoring his first two career touchdowns in consecutive games as a member of the punt return team but not as the actual returner? Chris Moore has certainly been in the right place at the right time.

6. He didn’t put up monster numbers with just five credited tackles and a dropped interception, but the difference in the Ravens defense was tangible with C.J. Mosley back in the middle. He was a major reason why Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was a non-factor on Sunday.

7. Remember how the running game was trending upward despite Marc Trestman’s hesitancy to commit to it before his dismissal last month? The Ravens have averaged 2.4 yards per carry in three games with Marty Mornhinweg in charge.

8. With Flacco often checking down and Kenneth Dixon not showing the same explosiveness he had before his knee injury, why not give Buck Allen more chances out of the backfield? He struggles between the tackles, but he did catch 45 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie.

9. Speaking of Allen, the second-year running back provided the Ravens their 12th blocked kick since 2014 and their league-best fourth this season. When you lack dynamic play-makers, these types of special-teams plays are of the utmost importance.

10. I’m not concerned about his long-term prospects, but Ronnie Stanley committing four penalties on Sunday and acknowledging his foot was still “a little sore” after a four-game absence weren’t encouraging developments for the remainder of his rookie season.

11. I admittedly don’t spend a great deal of time discussing Justin Tucker because there’s only so much to say about his excellence. He’s a perfect 20-for-20 on the season and has silenced concerns about his accuracy from 50 yards and beyond. He’s been worth every penny of his contract.

12. How long had it been since the Ravens last won a game before Sunday’s victory? The Orioles had won four contests more recently despite their season coming to a bitter end more than a month ago. Maybe John Harbaugh just needed to call Zach Britton for some relief.

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