Tag Archive | "Torrey Smith"

Cornerbacks Levine, Gorrer leave Sunday’s game with injuries

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Cornerbacks Levine, Gorrer leave Sunday’s game with injuries

Posted on 07 December 2014 by Luke Jones

On a day when cornerback Asa Jackson returned following a two-month absence from a toe injury, the Ravens lost two more cornerbacks in their 28-13 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Anthony Levine left in the first quarter with a concussion while Danny Gorrer was carted off the field with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Neither backup cornerback returned as the Ravens finished the game with just two active cornerbacks who were healthy — Jackson and veteran Lardarius Webb.

The injuries forced defensive coordinator Dean Pees to use safety Matt Elam extensively at the nickel against the Dolphins.

Head coach John Harbaugh had no update on either player’s status after the game. Young cornerback Rashaan Melvin was deactivated prior to the game, and rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday.

The Ravens were also without starting wide receiver Torrey Smith for most of the game after his knee swelled up during pre-game warmups. Listed as probable on the final injury report after practicing fully on Friday, the fourth-year wideout limped through his pre-game routine and played sparingly, finishing without a catch.

“We worked him out pre-game and he looked pretty good,” Harbaugh told reporters in Miami after the game. “Then we came out for pre-game right before the game and his knee swelled up and it really tightened up on him. We had already activated him, and he really couldn’t go.”

With Smith essentially out of the picture, the Ravens primarily turned to Kamar Aiken, who turned in a career day with six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Marlon Brown added three catches for 30 yards in his return from last week’s concussion.

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 07 December 2014 by Luke Jones

The final push for a playoff spot begins now as the Ravens face the Miami Dolphins in an AFC matchup with major ramifications in a crowded wild-card picture that features six teams with 7-5 records.

The latest distraction in a difficult 2014 season came earlier this week in the form of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended for the remainder of the regular season after testing positive for Adderall. The Ravens are expected to use rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan in Ngata’s place, but veterans such as Terrence Cody — who is active for the first time this season — and Lawrence Guy could find themselves in the mix at the 3-technique tackle spot.

As expected, running back Justin Forsett (knee) is active and will start against Miami despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week. The plan all along was for the Ravens to rest Forsett, wide receiver Torrey Smith (knee), and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) this week before they returned to practice on Friday, and all three are active for Sunday’s game.

However, reports from Miami indicated Smith was limping noticeably during pre-game warmups, making one wonder how much of a factor he’ll be against the Dolphins on Sunday. The fourth-year wideout was listed as a full participant in Friday’s practice after sitting out the previous two days.

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) and rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) were both deactivated for Sunday’s game after being designated as questionable to play against the Dolphins. Gillmore’s back injury only appeared to get worse as the week went on, prompting the Ravens to promote tight end Phillip Supernaw from the practice squad. Campanaro was a full participant in practices this week, but the Ravens are being extra cautious with the 5-foot-9 receiver who hasn’t played since Oct. 26.

After being activated from injured reserve-designated to return on Saturday, cornerback Asa Jackson will see his first live-game action since suffering a serious turf toe injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 5. The third-year defensive back is expected to see significant time in trying to provide a boost to the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

Second-year linebacker Arthur Brown is active for just the third time this season while rookie safety Terrence Brooks is inactive for the third time in 2014.

Miami will be without starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), who is inactive after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report of the week.

Tight end Charles Clay is active despite being limited with a hamstring injury this week and missing the Dolphins’ last two games.

The Ravens and Dolphins will be meeting for the 10th time in the regular season with Miami holding a 5-4 advantage but Baltimore owning a 2-0 postseason edge. In the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 4-0 against the Dolphins including a postseason victory in Miami in 2008 and a 26-23 win at Sun Life Stadium last season.

Sunday’s forecast in Miami calls for sunny skies with temperatures reaching 80 degrees and winds up to nine miles per hour, per Weather.com.

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

The Ravens will be wearing purple jerseys with white pants while Miami dons its white tops with white pants.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Michael Campanaro
S Terrence Brooks
CB Rashaan Melvin
C Gino Gradkowski
OL Jah Reid
TE Crockett Gillmore
DE DeAngelo Tyson

MIAMI
CB Jamar Taylor
CB Cortland Finnegan
RB LaMichael James
LB Jonathan Freeny
LB Chris McCain
OT Nate Garner
G Billy Turner

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Forsett questionable, Torrey Smith probable for Sunday’s game in Miami

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Forsett questionable, Torrey Smith probable for Sunday’s game in Miami

Posted on 05 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens received encouraging news for the last practice of the week with the returns of wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Justin Forsett, and center Jeremy Zuttah as they made final preparations for Sunday’s game in Miami.

Forsett (knee) was listed as questionable on the final injury report while Smith (knee) and Zuttah (ankle) were designated as probable to play on Sunday. All three were present and working during the portion of practice open to media after missing workouts on Wednesday and Thursday. Smith and Zuttah practiced fully while Forsett was a limited participant.

Despite his designation, Forsett is expected to play as the Ravens face a critical game against the Dolphins in the landscape of the AFC wild-card race.

“Just resting up,” said Forsett about missing Wednesday’s practice. “Regular soreness, especially coming into December. Just trying to take care of the body and take care of the little nicks and knacks I’ve gotten over the course of the year.”

Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore was listed as questionable to play against the Dolphins after missing his second straight practice on Friday. The Ravens promoted tight end Phillip Supernaw to the 53-man roster on Friday, a good indication that Gillmore’s status is in jeopardy for Sunday. Supernaw takes the place of the suspended Haloti Ngata on the active roster.

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh) and linebacker Albert McClellan (thigh) were also designated as questionable to play after Campanaro practiced fully all week and McClellan was limited. Campanaro hasn’t played in a game since injuring his hamstring against Cincinnati on Oct. 26.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (concussion) has been cleared and is probable to play Sunday after practicing fully on Thursday and Friday.

Cornerback Tramain Jacobs was ruled out with a thigh injury after failing to practice on Friday.

Wide receiver Steve Smith, tight end Owen Daniels, linebacker Daryl Smith, and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson all returned to practice after being absent Thursday for non-injury reasons. Smith and Daniels received the day off while Tyson faced jury duty. Veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs did not practice Friday with what was listed as a non-injury reason.

All four were listed as probable.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins listed starting cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle) as doubtful for Sunday’s game and tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) as questionable. Five other starters were designated as questionable.

John Parry will be the referee for Sunday’s game in Miami.

The forecast for kickoff calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s with winds up to eight miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Below is the final injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Tramain Jacobs (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), RB Justin Forsett (knee), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), LB Albert McClellan (thigh)
PROBABLE: WR Marlon Brown (concussion), TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), LB C.J. Mosley (wrist), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Torrey Smith (knee), LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury), DT DeAngelo Tyson (non-injury), LB Courtney Upshaw (hand), C Jeremey Zuttah (ankle)

MIAMI
OUT: LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder)
DOUBTFUL: G Nate Garner (illness), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), LB Chris McCain (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Charles Clay (hamstring)
PROBABLE: WR Brian Hartline (knee), T Ja’Wuan James (neck), LB Jelani Jenkins (shoulder), C Samson Satele (ribs), WR Mike Wallace (chest), S Jimmy Wilson (hamstring)

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How much more can the Ravens endure in 2014?

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How much more can the Ravens endure in 2014?

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — No matter what lies ahead for the Ravens in the final four weeks of the regular season, 2014 has been a year to forget.

Thursday brought the latest reminder with the news of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended four games for testing positive for Adderall.

The black cloud from the Ray Rice saga that continues to linger nearly three months after his release, four other offseason player arrests, the season-ending injuries to Dennis Pitta and Jimmy Smith, and one of their longest-tenured players and a team leader being busted for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy just days before the biggest game of the season in Miami.

What’s next?

With the news of Haloti Ngata's suspension, will the Ravens make the playoffs?

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“It does feel like it’s always something, but, shoot, that’s life,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “Stuff pops up all the time. It’s all about how you deal with it. If Haloti’s back, we’ll be looking back at it like, ‘Alright, that’s something we already brushed off.’ Again, we’ll be in the playoffs [then].”

The loss of Ngata for the rest of the regular season hurts, but it doesn’t necessarily doom the Ravens’ chances of making the playoffs as they’ll now turn to a deep group of defensive linemen led by rookie second-round pick Timmy Jernigan. The league’s fourth-ranked run defense certainly takes a hit, but it’s not unreasonable to expect younger options to step in and do a respectable job in Ngata’s place.

News of the suspension was surprising as it was such a lapse in judgment from a nine-year veteran who has served as one of the Ravens’ most prominent leaders and has earned a positive reputation in the locker room and in the local community. In addition to the stigma of being linked to performance-enhancing drugs — even if it is Adderall — tainting Ngata’s impeccable career, failing a drug test in his ninth year reeks of foolishness more than anything else.

“We know the rules and we have to abide by them,” rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “It is what it is. We have to move on. We just wish the best for him and hope we make it to the playoffs so we can have him back.”

After enduring the loss of Jimmy Smith in late October, the Ravens have now suffered a major blow to the defense up front where they have been robust enough to help account for arguably the worst secondary in franchise history en route to a 7-5 record. From a mental standpoint, the Ravens must handle Ngata’s absence in the same way they would an injury, but his self-inflicted blow certainly can’t sit well with his teammates.

Whether we see the big defensive tackle again this season now falls on the shoulders of a roster that’s endured more than its share of off-field turmoil.

“It was definitely difficult to hear,” Torrey Smith said. “He’s expressed how disappointed he is. I know he’s hurt for it, and we’re going to be hurt by it. We have a lot of guys who have the ability and they’ve got to step up. That’s the philosophy around here.”

To their credit, the Ravens have held true to that mindset as they responded to Rice’s release with a convincing Thursday night win over Pittsburgh in Week 2. The organization continues to come under scrutiny from top to bottom for its handling of the Rice situation, but you’ve never gotten the sense that it’s impacted the play on the field, especially with such a surprising season from veteran Justin Forsett.

The Ravens lost Pitta for a second straight year and then Smith — their most important defensive player — and have still remained within striking distance of the playoffs as they enter the final quarter of the season.

Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, head coach John Harbaugh and his players deserve credit for navigating through such rough waters in 2014.

But at some point, it’s human nature to throw your hands up and wonder if it’s just not your year.

“We’ve dealt with adversity throughout the course of the season in one form or another,” defensive end Chris Canty said. “We’ll step up and meet the challenge. We’ll try to put ourselves in the best position we can to be successful.”

You wonder when enough will be enough.

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Torrey Smith remains sidelined for Thursday’s practice

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Torrey Smith remains sidelined for Thursday’s practice

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Hitting the practice field for the first time since the news of the Haloti Ngata suspension, the Ravens were again without starting wide receiver Torrey Smith on Thursday.

The fourth-year wideout continues to nurse a sore right knee that isn’t expected to keep him out of Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. However, it remains unclear how close to 100 percent he will be as the Ravens desperately need a win over Miami to stay in good position in a crowded AFC wild-card race.

“The only way I’m not going to play is if I need crutches,” Smith said. “I’m good to go. We’ll see what happens, but hopefully everything works out.”

Wide receiver Marlon Brown (concussion) returned to the practice field while running back Justin Forsett (knee) made a brief appearance during the media viewing portion before returning to the indoor facility adjacent to the practice fields. Forsett downplayed the extent of his injury on Wednesday, describing it as general soreness, but he was once again listed as a non-participant on the official injury report.

Players missing from practice also included tight ends Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore (back), center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle), linebacker Daryl Smith, and defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson. Daniels and Smith received a veteran day off on Thursday while Tyson was summoned for jury duty.

Gillmore was a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice.

Cornerback Asa Jackson (turf toe) continues to practice and eyes a return from the injured reserve-designated to return list this Sunday. The Ravens currently have 52 players on their active roster with Ngata being moved to the reserve-suspended list, so they could elect to use his roster spot to activate Jackson.

“You can’t really tell out here in practice until the bullets start flying if he’s back to where he was,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “But he seems to be moving well and doing fine. I think he’ll really help us back there, at least basically in the slot.”

There were no changes to Miami’s injury report from the previous day except for the addition of linebacker Chris McCain (ankle) as a limited participant.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Owen Daniels (non-injury), RB Justin Forsett (knee), TE Crockett Gillmore (back), LB Daryl Smith (non-injury), WR Torrey Smith (knee), DT DeAngelo Tyson (non-injury), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Tramain Jacobs (thigh), LB Albert McClellan (thigh), LB Courtney Upshaw (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (concussion), WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (wrist)

MIAMI
OUT: LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Nate Garner (illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Charles Clay (hamstring), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), WR Brian Hartline (knee), LB Chris McCain (ankle), C Samson Satele (ribs), WR Mike Wallace (chest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Daryn Colledge (back), T Ja’Wuan James (neck), LB Jelani Jenkins (shoulder)

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Forsett, Torrey Smith absent from Wednesday’s practice

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Forsett, Torrey Smith absent from Wednesday’s practice

Posted on 03 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing for this Sunday’s critical meeting with the Miami Dolphins, the Ravens were without three offensive starters for practice on Wednesday afternoon.

Wide receivers Torrey Smith (knee) and Marlon Brown (concussion), running back Justin Forsett (knee), and center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) were absent from the portion of the workout open to reporters. Smith and Brown left the San Diego game with injuries and didn’t return, but head coach John Harbaugh downplayed the significance of Smith appearing to injure his right knee in the fourth quarter of the 34-33 loss to the Chargers.

Brown’s absence was not unexpected as he continues to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol. He left Sunday’s game early in the second quarter after hitting his head hard on the M&T Bank Stadium turf.

Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged both receivers were making progress on Wednesday without going into detail.

Forsett downplayed his absence from practice as little more than a day to rest and to stay fresh for the final month of the season. He has carried 179 times for 1,009 rushing yards this season, both career highs.

“Just resting up [and] regular soreness, especially coming into December,” Forsett said. “Just trying to take care of the body and take care of the little nicks and knacks I’ve gotten over the course of the year.”

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) was a full participant in practice after working on a very limited basis last week. He hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 26 while his recovery from a hamstring injury has been slow.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins officially ruled out linebacker Jonathan Freeny (hamstring) and cornerback Jamar Taylor (shoulder) for Sunday’s game while tight end Charles Clay (hamstring), cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), and wide receivers Brian Hartline (knee) and Mike Wallace (chest) were all limited participants on Wednesday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marlon Brown (concussion), RB Justin Forsett (knee), WR Torrey Smith (knee), C Jeremy Zuttah (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Crockett Gillmore (back), CB Tramain Jacobs (thigh), LB Albert McClellan (thigh), LB Courtney Upshaw (hand)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (wrist)

MIAMI
OUT: LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Nate Garner (illness)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Charles Clay (hamstring), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), WR Brian Hartline (knee), C Samson Satele (ribs), WR Mike Wallace (chest)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Daryn Colledge (back), T Ja’Wuan James (neck), LB Jelani Jenkins (shoulder)

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Harbaugh calls Torrey Smith “day-to-day” with apparent knee injury

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Harbaugh calls Torrey Smith “day-to-day” with apparent knee injury

Posted on 01 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Uncertainty continues to surround the health of Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, but head coach John Harbaugh didn’t sound overly concerned about his status on Monday.

Despite Smith leaving Sunday’s game late in the fourth quarter with an apparent right knee injury, Harbaugh downplayed the severity of any injury and didn’t even acknowledge what was wrong with the fourth-year receiver after he missed the final two offensive series.

“Torrey really didn’t have anything too serious,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t even know how to describe it right now. [Head athletic trainer Mark Smith] hasn’t explained to me what it was. He’ll just be getting ready for Miami. I guess I’d call him day-to-day.”

Smith spoke to reporters following Sunday’s 34-33 loss to the San Diego Chargers, but he declined to discuss his injury and was seen walking with a limp. He caught six passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.

Harbaugh confirmed wide receiver Marlon Brown will continue to go through the concussion testing protocol after leaving in the second quarter of Sunday’s game and not returning. Brown caught three passes for 25 yards in a little over a quarter of play in what was easily his best performance of the year.

He was ruled out for the game with a diagnosed concussion shortly before halftime.

Rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) missed his fourth straight game on Sunday, but Harbaugh expressed cautious optimism that he might be ready to return while also acknowledging frustration with the slow healing process. The 5-foot-9 wideout returned to practice on a very limited basis last week.

“It’s just been slow. I don’t know what else to say,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been slow. It was supposed to be two weeks ago. Now you’re just at the point where it’s, ‘Let me know when you’re ready.’ And hamstrings are like that. That’s just the fact of it. He’s working really hard, and I think there’s a chance for this week. Now you get to the point where I’m just not going to count on it until he’s back.”

The Ravens hope Sunday will bring the return of cornerback Asa Jackson to the secondary for the first time since suffering a turf toe injury on Oct. 5. The third-year defensive back was placed on injured reserve-designated to return and is eligible to return to game action in Week 14.

Jackson returned to practice on Nov. 21 after he started four of five games earlier this season when veteran Lardarius Webb was still working his way back to form after a summer back injury.

“We’ve just got to see that he’s moving and he’s bursting,” Harbaugh said. “Then, the [toe] feels good the next day and you get back out and do it again. [We have to see] that he’s healthy and that he can play at an NFL level, which is a high level. He had a good week last week, and I’m very optimistic. You don’t know until you see it.”

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Marlon Brown key to Ravens unlocking more red-zone production?

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Marlon Brown key to Ravens unlocking more red-zone production?

Posted on 20 November 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Some expected wide receiver Marlon Brown’s production to dip this year after a 2013 campaign in which he caught 49 passes for 524 yards as the Ravens’ most surprising rookie.

The free-agent acquisitions of Steven Smith and Owen Daniels as well as the expected presence of a healthy Dennis Pitta meant the 6-foot-5 undrafted free agent from the University of Georgia would likely fall down at least a couple pegs in the receiving hierarchy, but Brown has been an afterthought through the first 10 weeks of the 2014 season. Catching only 10 passes for 93 yards in eight games — he missed two games with a pelvic injury — Brown keeps waiting and working for his opportunity while learning from seasoned veterans who weren’t on the roster when he was a rookie.

“I’m a competitor and I love to make plays and make the team [better],” said Brown, who has seen more playing time recently and has caught five passes for 45 yards over the Ravens’ last two games. “Obviously, I would like to be able to make more plays and be put in that position. At the end of the day, I tip my hat to Owen Daniels and Steve Smith. Those are the vets. I’m learning every day from these two greats, so I can’t complain about anything.”

Anyone who watched Brown play as a rookie knew his extensive playing time was as much about attrition at the wide receiver position as any other factor, but it was difficult not to be impressed with his size and potential as a target inside the 20. The Ravens ranked 31st in the red zone in 2013, but Brown was often their only option in that area of the field as he made all seven of his touchdown receptions on plays starting inside the opponent’s 20.

A year later, the Baltimore offense is much better under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, ranking 12th in total yards and tied for seventh in points per game. But the red zone remains an area in which the Ravens could improve as they’re eighth in the NFL in trips inside the 20, but they’ve scored touchdowns on only 54.1 percent of those drives, ranking 19th in the league.

“We need to be more efficient down there. We had some bad games early,” said Kubiak, pointing to the Week 2 win over Pittsburgh when the Ravens were only 2-for-6 inside the 20. “That puts you behind the eight ball pretty quick. But the red zone is an interesting stat, because sometimes you may come out of a game 2-for-2 and you didn’t win the game. It’s about the importance of when you’re down there, in my opinion, and it’s fixing to get very important here over the next six weeks. Usually, we’re at our best when we run the ball pretty well.”

The dramatic improvement with the offense this year has largely been the result of a consistent ground game, but the question lingers over who quarterback Joe Flacco can really depend on inside the red zone after Pitta was lost for the season in Week 3.

Smith has been Baltimore’s leading receiver this year, but his 5-foot-9 frame and ability to work in space is neutralized in a constricted area as he’s caught only four passes for 22 yards inside the 20 this season. Torrey Smith caught two touchdowns inside the red zone against Tampa Bay in Week 6, but he’s generally not the receiver who’s going to attack the ball when it’s up for grabs.

All three of Daniels’ touchdown receptions this season have come inside the red zone, but opposing defenses have keyed on him in the middle portion of the field as the Ravens move closer to the goal line, meaning someone else needs to emerge.

Despite his encouraging work inside the red zone during his rookie year, Brown has yet to be targeted inside the 20 in 2014. He’s an option Kubiak would be wise to consider as the Ravens have rarely used the jump ball in the end zone. Brown’s frame makes him the perfect candidate for occasionally featuring that strategy close to the goal line.

“He’s much more involved right now,” Kubiak said. “He has a big body, a chance to make some plays. So, it’s going to take all of us, and I’m sure Marlon will get his opportunities.”

At this point, Brown shouldn’t be mistaken for a starting-caliber receiver or a player on which you can rely to run precise routes all over the field, but his size is something the Ravens should try to utilize. And even if the offense has more overall talent than it did a year ago, Brown made plays against NFL defenses inside the red zone last season, proving he has the ability to contribute in an area that needs more efficiency.

It’s worth giving him a look as the Ravens try to make it back to the postseason in their final six games.

“I’m definitely trying to improve as a player, as a receiver in all the routes,” said Brown, who downplayed any difficulty he had learning Kubiak’s system as some have speculated. “I don’t want to be a guy who just runs red-zone routes or just runs [certain] routes. I want to run all the routes. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from all these guys while they’re here. I’m just trying to take advantage and soak in anything.”

Brown soaking in a few touchdowns inside the red zone would be an encouraging development for the Ravens down the stretch.

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Five up, five down: Ravens stock at midway point

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Five up, five down: Ravens stock at midway point

Posted on 29 October 2014 by Luke Jones

At the midway point of the season, we take a look at which Ravens players’ stock is up and down after the first eight games of 2014 …

STOCK UP

1. Justin Forsett
Skinny: What else can be said about the 29-year-old journeyman who currently ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (571) and second among running backs in yards per carry (5.5). Forsett said it best last week in quipping that many people didn’t even know he was still in the NFL entering 2014, but he’s been a saving grace in the aftermath of the Ray Rice saga. For an organization that’s found plenty of diamonds in the rough over the years, Forsett has been as good of a story as any.

2. Pernell McPhee
Skinny: The rush specialist has picked the perfect time to have a career year with his rookie contract set to expire. McPhee is second on the team in sacks (four) despite playing fewer snaps than Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil, a reflection of how effective he’s been in putting pressure on quarterbacks. The 2011 fifth-round pick’s improved health as well as defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ effective use of McPhee have added up to the Ravens having their best interior rusher in quite some time.

3. C.J. Mosley
Skinny: Many were obviously high on the 2014 first-round pick, but Mosley has been better than advertised in serving as the Ravens’ best inside linebacker and a top candidate for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Mosley ranks fourth in the NFL in tackles entering Week 9 and has recorded two interceptions, six pass breakups, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. For a front seven that needed some new blood, Mosley has been a high-impact addition.

4. Rick Wagner
Skinny: Remember when right tackle was a major topic of discussion throughout the offseason? Wagner has not only quelled those concerns, but the 2013 fifth-round selection has been an above-average player at his position, a major reason why the offensive line has been one of the strengths of the 2014 Ravens. He and perennial Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda have been an impressive tandem opening lanes on the right side of the line for the league’s eighth-ranked running game.

5. Brandon Williams
Skinny: There were high hopes for the second-year nose tackle to slide into a starting role and Williams hasn’t disappointed while wreaking havoc for interior offensive linemen against the run. He is seventh on the team in tackles and has made it far more difficult for teams to focus their attention on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Very athletic for his size, Williams has recorded 25 tackles, 1/2 sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in his first year as a starter.

Others receiving consideration: Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Steve Smith

STOCK DOWN

1. Jacoby Jones
Skinny: His season has been nothing short of disastrous as he’s dropped more passes (five) than he’s caught (four) and has twice lost fumbles on returns. The Ravens re-signed him to a four-year, $12 million contract that included a $3.5 million signing bonus in March, which is now looking like one of the worst contracts the organization has handed out in recent memory. He’ll need a big second half just to avoid being cut after the 2014 season, but his role has all but disappeared in the offense.

2. Bernard Pierce
Skinny: It’s been a dramatic fall for the 2012 third-round pick, who began the year as the starting running back and was a healthy inactive in Sunday’s game against Cincinnati. Pierce’s 3.6 yards per carry average is nearly two yards worse than Forsett’s (5.5) and lags behind rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro (4.4), which reflects his struggles and indecisiveness running in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking system. Pierce hasn’t taken advantage of what was a huge chance to prove himself as a feature back.

3. Matt Elam
Skinny: It’s fair to point out that Elam has been out of position for a large portion of his career, playing free safety as a rookie and often filling in at the nickel spot often in 2014. However, it isn’t just his pass coverage that’s been unsatisfactory as the 2013 first-round pick leads the team in missed tackles with 12, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s too early to label Elam a bust, but he hasn’t consistently displayed qualities of a good strong safety, let alone the versatility the Ravens expected him to have.

4. Torrey Smith
Skinny: The fourth-year receiver has had his moments and has drawn several significant pass interference calls, but he’s gone from a wideout who produced 1,128 receiving yards a year ago to one on pace for 36 catches and 616 yards in 2014. The Steve Smith factor is obvious, but Torrey Smith has averaged just 1.22 yards per route run, which is the 14th-worst mark in the NFL among players targeted at least 20 times. A down season couldn’t have come at a worse time with his rookie contract expiring.

5. Arthur Brown
Skinny: The 2013 second-round pick has been a healthy inactive for eight straight games as the Ravens have elected to use the likes of Albert McClellan and rookie free agent Zach Orr on special teams. The re-signing of Daryl Smith and the drafting of Mosley made it pretty obvious that Brown would need to remain patient in terms of expanding his role from a year ago when he served as a nickel linebacker. But for him to not even suit up for games is pretty telling of his current status.

Others receiving consideration: Marlon Brown, Chykie Brown, Lardarius Webb

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Forsett content surprising people on way to career season

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Forsett content surprising people on way to career season

Posted on 22 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The highlights were few and far between in the first half of the Ravens’ season-opening 23-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last month.

With Ray Rice suspended — and about to be released the following day — and fill-in starter Bernard Pierce managing just 17 yards on six carries as the Bengals led 15-0 at halftime, the Ravens began feeding the ball to their 5-foot-8 veteran newcomer considered little more than a temporary placeholder for Rice at the time of his signing. Baltimore fell short that day but discovered one of its greatest reclamation projects in recent years as Justin Forsett finished the afternoon with a game-high 70 yards on 11 carries.

He hasn’t looked back since as he not only leads the Ravens with 503 rushing yards on 87 carries but tops the NFL with a 5.8 yards per carry average through the first seven weeks of the season. Not bad for a 29-year-old who’s played for five different teams in seven years and is entering a stage of his career when most running backs are slowing down considerably.

Forsett smiles when asked about the constant disbelief expressed by media and fans while he continues to rack up yards for the league’s seventh-ranked running game.

“I’m OK with surprising people,” said Forsett, who’s currently on pace to break the franchise’s single-season yards per carry average. “A lot of guys didn’t know I was still in the league. I just take that in stride. It’s all fun.”

Not even the Ravens could have anticipated this much from Forsett, who was signed to a one-year contract on April 4 to serve as an insurance policy for Rice’s unknown status at the time and to bring a veteran presence to help teach new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system. Forsett had averaged 5.9 yards per carry in his only year with Kubiak in Houston in 2012 and owned previous experience working in a zone-blocking system in his four years in Seattle.

Most expected Forsett to be the odd man out once Rice returned from suspension, but that, of course, changed when the three-time Pro Bowl running back was cut on Sept. 8. Even now, there remains a feeling of how long Forsett can keep up this type of play as his 503 yards in 2014 are only 47 fewer than his rushing total from his previous three seasons combined.

Coaches love his ability to pass block — something that hasn’t been taken for granted with the injuries to left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele — and his 23 receptions rank third on the team behind wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels.

“He gets the most out of his ability,” said Kubiak, who knew Forsett’s character was a perfect fit for head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens. “He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he does a great job in pass protection. He’s a three-down player, so he’s a guy that you can keep on the field all the time in what you’re doing. The thing he’s doing right now [is] he’s finding a way to make a big play every week. I think that’s the key.”

Many have been quick to point to the resurgence of the offensive line to explain Forsett’s impressive numbers after the group couldn’t open any holes last season when the Ravens ran for a franchise-worst 3.1 yards per carry. But the veteran has run with a confidence and decisiveness that Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro haven’t shown on a consistent basis.

The younger backs are more impressive physical specimens with ideal size for interior runs, but Forsett’s average of 6.63 yards per carry running between the guards is the highest rate in the NFL for backs with at least 20 carries, according to Pro Football Focus. His yards per carry average is substantially better than that of Pierce (3.6) or Taliaferro (4.5), which also illustrates his superior vision in Kubiak’s one-cut system.

A humble man of Christian faith, Forsett is more interested in complimenting the men blocking for him than accepting praise for himself after years of less-than-ideal opportunities.

“I think it’s the offensive line,” said Forsett when asked how to attribute his success. “They’re doing a heck of a job going out there and executing, getting those guys cut backside and stretching a defense. I’m just able to find holes. I just thank God for the opportunity, and the guys are just working for me.”

The Ravens’ biggest concern at this point might be trying to keep the veteran fresh as he ran a career-high 23 times against Atlanta last Sunday and is only 31 rushing attempts shy of his highest total in any season. Listed at 197 pounds, Forsett has a good frame for a back of his stature, but his current pace would have him approaching 200 carries by the end of the season.

Forsett was incredibly durable throughout his career until turf toe and a stress fracture in his foot limited him to nine games with the Jacksonville Jaguars a year ago, making him confident that he’ll continue to hold up with an expanded workload in his seventh NFL season. He says he’s always prepared physically to be a starting back, even if the opportunity hasn’t been there for most of his career.

“I’ve always taken care of my body, because I had great veterans when I came into the league like T.J. Duckett, Maurice Morris, and Edgerrin James,” Forsett said. “They taught me early on, no matter if you’re playing special teams or running and busting the wedge, take care of your body, because that’s one thing that can get you out of the league. I stay on top of that, so it’s not that bad.”

Signing on the same day that the Ravens added Daniels, Forsett told reporters at the time that he carried a chip on his shoulder “the size of Texas” to prove he still had plenty of good football ahead of him. It was the kind of message you typically hear from a veteran cast aside by his former team, but perhaps his career 4.88 yards per carry average entering 2014 suggested he deserved a better opportunity than the ones he’d received in recent years.

In fairness, his size doesn’t scream feature back and the label of being a special-teams player is often difficult to shake. Maybe the Ravens knew they had a diamond in the rough, but even they continue to be surprised with how much Forsett has brought to an offense on pace to be one of the most productive in franchise history.

No one may have blinked when he was added in the offseason, but Forsett’s play has led many to rub their eyes in disbelief through the first two months of the 2014 season.

“He’s a heck of a ballplayer,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “I’m surprised that he’s even here right now. I feel like he’s a guy that could be the lead guy anywhere. I’m glad he got his shot here, and he’s able to showcase his talent.”

 

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