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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

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The Five Plays That Determined The Game: Ravens/Browns

Posted on 17 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

Following every Baltimore Ravens game this season, Ryan Chell and I will take to the airwaves Tuesdays on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net with a segment known as “The Five Plays That Determined The Game.”

It’s a simple concept. We’ll select five plays from each game that determined the outcome. These five plays will best represent why the Ravens won or lost each game.

This will be our final analysis of the previous game before switching gears towards the next game on the schedule.

Here are the five plays that determined the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium…

(Note: not all pictures are always of actual play)

Glenn Clark’s Plays…

5. Torrey Smith 23 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 6 (3rd quarter)

4. Marlon Brown 10 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 7 (3rd quarter)

3. Brandon Stokley 11 yard catch from Joe Flacco on 3rd & 8 (3rd quarter)

2. Marlon Brown 5 yard TD catch from Joe Flacco (4th quarter)

1. Brandon Weeden deep pass intended for Chris Ogbonnaya incomplete (3rd quarter)

(Ryan’s Plays on Page 2…)

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Ravens still trying to figure out who they are after narrow win over Cleveland

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Ravens still trying to figure out who they are after narrow win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Ravens coach John Harbaugh was speaking about the decision to insert Matt Elam and Jimmy Smith into the defensive starting lineup on Sunday, but he might as well have been describing the state of his entire team following an underwhelming 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns.

“You’re always going to chase, especially early in the year, trying to figure out who you are.”

Trying to figure out who the Ravens are after a blowout defeat at Denver and an uninspiring first-half showing at home against the Browns isn’t an easy task. You’re always happy with a win, especially one that brings your record to 1-1 and lands you in first place in the AFC North after the first two weeks of the 2013 season.

The Ravens know they have a great quarterback and a number of talented players on each side of the ball. Their defense rebounded from allowing a franchise-record 49 points and seven touchdown passes in the season opener to hold the Browns to six points and sack quarterback Brandon Weeden five times while hitting him 12 times in the game.

But, it was only the Browns, who appear to be continuing their yearly pattern of shooting themselves in the foot with the keystone play being a Weeden incompletion to a wide-open Chris Ogbonnaya down the sideline that could have been the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter. It’s not uncommon for these teams to play ugly affairs over the years — even in Baltimore — but the Ravens appeared as vulnerable as ever in the Browns’ bid to end their winless streak against their AFC North foe in the Harbaugh era.

Even kicker Justin Tucker missed a pair of field goals, adding at least a slight hint of doubt at a position where the Ravens believed they were set all offseason.

The sum of the parts looks like they should be enough for the Ravens to be a playoff team this year, but the deficiencies make that an uncertain proclamation. The Ravens appear to have a chance to be pretty good, but it’s difficult to figure out just how good.

And most of that concern rests with the offense despite some questions still remaining in the Baltimore secondary moving forward. Even through all the years of complaining about Cam Cameron running the Baltimore offense, the Ravens were a much better offensive unit at M&T Bank Stadium, making their scoreless performance through the first 30 minutes that much more concerning on Sunday afternoon. The Ravens were held to just 122 yards on 32 plays and had only seven first downs before halftime.

They should be commended for scoring 14 points and going 7-for-9 on third down in the second half, but the offense simply doesn’t pass the eyeball test at this early stage of the season when it comes to throwing the ball or grinding out yards on the ground.

On the day that his second son was born, quarterback Joe Flacco was solid despite his wide receivers and tight ends letting him down for the second straight week. Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown dropped what would have been touchdowns in the first half while Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark were complete non-factors all afternoon.

The tight end spot is so bad right now for the Ravens that No. 3 option Billy Bajema was their leading receiver at the position when he made an 18-yard reception in the first quarter. Dickson dropped a pass over the middle on the first play of the game and wasn’t targeted again while Clark made just one catch for eight yards.

Smith and Brown atoned for their first-half drops with solid performances overall. Smith capably worked the short-to-intermediate portion of the field to the tune of seven catches for 85 yards, and Brown caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

It’s clear that Smith’s ability as a vertical threat has been hindered by the injury to Jacoby Jones, but he is still the most reliable target Flacco has by far. The 6-foot-5 Brown appears to be emerging as the red-zone target Flacco desperately needs after the long-term hip injury to tight end Dennis Pitta.

After being shut out in the first half, Brandon Stokley made four receptions for 36 yards on third down as three moved the chains for the Ravens offense, but his ability is limited to third-and-manageable situations at this stage of his career.

With so much concern over the Ravens’ ability to pass, there has been plenty of clamoring for offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to run the ball, but Baltimore averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against a formidable Cleveland front seven on Sunday. The Browns deserve some credit for their ability to keep Rice and backup Bernard Pierce in check for most of the afternoon, but you have to wonder if there’s enough physicality from this offensive line — particularly from second-year center Gino Gradkowski — to warrant an increased focus on running the football other than a pure need to do it.

The Ravens expressed optimism following the game that they don’t believe Rice’s hip flexor injury is serious, but it only adds to the sinking feeling of uneasiness accompanying the 1-1 start as the undefeated Houston Texans will come to Baltimore next Sunday. The defense made strides against a Cleveland offense that couldn’t get out of its own way, but the lackluster Baltimore offense still makes you wonder if the Ravens will have what it takes to beat the better teams in the AFC this year.

Harbaugh and the Ravens continue to try to figure out who they are just like the rest of us.

On Sunday, they were good enough to beat the lowly Browns, but that’s not saying very much for the weeks ahead.

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

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Our Ravens/Browns “Pats on the Ass”

Posted on 15 September 2013 by Glenn Clark

After every Baltimore Ravens victory, Ryan Chell and I take to the airwaves on “The Creative Deck Designs 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.” Ryan and I select five different players/coaches each.

Here are our “Pats on the Ass” following the Ravens’ 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday…

Glenn’s Pats…

5. Arthur Jones

4. Elvis Dumervil

3. Bernard Pierce

2. Daryl Smith

1. Torrey Smith (Pat on Both Cheeks)

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Ravens offense looking for instant improvement in friendly surroundings

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Ravens offense looking for instant improvement in friendly surroundings

Posted on 11 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Every meeting with the Cleveland Browns draws the predictable kind words from the Ravens despite the fact that Baltimore hasn’t lost to the AFC North foe in their last 10 meetings.

The final outcomes haven’t always been convincing or overly impressive, but the Ravens have beaten Cleveland every time they’ve played since coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco arrived on the scene in 2008. The words of flattery aren’t exactly convincing when considering the opposite ends of the spectrum on which these teams have stood over the last five seasons.

“It’s a challenge. It always is in the division,” Harbaugh said. “We are very impressed with what we see on tape, and it’s a very important week for us.”

The Browns may not pose an overwhelming threat after a 23-10 home loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, but the final part of Harbaugh’s statement rings true for the Ravens after a humbling 49-27 loss of their own in Denver. It was the first season-opening defeat of the Harbaugh era and a painful reminder that the euphoria of last year’s Super Bowl title is long gone.

Running back Ray Rice called it a reality check as the Ravens now shift their attention to the home opener and an opportunity to improve their record to 1-1. Much attention has been paid to the Baltimore defense allowing a franchise-record 49 points, but the Ravens offense has been under the microscope since the start of the offseason. The decision to send wide receiver Anquan Boldin to San Francisco in a move that provided $6 million of salary cap space created concern in the passing game that transformed into a full-blown crisis with the long-term hip injury suffered by tight end Dennis Pitta at the start of training camp.

There are still no clear answers to quell those concerns as the Ravens failed to significantly address the wide receiver position after Boldin’s departure, erroneously depending on a young group of holdover receivers that wasn’t up to the task.

Graybeards Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark and rookie free agent Marlon Brown have emerged — out of attrition and because of the latter’s impressive skill set — as critical pieces in the passing game. And the Week 1 injury to speedy receiver Jacoby Jones puts a dent in the vertical passing game, the one area of the field in which the Ravens could really feel confident in throwing the football.

To make matters worse, the Ravens couldn’t run the football as they averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and were limited to just five carries in the second half after falling behind big in a disastrous third quarter. Many have pondered whether that running game will need to be leaned upon more heavily this season despite having a franchise quarterback to throw the football.

The pressure on the offense to show instant improvement falls on the shoulders of Flacco, who attempted a career-high 62 passes for 362 yards but was picked off twice against a Denver defense lacking Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller and future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. Without Boldin or Pitta on which to depend, life suddenly isn’t as easy for the franchise quarterback.

“That’s the name of the game when you’re a quarterback in this league,” said Flacco, who acknowledged that working with so much new personnel has caused the little things such as timing to take more time to perfect. “You want your organization to be able to [make changes], and you have to prove that you can adapt to whatever is necessary to win football games, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The challenge this week will be a talented Cleveland front seven that will only get stronger with the return of first-round linebacker Barkevious Mingo from a bruised lung. He, former Raven Paul Kruger, and Jabaal Sheard form an imposing pass rush on paper, but the Ravens will the expected return of right tackle Michael Oher, who missed the entire second half against Denver with a right ankle injury.

Browns cornerback Joe Haden will draw the assignment of covering No.1 receiver Torrey Smith, who dealt with bracketed coverage against Denver after Jones’ exit with a knee injury. Jones’ absence means Stokley and Brown will need to keep the rest of the secondary honest enough to give the speedy Smith some opportunities in one-on-one matchups against Haden.

Flacco certainly needs more help from Clark, who dropped a sure touchdown pass right before halftime in Week 1 and struggled to gain separation, and fellow tight end Ed Dickson, who couldn’t rein in a number of catchable passes. The quarterback took the high road when asked to address the high number of drops on Wednesday, but the sense of urgency is there to limit unforced errors with the overall talent level of the wide receivers and tight ends coming into question.

“If that’s all we have to worry about is a couple of guys that have very sure hands not coming up with a couple really tough catches, then I think we’re going to be OK,” Flacco said. “Over the long run, we’re going to make a lot of those catches, and it’s going to lend itself to a lot of good things.”

The Ravens hope those good things begin coming to fruition quickly against the Browns, who aren’t nearly the opponent that Denver was but have played them closer than expected at M&T Bank Stadium in each of the last three seasons. Baltimore needs its $120.6 million man to be on his game to elevate the play of a pedestrian group of pass catchers as much as he can — he can’t catch it, too, of course.

Flacco’s 99.0 quarterback rating at home last season only continued his career-long trend of thriving against defenses on his home turf, and it’s the kind of precision the Ravens will need this year to make the offense click. The Ravens have made it a point this week to emphasize that the running game must improve — it’s the truth with two talented running backs at their disposal — but the offense will only go as far as Flacco can take them.

His 92.5 quarterback rating in 10 career games against the Browns and the first contest of the year in Baltimore are the perfect combination for a bounce-back performance. A win is never a guarantee, but the setting doesn’t get much better than this, especially with the backdrop of 71,000 fans stoked to see a Super Bowl championship banner unveiled.

The bad taste from the second-half debacle in Denver will have lingered for 10 days by the time kickoff arrives on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re not going to overreact, but we are going to react and respond where we need to,” Harbaugh said. “The first game is always a good barometer. The old saying is true: It’s never as good or it’s never as bad as what you initially feel.”

And the Ravens hope they’ll be feeling much better about themselves on both sides of the ball by 4:15 p.m. on Sunday.

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Ravens-Broncos: Five predictions for Thursday night

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Ravens-Broncos: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 04 September 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

It was less than eight months ago when the Ravens met the Denver Broncos in one of the great contests in NFL playoff history as Baltimore prevailed in a 38-35 double-overtime thriller to advance to the AFC Championship game.

Now, fast-forward to the present as the Ravens return to the scene with a different look than includes 19 new players on the 53-man roster and the Broncos will see former Pro Bowl defensive end Elvis Dumervil wearing purple, creating plenty of intrigue for the NFL’s season-opening game.

It’s time to go on record as the Ravens meet Denver for the 10th time ever in the regular season and own a 5-4 advantage despite a 1-3 regular-season record in Denver. Of course, the Ravens are also 2-0 against the Broncos in postseason play as Denver stewed over its disappointing loss as the No. 1 seed in the AFC throughout the offseason.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens open their season in prime time for the third time in the last four seasons …

1. Much like last January, the Ravens will go vertical early on as Joe Flacco connects with Torrey Smith for a long touchdown in the first half. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell may need to rely more on the running game this season because of the uncertainty at wide receiver and tight end, but a conservative approach isn’t the way to beat Peyton Manning and an explosive Denver passing game. The Broncos will not have Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller due to his six-game suspension, meaning the offensive line should give Flacco plenty of time to throw deep. Some deep shots will also back up the Denver safeties, opening up some intermediate space for tight ends Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark and slot receiver Brandon Stokley to work. If Flacco can find success with those throws, it will only create more room in the box to get Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce going in the running game.

2. Daryl Smith will lead the Ravens in tackles in the first game of the post-Ray Lewis era. Dumervil’s signing received the most attention this offseason, but the presence of the 31-year-old Smith has been a welcome addition to an otherwise inexperienced group of inside linebackers that includes Josh Bynes and second-round pick Arthur Brown. For what it’s worth, Smith looked like the Ravens’ best defensive player of the preseason and while you wouldn’t expect that to hold true during the season, he had the reputation for being stout against the run and serving capably in pass coverage in his nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The additions of Smith and Brown will hopefully help the pass defense in the middle intermediate portion of the field, which has been a major weakness for several years now. Smith’s quiet demeanor and maturity might be the perfect fit for a guy assuming the position formerly held by the future Hall of Famer Lewis.

3. Manning will keep an improved Ravens defense on the field, causing the unit to wilt in the second half. Baltimore did an admirable job handling the altitude in a single-digit temperature last January, but Thursday’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-80s, presenting a different challenge in terms of conditioning. Even with the improvements to their front seven, the Ravens are still fielding a secondary with question marks ranging from the effectiveness of Lardarius Webb coming back from his second ACL surgery in four seasons to the ability of Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo to cover the middle of the field. Pressuring Manning will clearly be critical as it was last January, but the Broncos just have too much firepower to hold them down entirely. It will intriguing to see what kind of a rapport Manning has built with free-agent acquisition Wes Welker at this early stage, but the size of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside will be a very difficult matchup.

4. Struggling to find open targets in the middle of the field, Flacco tosses a second-half interception to Broncos safety Rahim Moore. The most dynamic change that Caldwell brought to the offense when he assumed Cam Cameron’s coordinator duties last season was the willingness to use the middle of the field in the passing game, but continuing that without Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta in the mix will be the biggest challenge facing Flacco this season. The reality is no one really knows if the combination of Dickson, Stokley, and Clark will be enough to fill the void of two outstanding targets the sixth-year quarterback used in the middle of the field to the point that he could be bold in throwing passes up for grabs. In contrast, Moore has heard the criticism and jokes throughout the offseason about his gaffe of allowing Jones to get behind him on the game-tying score at the end of regulation last January. Trailing late in the game, Flacco will try to force a pass down the seam to Dickson that’s picked off by Moore, which gives the maligned safety a tiny sliver of revenge.

5. The Ravens will compete ferociously, but an incomplete offense will be the deciding factor in handing John Harbaugh the first Week 1 loss of his tenure in a 24-21 final. Baltimore is a good football team, but trying to figure out how good is anyone’s guess with so many question marks offensively and new pieces defensively. It’s a lot to ask that all to come together against such a formidable opponent in the opening game of the season. The Ravens undoubtedly feel motivated to perform well on a national stage as the defending Super Bowl champions who were also forced to open the season on the road, but the Broncos and their fans have thought about this opportunity for the entire offseason and will treat the game like it’s the Super Bowl. Not enough offense and a few too many leaks defensively against an elite opponent will lead to the Ravens coming up a little short. To beat a team like Denver, you’re often faced with a shootout and the Ravens aren’t built for that just yet.

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Bovada sets Flacco’s 2013 touchdown number at 22.5

Posted on 28 August 2013 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv, Twitter: @BovadaLV).

Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco – Total Passing Yards in the 2013 Regular Season 

Over/Under                               3750

 

Joe Flacco – Total Passing Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season  

Over/Under                               22½

 

Joe Flacco – Total Interceptions thrown in the 2013 Regular Season   

Over/Under                               12½

 

Will Joe Flacco win a playoff game for the 6th consecutive year?   

Yes                  +250     (5/2)

No                    -400     (1/4)

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing Yards in the 2013 Regular Season    

Over/Under                               1100½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receiving Yards in the 2013 Regular Season

Over/Under                               500½

 

Ray Rice – Total Receptions in the 2013 Regular Season         

Over/Under                               62½

 

Ray Rice – Total Rushing & Receiving Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season         

Over/Under                               12

 

Jacoby Jones – Total Receiving Yards in the 2013 Regular Season      

Over/Under                               650½

 

Jacoby Jones – Total Receiving Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season       

Over/Under                               4

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Yards in the 2013 Regular Season       

Over/Under                               1000½

 

Torrey Smith – Total Receiving Touchdowns in the 2013 Regular Season        

Over/Under                               8

 

Elvis Dumervil – Total Sacks in the 2013 Regular Season        

Over/Under                               9

 

Haloti Ngata – Total Sacks in the 2013 Regular Season

Over/Under                               4½

 

Terrell Suggs – Total Sacks in the 2013 Regular Season          

Over/Under                               8½

 

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Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

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Decisions looming for Ravens at underwhelming receiver position

Posted on 26 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

The Ravens are less than a week away from making final decisions for their 53-man roster with no position currently in more flux than wide receiver.

After an offseason full of discussion around a young but unproven group of wide receivers, the preseason has provided little knowledge in projecting how the Ravens plan to flourish in the passing game without 2012 key targets Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. The decision to sign 37-year-old Brandon Stokley and 34-year-old tight end Dallas Clark after the preseason opener was all you needed to know about the level of concern general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh felt after an underwhelming start to the summer for the passing game.

Just days away from the preseason finale that’s likely to feature very few starters, the Ravens have three locks to make the roster at the wide receiver position: Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones, and Stokley. Smith remains the only option at the position with which you feel comfortable while Jones’ speed and Stokley’s ability to move the chains from the slot receiver position are specialized skills that will work well in different formations.

After that? Unknown commodities and unfulfilled promise fill out the rest of the pack.

Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown? A 2013 seventh-round pick and a rookie free agent respectively.

LaQuan Williams? A solid special-teams player but inconsistent as a wide receiver in both practices and preseason games.

Deonte Thompson? Injured since the preseason opener.

And Tandon Doss? He’s become the whipping boy of a concerned fan base after a very disappointing summer.

The discussion over who stays and who goes has heated up over the last couple weeks as fans and media alike try to predict how many receivers will make the regular-season roster.

“I’m not quite certain of what the numbers will be,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “That’s John and Ozzie — they take care of that. They look at it and determine [and] look at the entire team.”

While many fixate on a given number of receivers to make the final roster — five, six, even seven? — the Ravens look at the roster from a global view in determining which 53 players will be the best fit to win games in 2013. As unlikely as it might be, all eight receivers could make it through final cuts if Harbaugh and his staff determine they contribute enough both offensively and through special teams.

Caldwell has even suggested that strength in numbers might be the unit’s best bet while also providing more time to determine which receivers build the best rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco in the early weeks of the season. Eight receivers would certainly be a stretch, but it’s not difficult envisioning scenarios in which seven wideouts crack the 53-man roster without too much trouble.

It comes down to special-teams play, team health, and positional needs — or the lack of needs — elsewhere.

“There could be a situation where we’re using quite a few guys at the wide receiver position, which I think is a plus for us because it helps us mix up personnel packages,” Caldwell said. “We do have some versatility because we have a number of guys who can play multiple positions.”

With that in mind, it’s time to make the case for and against each of the five wide receivers projected to be on the roster bubble.

Each receiver’s career NFL regular-season numbers are noted in parentheses.

Tandon Doss (seven catches, 123 yards, 20 targets)

The case for: The Ravens typically don’t give up on their high draft picks easily and the 2011 fourth-round pick has practiced well at different points over the last three years despite a very underwhelming preseason performance of just two catches for 10 yards and a touchdown in three games this summer. He hasn’t stepped up in the manner the Ravens had hoped in filling Boldin’s shoes as the slot receiver, but the rest of the bunch hasn’t outperformed him so dramatically to make him out to be the slam-dunk cut that some critics have made him out to be over the last few days. Another factor helping Doss’ case for a roster spot is the lack of a healthy option behind Stokley as a slot receiver in the passing game with Thompson currently injured. He’s shown good hands and route-running ability in practices, which still counts for something despite magnified mistakes in preseason games.

The case against: It never speaks well for your future when two rookies appear to have leapfrogged you on the depth chart after Brown and Mellette saw playing time before Doss against Carolina in the third preseason game. His inability to recognize a blitz led to a Flacco interception against the Panthers, and the third-year wideout didn’t exactly come across as a player trying to take accountability in his explanation after the game. Doss can serve as a backup punt returner, but his ability to play special teams is very limited beyond that. Of the five players currently on the bubble at the position, he has received the greatest number of opportunities and has done very little with them, making you wonder how much patience the Ravens have left. Expectations were high for him, but he’s performed poorly in the preseason.

Marlon Brown (rookie)

The case for: The undrafted product did what no other young receiver had done all summer last Thursday when he took advantage of an opportunity to work with the starting offense by making four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. You can’t teach 6-foot-5 height, and Brown has shown the potential to be the tall red-zone target the Ravens envisioned with the selection of the recently-cut Tommy Streeter in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. Brown runs solid routes and has shown consistent hands for much of the summer in both practices and games while working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last fall. His performance in a nationally-televised preseason game makes it highly unlikely that he will clear waivers to allow the Ravens to sign him to their practice squad as they may have planned a couple weeks ago.

The case against: It’s important to remember one preseason performance means very little in the big picture as the Ravens aren’t exactly sure how Brown will fit in the short-term future or whether he will pan out in the long term. Despite being a five-star recruit for the University of Georgia, he didn’t exactly live up to expectations playing in the SEC, the greatest stage college football has to offer. Brown has occasionally missed some practice time this summer while working his way back to 100 percent, so that will be something to watch in his first season in the NFL where rookies can often hit the proverbial wall late in the 16-game schedule.

Aaron Mellette (rookie)

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

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Dickson, four others return to practice on Monday

Posted on 19 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the third preseason game only a few days away, the Ravens enjoyed their best attendance for practice in quite some time with tight end Ed Dickson highlighting a list of returning players.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil (groin), defensive end Marcus Spears (hamstring), wide receiver Torrey Smith, and running back Anthony Allen also returned to the practice field as the Ravens worked in helmets, shells, and shorts on Monday afternoon. Dumervil had missed the last two practices after suffering a minor groin injury in the preseason game against Atlanta while Spears had been sidelined since the preseason opener on Aug. 8. According to coach John Harbaugh, Smith was simply given a day of rest on Sunday while Allen was dealing with “a little nick” as both players only sat out one practice.

The best news of the day had to be the return of Dickson, however, as he did some light running and worked on lateral movement while catching some passes in the early portion of practice. While his hamstring is still less than 100 percent, his ability to practice on a limited basis more than two weeks ahead of the Ravens’ regular-season opener in Denver is a promising sign for his availability in Week 1.

“I’m going to test the waters. I don’t want to re-aggravate it, so I’m just going to [listen to] what the coaches say,” Dickson said. “I feel like I’m ready to get out there and do the things I do. Practice is as hard as a game out here. I feel like if I get to practice fully, I feel like I’m good to go.”

Dickson injured his hamstring on Aug. 4 when the Ravens held their first public practice of the summer at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was noncommittal once again when asked whether he would be available for Week 1, but the fourth-year tight end acknowledged an increased level of optimism after making it back to the practice field with plenty of time remaining to work his way back to full strength.

“It’s encouraging just to not to be in the treatment center watching [practice] out the window,” Dickson said. “I feel good.”

Only six players were sidelined for Monday’s workout with outside linebacker Adrian Hamilton (wrist) being the only new addition to the list of absentees. Other players not working included wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee), and tight end Dennis Pitta.

The Ravens released veteran cornerback Chris Johnson earlier in the day on Monday and have yet to fill his spot on the 90-man roster. General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must trim the roster from 90 to 75 players on Aug. 27 and make final cuts on Aug. 31.

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T. Smith rests Sunday; Webb, Yanda possible for Thursday’s game

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T. Smith rests Sunday; Webb, Yanda possible for Thursday’s game

Posted on 18 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Traveling by bus just a few minutes to Stevenson University for the final public practice of the summer, the Ravens saw another significant member of their 2013 roster missing as wide receiver Torrey Smith did not participate.

Coach John Harbaugh said after practice that Smith was simply given a day to rest, but reports indicated the third-year wide receiver had his calf wrapped during Saturday’s practice, which suggested he might be dealing with a minor injury. Running back Anthony Allen joined Smith as a new absence from the practice field on Sunday as he dealt with “a little nick” in Harbaugh’s words.

Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil wasn’t practicing for the second straight day despite coach John Harbaugh once again downplaying the significance of the groin injury the three-time Pro Bowl selection suffered in the second preseason game. His absence means even more reps for second-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw at the strongside outside position.

Other players absent from Sunday’s practice were wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Marcus Spears (hamstring), tight ends Ed Dickson (hamstring) and Dennis Pitta (hip), offensive lineman Ryan Jensen (foot), linebacker Jameel McClain (neck), and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore (knee).

Though Harbaugh said last week that Thompson would have a chance to play in the third preseason game, it now appears the second-year receiver has all but been ruled out as he continues to recover from a sprained foot suffered in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay. The speedy slot receiver has missed valuable practice time in trying to establish himself as a viable option in the passing game.

“Deonte will be further evaluated after this week,” Harbaugh said, “but his was a couple-week injury.”

Approximately 3,100 fans were in attendance for the practice at Mustang Stadium after winning a lottery similar to the one that awarded select fans a rare opportunity to take in training camp practices at the team’s Owings Mills facility this summer.

Yanda, Webb still possible for Thursday

Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda was a full participant in his second straight practice on Sunday as he continues to work his way back to full strength from offseason shoulder surgery and cornerback Lardarius Webb delivered a big hit to wide receiver Aaron Mellette in 11-on-11 team work in what amounted to his most physical play of the summer.

Harbaugh remains undecided whether either veteran will take part in the all-important third preseason game but acknowledged that he’d like to get each at least a few reps against the Carolina Panthers. The Ravens generally don’t play most of their starters in the preseason finale and certainly wouldn’t put Webb or Yanda in harm’s way with most other starters sitting out.

Webb has practiced on a limited basis since the beginning of training camp as he works his way back to full strength following an ACL injury suffered last October.

“We’ll have to make that decision probably the day before the game,” said Harbaugh, who added that there’s a good chance that both Webb and Yanda could play. “He looks pretty good out there right now, so we might leave a little bit of that up to him and the doctors obviously. It would be nice to get him the work before we tee it up for real.”

Coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons, Yanda acknowledged that he still has plenty of work to do to get himself ready for the start of the regular season on Sept. 5 against the Denver Broncos.

Yanda returned to the practice field last week on a limited basis and has finally taken part in live-contact drills over the last two practices.

“I just need the timing of the game and my footwork and my punch and stuff like that,” Yanda said. “The shoulder’s feeling good. It’s coming along. I’m a little rusty, but it’s going to be. I haven’t had the pads on since February.”

All hands on deck

With Smith absent from Sunday’s practice, the Ravens used a plethora of receivers in his place including rookies Aaron Mellette and Marlon Brown, who received extensive action with the first-team offense.

The primary alignment for three-wide sets appeared to be Jacoby Jones, Brandon Stokley, and Brown, but Mellette provided one of the highlights of the evening practice by catching a long touchdown from quarterback Joe Flacco, beating veteran cornerback Chris Johnson. Stokley also provided several good catches while working in the slot position, and it appears he and Flacco are building an improved comfort level with a week of work under their belts.

“What you saw today is [that] we’re going to give those young guys an opportunity,” Harbaugh said. “Some of the young receivers have done an excellent job, and I think we owe it to our team and owe it to them to see what they can do in there with the first group. We’ll practice those guys and probably play them a little more with the ones this week.”

Perhaps the most intriguing formation involved veteran tight end Dallas Clark and fullback Kyle Juszczyk working in a two-tight set as Juszczyk worked from a flexed position in the slot. The Harvard product made a really nice catch on a seam route, beating Christian Thompson and Brynden Trawick in coverage for a 32-yard touchdown.

Though it’s never wise to read too much into any given practice, third-year wide receiver Tandon Doss primarily ran with the second-team offense as the Ravens seized the opportunity to evaluate their rookie wideouts with the starting unit minus Smith.

Rare struggles for Tucker

Second-year kicker Justin Tucker experienced rare struggles during Sunday’s practice as he missed field goals from 46, 57, and 64 yards. He missed the 46-yarder wide to the right, which was an extremely rare miss from that distance this summer.

His 57-yard attempt hit the crossbar while his 64-yarder was well short before rookie cornerback Marc Anthony fielded it in the back of the end zone.

Tucker connected on other kicks from 36, 48, and 51 yards.

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Concerns rising over Ravens’ lack of options in passing game

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Concerns rising over Ravens’ lack of options in passing game

Posted on 16 August 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — Unless you’re heavily invested in the futures of such Ravens players as Tyrod Taylor, Aaron Mellette, and Asa Jackson, there wasn’t much to like Thursday night despite a 27-23 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Head coach John Harbaugh said it all as the first half ended with the Ravens trailing 20-7 after the offense was held to just 131 total yards, the defense had surrendered 255 yards, and the team had committed five penalties for 42 yards. The effort was sloppy, out of rhythm, and unlike anything the sixth-year coach could remember in his tenure in Baltimore — even if it was only the second preseason game of the summer.

“That first half was about as poorly as we could play,” Harbaugh said at halftime. “I can’t remember us playing worse since we came here.”

Speaking with more perspective after a 21-point fourth quarter that propelled the Ravens to a 2-0 start in the preseason, the coach acknowledged that many of the first-half mistakes were correctable and he was right. As shaky as the defensive effort was, Dean Pees’ unit has several new pieces that need to gel over these next three weeks prior to the regular-season opener. The secondary will be aided by the return of top cornerback Lardarius Webb, and most players on which the Ravens are counting have track records that create a certain comfort level.

The penalties are a concern when you recall the Ravens being plagued by them last year — ranking 31st in the NFL — but they weren’t of the variety causing you to lose too much sleep.

Of course, the area raising the most concern for the second week in a row is the stagnant performance of the offense as the Ravens couldn’t run nor throw the ball with any level of consistency in the first 30 minutes of play. The lone highlight was a 77-yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith on a crossing pattern over the middle of the field on the first play of their second offensive series.

Aside from that one play, the Ravens were held to 54 yards on 18 plays and managed just three first downs before halftime. Baltimore carried the ball 10 times for just 13 yards in the first half as the starting offensive line opened few running lanes with Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda not quite ready for game action.

Wide receivers not named Smith were held to one catch for four yards on six targets prior to Mellette’s 40-yard touchdown to open the fourth-quarter scoring.

“We kind of beat ourselves with penalties and certain miscues, and it’s tough to play from behind,” Smith said. “When you’re not playing many plays, it’s tough to recover from that, but we’ll be fine. We know what the mistakes were that we made, and you can’t make penalties, so obviously we need to correct that.”

There are only so many times you can go to the “throw a quick slant to Torrey Smith for a touchdown” trick in the playbook.

The results of Thursday night’s game are truly inconsequential as we’ll all forget the score of the game in just a few weeks, but the current state of the passing offense continues to look like one of panic. Beyond Smith, not a single receiver emerged as Jacoby Jones was held to one reception and newly-signed veteran Brandon Stokley wasn’t targeted after playing only a handful of plays in the slot.

With Ed Dickson still sidelined with a hamstring injury, current starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was targeted twice in the first half — one negated by a penalty — and failed to record a reception.

It was Jones again running a questionable route that contributed in part to a second Flacco interception in as many weeks.

“I threw it into a bee’s nest,” said Flacco about the second-quarter pick. “I thought Jacoby might be able to get around the Sam linebacker, so I kind of threw it off of his shoulder, but Jacoby was just getting behind there, so I threw it into too many people.”

It’s becoming apparent that the Ravens are discovering what the Houston Texans did about Jones’ limitations as a wide receiver. The Pro Bowl return specialist’s ideal role is the one he served last year as a vertical threat on the outside in three-wide sets and as a player you can use for a handful of gadget plays over the course of the year.

But Jones hasn’t been as disappointing as third-year receiver Tandon Doss, who didn’t even draw any playing time with the starting offense on Thursday as Stokley took the reps in the slot. Though not the deciding factor by any stretch, Doss was viewed as a real piece of the puzzle along with tight end Dennis Pitta this offseason to replace veteran Anquan Boldin’s production.

Instead, it’s been a quiet summer for the 2011 fourth-round pick, who has struggled to gain separation in practices and each of the first two preseason contests. Doss suffered a drop on a pass originally ruled to be a fumble in the third quarter before he did manage to make up for it with a 5-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.

“That was really, really great to see,” Harbaugh said. “Consistency is important, too. You’ve got to stack good plays. We’ll have to go back and look at that and just see for every guy how that plays out. You really need to watch the tape and kind of see where the situation is to evaluate it fairly.”

Harbaugh’s correct and much of what he saw on both sides of the ball was correctable, but he’ll also find a group of wide receivers and tight ends that struggled to gain separation over the first three quarters of play. And while it’s only a preseason game for the established veterans with track records, these are the precious opportunities to find out as much as you can about the unknown commodities on your roster.

The likes of Doss, David Reed, LaQuan Williams (who followed a strong preseason opener with two drops Thursday night), and the injured Deonte Thompson haven’t looked up to the task for the most part in the two preseason games or practices, leaving the door open for Stokley and newly-signed veteran tight end Dallas Clark to receive extensive opportunities in the all-important third preseason game.

Four weeks into the summer, a long-term and potentially season-ending hip injury to Pitta and a disappointing Doss have left the plan to replace Boldin in shambles as the Ravens are now looking for any help they can get to augment the passing game.

Beyond Smith and Ray Rice out of the backfield, who can you trust as pass catchers?

Flacco has talked a good game all spring and summer about trusting his young receivers, but you wonder how much of that is the sixth-year quarterback trying to be a good teammate at this point as he can’t truly rely on anyone but Smith in the current batch of healthy receivers and tight ends.

At least there’s always Rice and the check-down to count on.

“We really don’t think about it too much besides when we’re questioned about it,” Flacco said about the perceived offensive struggles. “You guys look more at that stuff. We just go out there and play and do it with who we have out there. I think the guys are doing a great job.”

Who we have out there.

Whether he intended to or not, the quarterback said it all with that portion of his response.

And Thursday made you continue to doubt if who the Ravens have out there will be enough this year.

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