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Ravens hire veteran assistant David Culley as passing coordinator

Posted on 29 January 2019 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Baltimore Ravens have hired David Culley as the team’s assistant head coach/receivers/passing coordinator, it was announced Tuesday by head coach John Harbaugh.

“We are very pleased to add David Culley to our staff,” Harbaugh said. “He is highly respected throughout the league as a teacher, game-planner and motivator. As [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] and I moved forward with a review and preview of our offense, we both wanted to add the very best coach in this area possible. With David joining us, we have done that. His overall NFL and coaching experience and abilities will help us immensely.”

Entering his 26th NFL coaching season, Culley, 63, spent the previous two years (2017-18) as the Buffalo Bills’ quarterbacks coach. In 2018, he helped guide rookie QB Josh Allen, who in 11 starts established franchise records for most total touchdowns produced by a Bills rookie quarterback (18), most single-game rushing yards by a quarterback (135), most single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (8) and most single-season rushing yards by a quarterback (631). Allen also became the only player in NFL history to throw for over 200 yards and rush for over 100 yards in consecutive games.

Prior to his stint in Buffalo, Culley served as assistant head coach/wide receivers coach with Kansas City (2013-16), where he helped guide the Chiefs to three playoff appearances during his four seasons.

Culley also coached alongside John Harbaugh for nine seasons (1999-2007) in Philadelphia. During his tenure with the Eagles (1999-2012), Culley spent time as wide receivers coach (1999-2010) and as a senior offensive assistant (2011-12). He helped tutor former Ravens WR Jeremy Maclin in both Philadelphia and Kansas City, where in 2015, Maclin set a then Chiefs single-season record for receptions (87) by a wide receiver. In Maclin’s first three seasons with the Eagles (2009-11), he caught more passes (189) than any other wide receiver in franchise history.

Culley’s NFL coaching career has also included stops as wide receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-98) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1994-95). Before entering the NFL, he spent 16 years coaching in the collegiate ranks.

A native of Sparta, Tenn., Culley graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in health and physical education. David and his wife, Carolyn, have two children, Monty and Jessie.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 47-3 win over Buffalo

Posted on 10 September 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens kicking off the season with an emphatic 47-3 win over Buffalo, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Sunday marked the first time in franchise history a Baltimore defense did not surrender a first down in the first half. The Bills had 33 yards compared to the Ravens’ 26 points at intermission. J. Peterman would have had a better chance than Nathan Peterman, who was awful.

2. Wink Martindale added some defensive wrinkles, including swapping out a linebacker for an extra defensive lineman in some nickel looks. My favorite was Za’Darius Smith’s quarterback sack when he also sent Terrell Suggs, Tim Williams, Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, and C.J. Mosley after rookie Josh Allen. Yes, six linebackers.

3. Marlon Humphrey was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded Ravens player as he finished with four pass breakups and two tackles. He’ll have bigger challenges over the next few weeks, but the 2017 first-round pick was excellent against the Bills.

4. How many people looking out their windows Sunday morning would have predicted Joe Flacco throwing 32 passes in the first half? He had no issues throwing a wet football and was Baltimore’s highest-graded offensive player, according to PFF.

5. It’s easy to forget how the offense sputtered in the second quarter as the Ravens gained only eight yards on 15 plays before the final touchdown drive when Michael Crabtree caught the 12-yard score. A pretty throw and even prettier footwork. That was an example of why they signed him.

6. Tavon Young wouldn’t have been my guess to exploit a porous Buffalo line, but he became the first Baltimore defensive back since Bennie Thompson in 1996 to collect two sacks in a game and was strong against the run. Martindale calls the 5-foot-9 nickel a “pit bull” for good reason.

7. Not much was made of Alex Collins receiving only three preseason carries, but he found little room and lost a fumble. You do wonder if a few more live-game touches would have been beneficial for a player who’s had some past fumbling concerns. Of course, suspect blocking wasn’t his fault.

8. Janarion Grant offered good and bad with a 51-yard punt return and a fumble that fortunately rolled out of bounds in the first half. It’s easy to blame the rain, but Grant appeared to take his eyes off the ball with a defender bearing down. That can’t happen.

9. None had a negative impact, but the Ravens didn’t get much of a return on the five offensive snaps Lamar Jackson played before then relieving Joe Flacco in the second half. It’s something for which opponents must prepare, but you sometimes worry about upsetting the overall rhythm of the offense.

10. Mark Andrews didn’t stand out often over the summer, but the Ravens have to be pleased with his three catches for 31 yards in the first half. PFF gave him the second-best grade among offensive players.

11. Being able to rest key veterans in the second half bodes well for a quick turnaround at Cincinnati on Thursday, but young players receiving extensive regular-season action could pay off down the line. Inside linebacker Kenny Young and cornerback Anthony Averett stood out in particular.

12. At an ordinary 218 pounds, Buck Allen doesn’t look the part of a short-yardage back, but he has a knack for getting to the desired mark. He lined up as the fullback on his 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter and showed off a respectable Ray Lewis dance to boot.

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Revamped Ravens passing attack shows off potential in big way

Posted on 09 September 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The revamped Ravens passing game couldn’t have asked for a better season debut.

Say what you want about the Buffalo Bills, but 47-3 victories don’t happen often in the NFL. Only three other teams — Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Washington — won by more than one possession on Sunday, and their combined margin for victory (39) still didn’t add up to Baltimore’s.

How many times have we seen the Ravens slog through close games against lesser opponents in recent seasons?

Substantial rain and wind certainly weren’t conducive to quarterback Joe Flacco posting his best passer rating (121.7) since 2014 or throwing three touchdown passes — one each to veteran newcomers John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead — before exiting with a 40-0 lead early in the third quarter. The 33-year-old didn’t have three touchdowns in a game all last season and eclipsed Sunday’s passing total (236 yards) only five times in 2017, but he made sure his critics wouldn’t clamor for rookie first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson on Sunday.

The Ravens wasted no time on their opening drive, going 80 yards on 10 plays with an Alex Collins touchdown run serving as the exclamation point. It wasn’t even all perfect as a fumbled hand-off and an Alex Lewis holding penalty on consecutive snaps threatened to torpedo the drive before Flacco connected with Brown for a 29-yard gain into Buffalo territory.

“I think the first drive that we had today was really important for us,” said Flacco, who went 5-for-6 for 80 yards on that first scoring march. “I think it showed a little bit of what everybody can do, but we had [second-and-26] or something there, and we converted to get a first down. I think that was a huge step. Obviously, we went and scored a touchdown.

“That was a huge drive, a huge play on that drive. Without that, I don’t know if we would’ve set the tone quite in the same way.”

It’s important to note other free-agent wide receivers have flashed in their Baltimore debuts in recent years, keeping the feel-good touchdowns to Brown, Crabtree, and Snead in perspective. Jeremy Maclin caught a 48-yard touchdown in the opener at Cincinnati last year, and we all know how his one-year stay played out. Mike Wallace caught a 66-yard bomb in a Week 1 win over the Bills two years ago and even posted a 1,000-yard season, but the offense was still below average in 2016.

In those two season-opening wins, however, the Ravens offense had little more than a few nice moments, scoring a combined 33 points and mostly leaning on a dominant defense. Sunday was a demolition on both sides of the ball with the offense every bit the equal of a defense that didn’t surrender a first down in the first half against overwhelmed quarterback Nathan Peterman and the Bills offense.

With Flacco the healthiest he’s been in three years and the Baltimore front office finally putting forth more than a nominal effort in both free agency and the draft to improve the offense around him, Sunday’s performance felt different. It followed a summer in which the Ravens offense regularly challenged a talented defense in practices, something rarely seen in recent years.

“Our offense, obviously over the last couple years, has been up and down,” said safety Eric Weddle, who predicted a career year from Flacco back in July. “We’ve seen it. Obviously, you guys out at training camp have seen how they’ve gotten better over last season, and it showed today. Joe was putting the ball on the money. Without a couple drops here and there, his completion percentage would have been even better. When I said the [offensive] line could be a strength this year, it showed.

“It’s just a building block. This is a long season. You never want to get too high. You never want to overreact.”

In the post-game locker room, several players reiterated it being only one game as last year’s offense-challenged Ravens scored 38 or more points three times. The offensive line was strong in pass protection on Sunday, but the running game had only 16 yards on 11 carries in the first half, something that will need to improve moving forward.

But, as advertised, Brown showed off his speed, Crabtree shook off two early drops to show nifty footwork on a touchdown in the red zone, and Snead effectively worked the middle of the field. Flacco is also excited to throw to first-round tight end Hayden Hurst, who is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot after an impressive training camp. In his absence, fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews caught three passes for 31 yards, an encouraging sign after his quiet summer.

Time will tell whether the passing game builds on Sunday’s impressive win, but much that was drawn up on paper this offseason came to fruition in Week 1. And with that comes a growing confidence, something the Ravens will surely need traveling to play Cincinnati on Thursday night.

“It’s definitely good for us to go out there as a team and as an offense, speaking as the quarterback, to have the kind of game we did for sure,” Flacco said. “If we didn’t score 40 points and we scored 25 and we still won, it’s the same outcome. But there’s something to be said about going out there and playing the way we did today.

“Just for how everybody feels or how we feel as players, it can take you to another level.”

It’s a level that’s been all too elusive for a long time, but Flacco and a retooled passing game showed enticing potential on Sunday, whether it came against a bad opponent or not.

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Ravens-Bills: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 09 September 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The 2018 season will begin with less-than-ideal weather conditions as the Ravens host the Buffalo Bills.

According to Weather.com, significant rain will fall throughout the afternoon with temperatures reaching the mid-60s and winds 10 to 20 miles per hour with stronger gusts possible. Going back to last December, this will be the third straight regular-season home game with poor weather conditions after last Week 16 included heavy rain and the 2017 finale brought the coldest temperature for a home game (19 degrees) in franchise history.

Aiming to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, the Ravens will be without their top draft pick as rookie tight end Hayden Hurst will not play as he continues recovering from a stress fracture in his foot. Defensive tackle Willie Henry is also inactive after undergoing hernia surgery in late August. Third-year defensive lineman Michael Pierce will start in Henry’s place.

After much external debate this week about their backup quarterback plans, the Ravens will make rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson the game-day backup to starter Joe Flacco. Veteran Robert Griffin III is inactive, but he figures more prominently into Baltimore’s plans if Flacco were to miss an extended period of time.

As anticipated, cornerback Maurice Canady (hamstring) and inside linebacker Kenny Young (knee) are both active despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report. The Ravens deactivated rookie cornerback Darious Williams, which should reinforce their confidence in Canady’s health after an extended absence. Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman is also unlikely to be slinging the ball all over the field in such poor conditions.

Two rookies, offensive tackle Orlando Brown and center Bradley Bozeman, will be the only active reserve offensive linemen for the Ravens on Sunday since second-year lineman Jermaine Eluemunor was a healthy scratch.

The most interesting inactive note on the Buffalo side was the healthy scratch of former Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, who signed with the Bills in February and was competing for a starting job with Phillip Gaines this summer. Gaines will start on the outside opposite standout Tre’Davious White with rookie Taron Johnson serving as the nickel.

Sunday’s referee is Shawn Hochuli, the son of retired NFL referee Ed Hochuli.

The Ravens are wearing their white jerseys with white pants while Buffalo dons blue tops with white pants for Week 1.

Sunday marks the eighth all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-3 series advantage. Buffalo is opening the season at M&T Bank Stadium for the second time in three years after Baltimore won a 13-7 final on Sept. 11, 2016. The Ravens are looking for their third straight season-opening win and are 7-3 in Week 1 games under head coach John Harbaugh.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Robert Griffin III
WR Jordan Lasley
CB Darious Williams
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
DL Zach Sieler
TE Hayden Hurst
DT Willie Henry

BUFFALO
CB Vontae Davis
TE Khari Lee
CB Ryan Lewis
WR Ray-Ray McCloud
OL Conor McDermott
LB Julian Stanford
G Wyatt Teller

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Ravens-Bills: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 08 September 2018 by Luke Jones

One team’s pain was another’s euphoria.

The Ravens will face the team that advanced to the postseason thanks to their fourth-and-12 collapse against Cincinnati in Week 17 last year when they host Buffalo to begin the 2018 season. That moment in time not only ended the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought, but it kept John Harbaugh’s team out of the postseason for a third straight year, the Ravens’ longest skid since their first four seasons in Baltimore.

With four of their next five games on the road, the Ravens can’t afford to stub their toe against the rebuilding Bills, a scenario that would leave everyone doubting whether 2018 will be any different than the last few years. It would also put even more heat on a number of coaches and players whose long-term futures are up in the air.

It’s time to go on the record as Baltimore and Buffalo meet for the eighth time in the all-time regular-season series with the Ravens holding a 4-3 advantage and a 4-1 mark at M&T Bank Stadium. This marks the second time in three years these teams will open the season in Baltimore as the Ravens won a 13-7 final in 2016.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Joe Flacco will begin 2018 on a solid note with 220 passing yards and two touchdowns.

After endless discussion about his health, the new wide receivers and tight ends, a new quarterbacks coach, his strong summer performance, and, yes, rookie Lamar Jackson, Flacco will finally have his first meaningful chance to begin silencing his critics. A rainy forecast could alter game strategy and he’s facing a pass defense that ranked ninth in yards per pass attempt allowed last season, but the 33-year-old faces a front seven not adept at pressuring quarterbacks, which will help lead to an efficient day.

2. Bills running back LeSean McCoy will finish with under 60 rushing yards.

The offseason focus was on the collapse against the Bengals, but the Ravens allowing a franchise-worst 4.1 yards per carry last year really stuck in their craw. The defense allowed 38 percent of its total rushing yards in the four games Brandon Williams missed, but Baltimore still surrendered 3.9 yards per attempt in games he played. The presence of Williams and Michael Pierce as well as the Bills losing three key starters from their offensive line will lead to a long day for the six-time Pro Bowl back.

3. Michael Crabtree and Nick Boyle will catch touchdowns from Flacco.

There is much excitement about the vertical potential of John Brown, but Bills head coach Sean McDermott emphasizes taking away the big play as his defense allowed the seventh-fewest number of passes of 20 or more yards and an NFL-low three completions of 40 or more yards last season. With that in mind and the forecast not looking promising, Crabtree will do what he does best in the red zone and the blocking-minded Boyle will catch Bills linebackers napping for a touchdown score of his own.

4. Buffalo quarterback Nathan Peterman will throw two interceptions and be sacked five times.

Did I mention the Bills offensive line lost three key starters? Buffalo was wise to go with Peterman over rookie first-round pick Josh Allen in a Week 1 road game, but that doesn’t mean the former won’t be completely overwhelmed. New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is a Ryan family pupil who will call everything he can to try to pressure the pocket. Peterman won’t be as historically bad as he was in tossing five interceptions in one half against the Los Angeles Chargers last year, but it won’t be pretty.

5. The Ravens will take an early lead and ride Alex Collins in the second half to a 27-10 win.

The coming weeks will reveal just how good the Ravens really are, but I’d be surprised if the Bills aren’t one of the worst five teams in the NFL after gutting a roster that was very fortunate to sneak in the playoffs last year. Harsh weather can always be an equalizer, but Baltimore will build an early lead and lean on Collins to do some heavy lifting after receiving only three carries in the preseason. The Ravens need to start the season on a winning note with three AFC North road games looming in the next four weeks, so there’s no overstating how disappointing a home loss would be against a team that looks bad on paper. They’ll take care of business in decisive fashion.

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Ravens list Canady, K. Young as questionable for season opener

Posted on 07 September 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens officially ruled out two starters, but they should have the rest of their 53-man roster available for Sunday’s season opener against Buffalo.

As expected, tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery) will not play against the Bills as they continue recovering from multi-week ailments, but cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh) and rookie inside linebacker Kenny Young (knee) are expected to suit up after practicing all week. Both were officially listed as questionable.

Canady participated in practices on a limited basis this week after being sidelined with a hamstring injury since mid-August. His return to the field is an important development as he will be the top reserve corner behind outside starters Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr and nickel back Tavon Young while Jimmy Smith serves his four-game suspension in September.

“Maurice is a very valuable player. I’m excited about him,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He looks good in practice, so it looks like he’ll be out there. I haven’t gotten the OK on that finally from the trainer, but that’s my diagnosis. I’m planning on having him unless something changes between now and then. He can play inside. He can play outside. He can play special teams. He’s a good player. It’s good to have him back.”

The Bills are also in good shape from a health standpoint as no projected starters appeared on the injury report this week.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for temperatures in the mid-60s with a 100-percent chance of rain and winds 10 to 20 miles per hour. Rainfall could near an inch, which could make for an interesting afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.

Friday marked the 10th anniversary of Harbaugh and Joe Flacco’s first Ravens win in a 17-10 final over Cincinnati to kick off the 2008 season. The victory would be the start of a surprising 11-5 campaign that would land the first-year head coach and rookie quarterback in the AFC championship game.

“It feels like yesterday. It’s crazy how quickly [time goes by],” Flacco said. “You look back at the days, and they go along just like everybody says. But man, it’s been really, really quick, and we’ve changed a lot.”

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Willie Henry (abdomen), TE Hayden Hurst (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Maurice Canady (thigh), LB Kenny Young (knee)

BUFFALO
OUT: WR Ray-Ray McCloud (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Julian Stanford (nose)

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All but two Ravens practice ahead of Sunday’s season opener

Posted on 05 September 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After a late-summer run of injuries, the Ravens are again moving in the right direction from a health standpoint just days ahead of the 2018 season opener.

Tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery) were the only members of the 53-man roster not to participate in the first full practice of the week in preparation for Buffalo. Neither will play against the Bills on Sunday, but depth concerns at cornerback and inside linebacker were eased Wednesday by the returns of Maurice Canady and rookie Kenny Young. Both practiced on a limited basis after missing recent action.

With Jimmy Smith suspended for the first four games of the season, Canady is projected to be the top backup outside cornerback behind starters Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey, but he’d been sidelined since sustaining a thigh injury in a joint practice with Indianapolis on Aug. 17. The third-year defensive back finished last season as the primary nickel corner, but he’s primarily practiced on the outside this summer.

Young, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA, suffered a minor knee injury in the preseason finale against Washington last week, but he remains in competition with incumbent Patrick Onwuasor for the starting weak-side inside linebacker spot next to three-time Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley. This marks the second straight year in which Baltimore enters the season with a timeshare at that spot after Onwuasor competed for the job with former second-round pick Kamalei Correa early in 2017.

“He’s earned where he is right now,” said Mosley of Young. “Him and ‘Peanut’ both are doing a good job coming in and subbing in for each other. It can be hard sometimes because you want to get in a groove in a game, especially in the preseason, but they’re taking split-reps. That just comes with the talent that they both bring to the table. At some point, one of them is going to have to take that leap. Maybe it won’t be sooner than later, but as long as they’re doing the right things, I’m good with both of them on the field.”

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DT Willie Henry (abdomen), TE Hayden Hurst (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Maurice Canady (thigh), LB Kenny Young (knee)

BUFFALO
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Ray-Ray McCloud (knee), LB Julian Stanford (nose)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of 2018 season opener

Posted on 04 September 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens opening the 2018 season by hosting Buffalo on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I’m more optimistic about the Ravens than I’ve been in a few years, but it has very little to do with the 5-0 preseason beyond staying pretty healthy. The Indianapolis game was the only time Baltimore played at full strength — or close to it — against another team at full strength.

2. Is it more surprising that Alex Collins, Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead combined to touch the ball only eight times in the preseason or that no one is talking about that? To be clear, that’s not a criticism, but it speaks to the unknown still at work here.

3. Is anyone else tired of talking about the backup quarterback situation? A healthy Joe Flacco playing at a higher level is the key to this season — not whether Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III is backing him up. In a perfect world, Griffin doesn’t take a snap all season.

4. Bills coach Sean McDermott made the right call naming Nathan Peterman his starting quarterback and protecting first-round pick Josh Allen from playing on the road against a tough Baltimore defense that’s frequently eaten rookie quarterbacks alive over the years. That won’t save Peterman though.

5. Remember how the Ravens had $17 million in dead money on their salary cap in 2015, the year they finished 5-11? Fresh off their first playoff appearance of the millennium, the Bills are carrying an unthinkable $53.1 million in dead money on this year’s cap. You can’t win that way.

6. Willie Henry’s early absence could change things, but I like the decision to shift Brandon Williams back to nose tackle after he played more of the 3-technique spot with Michael Pierce at the nose last year. Williams is excellent against the run, so you want to maximize his biggest strength.

7. The practice-squad signings of Cyrus Jones and Tim White should signal to Janarion Grant not to get too comfortable as the return specialist. I’m not convinced the Ravens have found their answer in this department or if that individual is currently in the organization.

8. I’m not sure how long rookie cornerback Darious Williams will be on the 53-man roster, but he began his Alabama-Birmingham career as a walk-on and stayed put through the football program’s temporary disbandment and two-year hiatus from playing games. That’s quite a journey to the NFL.

9. Four teams making waiver claims on Carl Davis and his release even after Henry’s injury should speak to the depth of the Baltimore defensive line. Seeing Cleveland grab the versatile Davis wasn’t remotely surprising.

10. The Ravens are starting their second decade of the John Harbaugh-Flacco era. Some would argue that isn’t a good thing, but that kind of continuity isn’t fully appreciated until it’s gone. Over the last decade, the Browns have had six head coaches and used 19 starting quarterbacks.

11. Questions remain about the circumstances that led to Kaare Vedvik being found with head and upper-body injuries early Saturday in East Baltimore. I feel for the 24-year-old as he had a good chance to be kicking in the NFL this year, but the outcome could have been much worse.

12. Kudos to the Ravens for naming Anquan Boldin their “Legend of the Game” for the opener. Does this reverse the “Boldin Curse” that’s resulted in four non-playoff seasons since he was traded for a sixth-round pick five weeks after Super Bowl XLVII?

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 13-9 win over Buffalo

Posted on 27 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 3-0 in the preseason with a 13-9 win over Buffalo, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The narrative remained the same for the third preseason game with the defense excelling and the offense struggling to move the ball. Maybe the defense will be up to the task in 2017, but winning 13-9 games leaves very little margin for error.

2. I’ve said this before, but the defensive depth continues to impress as there’s been little drop-off in play from the opening quarter to the final minutes of each game. Ozzie Newsome isn’t going to be able to keep a few defensive players who definitely would have stuck in the past.

3. After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of the first two preseason games, the Ravens gained 41 yards on 16 carries in the first two quarters against the Bills. The running game is even more important with Joe Flacco’s situation, but it hasn’t shown many encouraging signs.

4. Baltimore was credited with six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The secondary has been strong and the young outside linebackers have received plenty of attention, but this deep defensive front has been very disruptive this summer.

5. Watching Justin Tucker make tackles or even pick up a fumble in Miami last week makes for a fun story until he suffers a close call like he did on Saturday night. The Ravens really need their All-Pro kicker to show more restraint, especially in a meaningless preseason game.

6. Rather than asking whether Jaylen Hill makes the roster, I’m now wondering how long it will be before he carves out a meaningful role on the defense. Lardarius Webb has had a strong summer at the nickel, but there’s a reason why he was moved to safety two years ago.

7. Nothing enhances the enjoyment of preseason football more than a combined 17 penalties for 156 yards in the first half. Our poor eyes.

8. Patrick Onwuasor alternating series with Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker was one of the more interesting developments of the third preseason game. He’s only 227 pounds, but Onwuasor plays with a mean streak that was evident in his rookie season and just continues to improve.

9. Filling in for the injured Danny Woodhead, Taquan Mizzell presented himself well by catching six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His skill set is similar to Woodhead’s, which hurts his roster chances and makes him intriguing at the same time.

10. Bubble players filling a prominent role on special teams included Chris Matthews, Sheldon Price, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Robertson Daniel, and Vince Mayle. That doesn’t mean they’re all making the roster, of course, but that tends to be an indication of any tiebreaker with another bubble player.

11. Marshal Yanda has been one of my favorite players for a long time, but seeing him as the last offensive player out of the tunnel during stadium introductions says a lot about the current state of that side of the ball.

12. Breshad Perriman and Marlon Humphrey showed encouraging signs before the game. Perriman ran at three-quarters speed and was cutting and running routes effectively while Humphrey looked like someone ready to return to the field, backpedaling and sprinting at full speed.

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Ravens-Bills preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 25 August 2017 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense enters Saturday’s preseason game against Buffalo having lived up to very lofty expectations through the first two exhibition contests.

First in the NFL in points per game allowed, rushing yards per game allowed, passing yards per game allowed, and total yards per game allowed, Baltimore knows preseason success doesn’t automatically translate to the regular season, but playing this well sure beats the alternative. Just ask the injury-riddled offense that has more questions than answers at this point.

“The whole idea of us going into this year was that we want to be a great defense and we want to finish,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees, whose unit struggled mightily in the final month of the 2016 season. “You have to start to finish. I would rather have a good start than a bad start and be sitting there worried about a bunch of stuff. But I’m still worried about it.

“To say it doesn’t mean anything — I think coaches tell you that — I think that is crap. You want to go out there and you want to play well every day and every week no matter who is on the field.”

Viewed as the dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season, the third preseason game typically involves starters playing the entire first half. However, with the Ravens already dealing with a plethora of injuries, the plan might be different against the Bills.

Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t offer many specifics on what to expect.

“We just have a plan for this year that we are sticking with,” Harbaugh said. “It does not really compare to any other year. You never really know. Different guys have different situations. It is more individualized probably than ever before. You play guys according to their needs.”

Saturday marks the first time since 2003 that the Ravens and Buffalo have met in the preseason with the Bills having won two of the previous three exhibition contests. These teams met in the 2016 season opener with the Ravens winning 13-7 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore owns a 26-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

The Ravens are not required to release an injury report like they do for regular-season games, but I’ve offered my best guess on what the injury report would look like if one were to be released ahead of Saturday’s game.

Most of the players ruled out will come as no surprise, but the status of a few will remain in question. Of course, this list does not consider any veterans who could be held out due to the coaching staff’s preference.

Again, this is not an official injury report released by the Ravens:

OUT: QB Joe Flacco (back), WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), OT Ronnie Stanley (undisclosed), CB Maurice Canady (knee), RB Kenneth Dixon (knee), OL Nico Siragusa (knee), CB Tavon Young (knee), OL Alex Lewis (shoulder), WR Tim White (thumb)
DOUBTFUL: CB Marlon Humphrey (hamstring), RB Danny Woodhead (hamstring), CB Brandon Boykin (undisclosed), OT Stephane Nembot (undisclosed), LB Donald Payne (undisclosed)
QUESTIONABLE: G Marshal Yanda (shoulder), CB Sheldon Price (shoulder), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (knee), LB Albert McClellan (undisclosed)

Five players to watch Thursday night

LB Tim Williams

After struggling in the preseason opener against Washington, the third-round pick from Alabama showed off his pass-rushing skills against Miami with a sack and two quarterback hits. Williams has a long way to go to be an every-down linebacker, but the Ravens need players who can get to the quarterback off the edge and he can still carve out a role as a situational pass rusher.

RB Buck Allen

The third-year back looked like he’d face an uphill battle to make the roster several weeks ago, but injuries have afforded him more chances and he’s run with more urgency this summer. Though Terrance West is still projected to be the starter, senior offensive assistant Greg Roman likes to have more than one back involved in the ground game and Allen has rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries this summer.

CB Sheldon Price

Hampered by a shoulder issue for a good portion of the summer, Price is trying to solidify a spot on the 53-man roster and his 6-foot-2, 198-pound frame is ideal for an outside corner. The current absence of 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey helps Price’s case, but rookie free agent Jaylen Hill has all but locked up a job at this point, making it critical for Price to play well in the last two preseason games.

C Jeremy Zuttah

The Ravens needed depth after losing their starting left guard and two other interior options, but Zuttah must prove he can hold up in Roman’s schemes that are more downhill and physical. The fact that Zuttah was released by San Francisco five months after being traded there means he has essentially been cut twice since March and he needs to play with a chip on his shoulder if he wants to unseat Ryan Jensen.

LB Bam Bradley

The reviews for Kamalei Correa at inside linebacker have been mixed, but the Ravens don’t have many alternatives at the position. The 237-pound Bradley has more bulk than special-teams standout Patrick Onwuasor and has played well this preseason, making him one of several undrafted free agents who remain in the conversation for a spot on the 53-man roster.

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