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Ravens left tackle Stanley practices fully, listed as questionable for Week 2

Posted on 18 September 2020 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens should have the services of left tackle Ronnie Stanley for their Week 2 trip to Houston after the 2019 Pro Bowl selection practiced fully on Friday.

Stanley was officially listed as questionable on the final injury report after missing practice on Wednesday due to a hip injury and being limited on Thursday. The 26-year-old injured his left ankle on the opening drive of the second half in last Sunday’s win over Cleveland, but that ailment wasn’t what kept him out of practice. Stanley appeared to be moving well during the portion of Friday’s workout open to reporters, running onto the practice field and later hitting a blocking sled without any limitations or signs of discomfort.

It’s good news for the Ravens after veteran backup D.J. Fluker struggled mightily in Stanley’s place and graded next to last among all offensive tackles to play a Week 1 offensive snap, according to Pro Football Focus.

Baltimore also listed cornerback Jimmy Smith (hip) and running back Justice Hill (thigh) as questionable for Sunday’s game. Smith missed Wednesday’s practice and remained a limited participant for the remainder of the week. The 32-year-old defensive back played in the season opener despite dealing with back spasms prior to the game, but it’s unclear if the hip ailment is related. Hill was upgraded to full participation on Friday, but the bigger question is whether the fourth-string running back will have a game-day role after rookie wide receiver Devin Duvernay handled kick returns effectively against the Browns.

The Ravens ruled out wide receiver Chris Moore (thigh) and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (knee) for the second straight week as both have been sidelined since training camp.

Meanwhile, Houston didn’t listed three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt on its game status report despite the veteran defensive end being limited in practices with a hip issue this week. The Texans designated starting wide receiver Brandon Cooks (quad), starting right tackle Tytus Howard (ankle), and No. 2 running back Duke Johnson (ankle) as questionable, but all three practiced all week on a limited basis.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DT Justin Madubuike (knee), WR Chris Moore (finger)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Justice Hill (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (hip), OT Ronnie Stanley (hip)

HOUSTON
QUESTIONABLE: WR Brandin Cooks (quad), OT Tytus Howard (ankle), RB Duke Johnson (ankle), ILB Peter Kalambayi (hamstring)

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Ravens defense hoping to give Deshaun Watson another “one of those days”

Posted on 17 September 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens defense was up to its old tricks in the season-opening 38-6 victory over Cleveland.

After leading the NFL in blitz rate at 54.9 percent of opposing dropbacks last season, Baltimore sent at least one extra rusher against Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield 54.8 percent of the time last Sunday, according to Pro Football Reference. It was how defensive coordinator Wink Martindale generated a pass rush in 2019, relying on numbers and superb coverage in the secondary to finish a respectable 16th in pressure rate and second in quarterback knockdowns despite ranking 21st in sacks with just 37. The difference Sunday was less efficiency in that department as the Ravens applied pressure just 11.9 percent of the time despite Mayfield’s inability to take advantage, a testament to the play on the back end.

What that means this week as the Ravens travel to Houston to take on two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson remains to be seen, but last November’s 41-7 demolition of the Texans at M&T Bank Stadium doesn’t guarantee a similar result for Week 2. Watson played arguably the worst game of his 2019 season that day, registering just 169 passing yards, 12 rushing yards, an interception, and no touchdowns while the Ravens registered a season-high seven sacks.

The 25-year-old Clemson product lacks the consistency of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson — the last two league MVPs — at this point in their respective careers, but he’s every bit as dangerous when playing at his best, meaning the Ravens can’t rest on their laurels.

“We’re not overconfident — trust me,” Martindale said. “He gets better every year. He’s a Pro Bowl quarterback for a reason. It was just one of those days last year. He is like a LeBron James-type player in the NFL instead of the NBA. He’s a general; he’s a point guard out there. We all respect his game.”

Watson’s style of play presents an interesting challenge as Pro Football Focus ranked his time to throw the second longest in the league behind only Jackson last season, which can lead to similarly spectacular throws and scrambles. But his style also leads to more sacks for which the Texans offensive line aren’t always to blame.

That was evident on the opening drive against the Ravens last year when he held the ball and scrambled in the pocket for a full 10 seconds before being stripped of the ball from behind for a turnover. That improvisation and patience are a double-edged sword, however, as Baltimore can’t ask its secondary to cover quite that long and expect similar results in the first road game of the season.

The pass rush needs the proper balance of discipline and explosiveness to contain a quarterback who so often goes against the grain.

“That’s what he does. He actually holds the ball longer than anybody in the league,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I think their offensive line does a good job — the scheme is part of that — but it’s really mainly him. And he does it to create opportunities for the pass game. He’ll throw it. He’ll throw it to anybody. He’ll throw it deep. He’ll throw it short. He’ll throw it to every different receiver — you saw that last week — and he’ll run.”

“Different receiver” is a sore subject in Houston these days after Texans coach Bill O’Brien’s decision to trade four-time Pro Bowl selection DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, leaving Watson without an elite No. 1 target. Despite a couple uncharacteristic drops in that loss against the Ravens, Hopkins was still Houston’s best player, catching seven passes for 80 yards.

Now, Watson is leaning on the oft-injured Will Fuller and the oft-traded Brandin Cooks as his top wide receivers while hoping former Pro Bowl selection David Johnson — acquired from the Cardinals in the Hopkins deal — brings some juice to the running back position. The results were mixed in the Texans’ 34-20 loss to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in the season-opening game.

Of course, the Ravens aren’t the same on defense as that day they clobbered the Texans with changes at all three levels of their defense. Watson would be wise to test rookie inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison with underneath and intermediate throws to his tight ends and running backs. Third-year safety DeShon Elliott held up well in his first NFL start replacing Earl Thomas, but he’ll need to show strong discipline on the back end of the defense, especially when Watson improvises.

“With Watson running around and the things he can do and extend plays and the throws he makes on the run, it’s going to be very, very important,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be a big part of the game.”

Ultimately, the biggest challenge for the Ravens could be following the mantra uttered throughout the spring and summer — one week and one game at a time.

They know the Chiefs come to town next week in a Monday night game already being labeled an AFC Championship game preview, but the Hopkins-less Texans — who will have five-time Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt on the other side of the ball this time — are still talented enough to give them problems, especially if the Ravens get caught “peeking ahead” as Jackson suggested they did against Tennessee last January. Watson’s also going to want some revenge as Houston tries to avoid an 0-2 start.

“They have a great quarterback — one of the best in the NFL — and he has a good supporting cast,” said outside linebacker Matthew Judon, who collected two sacks and forced a fumble in last year’s victory. “We just can’t sleep on them. We’ve got to go out there and be us, be who we are. But we cannot think that they can’t make plays because they definitely can.”

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Ravens-Rams: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 25 November 2019 by Luke Jones

How long has it been since the Ravens last lost a game?

Kenny Young started at weak-side inside linebacker in that ugly home loss to Cleveland on Sept. 29, was benched a week later, and has now been a Los Angeles Ram for six weeks. The Ravens will try to extend their longest winning streak since 2000 with a seventh straight victory Monday night against a desperate Rams team that has won three of its last four and is trying to stay in the NFC wild-card race.

As expected, Baltimore will be without starting nose tackle Michael Pierce, who was deactivated for a second straight game with a right ankle injury. Pierce practiced on a limited basis Thursday before missing the rest of the week and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Reserve defensive tackles Domata Peko and Justin Ellis will again be counted on to step up in Pierce’s place.

Wide receiver Chris Moore is active and will make his return from a two-game absence due to a broken thumb. The Ravens are happy to have Moore’s special-teams contributions back in the picture.

Rookie cornerback and USC product Iman Marshall is active and expected to make his NFL debut after missing most of the season with toe and hamstring injuries. With safety Bennett Jackson and cornerback Anthony Averett both being healthy scratches for Monday’s game, Marshall will play on special teams and serve as a reserve cornerback for a defense that relies heavily on its secondary play.

The Rams will welcome back wide receivers Brandin Cooks (concussion) and Robert Woods (non-injury) after both missed game action recently. Their presence will provide a needed boost for Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff and a once-explosive offense struggling to find its 2018 form.

Monday’s referee is Craig Wrolstad.

According to Weather.com, the Monday night forecast in Los Angeles calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s with calm winds and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens will be wearing their all-purple “Color Rush” uniforms while the Rams don gold jerseys and gold pants for Week 12.

Monday marks the seventh all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-2 edge. Baltimore is aiming for a team-record fourth consecutive road victory that would clinch its first winning away record in the regular season since 2010. The Ravens aim to improve to 9-5 on Monday Night Football in the John Harbaugh era despite this marking the 12th time they’ve played on the road.

Below are Monday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DT Michael Pierce
CB Anthony Averett
S Bennett Jackson
DL Zach Sieler
G Ben Powers
WR Jaleel Scott
QB Trace McSorley

LOS ANGELES
OT Rob Havenstein
WR Nsimba Webster
DB Darious Williams
CB Dont’e Deayon
S Jake Gervase
LB Natrez Patrick
OL Jamil Demby

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Ravens-Rams: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 24 November 2019 by Luke Jones

You win on the road in the regular season to play at home in January.

The 8-2 Ravens travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in hopes of improving to 5-1 on the road and winning what would be a team-record fourth straight regular-season away game. Baltimore hasn’t posted a winning road record since 2010, but an explosive offense and a rapidly improving defense have traveled well, making John Harbaugh’s team the best in the NFL in the eyes of many.

Meanwhile, the 6-4 Rams are aiming to record their fourth win in five games as they enter Week 12 three games out in the NFC West and 1 1/2 games behind the second wild-card spot in the NFC. The urgency is certainly there for Los Angeles to take care of business at home.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the seventh time ever in the regular season and first time since 2015. The Ravens lead the all-time series by a 4-2 margin and are 2-0 in the Harbaugh era, but this is their first ever trip to the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Below are five predictions for Monday night:

1. Marcus Peters will register an interception against his former team. The Ravens defensive back insists he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder returning to Los Angeles after being traded last month, but that won’t stop the man Wink Martindale called a cornerback “savant” from preying on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, whose superb first two seasons under coach Sean McVay feel like a long time ago. Peters came away with an interception against Kansas City on Monday Night Football last year, and he’ll pull off the same trick against another former team.

2. Brandin Cooks will catch a touchdown as the Rams use a no-huddle approach. Teams need to be aggressive and step outside their comfort zone if they want to have a real chance to beat Baltimore on either side of the ball right now. An up-tempo, no-huddle attack is a risky proposition with the Ravens’ ability to control the clock on the other side, but it neutralizes Martindale’s ability to substitute and tests the stamina of what’s still an ordinary group of pass rushers. New England had some success with this strategy in Week 9, but no Baltimore opponent has really tried it since then.

3. Lamar Jackson will throw touchdowns to Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. The Rams have a talented trio at cornerback, but Ravens wide receivers aren’t a big part of the passing attack anyway, which will make it interesting to see how Los Angeles defensive coordinator Wade Phillips tries to use top corner Jalen Ramsey. Rams linebacker Cory Littleton is strong in coverage and safety Taylor Rapp is capable as well, but their responsibilities against the run will make it difficult to consistently stick with Baltimore’s tight ends. Hurst has caught 20 of his 24 targets and is long overdue for a score.

4. Aaron Donald will record a sack for the sixth straight game. You need Pro Bowl-caliber talent and discipline at every level to have any meaningful chance of slowing down Jackson and the Ravens offense, but the biggest key might be having an interior player who can control the line of scrimmage against the run and pass. Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward did it in Week 5 — the Ravens’ worst offensive showing of 2019 at just 3.8 yards per play — and Donald is widely considered the NFL’s best defensive player. Marshal Yanda, Matt Skura, and Bradley Bozeman will have their hands full.

5. Another strong dual-threat showing from Jackson will be the difference in a 27-16 win. The more desperate Rams coming away with a victory wouldn’t shock me as this is one of Baltimore’s more difficult remaining games on the schedule and I’m not expecting Harbaugh’s team to win out looking from a macro perspective. At the same time, it’s tough envisioning the Los Angeles defense getting enough stops and a middling Rams offense producing enough touchdown drives for the math to add up unless the Ravens beat themselves with turnovers and penalties. Over the last four games, Baltimore has committed just three turnovers with ex-Raven Cyrus Jones and backup quarterback Robert Griffin III accounting for two. This team is making explosive plays and playing smart football, a good formula for winning anywhere. It doesn’t hurt having the current MVP favorite on your side either.

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Ravens defensive tackle Pierce doubtful to play against Rams on Monday

Posted on 23 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are expected to be without nose tackle Michael Pierce for the second straight game as they travel to Los Angeles to meet the Rams for Monday Night Football.

Pierce was officially listed as doubtful on the final injury report after logging only one limited practice on Thursday. The fourth-year defensive lineman missed his second straight workout on Saturday, a clear sign that his right ankle isn’t quite ready for a return to action.

With Pierce unlikely to play in Week 12, the Ravens will again lean more heavily on veteran newcomers Domata Peko and Justin Ellis next to starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Peko and Ellis combined to play 43 defensive snaps and make five tackles in the 41-7 win over Houston last Sunday.

“That’s what gives us an opportunity not to push Michael out there unless he’s really ready to go because those guys played so well and they practiced well and they’re ready to go,” said head coach John Harbaugh, who added that Pierce didn’t suffer a setback. “Maybe he could go if we really, really had to have him go, but we have those guys available. Let’s go with those healthy guys probably.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), reserve guard Ben Powers (thumb), and wide receiver and special-teams standout Chris Moore (thumb) were listed as questionable, but all three practiced fully on Friday. Moore has missed the last two games with a broken left thumb, but his upgrade in participation suggests an improved chance for him to play against the Rams.

Los Angeles ruled out starting right tackle Rob Havenstein (knee) and former Ravens cornerback Darious Williams (ankle) for Monday night’s game. Havenstein, a Mount Airy native, will miss his second straight game.

Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks was removed from the final injury report after practicing fully all week and will make his return from a concussion that sidelined him for the last two games.

The Ravens will be making their first ever trip to the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which hasn’t hosted a Baltimore NFL team since the Colts lost to the Rams there back in 1975. Harbaugh has never been there, but it was the site of a very special football memory for his brother.

“I’ve never been there, yes. The Coliseum, John Robinson, Student Body Right, you grew up with that,” Harbaugh said. “But the biggest game to me in the Coliseum that I remember watching on TV was the greatest upset in the history of college football: Stanford-USC [in 2007]. Jim Harbaugh taking down Pete Carroll’s No. 1-ranked Trojans when they were [41]-point favorites. That was big, right?”

According to Weather.com, the Monday night forecast in Los Angeles calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s with calm winds and only a slight chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: DT Michael Pierce (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Chris Moore (thumb), G Ben Powers (thumb), OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle)

LOS ANGELES
OUT: OT Rob Havenstein (knee), CB Darious Williams (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Natrez Patrick (illness)

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Saints rookie receiver Cooks out with broken thumb

Posted on 17 November 2014 by Luke Jones

As if they weren’t encouraged enough by watching the New Orleans Saints drop their second straight home game Sunday, the Ravens learned a day later they won’t have to deal with standout rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks in Week 12.

Cooks suffered a broken thumb that’s expected to sideline him at least for a few weeks, meaning the Saints’ first-round pick and emerging wideout won’t be available when Baltimore travels to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Monday night. Of course, New Orleans has a wide array of other weapons in All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, but the Saints are coming off their lowest scoring output at home since 2006 and Cooks was emerging as their second-best playmaker behind Graham in recent weeks.

He leads all NFL rookies with 53 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdown catches, ranking second on the team behind Graham in all three categories.

The Saints are also banged up in the secondary after losing safety Rafael Bush to a broken fibula in the fourth quarter of their 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. This comes after New Orleans already lost Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd for the season last month.

Though their Monday night trip won’t be easy with an inexperienced secondary, the Ravens should be feeling much better about their chances with quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints off to an underwhelming 4-6 start and even experiencing inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball at times this season.

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