Tag Archive | "cleveland"

Screen Shot 2019-09-29 at 5.24.25 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 4 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 01 October 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens losing their second straight game in a 40-25 setback against Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. With 10 of the previous 15 games between these teams decided by one score despite the Ravens’ dominant record, you couldn’t help but think the Browns would “Brown” when Baltimore made it 24-18. Instead, the Ravens didn’t even touch Nick Chubb on his 88-yard touchdown run. Just brutal.

2. The first turnover of the season was inevitable, but Mark Ingram’s fumble in the third quarter summed up the day for the offense. Averaging 5.9 yards per play, the Ravens moved the ball well, but they made too many mistakes at the wrong times.

3. The defense deserves most of the blame for the two-game losing streak, but the offense has scored a total of 13 first-half points the last two weeks. That’s usually not going to get the job done, especially with the current state of this defense.

4. John Harbaugh noted Cleveland was content playing off in coverage to give the Ravens short passes — mostly to the outside — as Lamar Jackson was 6-for-8 for 34 yards in the first half. Still, Greg Roman has to find a better way to test a unit missing both starting cornerbacks.

5. There was no shortage of new defensive looks as Wink Martindale used four safeties — the starters, Chuck Clark, and DeShon Elliott — on occasion and removed Patrick Onwuasor in certain sub packages after he’d previously been an every-snap linebacker. Twenty-one players saw at least seven snaps. Martindale is exploring answers.

6. Tony Jefferson took over the defensive huddle and wore the green-dot helmet to relay the calls from the sideline, a decision made to streamline communication for the secondary and take some responsibilities off Onwuasor’s plate. Baltimore has to get its inside linebackers to play better.

7. Per OverTheCap.com, no team has more money tied to the safety position over the next two years than Baltimore, but Pro Football Focus has graded Earl Thomas 19th and Jefferson 75th among qualified safeties through Week 4. These two need to be a much bigger part of the solution.

8. Brandon Williams’ absence didn’t mean an opportunity for rookie Daylon Mack as much as bigger workloads for Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, and Patrick Ricard. Mack played nine snaps while the veteran trio set season highs in snaps by significant margins. That takes a toll, especially later in the game.

9. Just how problematic has the defense been with surrendering big plays? The Ravens have already allowed six pass plays of 40 or more yards, one shy of last season’s total. Only two teams — Oakland and Jacksonville — have surrendered more completions of 20 or more yards so far.

10. His final stat line wasn’t the most accurate portrayal of his day, but Jackson’s first interception of the season was a product of needing to be aggressive down multiple scores with time dwindling. I’ll take that over dinking and dunking without the necessary urgency. The quarterback wasn’t the problem Sunday.

11. The hand-wringing over the third-quarter scuffle between Marlon Humphrey and Odell Beckham Jr. is getting ridiculous. Each team should be happy its player wasn’t kicked out of the game and just move on.

12. Justice Hill returning kicks looked like a good move to utilize his speed, but his latest drop to open the second half led to Chris Moore replacing him. Coverage has been good, but the Ravens could really use more production out of their kick returns, which rank 21st.

Comments Off on Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 4 loss to Cleveland

Screen Shot 2019-09-30 at 10.16.11 AM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

No shortage of questions about play, leadership of Ravens defense

Posted on 30 September 2019 by Luke Jones

The post-game reaction was what you’d expect after the Ravens defense offered one of the worst home performances in franchise history in the 40-25 loss to Cleveland.

Tony Jefferson called it “disgusting.”

Matthew Judon described the “terrible” showing as unfit for “a standard that was set a long time ago.”

Earl Thomas labeled the day “frustrating as hell” after the Ravens had given up more than 500 yards and 33 points to Kansas City a week earlier.

Similar sentiments were offered throughout the locker room, but a comment made by Michael Pierce resonated for anyone who’s watched the Ravens surrender more than 500 yards and at least 33 points in back-to-back weeks for the first time in team history. The defensive tackle thoughtfully answered difficult questions from the podium outside the locker room, but he was eventually asked who had stepped up as leaders in the midst of a brutal day.

“Everyone knows who our leaders are.”

Do we though?

Do they?

It certainly isn’t Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, or C.J. Mosley. Their 17 combined Pro Bowls and three decades’ worth of institutional knowledge and football IQ are long gone, and the Ravens miss them. There’s no disputing that anymore.

To be clear, Pierce pointed to Thomas leading by example and Judon being more vocal, but the Ravens defense looked like a rudderless ship Sunday as the Browns punched the unit in the mouth repeatedly without resistance. There were more big plays surrendered, blown coverages and run-gap responsibilities, and some of the worst tackling ever observed from a Baltimore defense. The Ravens defense didn’t play tough or as a team, especially in the second half when the Browns scored 30 points.

Cleveland scored on five straight possessions from the end of the first half to midway through the fourth quarter. After Lamar Jackson’s touchdown pass to Mark Andrews and subsequent two-point conversion to cut the deficit to six with just under 10 minutes to go, the Ravens not only failed to make a stop, but they gave up a Nick Chubb 88-yard touchdown run on the next snap from scrimmage.

On that play, Thomas said he pulled up in an effort to avoid pulling his hamstring. To be clear, the six-time Pro Bowl safety and former Seattle Seahawk wasn’t going to run down the speedy Chubb — perhaps another issue entirely — but that business decision and an NFL Network report of “a heated discussion” between Thomas and Brandon Williams centered around the injured defensive tackle not playing Sunday are poor optics for someone who was signed to play at an elite level and help fill the leadership void.

But this isn’t about one player. The entire Ravens defense was a mess Sunday except for Marlon Humphrey, who was superb against three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for most of the game. That said, even the third-year corner admitted to being responsible for the busted coverage that led to Baker Mayfield’s 59-yard completion to Ricky Seals-Jones in the third quarter.

Entering Monday, the Ravens ranked 25th in total defense, 20th in scoring defense, and 29th in pass defense. Their 10th-ranked run defense is buoyed only by two still-winless teams not even challenging them on the ground in the first two games as Baltimore now ranks 26th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (4.9). Point to the absences of Williams and Jimmy Smith as well as the season-ending neck injury to Tavon Young as much as you want, but the Browns defense has managed to not completely fall apart these last two weeks despite most of its starting secondary being out.

It’s unclear to what degree the defensive issues can be fixed during the season. The young inside linebackers have been lost in coverage and undisciplined against the run. The veterans and youngsters at outside linebacker have been too inconsistent setting the edge. After Tyus Bowser’s sack on the game’s opening drive, the Baltimore pass rush didn’t hit Mayfield once the rest of the day. The high-priced safety tandem of Thomas and Jefferson has done little to prevent big play after big play these last three games. And, yes, the Ravens have definitely missed Smith and Young at cornerback.

But even before addressing the many on-field issues, who’s going to lead through this trying time? Which player is telling a dazed and wounded group that everything will be OK — with everyone believing him? If necessary, which veteran can provide a verbal boot to the ass that will be taken the right way?

This isn’t an individual knock on Thomas, Judon, Jefferson, or even second-stint veteran Pernell McPhee. Having untapped leadership qualities isn’t the same as establishing yourself as a leader, which must happen organically. That trust and responsibility can’t be forced, but the defense has undergone its greatest leadership exodus since Lewis and Reed walked out of the building in 2013. The difference then was Suggs and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata still being there.

If Ray Lewis and Ed Reed had suddenly bolted in 2005 or 2006, Suggs probably wouldn’t have been the same leader then as he would eventually become. Weddle and Mosley certainly carried more clout over time than when they first arrived, making it difficult to simply point to Thomas as the solution.

It’s a process, but the Ravens must figure out these defensive woes much sooner than later.

There’s no shame in struggling on the road against the explosive Chiefs offense, but being embarrassed in your own building by the Browns rocks the foundation of what you claim to be.

And the defense doesn’t have that obvious leader to pick it up in the meantime.

Comments Off on No shortage of questions about play, leadership of Ravens defense

brandonwilliams

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 29 September 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will be without the anchor of their defensive line for a key AFC North battle with Cleveland.

A day after being added to the injury report, defensive tackle Brandon Williams was deactivated for Sunday’s game due to a knee injury. The 30-year-old is missing his first game since Week 6 of the 2017 season when Chicago rushed for 231 yards in a 27-24 overtime win over the Ravens.

Williams went through a pre-game workout with defensive line coach Joe Cullen and head athletic trainer Ron Medlin that included plenty of dialogue and deliberate, unimpressive movements. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale also watched closely while defensive lineman Chris Wormley assisted for the latter portion of the workout before Williams left the field.

After giving up 5.6 yards per carry in last Sunday’s loss in Kansas City, the Ravens not having Williams in the middle of the defensive line is a substantial loss. Rookie fifth-round pick Daylon Mack will make his NFL debut as part of the defensive line rotation.

As expected, tight end Mark Andrews (foot) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (hip) are active after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. How Andrews fares will be interesting after he practiced only once this week and registered just three catches for 15 yards against the Chiefs in Week 3.

As anticipated, the Browns deactivated starting cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams as well as starting safety Morgan Burnett for Week 4. All three sat out practices all week and are missing their second straight game, but Cleveland — led by its stout defensive line — still managed to hold the Los Angeles Rams to just 20 points last Sunday night.

On the positive side for the Browns, starting safety Damarious Randall will play after a two-game absence with a concussion.

Sunday’s referee is Shawn Hochuli.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-80s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with purple pants while Cleveland dons white tops with orange pants for Week 4.

Sunday marks the 41st all-time meeting between these AFC North teams with the Ravens enjoying an overwhelming 30-10 advantage. Baltimore is 19-3 against Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era, but 10 of the last 15 contests have been decided by a single possession, including both parts of last season’s split.

The Ravens are inducting former head coach and Super Bowl XXXV champion Brian Billick into their Ring of Honor at halftime with more than 60 former players in attendance. Senior advisor of player engagement and former Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance will also be honored on his 50th birthday.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DT Brandon Williams
CB Jimmy Smith
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
S Brynden Trawick
G Ben Powers

CLEVELAND
CB Denzel Ward
CB Greedy Williams
S Sheldrick Redwine
S Morgan Burnett
DE Genard Avery
OT Kendall Lamm
WR Rashard Higgins

Comments Off on Ravens-Browns: Inactives and pre-game notes

Screen Shot 2019-09-28 at 1.41.00 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 28 September 2019 by Luke Jones

There are always a few pivotal games that stand out in any season with Sunday’s tilt between the Ravens and Cleveland certainly shaping up to be one.

A win gives Baltimore a full two-game lead over every other AFC North team and drops the Browns to 1-3 with the accompanying “same old story” thoughts. However, a Ravens loss would pull Cleveland even in the division and put the winner of Monday’s Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game just one game behind.

With two more division games to immediately follow for the Ravens, Week 4 could help put them on a path to win the AFC North going away or provide a major jolt for the Browns.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Browns face off for the 41st time in the regular season with Baltimore holding a lopsided 30-10 advantage and a 19-3 mark under John Harbaugh. However, 10 of the last 15 meetings have been decided by a single possession, including both halves of last year’s split between the division foes.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. The Ravens will commit their first turnover of the season. Only six teams have forced fewer turnovers than Baltimore, but Harbaugh’s team is the only one in the NFL without a giveaway, which reflects Lamar Jackson’s growth in his first full year as a starter. Of course, some luck has been involved as well with the Ravens recovering both of their fumbles this season and Jackson getting away with a few passes that could have been intercepted last week. The law of averages will finally catch up to them.

2. Odell Beckham Jr. will catch a touchdown and Marlon Humphrey will register an interception matched up against each other. With Jimmy Smith out with a knee injury, Humphrey traveled with Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins for much of last week’s game, a strategy that should continue against the talented Beckham. Baker Mayfield has targeted his star wideout 30 times in three games and will continue throwing his way, which will give Humphrey chances to get his hands on passes. It’s worth noting the third-year corner was limited with a hip issue this week, however.

3. Jackson will throw touchdown passes to Nick Boyle and Seth Roberts. The Browns will try to copy Kansas City’s plan to take away deep shots to Marquise Brown, which should create underneath chances for others. That reality coupled with Mark Andrews’ lingering foot issue will make it important for Jackson to look beyond his top two pass-catching targets. Boyle’s first career touchdown is long overdue, and Roberts’ playing time is trending up with Miles Boykin struggling early. Cleveland is likely to be without three starters in its secondary, which sets up for Jackson to have a good game.

4. Myles Garrett will register multiple sacks for the third time in four weeks. Harbaugh admitted his offensive line hasn’t yet seen a defensive front this talented, which will set up some intriguing battles. Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. will have their hands full with Garrett and Olivier Vernon on the edges, but defensive tackles Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi could also create some problems against the run and pass. Even more play-action and run-pass options than usual are in order to keep the Cleveland rush in check, but Garrett will continue his monster start to 2019.

5. Some strong running from Mark Ingram in the fourth quarter will help the Ravens preserve a tight 26-20 win. The body of work for each team so far and the home-field advantage suggest a Baltimore win, but the 1-2 Browns are already feeling pretty desperate with three more games against winning teams immediately following Sunday’s contest. The talent is still there for Cleveland and Mayfield is a better quarterback than he’s shown to be so far this season, but the likely absences of Browns cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams will keep the Ravens offense a step ahead. Baltimore will start 3-1 for the third time in the last four years and eighth time in the Harbaugh era.

Comments Off on Ravens-Browns: Five predictions for Sunday

brandonwilliams

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ravens add Brandon Williams to injury report, place Otaro Alaka on IR

Posted on 28 September 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens added defensive tackle Brandon Williams to their injury report Saturday, a potentially significant development ahead of their Week 4 meeting with the Cleveland Browns.

Williams was designated as questionable to play with a knee issue. He hadn’t been on the injury report all week, but his potential absence Sunday would be a tough blow for a Baltimore defense that allowed 140 rushing yards in last week’s 33-28 loss in Kansas City.

It’s unknown how Williams hurt his knee, but the Ravens have rarely added a player to their injury report the day before a game in the past. Rookie fifth-round pick Daylon Mack would likely make his NFL debut as part of the defensive line rotation if the seventh-year defensive tackle can’t play.

Rookie inside linebacker Otaro Alaka was placed on injured reserve Saturday, but general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t make a corresponding move by the 4 p.m. deadline, meaning the Ravens have only 52 players on the roster going into Sunday. After suffering a hamstring injury during Wednesday’s practice, Alaka had already been ruled out for Week 4 against the Browns and was inactive for each of the first three contests of the regular season.

Below is the updated injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Mark Andrews (foot), CB Marlon Humphrey (hip), DT Brandon Williams (knee)

CLEVELAND
OUT: OT Kendall Lamm (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: S Morgan Burnett (quad), WR Rashard Higgins (knee), OT Chris Hubbard (foot), S Sheldrick Redwine (hamstring), CB Denzel Ward (hamstring), CB Greedy Williams (hamstring)

Comments Off on Ravens add Brandon Williams to injury report, place Otaro Alaka on IR

Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 4.50.51 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens tight end Andrews listed as questionable, expects to play Sunday

Posted on 27 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens tight end Mark Andrews expects to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns despite a foot injury that limited him to only one practice this week.

Listed as questionable on the final injury report, Andrews was able to participate on a limited basis Friday after missing the first two workouts of the week. The 2018 third-round pick missed only one practice in each of the previous two weeks and was limited to three catches for 15 yards in last Sunday’s loss in Kansas City, which led to increased concerns about his foot.

The 2018 third-round pick says it’s all part of the plan to keep him healthy for game days as he’s caught 19 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns in the first three contests of the season.

“It’s kind of been tough for me to miss these last couple practices, but it’s all a common goal,” Andrews said. “These trainers have an idea for me to come out Sunday and be 100 percent. I’m well on my way there, so I’m healthy right now.

“They’re doing a great job with that. I’m feeling good, and I’m excited to play the Browns.”

Head coach John Harbaugh shared Andrews’ sentiments without disclosing specifics of the foot ailment that first landed him on the injury report on Sept. 13.

“We’re managing the issue that he has, which is not any kind of structural thing,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s part of the football season. I wouldn’t overthink it. He plans on being out there.”

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was also designated as questionable on the final injury report after being limited in practices throughout the week with a hip issue. The third-year defensive back missed much of the second quarter of the loss to the Chiefs when the Ravens allowed 23 points to fall behind by 17 at intermission.

Baltimore officially ruled out cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee), safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) and inside linebacker Otaro Alaka (hamstring) for Sunday’s game. Smith will miss his third straight game while recovering from a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee.

The Browns will welcome starting safety Damarious Randall back to action after a two-game absence with a concussion, but the status of the other three starting members of their secondary remains in serious doubt. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams were both listed as questionable with hamstring injuries, but neither practiced all week after missing last Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, making one wonder how realistic their chances are of playing. Safety Morgan Burnett was also designated as questionable after failing to practice all week and missing the Rams game.

The Ravens will officially induct former head coach and Super Bowl XXXV champion Brian Billick into their Ring of Honor Sunday with over 60 former Ravens players scheduled to attend. That list includes Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Todd Heap, Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis, Michael McCrary, Duane Starks, Matt Stover, and Adalius Thomas.

Baltimore will also hold a special tribute for senior advisor to player engagement and former Ravens linebacker O.J. Brigance, who celebrates his 50th birthday on Sunday. Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2007, Brigance has continued to fight the odds and be an inspiration for both the organization and the community.

On Thursday, he shared a message with the team during a birthday celebration.

“There is no testimony without a test,” said Harbaugh of Brigance’s words. “If you want to have a story to tell, it can’t be, ‘Everything was great in my life. We won every game. We scored every touchdown. We got every stop.’ It just doesn’t work like that. Who would watch that movie? Nobody. That’s not how life works. What a message.”

The Weather.com forecast for Sunday’s game calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-80s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and only a 10-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Otaro Alaka (hamstring), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Mark Andrews (foot), CB Marlon Humphrey (hip)

CLEVELAND
OUT: OT Kendall Lamm (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: S Morgan Burnett (quad), WR Rashard Higgins (knee), OT Chris Hubbard (foot), S Sheldrick Redwine (hamstring), CB Denzel Ward (hamstring), CB Greedy Williams (hamstring)

Comments Off on Ravens tight end Andrews listed as questionable, expects to play Sunday

lamarbaker

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens can begin putting stranglehold on floundering AFC North

Posted on 26 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The first-place Ravens were disappointed with their Week 3 loss in Kansas City, but everyone else in the AFC North would gladly trade places right now.

Pittsburgh is 0-3 and has already lost future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season. Cincinnati is winless under new head coach Zac Taylor and still without star wide receiver A.J. Green. Those teams face off Monday with only one avoiding going 0-for-September. Last year’s Houston Texans were the only 0-3 team in the last 20 years to rally to make the playoffs.

And then there’s Cleveland, the offseason division champions who added three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and former Pro Bowl defensive linemen Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson. The Browns won five of their last seven games last season with first overall pick Baker Mayfield leading the way and being hyped as the next big thing at the quarterback position.

Even Ravens head coach John Harbaugh touted Cleveland as the most talented team in the division in March, but the defending AFC North champions mostly bit their tongues over these last six months.

“In the media, they’re talking about OBJ and that [wide receiver] tandem and Baker Mayfield, the next savior,” safety Earl Thomas said. “He had a hot start [last year]. And then, to add on to that, coach ‘Harbs’ talked about it a couple of times in meetings, so guys kind of got tired of it.”

The Browns haven’t lived up to expectations so far under first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, losing their first two home games and beating the injury-ravaged New York Jets for their only win. An offense with plenty of skill talent has been a bottom 10 group with Mayfield struggling behind a shaky offensive line. Their defense has played well the last two weeks, but the entire staring secondary missed last week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams and only safety Damarious Randall has returned to practice so far this week.

Cleveland travels to Baltimore Sunday and plays three straight games against teams with winning records after that. In other words, it could get late very early for a team with playoff aspirations.

Meanwhile, the Ravens took full advantage of a soft first two weeks to now lead the NFL in total offense, rushing offense, and points per game behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has looked more like the young star many expected Mayfield to be this season. The 22-year-old says he wasn’t bothered by the attention being elsewhere this offseason as he focused on improving his passing ability.

“I didn’t care. I’m just worried about the Ravens. I don’t really care about other teams,” said Jackson, who’s thrown seven touchdowns with no interceptions and a 113.9 passer rating so far. “I don’t, so I really didn’t care at all. And they’re supposed to hype themselves up. We’re going to hype ourselves up. We’re just not going to do it out of the ordinary.”

The Ravens have plenty of motivation coming off the 33-28 loss to the Chiefs with an opportunity to now put a stranglehold on the AFC North by Columbus Day with three straight division games. But the Browns are desperate, knowing a loss would put them two games behind the Ravens with their schedule not letting up at all after that.

Even if overhyped, the Cleveland offense is seemingly too talented to continue to be this bad, an uncomfortable thought with the Baltimore pass defense experiencing too many coverage breakdowns and ranking just 27th in the NFL through three weeks. The Ravens would be wise to jump in front early rather than leaving Mayfield and the Browns in the game after they nearly overcame a double-digit deficit at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 17 last year.

Ten of the last 15 meetings between these teams have been decided by one score, even with the Ravens winning 12 of those games and the Browns being dreadful over most of that stretch.

“Cleveland always plays us pretty hard,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “They always give us everything they’ve got, given the history. We’re just ready for a battle on Sunday.”

The Ravens may have fallen short in proving they belong at the AFC’s elite level with Kansas City and New England, but these next three games can put them in the driver’s seat in the division. If they eye bigger goals in 2019, seizing control of the floundering AFC North is the first step.

The Browns lack the established leadership to survive falling into such an early hole and are already barking back at early criticism. The Steelers aren’t throwing in the towel yet after recently trading for defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and tight end Nick Vannett, but it’s a lot to ask of second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph to keep them in the race after such a dismal start. And while the Bengals have tormented Baltimore in recent years, they’ve been spinning their wheels since 2015.

This could already be the Ravens’ division to lose — ESPN Analytics estimates their AFC North title odds at already more than 80 percent — but that early lead disappears if they don’t take care of business against the Browns. The next three weeks could set the tone for whether Baltimore will run away with the division — and set its sights higher — or be in the midst of another grind for the AFC North title.

“Every game is big, but these games, I feel like they count for two games,” Harbaugh said. “It’s an opportunity to win one and have your opponent not win one. And that’s big. The Browns are excellent. They have tremendous talent. They play very hard. You’ve seen this defense fly around. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, dealing with these guys. They’ll be fired up.

“We just have to go play good football and play our best football and be the Ravens.”

Below is Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Otaro Alaka (hamstring), TE Mark Andrews (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Marlon Humphrey (hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Earl Thomas (non-injury)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Morgan Burnett (quad), WR Rashard Higgins (knee), OT Kendall Lamm (knee), DT Devaroe Lawrence (non-injury), S Sheldrick Redwine (hamstring), CB Denzel Ward (hamstring), CB Greedy Williams (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Joel Bitonio (abdomen), OT Chris Hubbard (foot), LB Adarius Taylor (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hip), LS Charlie Hughlett (shoulder), DT Devaroe Lawrence (non-injury), S Damarious Randall (concussion), K Austin Seibert (right hip)

Comments Off on Ravens can begin putting stranglehold on floundering AFC North

Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 8.01.17 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ravens tight end Andrews still bothered by foot issue

Posted on 25 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens began a new practice week with a familiar concern ahead of Sunday’s AFC North meeting with Cleveland.

Tight end Mark Andrews didn’t practice Wednesday as he deals with a lingering foot issue that first landed him on the injury report in Week 2. The ailment didn’t hinder him much against Arizona as he caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, but he registered just three receptions for 15 yards on seven targets in Sunday’s 33-28 loss at Kansas City.

There was some doubt about his availability against the Chiefs after he was limited in practices last week, but Andrews still managed to play a season-high 43 offensive snaps — even if not appearing to be close to full strength. The 2018 third-round pick from Oklahoma didn’t appear on special teams after contributing in that phase in the first two games of the season.

“The training staff did a great job of getting me ready for this game,” Andrews said after Sunday’s loss. “My foot’s getting better and better. I’ll be alright.”

Unlike last week when he sat out one practice, Andrews was conspicuously absent from the Ravens locker room during Wednesday’s media availability time. Should Andrews not be able to play in Week 4, the Ravens would lean more heavily on fellow tight ends Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst, who combined for six passes for 72 yards against the Chiefs.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith remains sidelined with a right knee injury and walked through the locker room wearing a brace, a clear sign that he’ll miss his third straight game Sunday. Safety Brynden Trawick was also absent from Wednesday’s workout with an elbow injury sustained in Week 2.

After missing some action in the second quarter of the Kansas City game, top cornerback Marlon Humphrey was a limited participant in Wednesday’s session with a hip issue.

Trailing the Ravens by a game in the division, the Browns are dealing with significant health concerns after all four starting members of their secondary missed their Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Three of those four starters — cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams and safety Morgan Burnett — remained sidelined during Wednesday’s practice.

“It’s kind of a day-to-day thing with several of these guys,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said in a conference call. “We got Damarious Randall back today. He cleared protocol, so he’s back. As the other guys go, it’s just kind of day-to-day. We’ll just wait and see at the end of the week.”

It was a credit to the Cleveland defense for holding the explosive Rams to just 20 points despite those absences in the secondary for Week 3, but a big reason why is a defensive line that includes 2018 Pro Bowl defensive ends Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon as well as 2014 Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. In three games, Garrett has collected six sacks while defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi has two quarterback takedowns.

Head coach John Harbaugh said he’s pleased with how his offensive line has performed so far this season, but Sunday presents the kind of test the Ravens didn’t see in their first three games.

“You look at that and you say, ‘Well, we’ve got a big challenge in front of us now with the Browns,’” Harbaugh said. “This will be the best defensive front we’ve played yet I’d say by a long way. This is one of the best defensive lines in football, so let’s just focus on Sunday.”

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Mark Andrews (foot), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Earl Thomas (non-injury), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Otaro Alaka (hamstring), CB Marlon Humphrey (hip)

CLEVELAND
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Morgan Burnett (quad), OT Chris Hubbard (foot), OT Kendall Lamm (knee), DT Devaroe Lawrence (non-injury), S Sheldrick Redwine (hamstring), CB Denzel Ward (hamstring), CB Greedy Williams (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Joel Bitonio (abdomen), WR Rashard Higgins (knee), LB Adarius Taylor (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hip), LS Charlie Hughlett (shoulder), S Damarious Randall (concussion), K Austin Seibert (right hip)

Comments Off on Ravens tight end Andrews still bothered by foot issue

edreed

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ed Reed’s Hall of Fame moment for a grieving son

Posted on 04 August 2019 by Luke Jones

What’s left to say about the great Ed Reed that hasn’t already been shared in recent days by so many talented writers and those who know the Ravens legend best?

The nine-time Pro Bowl safety and 2004 Defensive Player of the Year officially took his place in Canton Saturday and goes down as at least the most exciting player in Ravens history. As John Harbaugh said recently, if you were to break the Pro Football Hall of Fame itself into tiers, Reed would be among the very best of the best to ever play the game and quite possibly the greatest free safety we’ve ever seen.

My experiences covering Reed’s final years with the Ravens are special to me, but they’re pretty ordinary as media interactions go.

I remember a sweltering afternoon practice in Westminster in 2010 in which Reed wasn’t taking part. As I watched with another reporter or two, Reed strolled to the sideline and put an arm around me asking how I was doing, chatting with us for a couple minutes. I’m sure he confused me with someone else since my interactions with him to that point in my very young media career consisted of no more than an ordinary question or two in a press conference, but a know-nothing reporter living his dream wasn’t about to correct Ed Reed! As I would witness covering one of his football camps or simply watch him interact with so many fans over the years, perhaps he was just being friendly to an unfamiliar face.

One of my favorite memories covering Super Bowl XVLII came in the bowels of the Superdome long after the game had ended and Reed had lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time. Only a few reporters remained in the locker room with the 11th-year safety being one of the last players who hadn’t yet left for the team party, but he granted a final interview as he put on a three-piece suit — now complete with a Super Bowl champions cap. The questions and answers were inconsequential, but I’ll never forget that combination of joy and exhaustion over his face as a brilliant career that needed no validation had still received its satisfying exclamation point. It was a privilege to witness such a moment.

I’ll always appreciate those experiences, but what I remember most about Reed took place long before I was fortunate enough to work in the media or had ever met him. It’s the kind of personal story to which others can likely relate and reminds us why sports are both inconsequential and so precious, even when we’re simply watching our favorite athletes and favorite teams from afar.

My father passed away suddenly on Nov. 1, 2004, just a day after we’d watched a Ravens game — a frustrating loss in Philadelphia — as we had every autumn weekend since 1996. To offer an idea of how much Baltimore sports meant to him, he was dressed in his Ravens jersey for the viewing and memorial service. To know what kind of father he was, he passed on working the 1983 World Series as an usher at Memorial Stadium to instead watch at home with his son born earlier that month, a decision he repeatedly said he never regretted despite plenty of prodding over the years. He was my hero, my best friend, and the man I strive to be like to this day.

One of Dad’s closest friends invited me to attend that Sunday’s game against Cleveland. I graciously accepted the invitation while privately considering how difficult it might be since I could count on one hand the number of Orioles and Ravens games I’d attended without my dad in our 21 years together.

It turned out to be a typical Kyle Boller era game with the Ravens holding a narrow lead and Jeff Garcia and the Browns driving for the potential game-tying touchdown in the final minute. Many Ravens fans could probably tell you what happened next as Reed picked off a deflected pass from his shoe tops in the end zone and sprinted an NFL-record 106 yards for a touchdown to put away the victory, a play still remembered as one of the very best of his career.

In the moments following the initial joy and excitement from such an unbelievable play, my dad’s friend put his arm around me and I received a few text messages from close friends with the same refrain:

That one was for your dad.

The play itself wasn’t divine intervention as such a label would probably be an insult to Reed’s special talents and to God, who would have no reason to be picking on the already-hapless Browns. But I do believe it was a message from my dad, telling me he’d always be with me and I’d continue enjoying the things we always loved together — like watching Baltimore sports. I cried plenty that week, but not like I did from the time the emotions of that message hit me until we were halfway home, which had to be quite a scene for the many nearby fans exiting the stadium in celebration.

Watching that extraordinary play at that moment in my life is why I’ll always view Reed differently than any athlete I’ve ever appreciated watching. It’s an example of why sports hold such a special place in so many of our lives as an escape from financial troubles, sickness, relationship problems, and, yes, even the death of a loved one. Reed mentioning his late brother in his induction speech Saturday and how he played through that grief in the 2010 postseason reinforces that none of us are immune to such heartache — even one of the greatest players of all time — but that sports can provide that temporary reprieve from reality.

Reflecting on Reed this weekend, I couldn’t help but think of how many people he — and so many other special athletes — have knowingly or unknowingly touched with charitable endeavors, community involvement, autograph signings, or by merely providing a special memory on the field to someone struggling in his or her life. This November will mark 15 years since my father’s passing, but I’ll always view that play in that game as a meaningful part of my grieving process.

Congratulations, Ed, and thank you for that joy you brought — and the reflection it prompted — at the end of the toughest week of my life.

Comments Off on Ed Reed’s Hall of Fame moment for a grieving son

mccoy

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Waiting continues after “game wrecker” McCoy concludes visit with Ravens

Posted on 29 May 2019 by Luke Jones

After a “great” two-day visit with free-agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the Ravens will now wait and see if one of the NFL’s best interior pass rushers of the last decade will join their revamped defense.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection left the team’s Owings Mills training facility without signing a contract Wednesday, but the Ravens remain in the running for his services along with Cleveland and Carolina. McCoy will reportedly next visit the Panthers after spending extensive time with both the Browns and Ravens over the last week.

The 31-year-old was released by Tampa Bay earlier this month after registering six or more sacks in each of the last six seasons. The Ravens are deep at nose tackle with Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, but they lack interior pass rushers with the offseason departures of Za’Darius Smith and Brent Urban, making McCoy an intriguing option to lead the likes of Willie Henry, Pernell McPhee, and 5-technique defensive ends Chris Wormley, and Zach Sieler.

Regarded as a high-character individual around the league, McCoy would also join free safety Earl Thomas to help fill the veteran leadership void left with the exits of Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, and Eric Weddle. His ability to disrupt the pocket is the primary drawing factor, of course.

“I think everybody out there has seen what he can do,” owner Steve Bisciotti said in a Wednesday conference call with season-ticket holders. “I think he’s a bit of a game wrecker. … He brings something to the table that we don’t have.”

The third overall pick of the 2010 draft out of Oklahoma, McCoy has collected 53 1/2 sacks in his nine seasons, but the Buccaneers weren’t willing to pay their longtime defensive star $13 million this fall, making him a free agent for the first time in his decorated career. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound McCoy graded as the 28th-best interior defender among qualified NFL players and received the lowest pass-rushing grade of his career last season despite still registering six sacks and 21 quarterback hits.

The Ravens currently have $13.484 million in salary cap space, which could make it challenging to strike a deal if McCoy desires a one-year contract with a high base salary in hopes of reestablishing his value and hitting the open market next March. Baltimore still needs cap room to sign its remaining draft picks, pay practice-squad players during the regular season, and maintain enough financial flexibility to sign additional players in the event of injuries, meaning general manager Eric DeCosta would likely need to create some more room at some point if McCoy agrees to terms.

The Browns have over $32 million in cap space while the Panthers sport just over $8.5 million, according to the NFL Players Association. McCoy has reportedly received one-year offers as high as $11 million.

An appealing factor working in the Ravens’ favor is the way defensive coordinator Wink Martindale likes to rotate his defensive linemen, which could keep McCoy fresh and more productive over a full season. His 732 defensive snaps last season ranked 31st among NFL defensive linemen and were 210 more than any Baltimore defensive linemen played, reflecting how heavily the Buccaneers defense leaned on the veteran. McCoy also has a relationship with Ravens defensive line coach Joe Cullen after the two worked together in Tampa Bay in 2014 and 2015.

Expecting McCoy to regain his peak form might be unrealistic, but he’d give the Ravens their highest-profile all-around defensive tackle since Haloti Ngata, who coincidentally had his retirement press conference Wednesday. McCoy attended part of the session before leaving the team facility, but Ngata had the opportunity to make his own pitch to the free agent.

“He’d be an amazing, amazing, amazing player to have here,” said Ngata, who made five Pro Bowls and was a member of the Super Bowl XLVII championship team. “As you guys know, he’s done a lot of amazing things in Tampa. We talked, and I just wished him the best in wherever he decides to go.

“If it’s here, that’s even better.”

Comments Off on Waiting continues after “game wrecker” McCoy concludes visit with Ravens