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Ravens find surprising trade partner for defensive end Chris Wormley

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Luke Jones

As if the world weren’t strange enough these days, the Ravens have made a trade with their biggest rival.

Defensive end Chris Wormley has been traded along with a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a fifth-round selection in next year’s draft. It marks only the second time these AFC North rivals have executed a trade and the first since Baltimore acquired offensive lineman Bernard Dafney for a seventh-round pick in 1997.

The deal is pending a physical.

Despite making seven starts and playing 448 snaps last season, Wormley, 26, was likely to see a diminished role with general manager Eric DeCosta acquiring standout defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers this week. The 2017 third-round pick from Michigan was entering the final year of his rookie contract and scheduled to make $2.133 million in base salary, an amount that will now be credited to Baltimore’s salary cap.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Wormley recorded 33 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, and two pass breakups last season and collected 54 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, and seven pass breakups in 39 games over his first three seasons.

The Ravens have done extensive work improving their defensive line over the opening week of free agency, but the new starting trio of Campbell, Brockers, and nose tackle Brandon Williams as well as reserve Justin Ellis are all 29 or older. Baltimore also has fullback and defensive line hybrid Patrick Ricard and 2019 fifth-round pick Daylon Mack in the mix, but adding another defensive lineman or two for both depth and long-term development purposes figures to be an objective in next month’s draft.

Wormley wasted no time playfully showing his new allegiance after Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon responded to Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward’s Twitter welcome.

With Wormley’s departure, just three players remain from the Ravens’ 2017 draft class: Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey, reserve outside linebacker Tyus Bowser, and starting safety Chuck Clark.

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New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, right, tries to make a pass while taking a hit from Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce (97) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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How did Ravens defensive linemen stack up to rest of NFL in 2019?

Posted on 19 February 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens recorded the best regular season in franchise history, but where did their individual players stack up across the NFL in 2019?

Whether it’s discussing the Pro Bowl — Baltimore had a record-tying 13 selections — or determining postseason awards, media and fans spend much time debating where players rank at each position, but few watch every player on every team closely enough to form any real authoritative opinion.

Truthfully, how many times did you watch the Tampa Bay offensive line this season? What about the Atlanta Falcons linebackers or the Detroit Lions cornerbacks?

That’s why I respect the efforts of Pro Football Focus while acknowledging their grading is far from the gospel of evaluation. I don’t envy the exhaustive effort to evaluate players across the league when most of us watch one team or maybe one division on any kind of a regular basis.

We’ll look at each positional group on the roster in the coming days, but below is a look at where Ravens defensive linemen ranked across the NFL this past season followed by the positional outlook going into 2020:

Safeties
Running backs
Cornerbacks
Wide receivers

Brandon Williams
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 572
PFF ranking: 66th among interior defenders
Skinny: I’ve mostly agreed with PFF’s past grading of Williams — viewing him as solid but unspectacular since signing his 2017 extension — but he played his best football in a few years in 2019, especially after his Week 4 absence and reported spat with Earl Thomas. His $9.25 million salary and $14.17 million cap number for 2020 are steep for someone who doesn’t pressure passers, but he anchors Baltimore’s front.

Michael Pierce
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 521
PFF ranking: 45th among interior defenders
Skinny: While his spring weight problems were largely forgotten by the start of the season, Pierce didn’t have the contract year he envisioned, finishing 2019 with the lowest PFF grade of his career and not being as impactful. There still figures to be a good market for his services, but the Ravens are already paying premium money for a defensive tackle that doesn’t get after the quarterback.

Chris Wormley
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 484
PFF ranking: 62nd among interior defenders
Skinny: The 5-technique defensive end saw the biggest workload of his three-year career and was solid playing the run, but he registered just 1 1/2 sacks, six quarterback hits, and the lowest PFF pass-rushing grade among all Ravens defensive linemen. The 2017 third-round pick is a reliable member of the rotation, but he’ll need a big contract year to make an extension any kind of a priority for Baltimore.

Domata Peko
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 158
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Signed in mid-November, the 14th-year defensive tackle served as a capable run stopper in place of an injured Pierce and settled into a rotational role down the stretch. Peko left the door open to playing another season after last month’s playoff loss, but the 35-year-old should serve as more of a backup plan than a priority re-signing at this stage of his career.

Justin Ellis
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 71
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: Signed along with Peko, the 350-pound defensive tackle played sparingly in four regular-season games and the playoff loss. Ellis, 29, is another run-stopping option who graded well in limited opportunities, but he doesn’t offer much versatility and isn’t a pass-rushing threat.

Daylon Mack
2019 defensive snap count (including postseason): 9
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The fifth-round rookie from Texas A&M saw his only action of the season in Week 4 before eventually being placed on injured reserve in November. With so many free agents along the defensive line, the Ravens need Mack to step into a rotational role at the very least.

2020 positional outlook

Other than Williams and Wormley, the cupboard is bare in terms of proven rotation options under contract, making this position group a greater priority than some are acknowledging. Finding a more balanced defensive lineman via the draft or free agency would be a major boon since the Ravens haven’t had a viable pass-rushing defensive tackle across multiple seasons since Timmy Jernigan, instead relying on versatile edge players like Za’Darius Smith and Pernell McPhee to move inside in passing situations. It will be interesting to see whether the Ravens rely on the draft, take another stab at signing a veteran like Gerald McCoy, or dip their toes into more lucrative free-agent waters to sign someone like Pittsbugh’s Javon Hargrave, who registered 10 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons and graded as PFF’s eighth-best interior defender last season. Regardless of the avenue, the Ravens really need to address an interior defensive line that could lose Pierce and finished with a bottom five pass-rushing grade in 2019, according to PFF.

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New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, right, tries to make a pass while taking a hit from Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce (97) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Want or need? Assessing Ravens position groups entering offseason

Posted on 21 January 2020 by Luke Jones

Need is a relative term when assessing the Ravens roster after a franchise-best 14-2 regular season that set all kinds of franchise and NFL records.

The sting of their divisional-round loss to Tennessee will linger for a long time, but perspective is critical when sizing up a roster that included the best offense in the league and one of the top defenses by season’s end. That’s not to say improvements aren’t in order and change isn’t inevitable with 17 Baltimore players set to become unrestricted free agents, but the Ravens would easily remain a playoff-caliber team on paper after even a ho-hum offseason of free-agent departures and only pedestrian additions. Having an MVP quarterback, an innovative offense with no unrestricted free agents of real consequence, and a great secondary will go a long way in covering up any deficiencies elsewhere.

Yes, the early playoff exit was a bitter disappointment and a missed opportunity as the AFC’s No. 1 seed, but this isn’t a roster in need of major surgery as much as some fine-tuning after having a bad game at the wrong time. It’s an enviable place when you have close to $30 million in salary cap space and a fresh batch of draft picks in April. But as John Harbaugh often likes to recite the quote attributed to former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, “Every day you either get better or you get worse; you never stay the same.”

Below is a look at what positions the Ravens absolutely need to address or simply would like to upgrade between now and the start of the 2020 season:

Edge defender/outside linebacker — NEED

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale made it work after the departures of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, but this position group remains a major concern with 2019 Pro Bowl selection Matthew Judon and depth pieces Pernell McPhee and Jihad Ward set to become free agents. Tyus Bowser took a step forward with five sacks in his third season and 2019 third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson showed growth as the year progressed, but viewing either as a definite 2020 starter would be too optimistic based on the body of work. Even if Baltimore gives Judon a blank check or the franchise tag to keep him, finding an additional impact outside linebacker is a clear objective. The Ravens blitzed more than any team in the NFL to create pressure in 2019, but more impactful four-man rushes would make this defense even more dangerous. Setting the edge against the run was also an inconsistency that was often masked by Baltimore holding so many big leads that forced opponents to abandon the ground game.

Wide receiver — WANT

I have been a broken record about Baltimore’s deficiency at wide receiver for years and noted during the Tennessee loss that another impact option would be really useful, but classifying wide receiver as a want goes back to keeping the proper perspective. You wouldn’t expect offensive coordinator Greg Roman to move away from featuring the tight ends with the success Lamar Jackson has passing to that trio between the numbers, and rookie first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown showed unique ability despite being hampered by foot and ankle issues. When you add the presence of veteran Willie Snead and the potential of 2019 third-round pick Miles Boykin, the requisite floor and upside are there — even if barely — to think the Ravens can win a Super Bowl. Still, adding a dynamic wide receiver to make plays when Baltimore trails and to have a presence outside the numbers would take Jackson and the NFL’s leading scoring offense to another level, a frightening thought for opponents.

Interior offensive line — WANT*

The asterisk is connected to eight-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda and his decision whether to return for a 14th season. If Yanda comes back, the Ravens remain in good short-term shape on the offensive line as undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari filled in respectably at center for Matt Skura, whose major knee injury makes him a question mark until at least training camp. However, Yanda’s retirement would make this a significant need with 2019 fourth-round guard Ben Powers not exactly making an impact as a rookie and the Ravens losing a Hall of Fame talent in a position group not sporting a ton of experience. You feel more confident about Skura or Mekari at center, Bradley Bozeman at left guard, and Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle because of Yanda’s presence and elite play. Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley may help fill the leadership void, but you just don’t replace a special player like Yanda.

Inside linebacker — NEED

This year marked only the seventh time in 24 seasons in which the Ravens didn’t receive a Pro Bowl invitation at this position, speaking to the impossible standard created by Ray Lewis and the commendable run from C.J. Mosley before his free-agent departure last March. General manager Eric DeCosta deserves credit for the in-season additions of Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort to stabilize the position, but that came after the organization underestimated the problems Patrick Onwuasor, Kenny Young, and Chris Board would have stepping into larger roles. Martindale effectively mixed and matched Bynes, Fort, and Onwuasor while often dropping safety Chuck Clark into the box in sub packages, but finding a complete three-down linebacker would decrease the likelihood of the defense getting caught with a second level that’s either too light against the run or too slow in coverage. Re-signing Bynes would certainly be on the table, but a younger every-down option would be preferable. Baltimore doesn’t need an All-Pro inside linebacker to have a great defense, but substituting so frequently was less than ideal.

Interior defensive line — NEED

Giving a big contract to Michael Pierce wouldn’t appear to be in the plans with Brandon Williams still having two years remaining on his deal and Pierce not making a strong argument for the Ravens to commit to him after weight concerns in the offseason and a solid but unspectacular 2019 campaign. Baltimore’s pursuit of six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy last spring highlighted a desire to find an interior pass rusher, but Chris Wormley and 2019 fifth-round pick Daylon Mack are the only other defensive linemen under contract for the 2020 campaign beyond the soon-to-be 31-year-old Williams. In other words, the Ravens have much work to do here to fortify their depth against the run while trying to find an inside option or two who can also get after the quarterback.

Cornerback — WANT

No one would classify cornerback as a need with 2019 Pro Bowl selections Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey both under contract and slot cornerback Tavon Young expected to be ready for the offseason program after a season-ending neck injury suffered in August. However, you can never have enough depth at this critical spot with Jimmy Smith set to become an unrestricted free agent and Brandon Carr carrying a $6 million price tag for his 2020 option and transitioning to more of a safety role this past season. A modest short-term extension could make sense for Smith, but committing substantial money to someone who will be 32 in July and has played in more than 12 games in a season only twice in nine years doesn’t sound appealing. Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall bring some upside as recent fourth-round selections, but relying on either as the first wave of depth would be risky.

Special teams — WANT

The Ravens signing unrestricted free-agent cornerback Justin Bethel in the first week of free agency last March reinforced their commitment to this phase of the game that goes beyond specialists Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, and Morgan Cox. With that in mind, Anthony Levine, Chris Moore, Brynden Trawick, Jordan Richards, and De’Anthony Thomas will all be unrestricted free agents after playing at least 120 special-teams snaps apiece for Baltimore this season. Whether re-signing a few members of that group or using resources to sign a veteran or two on the open market, the Ravens seem likely to address special teams after being underwhelming in that department — at least by their lofty standards — down the stretch.

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Ravens sign veteran defensive tackles Domata Peko, Justin Ellis

Posted on 12 November 2019 by Luke Jones

With starting defensive tackle Michael Pierce dealing with an ankle injury, the Ravens have signed a pair of veteran linemen tackles to help fortify their depth in the trenches.

On Tuesday, general manager Eric DeCosta added former Cincinnati and Denver defensive tackle Domata Peko and former Oakland defensive tackle Justin Ellis, two veterans with a combined 228 starts in their respective careers. Their arrivals come after Baltimore allowed 157 rushing yards in Sunday’s 49-13 win over Cincinnati and an unimpressive 5.7 yards per carry in the first half.

Described as “day-to-day” by head coach John Harbaugh on Monday, Pierce injured his right ankle on the first defensive play of the game and played only three snaps in Sunday’s victory.

The Ravens are very familiar with the 34-year-old Peko, who spent the first 11 seasons of his NFL career with the Bengals. The 6-foot-3, 325-pound lineman has played in 201 NFL games, collecting 585 tackles, 20 sacks, and 14 passes defensed. Peko had yet to sign with a team this season after his two-year contract with Denver expired in March.

Ellis, 28, is in his sixth season and was released by the Raiders in October after being placed on injured reserve at the end of the preseason. The 6-foot-2, 350-pound defensive tackle started 41 games over his first four seasons, but a foot injury limited him to just six games in 2018. Ellis has recorded 119 tackles, one-half sack, and two passes defensed in 66 career games.

It was apparent the Ravens lacked trust in reserve defensive lineman Zach Sieler on Sunday as he played only 24 defensive snaps while starting defensive tackle Brandon Williams played a season-high 59 in the blowout victory over the Bengals. Defensive end Chris Wormley also played a season-high 47 snaps in Week 10.

In addition to the Peko and Ellis signings, the Ravens activated rookie cornerback Iman Marshall from injured reserve. To make room for these three roster additions, cornerback and punt returner Cyrus Jones and defensive end Ufomba Kamalu were waived and rookie defensive tackle Daylon Mack was placed on IR with knee and hip injuries.

After losing a fumble in the Week 9 win over New England, Jones was benched and replaced in Sunday’s game by newcomer De’Anthony Thomas. It was a quick hook for the Gilman product, who had no other fumbles this season and ranked sixth in the NFL in punt return average. Thomas fumbled twice earlier this season, which contributed to his release from Kansas City last month.

Mack, a fifth-round pick from Texas A&M, had appeared in only one game this season while Kamalu was signed off New England’s practice squad during the bye week and wasn’t active for either of his first two games with the organization.

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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.

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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

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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)

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 08 September 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens begin their 2019 season where they dream it will culminate five months from now.

Miami will host Super Bowl LIV in early February, but the rebuilding Dolphins first stand in the way of a 1-0 start Sunday. The opener is a homecoming for second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson and rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown, who both grew up less than 30 miles away from Hard Rock Stadium. The Ravens hope Sunday will be the start of a special connection between the first-round talents in the years to come, but the two did not play together in any preseason games.

After helping lead the Ravens to a 6-1 finish and their first AFC North championship since 2012 as a rookie, Jackson will become the first quarterback not named Joe Flacco to start an opener for Baltimore since the late Steve McNair in 2007. The 22-year-old is the second-youngest quarterback to make a season-opening start for the Ravens with only Kyle Boller being younger back in 2003.

As expected, Brown is active and will make his NFL debut after spending much of the offseason recovering from Lisfranc surgery on his left foot. Head coach John Harbaugh deemed the Oklahoma product “full-go” physically at the beginning of the week, but Brown was added to the injury report Thursday and missed Friday’s practice, a reminder that the condition of his foot remains a factor.

Despite not playing in the preseason while recovering from a fracture in his right thumb, Robert Griffin III is active and will serve as the backup quarterback a day after his wife gave birth to their daughter. Rookie quarterback Trace McSorley is inactive.

Third-round rookie Jaylon Ferguson headlines the list of remaining inactives for Week 1. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was complimentary of Ferguson’s late-summer improvement earlier this week, but he is fifth in the pecking order at the edge rusher position and has yet to carve out a role on special teams, making his deactivation less surprising.

The Ravens also deactivated rookie defensive tackle Daylon Mack, leaving them lighter in the trenches despite the Miami heat. That will be a real factor to watch over the course of the afternoon with just four true defensive linemen — Brandon Williams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, and part-time fullback Patrick Ricard — active.

With Bradley Bozeman expected to start at left guard after working with the starters throughout the week and in the latter stages of the preseason, rookie guard Ben Powers and second-year offensive tackle Greg Senat were healthy scratches. Baltimore will go into Week 1 with veteran James Hurst and rookie Patrick Mekari as backups who’ve shown more versatility.

Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (hip) and safety Bobby McCain (shoulder) are active despite being limited in practices throughout the week.

Sunday’s referee is Jerome Boger.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Miami calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures around 90 degrees at kickoff with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour and only a slight chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. However, it will feel like it’s over 100 degrees on the field Sunday afternoon, a factor to watch over the course of the game.

The Ravens are wearing purple jerseys and white pants while Miami dons white jerseys and white pants at home for Week 1.

Sunday marks the sixth time in the last seven years that the Ravens and Dolphins have met in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 7-6 lead in the all-time regular-season series. Including the postseason, Harbaugh is 7-1 against Miami.

The Ravens are aiming for their fourth straight season-opening win and are 8-3 in openers under Harbaugh.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
OLB Jaylon Ferguson
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
ILB Otaro Alaka
OT Greg Senat
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack

MIAMI
CB Ken Webster
Rb Myles Gaskin
RB Patrick Laird
G Shaq Calhoun
OL Chris Reed
OT Isaiah Prince
LB Trent Harris

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Ravens defensive tackle Pierce cleared from non-football injury list

Posted on 21 July 2019 by Luke Jones

Two days after being placed on the non-football injury list, Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce has apparently been cleared to begin practicing.

The fourth-year defensive lineman was listed on Sunday’s league transaction sheet as having passed his physical, meaning he has been removed from the NFI list and is eligible to practice this week. The Ravens haven’t commented on Pierce’s status since last month’s mandatory minicamp when head coach John Harbaugh pulled him from the field due to weight and conditioning concerns. It’s unclear exactly where Pierce is physically compared to his 2018 listed playing weight of 340 pounds or whether he has additional work to do from a conditioning standpoint, but the removal of his NFI designation is obviously good news for both him and the Baltimore defense.

Scheduled to make $3.095 million this season after receiving a second-round tender as a restricted free agent, Pierce is entering a contract year and has become one of the NFL’s best run-stopping nose tackles over his first three seasons. He finished with 32 tackles, a fumble recovery, four tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, and a pass defensed in 14 regular-season games last year and graded as Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best interior defender in the league.

“Don’t forget what a great football player he is, and he’ll get back there [physically],” said defensive coordinator Wink Martindale the day after Pierce was pulled from minicamp in mid-June. “I can’t tell you when, but he’ll get back there. He’ll get back to that.”

Pierce wasn’t the only Raven to be cleared Sunday as rookie third-round outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and rookie fifth-round defensive tackle Daylon Mack were also removed from the NFI list. Both players presumably failed the conditioning test upon reporting to Owings Mills last week, but each can now begin practicing.

With Pierce, Ferguson, and Mack all passing their physicals, rookie first-round wide receiver Marquise Brown is the only Baltimore player currently on the NFI list while guards Alex Lewis (shoulder surgery) and Patrick Mekari remain on the physically unable to perform list. Those three are eligible to begin practicing at any point upon being cleared by the team.

Remaining veteran players will report to the team facility Wednesday with the first full-squad workout of training camp taking place Thursday morning.

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Ravens put Pierce on non-football injury list, Lewis on PUP list

Posted on 20 July 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens won’t conduct their first full-squad training camp practice until Thursday, but questions remain whether standout defensive tackle Michael Pierce will be ready to take the field.

Pierce was placed on the non-football injury list Friday as injured veterans and quarterbacks were required to report to the team facility in Owings Mills. The organization hasn’t commented on his status, but it’s assumed the designation is tied to the weight and conditioning concerns that prompted head coach John Harbaugh to pull Pierce from the field on the first day of mandatory minicamp in June. A restricted free agent who received a $3.095 million second-round tender in March, Pierce is entering a contract year and chose to skip the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program in the spring.

The former undrafted free agent from Samford looked noticeably heavier than the 340 pounds at which he was listed during the 2018 season. Harbaugh didn’t shy away from that perception five weeks ago when telling reporters they “can probably tell” he wasn’t in shape.

“He’s not ready to practice just from a safety standpoint — for his own health and safety,” Harbaugh said on June 11. “We recognized that, and we pulled him off for that reason. … It’s a problem, absolutely. We want guys practicing. We want them ready to practice, physically able to practice. That’s very important.”

It’s unclear whether Pierce was even permitted to take the Ravens’ rigorous conditioning test, which he’ll need to pass to be cleared to take the field in training camp.

Baltimore also placed veteran left guard Alex Lewis on the active physically unable to perform list as he continues recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Scheduled to make $2.025 million in base salary, Lewis is not only competing for a starting job, but his roster spot is in jeopardy as he enters the final year of his rookie contract and faces plenty of young competition. Injuries have limited the 2016 fourth-round pick to just 20 games in his first three seasons.

Lewis rehabbed his shoulder away from the team facility, a curious decision for a player whose roster status is far from secure. Harbaugh had little clarity on the offensive lineman’s status during last month’s minicamp in which Lewis didn’t participate.

“I think he’s progressing well. We hadn’t seen him until two days ago, so I really can’t answer that,” Harbaugh said. “I think it would be a good question for Alex. He’s been in charge of his own rehab.”

Both Pierce and Lewis are eligible to begin practicing at any point and still count against the 90-man preseason roster. Pierce joins wide receiver Marquise Brown (foot), outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, and defensive tackle Daylon Mack on the NFI list while Lewis joins guard Patrick Mekari (back) on the PUP list.

Rookie wide receiver Jaylen Smith was removed from the NFI list Friday, an indication that he passed his conditioning test.

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