Tag Archive | "dolphins"

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Sunday off proves fruitful for Ravens’ playoff hopes

Posted on 12 November 2018 by Luke Jones

The status of injured quarterback Joe Flacco may have dominated the weekend conversation, but a Sunday off still proved fruitful for the Ravens and their playoff hopes as they return to work this week.

Losses by Cincinnati and Miami left Baltimore only one game out of the final AFC wild-card spot, an encouraging development as John Harbaugh’s team tries to rebound from its current three-game losing streak after a week of rest. The Bengals were particularly miserable in their 51-14 home defeat to New Orleans and will travel to M&T Bank Stadium in Week 11 after allowing an NFL-record 2,117 yards over their last four games — three of them losses. The Ravens learned firsthand a few weeks ago how impressive the Saints are, but Cincinnati playing so poorly coming off its bye should serve as a morale boost for other AFC teams vying for the No. 6 spot the Bengals are currently occupying.

After falling at Green Bay, the Dolphins enter their bye week having lost five of their last seven to erase the good vibes of a 3-0 start. And despite advancing to last year’s AFC Championship and still being considered dangerous on paper, Jacksonville may have seen its fate all but sealed Sunday after sustaining a fifth consecutive loss in a 29-26 final at Indianapolis to fall to 3-6.

The news wasn’t all positive, however, as Tennessee pulled off a surprising 34-10 blowout win over New England to move a full game ahead of Baltimore. Of course, the Ravens own a head-to-head tiebreaker with the 5-4 Titans, who will now play back-to-back road games against the Colts and AFC South-leading Houston.

Their 29-26 win over the Jaguars gave the Colts a third straight victory and officially made them a team of interest in the wild-card race. Indianapolis plays its next two games at home against the Titans and Dolphins, but the Ravens have the superior conference record at the moment to keep them ahead in the wild-card standings.

Of course, none of this means much if the Ravens don’t win their next two home games against the defense-challenged Bengals and hapless Oakland to get themselves back above .500 ahead of a daunting December featuring road games at Atlanta, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Chargers. A loss in either of these next two games will shift all focus to the organization’s future and anticipated changes.

Below is a look at the AFC wild-card standings at the end of Week 10:

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following fourth preseason win over Miami

Posted on 26 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens continuing their undefeated streak in a 27-10 win over Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A Ravens defense playing without Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Eric Weddle, Brandon Carr, and Willie Henry held the Dolphins starters to a total of two yards in the first quarter. You can debate where the high-end talent ranks compared to other teams, but this defense is extremely deep.

2. Lamar Jackson had his best preseason performance, running for a touchdown and throwing for another. I was most impressed by his 33-yard completion to Tim White, a play in which he scrambled left and easily could have taken off. Seeing him keep his eyes down the field was a positive.

3. Between Jackson’s improved play and a new list of health concerns entering the season, Robert Griffin III can’t be liking his roster chances as much as he did a week ago. Whether it’s with the Ravens or elsewhere, the former first-round pick has proven he belongs on an NFL roster.

4. Tony Jefferson made his preseason debut, seeing 19 defensive snaps and making four tackles. After an underwhelming first season in Baltimore, Jefferson had to be itching to get out there as Chuck Clark played solid football and the now-injured rookie DeShon Elliott showed promise for the future.

5. Sixth-round pick Bradley Bozeman starting at right guard suggests he may have surpassed Jermaine Eluemunor for a roster spot, but it was more interesting seeing him flip positions with starting center Matt Skura later in the first half. Center remains a real concern after the free-agent departure of Ryan Jensen.

6. Stanley Jean-Baptiste is doing everything he can for a roster spot in the aftermath of Jimmy Smith’s suspension as he intercepted a pass in a second straight game. He and rookie Anthony Averett have played very well, which you don’t expect from corners so low on the depth chart.

7. With Hayden Hurst out to start the season, fellow rookie Mark Andrews now has a better chance to contribute immediately. His initial response to that opportunity was a drop on a Griffin pass thrown slightly behind him and a false start on a first-and-goal from the Miami 1. Not good.

8. The weak-side inside linebacker competition is trending upward after good performances from both Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor. My guess is we’ll continue to see a rotation early in the season, but Young will be tough to keep off the field as he gains more experience.

9. Greg Senat started at left tackle and had a chance to solidify a roster spot with a decent showing, albeit against Pro Bowl defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn. Instead, the rookie struggled early and left with a foot injury, leaving his status in question. Stay healthy, Ronnie Stanley.

10. De’Lance Turner showed breakaway speed on his 65-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the seal delivered by Nico Siragusa and perfect trap block from Randin Crecelius were refreshing to see after uninspiring play from the reserve interior line for most of the preseason.

11. It was good seeing Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant, and White show a pulse in the receiver and returner competitions after the Indianapolis debacle. I’m not convinced Grant or White is on the verge of “winning” the return job, but I still believe the Ravens like Lasley’s potential despite his struggles.

12. I agreed with the decision to rest key starters, but Joe Flacco has played 10.4 percent of the time a Ravens quarterback has lined up this preseason. Terrell Suggs has taken 23 snaps in four games. There has to be a better way without gouging fans for a bad product.

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Ravens-Dolphins preseason primer: Five players to watch

Posted on 24 August 2018 by Luke Jones

Saturday brings what is traditionally viewed as the final tuneup before the start of the regular season, but it may not turn out that way for at least a few key members of the Ravens.

With as many as three possible starters on the offensive line potentially sitting out against Miami, two rookies — Greg Senat and Orlando Brown Jr. — could be manning the first-team offensive tackle spots against Dolphins defensive ends Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, who combined for 19 sacks last season and have an impressive total of 154 1/2 in their careers. Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and versatile offensive lineman James Hurst — who has served as the backup left tackle in past seasons — are not expected to play, begging the question whether starting quarterback Joe Flacco should even suit up if the inexperienced Senat is protecting the blindside.

Flacco has played only 31 snaps in the preseason, but he’s performed well in two games, completing 12 of 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 141.4. By all accounts, the 33-year-old is healthy and has had an excellent spring and summer, making you wonder if exposing him to a patchwork offensive line is worth the risk so close to the Sept. 9 opener against Buffalo.

“We’ll see. It’s just going to really depend on how much Joe needs,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m confident in the guys we’ll put out there that they can protect Joe, and I’m confident that we can run schemes that will protect him. They have two really good pass-rushing ends obviously, and we have to make sure that we keep those guys under control, no matter who’s the quarterback.”

After such a seamless start to the summer, the Ravens officially learned this week they will be without top cornerback Jimmy Smith and first-round rookie tight end Hayden Hurst to begin the season, significant blows to both sides of the ball. Saturday will offer defensive coordinator Wink Martindale his best opportunity to see what the secondary will look like for the season opener as veteran Brandon Carr and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey will handle the starting outside spots while Smith serves his four-game ban for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Hurst’s absence certainly hurts a tight end group that combined to make only 43 receptions in the NFL last season.

Of course, those absences to begin the season will impact roster decisions as general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must formulate the initial 53-man squad next Saturday.

The Ravens have the additional challenge of a quick turnaround coming off a Monday night win in Indianapolis.

“I told the guys this is great preparation for the season because we’re going to have an oddball start to the season,” said Harbaugh, referencing the Week 2 trip to Cincinnati just four days after the opener. “We’re going to play Sunday-Thursday right out of the gate. Wow, what a great opportunity to prepare for that. We got just what we needed is the way we’re looking at it.”

Saturday marks the second time the Ravens and the Dolphins will face off in the preseason with Baltimore winning the only other exhibition encounter last year. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series by a 7-6 margin and has won both postseason meetings, but this year will mark the first time since 2012 these teams won’t meet in the regular season.

The Ravens own a 31-12 record in preseason games under Harbaugh and have won 11 straight exhibition contests.

Unofficial (and largely speculative) injury report

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

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

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

OUT: TE Hayden Hurst (foot), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), LB Bam Bradley (knee), CB Jaylen Hill (knee), WR Quincy Adeboyejo (quadriceps)
DOUBTFUL: CB Maurice Canady (muscle strain), OL James Hurst, LB Alvin Jones
QUESTIONABLE: RB Kenneth Dixon (hamstring), TE Mark Andrews (hamstring), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder/ankle), S Bennett Jackson

Five players to watch Saturday night

WR Jaleel Scott

Past disappointing fourth-round picks such as Ron Johnson, P.J. Daniels, and Christian Thompson were never in real danger of being cut as rookies, but Scott saw only three offensive snaps against Indianapolis and dropped a pass in that limited playing time, making you wonder if he’s really even on the bubble at this point. He’ll need a strong finish to the preseason to avoid a dubious distinction, but the Ravens could still attempt to stash him on injured reserve or at least get him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Previously a long shot to make the team with six cornerbacks ahead of him in the pecking order, Jean-Baptiste now finds himself on the bubble with Smith going to the reserve-suspended list to start the season and Maurice Canady currently banged up. The 2014 second-round pick is with his sixth different organization as he’s been talented enough for teams to sign and too inconsistent to stick anywhere for long. His solid performance against the Colts included an interception and looks more important now.

OT Greg Senat

A former basketball player at Wagner, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Senat is a raw prospect who could dramatically enhance his chances of making the 53-man roster with a good performance against the Dolphins. Both James Hurst and Alex Lewis have struggled in past stints as the reserve left tackle, so Senat holding his own with the first team would be an encouraging sign for the present and future.

DE Zach Sieler

The seventh-round pick from Ferris State received ample playing time beginning in the first half of the Colts game, a good indication of where he stands in his attempt to win a roster spot. Veterans Brent Urban and Carl Davis are not under contract beyond this season while Chris Wormley is the only other 5-technique defensive end who’s safely on the roster, making it more likely that Sieler makes the team.

TE Darren Waller

I didn’t like Waller’s chances a couple weeks ago as he returned from a one-year drug suspension, but the Hayden Hurst injury and an underwhelming wide receiver competition have created the opportunity for him to potentially take a spot. Formerly a wide receiver, Waller has a 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame that could be utilized in the red zone and as a bigger slot option, but can the organization really trust him?

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Banged-up offensive line could impact Ravens’ plans for Miami game

Posted on 22 August 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Going into what will be most starters’ final preseason tuneup on Saturday night, the Ravens are banged up along the offensive line.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley left Monday’s game in Indianapolis with what was labeled a minor knee sprain, and the versatile James Hurst quietly exited before fellow interior starters Matt Skura and Alex Lewis and was not present for Wednesday’s practice. The potential absence of both Stanley and Hurst — who has served as the backup left tackle in past seasons — could complicate Baltimore’s plans against Miami, and that’s not even considering the status of right guard Marshal Yanda, who is practicing but has yet to play in the preseason after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

Should those three not play against the Dolphins, it’s fair to wonder whether head coach John Harbaugh would alter his plans for quarterback Joe Flacco’s playing time.

“It’s always a part of the decision-making,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “However, it is football. And I’ll tell you what, with a backup man that’s fighting for a starting job, a good strategy is to put him in with the rest of the ‘ones’ and see how he does rather than put him in with the ‘twos’ or ‘threes.’ Sometimes you can’t get quite the evaluation, so there are a couple of those things that may happen as well.”

Rookie sixth-round pick Greg Senat has worked as the second-team left tackle in the preseason while Hurst has practiced at either right guard or right tackle. A former basketball player at Wagner, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Senat is an intriguing prospect, but his lack of experience would be less than ideal protecting Flacco’s blindside this close to the start of the season.

Senat missed the start of training camp and the Hall of Fame Game with a lower leg injury before returning to practice in early August.

“Greg was hurt for a period of time,” Mornhinweg said. “The really good thing is — and we’ve had several players do this that have come in; they don’t have much work under their belt, but they’re getting better every day. He got better from last week to this week. That’s a good thing, and let’s see how far he can go in the next two weeks.”

Hurst’s absence could increase the likelihood of rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. beginning the season as the starting right tackle.

Returner competition

Monday wasn’t a banner game for return specialists Tim White and Janarion Grant, who each lost a fumble against the Colts, but the Ravens aren’t giving up on their potential.

Whether that means either makes the 53-man roster remains to be seen.

“They have the duty to the rest of the team to protect the football, and they know that,” special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “It’s two young players that got in situations where they didn’t realize that they needed to practice the ball-security habits that they both have. They have those skills, and in both those situations, they need to lock the ball down and they didn’t. Hopefully, the lesson has been learned.”

Ideally, one of the two would seize the job and be able to provide a spark in the field-position game, but the Ravens could elect to just go with established veterans better trusted to secure the ball. Wide receiver Chris Moore served as the primary kick returner for much of last season, but not a single player to return a punt last season remains on the roster, leaving less clarity for that role.

Slot receiver Willie Snead has fielded plenty of punts during spring and summer workouts, but he fumbled his only career punt return for New Orleans last season.

“He’s been efficient. He’s in every meeting. He’s locked in,” Rosburg said. “He comes out here and practices well, and we’ll see how it plays out down the road. Again, we still have two preseason games left, so we want to give those other guys an opportunity to show what they can do.”

Mornhinweg concerned with Jackson taking hits

More than a few observers have expressed concerns about the number of hits taken by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson in the preseason, a sentiment shared by Mornhinweg.

Shoddy pass protection from reserve offensive linemen has led to Jackson being sacked six times, but the former Heisman Trophy winner has taken multiple hits in the open field in lieu of trying to protect himself. It’s understandable for a rookie to be eager to make plays — especially playing before a national audience in two of the first three preseason games — but the Ravens clearly want him to stay healthy to continue his development.

“Yeah, that’s not good. You see what I’m saying? It’s just that simple,” Mornhinweg said. “Between the numbers, now, we want to get down underneath the hits unless you think you can score and typically you’re one-on-one. Outside the numbers, we want to get up and get out. And we’d rather get down a step too early than a step too late or get up and out a step too early than a step too late.

“That’s an ongoing process. Some of it is experience because he does have to filter through exactly what he can get away with and what he can’t in this league. It’s a little different situation here, a little different league, a little different speed, a little different quickness — all those things.”

Wednesday attendance

In addition to Stanley and Hurst, running back Kenneth Dixon, tight end Mark Andrews, defensive backs Maurice Canady and Bennett Jackson, and linebacker Alvin Jones did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.

Harbaugh noted after Monday’s game that Dixon was still not 100 percent after dealing with a hamstring injury for a large portion of camp. The third-year running back drew praise in his preseason debut by collecting 56 total yards on his nine touches, his first live-game action since 2016.

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Landry tag reinforces challenge of Ravens finding No. 1 receiver

Posted on 21 February 2018 by Luke Jones

The Ravens signing wide receiver Jarvis Landry was always going to be a long shot before he received the franchise tag from Miami on Tuesday night.

With limited space under the salary cap this offseason, Baltimore hardly would have been the favorite to land the Dolphins slot man had he made it to the open market. But Miami retaining Landry — or at least forcing teams to talk trades for his services in addition to signing him to a lucrative deal — only reinforces the challenge of finding a No. 1 receiver as those types of talents rarely reach free agency.

A list of the top wide receiver contracts in the NFL shows nearly all have remained with their original teams. According to OverTheCap.com, 15 of the top 18 wide receiver deals in terms of average annual value are with the team that either drafted or signed the player out of college with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Emmanuel Sanders being the exceptions to the rule.

Jacksonville is also expected to place the franchise tag on the 24-year-old Allen Robinson, which would take the top two projected free-agent receivers off the market. The absence of Landry and Robinson leaves a group of free agents without any bona fide No. 1 types, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting talents who could help Joe Flacco and the NFL’s 29th-ranked passing attack from last season.

The likes of Marqise Lee, Sammy Watkins, Paul Richardson, and Donte Moncrief may carry questions, but each is capable of contributing and an offense needing No. 1 and No. 2 options can’t afford to be too picky in adding pass-catching talent. The problem may end up being the asking price of these second- and third-tier options with the top two talents off the board and many teams looking for pass-catching help on an annual basis.

Regardless of the status of Landry or Robinson, the Ravens were always going to need a multi-pronged attack to improve at wide receiver with Mike Wallace scheduled to hit free agency and many expecting the disappointing Jeremy Maclin to be a cap casualty. General manager Ozzie Newsome will need to add some experience to the position via free agency or trade and invest a draft pick or two in the early rounds of the 2018 draft to truly move the meter at the position.

This year’s draft class may lack slam-dunk first-round picks beyond Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, but other prospects such as Courtland Sutton of SMU, Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, James Washington of Oklahoma State, and even Maryland’s DJ Moore could be enticing if the Ravens either trade back in the opening round or refrain from selecting a wide receiver until the second day of the draft.

After frequently neglecting the position in recent years, the Ravens need to put their best foot forward instead of simply waiting to make a post-June 1 addition or hoping a late-round pick magically pops.

Anything less will likely leave them in an all-too-familiar position in a pivotal season for the future of the organization.

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Flacco back on practice field for Ravens

Posted on 01 November 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Less than a week after sustaining a concussion in the Week 8 win over Miami, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was back at practice on Wednesday after passing the NFL’s five-step protocol.

Wearing his usual black practice jersey signaling no contact, Flacco took snaps under center and threw passes as a full participant, leaving very little doubt about his availability for Sunday’s game at Tennessee. His appearance came a little over an hour after head coach John Harbaugh would not reveal whether Flacco would be on the field as the Ravens ramped up preparations for Tennessee.

Harbaugh told reporters Monday that the 10th-year quarterback had a “good chance” to play against the Titans and hadn’t been experiencing concussion-related symptoms. On Tuesday, the NFL announced Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso would not be suspended for his penalized hit that caused Flacco’s concussion, but the quarterback said his sole focus is on getting ready to play the Titans.

“I think [doctors and trainers] definitely side on being more cautious more than anything,” said Flacco, who told reporters that he began feeling better shortly after being taken to the locker room last Thursday. “If this was high school, I probably would have sat on the bench and gathered [my thoughts] for a couple minutes, then went back out there and played defense, you know? 

“But it’s just one of these things that you have to trust their judgment.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles), tight end Nick Boyle (toe), defensive tackle Michael Pierce (illness), wide receivers Michael Campanaro (shoulder) and Chris Matthews (thigh), and running back Terrance West (calf) did not participate in Wednesday’s session. Boyle’s absence in particular does create concern since the Ravens enjoyed an extended break over the weekend after the Thursday win over the Dolphins.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), starting offensive linemen Ryan Jensen (shoulder) and Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), cornerback Lardarius Webb (concussion), and tight end Vince Mayle (concussion) were all participating on a limited basis while wearing red non-contact vests over their practice jerseys.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace (concussion), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle), and outside linebacker Tim Williams (thigh) all practiced fully after missing last week’s game. Maxx Williams has appeared in just one game since Sept. 17 while Tim Williams has missed each of the last three contests.

Running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring) was also on the field a day after being designated to return to practice from injured reserve. He is not eligible to be activated to play in a game until after next week’s bye.

Meanwhile, the Titans released a much shorter injury report with starting tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) being the most notable absence. Rookie first-round wide receiver Corey Davis (hamstring) was a full participant on Wednesday and is set to return after a five-game absence.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), WR Chris Matthews (thigh), DT Michael Pierce (illness), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: C Ryan Jensen (shoulder), WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder), TE Vince Mayle (concussion), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), DB Lardarius Webb (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: QB Joe Flacco (concussion), WR Mike Wallace (concussion), TE Maxx Williams (ankle), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

TENNESSEE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: G Quinton Spain (toe), TE Delanie Walker (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: S Jonathan Cyprien (hamstring), WR Corey Davis (hamstring)

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Flacco has “good chance” to play against Tennessee on Sunday

Posted on 30 October 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is not experiencing any concussion-related symptoms and has been at the team facility every day, head coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

That would appear to bode well for his availability Sunday against Tennessee after he sustained a concussion on a penalized hit by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso last Thursday. Baltimore will have its bye next week, but there are no plans to deliberately rest Flacco in Week 9 if he’s able to pass the NFL’s five-step concussion protocol in time to play.

“If he’s ready, he’s playing. He’ll play if he’s ready,” said Harbaugh, who added that it wouldn’t matter how much the 32-year-old would be able to practice during the week if he’s cleared by Sunday. “I think there’s a good chance he’ll play.

“As I’ve said before, I’m not a doctor, but I play one in press conferences. It’s my diagnosis.”

It remains unclear when Flacco will return to practice, but he’s expected to attend all football meetings when players reconvene Tuesday to begin preparations for the Titans. Upon reaching the fourth step of the recovery protocol, a concussed player may resume football activities including non-contact work during practices.

This is the first known concussion of Flacco’s career, but players can respond differently to blows to the head with varying timetables for recovery, leaving the Ravens in wait-and-see mode for the time being. The 10th-year quarterback also required stitches for a cut on his ear from his helmet flying off during the hit.

Backup Ryan Mallett relieved the injured Flacco late in the first half of the 40-0 win over the Dolphins, tossing a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson. He would start on Sunday if Flacco does not progress through the protocol as rapidly as the Ravens anticipate.

“We’re very hopeful for this week, and it’ll be in the hands of Joe and the doctors to decide what we can do,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll get him ready to play if he can play. That’s all you really can do.”

Flacco has missed only six games in his career, which all occurred when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2015. However, he was sidelined for the entire 2017 preseason due to a lower back injury suffered in July.

Despite presenting an encouraging report Monday, Harbaugh isn’t taking Flacco’s recovery and health for granted.

“I don’t want to minimize what went down with Joe,” Harbaugh said. “I thought that was a very vicious type of hit. He was definitely defenseless and couldn’t protect himself. Therefore, he got his ear sliced open and he got hit in the head. You never minimize that.

“He is an extremely tough person.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following 40-0 win over Miami

Posted on 29 October 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens earning the third-largest margin of victory in franchise history and their second shutout of the season in a 40-0 win over Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Will the real Ravens stand up? After close games were the theme of the last few seasons, all but two of eight contests have been decided by multiple scores and one of those came on a garbage-time touchdown in Minnesota on the game’s final play. It’s more volatility than mediocrity.

2. The Baltimore defense gave up a 21-yard run to Jay Ajayi on the second play of the game and surrendered 24 more yards on 18 carries the rest of the way. Dean Pees effectively used run blitzes, and players tackled better than they had in weeks. It was about time.

3. I’d be more willing to listen to the argument that Joe Flacco started his slide late if Kiko Alonso had shown any semblance of an effort to divert his path to the quarterback. The hit was reckless at best and malicious at worst.

4. Ryan Jensen earned quite a few fans after coming to the defense of his quarterback by immediately going after Alonso. I’m not big on retaliation in most instances, but an offensive lineman has to stick up for the most important player on the team after a hit like that.

5. You never want your quarterback sustaining a concussion, but you wonder if something like this galvanizes John Harbaugh’s team moving forward. The Ravens haven’t played with nearly the same edge in recent years as they used to, and being ticked off can be a good thing if properly channeled.

6. The secondary showed several looks, but my favorite was Marlon Humphrey entering the game as an outside corner in the nickel with Brandon Carr moving to the slot. The rookie first-rounder played 37 of 66 snaps and needs to remain heavily involved no matter the status of the veteran starters.

7. I had to smile seeing C.J. Mosley protect the ball with both arms as he crossed the goal line on his interception return. He wasn’t going to repeat what happened against Washington last year. You have to appreciate someone learning from a mistake.

8. Not that the offense was lighting it up before Flacco’s exit, but the previous two weeks showed how critical it is for Jeremy Maclin to be on the field for the passing game to even be functional. His 34-yard touchdown reception came on Flacco’s prettiest throw of the season.

9. Breshad Perriman didn’t have a catch despite playing 49 offensive snaps. He has four receptions on 19 targets — one more catch than Danny Woodhead — despite ranking fifth in snaps among all Ravens skill players. His dramatic regression from 2016 when he was at least a contributor is impossible to ignore.

10. Despite dealing with Achilles tendinitis, Jimmy Smith is playing his best football since at least the first half of the 2014 season and entered Sunday as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-highest graded cornerback. Even if you take away his two defensive touchdowns this season, he’s still been terrific.

11. The Dolphins have won 13 of their last 18 regular-season games, but that stretch includes two losses to the Ravens by a combined 78-6 margin. Talk about having a team’s number. Counting the playoffs, Baltimore is now 7-1 against Miami in the Harbaugh era.

12. Compared to other teams’ editions of “Color Rush” uniforms, the all-purple look is relatively easy on the eyes. I’d even be curious to see how the purple pants look with the white and black jerseys.

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Ravens finally unleash best playmaker against Miami

Posted on 27 October 2017 by Luke Jones

From the very first time he carried the ball for 16 yards against Cleveland in Week 2, Alex Collins rapidly began showing he was the best running back on the Ravens roster.

Using quick, choppy steps to cut — thanks in large part to Irish dance — and displaying physicality exceeding his 210-pound frame, Collins has run with urgency and anger from the moment he arrived in Owings Mills less than two months ago. And despite concerns about ball security and his ability to pass block, the Arkansas product was making it increasingly difficult for a struggling Ravens offense to keep him off the field as he averaged no worse than 4.6 yards per carry in any of his first five games.

He was finally unleashed Thursday night to the tune of 113 yards on 18 carries — both career highs — in the 40-0 demolition of the Miami Dolphins, who entered Week 8 sporting the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense. Collins was responsible for five of the Ravens’ seven longest plays of the night that weren’t aided by a penalty, a continuing trend for an offense in need of more explosiveness. According to Pro Football Focus, nearly half of his yards came after first contact, showing off his impressive ability to collect yards even when the blocking isn’t there.

“He’s a vicious runner. That’s how I describe him,” center Ryan Jensen said. “He’s elusive, but he’ll hit it downhill and run some guys over and break tackles.”

Collins currently leads the NFL at 6.0 yards per carry and enters the weekend seventh in rushing yards (478) despite ranking only 23rd in attempts (80). His 10 runs of 15 or more yards are tied for the league lead with Kansas City’s rookie sensation Kareem Hunt, who’s had 44 more carries. Collins has been the optimal fit for Greg Roman’s new blocking schemes as the other Baltimore running backs have combined for only 20 more rushing yards on 59 more carries.

No one could have predicted such a breakout for Collins after he was waived by Seattle at the end of the preseason. Going unclaimed by the Ravens and 30 other NFL teams, the 2016 fifth-round pick from Arkansas was signed to the Baltimore practice squad days before the season opener. A week later when Danny Woodhead was placed on injured reserve, the Ravens even promoted practice-squad running back Jeremy Langford ahead of Collins before ultimately bringing up the latter to the 53-man roster two days later.

In other words, general manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh didn’t exactly proceed as though they knew exactly what they had on their hands after the Seahawks decided to let Collins go at the end of an underwhelming summer. But in a season in which the offense has been nothing short of disastrous for significant stretches, Collins is quickly emerging as the closest thing to a playmaker for the Ravens.

Fumbles were a concern early as he coughed up the ball twice in his first 21 carries of the season, but he’s since had 61 touches without putting it on the ground, the product of a heavy emphasis on ball security with running backs coach Thomas Hammock during practices. His confidence in that department appears to be  growing along with the number of carries.

“I just give a lot of credit to the staff and the head coach and everybody for giving me that opportunity coming in and trusting and believing in me,” said Collins, who was awarded a game ball for the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career. “I had a few mishaps earlier in the season and just sticking with me. It’s a great feeling.

“I feel the family atmosphere. Everybody’s got your back, and I love it here.”

Making Collins’ performance more impressive is the fact that he’s received 82 touches on only 121 offensive snaps, meaning opposing defenses should be on alert by now to expect him to get the ball when he enters the game. That makes it all the more important for him to improve in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield to make the offense less predictable in the coming weeks. He made his first two receptions of the season for 30 yards to add to his impressive Thursday performance.

With quarterback Joe Flacco’s status for Week 9 up in the air and the passing game ranking last in the NFL, Collins is looking more and more like a key to the Ravens being able to make a meaningful playoff run in the second half of the season. Questions about how he’ll hold up are fair since many feature backs in the league exceed his listed weight by 15 or 20 pounds. As is the case with any player seemingly coming out of nowhere, the 23-year-old will need to sustain success, but he’s certainly come along at the opportune time for an offense desperately in need of a jolt.

He provided that and then some in a much-needed win for the Ravens over Miami.

“Just keep working and keep trying to improve,” Collins said. “This was the first 100-yard game, but I guarantee you I’ll go back and watch film [and see] there’s a few plays that I’m wishing I would have [done] something different. That’s definitely the main focus — celebrating the win, but moving forward quickly.”

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Ravens-Dolphins: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 26 October 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With their season rapidly moving in the wrong direction, the Ravens will attempt to get back on track in prime time as they welcome Miami to M&T Bank Stadium.

Baltimore has won eight straight night games at home, but the Ravens are trying to avoid their first three-game home losing streak since 2007, which was Brian Billick’s final season as head coach. Of course, they’ll hope for a result against the Dolphins similar to last year when they demolished Adam Gase’s eventual playoff squad in a 38-6 final.

After playing most of last week’s game without their top three receivers, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will welcome Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) and Breshad Perriman (concussion) back to the field for Week 8. Maclin had missed the last two games with a shoulder injury while Perriman was sidelined for one game with a concussion.

Speedy wideout Mike Wallace will not play, however, after sustaining a concussion in Minnesota last Sunday. This marks only the second game Wallace has missed in his nine-year NFL career. Wide receivers Michael Campanaro (shoulder) and Chris Matthews (thigh) are also inactive after being listed as doubtful on the final injury report, leaving the Ravens with four active receivers for Thursday.

Despite missing two days of practice this week with a knee issue, tight end Benjamin Watson is active and will play. The newly-signed Gavin Escobar is also active, giving the Ravens four tight ends available to play against Miami.

The offensive line will receive a boost with the return of right guard Matt Skura, who had missed the last two games with a knee injury. He is expected to start with rookie Jermaine Eluemunor moving back to a reserve role.

Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi is the only healthy scratch among Baltimore’s seven inactives for Week 8.

The Dolphins deactivated wide receiver DeVante Parker, who is missing his third straight game with an ankle injury. His absence will allow the Baltimore secondary to devote more focus to star receiver Jarvis Landry.

Miami left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) is active and will start while left guard Anthony Steen (foot) is out.

Thursday’s referee is John Parry.

According to Weather.com, the Thursday forecast in Baltimore calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-50s at kickoff with calm winds up to five miles per hour.

The Ravens are wearing their “color rush” uniforms, which consist of purple jerseys with gold numbering as well as purple pants and purple socks. Miami is donning all-white uniforms for the nationally-televised game.

Thursday marks the fifth straight year the Ravens and Dolphins have met in the regular season with the all-time regular-season series tied at 6-6 and Baltimore having won the only two playoff encounters between these teams. Including the postseason, the Ravens are 6-1 against Miami in the John Harbaugh era.

Below are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Mike Wallace
DE Bronson Kaufusi
WR Michael Campanaro
WR Chris Matthews
LB Tim Williams
TE Maxx Williams
RB Terrance West

MIAMI
WR DeVante Parker
QB Jay Cutler
S Maurice Smith
LB Stephone Anthony
DE Andre Branch
G Anthony Steen
G Isaac Asiata

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