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Ravens release veteran lineman Hurst, give low tender to center Skura

Posted on 16 March 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens announced the release of veteran offensive lineman James Hurst on Monday, a move that saves $2.75 million on this year’s salary cap.

The 28-year-old was suspended for the first four games of the 2020 season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy last month, a development that had jeopardized his future in Baltimore. Hurst was entering the third season of a four-year, $17.5 million contract, but he played a career-low 195 offensive snaps and made only two starts last season, making his 2020 base salary of $4 million rather steep for a reserve.

Regarded by most as a below-average starting option, Hurst did bring game-day value as a versatile backup able to play multiple spots along the offensive line. The 2014 undrafted free agent from North Carolina made multiple starts at both tackle spots and at left guard over his six seasons with the Ravens.

The move comes less than a week after the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, making it even more obvious that general manager Eric DeCosta will need to strengthen his depth along the offensive line.

In other offensive line news, the Ravens placed the right-of-first-refusal tender on restricted free-agent center Matt Skura, who continues to work his way back from a major knee injury suffered in late November. The tender is worth a projected $2.1 million and gives Baltimore the right to match any offer sheet executed by another team.

Speaking to media after Yanda’s retirement press conference last week, Skura reiterated his hope that he’d be ready to return to action during training camp. However, his uncertain health as well as the solid play of undrafted rookie Patrick Mekari down the stretch last season likely prompted the Ravens to give Skura the low tender rather than the more expensive second-round amount.

Skura has started 39 games over the last three seasons and established himself as Baltimore’s starting center in 2018.

The Ravens also tendered exclusive-rights free-agent running back Gus Edwards, a move that was only a formality after the primary backup to Mark Ingram averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season.

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Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (21) scores on a touchdown run as Houston Texans cornerback Gareon Conley (22) tries to stop him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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How did Ravens running backs stack up to rest of NFL in 2019?

Posted on 14 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 running backs ranked across the NFL this past season followed by the positional outlook going into 2020:

Safeties

Mark Ingram
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 532
PFF ranking: eighth among running backs
Skinny: The Ravens couldn’t have asked for more in the first season of a three-year, $15 million contract as Ingram became the first Baltimore running back to rush for 1,000 yards since 2014 and was selected to his third career Pro Bowl. Not only was Ingram terrific as a rusher at 5.0 yards per carry, but he provided veteran leadership for a very young offense and excelled in pass protection.

Gus Edwards
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 415
PFF ranking: 29th among running backs
Skinny: The 238-pound back was always going to have a reduced role from the moment Ingram signed last March, but he still improved his yards per carry to 5.3 in his second season. Though not the well-rounded back that Ingram is, Edwards picked up a first down on 34.6 percent of his carries, easily making him one of the best short-yardage options in football last season.

Justice Hill
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 237
PFF ranking: n/a
Skinny: The rookie shows good speed and agility, but he saw no more than 22 offensive snaps in a game until playing 50 in the playoff loss with Ingram ailing and the Ravens down multiple scores in the second half. You’d like to see Hill get more opportunities in his second year, but there’s only one football to go around with two stout backs ahead of him and 1,200-yard rusher Lamar Jackson at quarterback.

Patrick Ricard
2019 offensive snap count (including postseason): 349
PFF ranking: first among fullbacks
Skinny: An afterthought as a healthy scratch by the end of 2018, the hybrid defensive lineman became the best pure blocking fullback in the league this past season, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and a contract extension through 2021. Ricard’s ability to play on defense as well as to line up at fullback, tight end, or as an extra offensive lineman will continue to make him valuable to the game-day roster.

2020 positional outlook

With a record-setting offense running an NFL-high 54 percent of the time in 2019, the Ravens are always on the lookout for ways to strengthen their offensive backfield, especially if a dynamic talent slips to them in April’s draft. However, the trio of Ingram, Edwards, and Hill matched with an MVP dual-threat quarterback leaves the running game in very strong shape going into 2020. His age suggests Baltimore should keep an eye on Ingram as he enters his 10th NFL season, but this past year marked just the fourth time he’s cracked 200 carries, meaning he’s arguably fresher than the typical 30-year-old running back and also no stranger to a backfield timeshare if Edwards and Hill getting more touches proves to be optimal for 2020. The Ravens may not duplicate their NFL-record 3,296 rushing yards, but Ingram and Edwards offer a high floor, Hill brings a higher ceiling, and Jackson has the generational ability to continue making this the best running game in football by a wide margin.

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Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) reacts while holding a smartphone after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Examining Ravens’ 2020 class of free agents

Posted on 15 January 2020 by Luke Jones

The start of free agency is just under two months away with the Ravens entering the offseason sooner than anticipated after a franchise-record 14-2 regular season that ended with shocking disappointment in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Ravens currently have an estimated 2020 salary cap commitment of just over $166 million to 41 players (not including pending free agents or players recently signed to reserve-future contracts), according to OverTheCap.com. The 2020 salary cap has not been officially set, but it’s projected to rise from $188.2 million in 2019 to an estimated $200 million.

General manager Eric DeCosta seems likely to create additional cap space by extending, renegotiating, or terminating the contracts of a few veteran players. That list could include the likes of safety Tony Jefferson, offensive lineman James Hurst, and defensive back Brandon Carr, who all have 2020 cap numbers that may exceed how the Ravens value their services at this point. Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley is a logical candidate for a long-term contract extension as he’s set to carry a $12.866 million cap figure in his fifth-year option season.

Below is a look at Baltimore’s 2020 class of free agents:

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The Ravens will have the opportunity to extend any of the following unrestricted free agents before they may officially sign with any team beginning March 18 at 4 p.m.

LB Josh Bynes The 30-year-old was one of Baltimore’s best in-season signings in recent memory and graded sixth among linebackers by Pro Football Focus, but long-term solutions will be explored.

DT Justin Ellis The 350-pound run-stopping lineman was a healthy scratch in three of the last four regular-season games, but the status of other defensive linemen may help his chances for a return.

OL Hroniss Grasu His second stint with Baltimore led to him being a game-day reserve late in the season, but you’d expect the Ravens to aim to improve their interior offensive line depth.

OLB Matthew Judon The Pro Bowl selection will be paid lucratively by someone, but does the lack of depth at this position force Baltimore to step outside its financial comfort zone to keep him?

DB Anthony Levine – Though still a special-teams standout, the 32-year-old played in just 17 percent of defensive snaps as his particular role in the dime package diminished in 2019.

OLB Pernell McPhee A torn triceps ended what had been a productive start to his ninth NFL campaign, so McPhee returning in a situational role at a cheap price seems plausible.

WR Chris Moore – The 2016 fourth-round pick hasn’t developed into the deep-threat wide receiver some hoped he would be, but he’s been one of Baltimore’s best special-teams players since his arrival.

ILB Patrick Onwuasor Considered an ascending player poised for a 2019 breakout, Onwuasor struggled at the “Mike” and saw his role diminish as the year progressed, leaving his future in doubt.

DT Domata Peko The 35-year-old left open the possibility of playing a 15th NFL season, but Baltimore would probably prefer more youth and long-term upside for this position group.

DT Michael Pierce Pierce worked his way back into shape after well-documented weight problems in the spring and is in line for a substantial payday despite not having a standout contract year.

DB Jordan Richards Until being deemed a healthy scratch in the playoff loss to the Titans, Richards was a regular on special teams and only turns 27 later this month.

WR Seth Roberts He ranked third among Baltimore wide receivers in snaps and blocks well, but his costly drop in the first half of the playoff loss reinforces the need for more play-making ability here.

OT Andre Smith Signed as a depth piece last week, the former Cincinnati Bengal and 2009 first-round pick has 98 career starts under his belt and probably isn’t in the organization’s long-term plans.

CB Jimmy Smith In an ideal world, Smith would re-sign as part of an outside trio including Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, but his likely asking price and injury history are deterrents.

WR/RS De’Anthony Thomas – He showed little as a returner and was flagged for blocking after calling a fair catch in the playoff loss, a costly penalty he committed more than once this season.

S Brynden Trawick An elbow injury limited him to just six games, but the 30-year-old is a good special-teams player, which always leaves the door open for a return to Baltimore.

DE/OLB Jihad Ward Coaches and teammates spoke highly of the 25-year-old edge defender this season, making his return to be part of the rotation quite possible at a reasonable price.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

The following players have accrued three years of service and have expiring contracts. The Ravens can tender each with a restricted free agent offer, but other teams may then sign that player to an offer sheet. If that occurs, Baltimore has the right to match the offer and keep the aforementioned player. If the Ravens elect not to match, they would receive compensation based on which restricted tender they offered that player.

There are three different tenders — the values won’t be set until the 2020 salary cap is finalized — that can be made: a first-round tender ($4.407 million in 2019) would award the competing team’s first-round selection, a second-round tender ($3.095 million in 2019) would fetch the competing team’s second-round pick, and a low tender ($2.205 million in 2019) would bring the competing team’s draft choice equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted. For example, a restricted free agent selected in the fifth round would be worth a fifth-round pick if given the low tender. If a player went undrafted originally and is given the low tender, the Ravens would only hold the right to match the competing offer sheet and would not receive any draft compensation if they chose not to.

With less-heralded restricted free agents, the Ravens often elect to forgo a tender and will attempt to re-sign them at cheaper rates.

The original round in which each player was drafted is noted in parentheses:

OL Parker Ehinger (fourth) – The 27-year-old was active in four of the last five regular-season games, but signing him to anything more than a league-minimum deal would be surprising.

C Matt Skura (undrafted) – The second-round tender seemed likely for the starter before a serious knee injury in late November, but the Ravens gambling with the low tender isn’t impossible now.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

These players have less than three years of accrued service and can be tendered a contract for the league minimum based on their length of service in the league. If tendered, these players are not free to negotiate with other teams. The Ravens usually tender all exclusive-rights free agents with the idea that there’s nothing promised beyond the opportunity to compete for a spot. Exclusive-rights tenders are not guaranteed, meaning a player can be cut at any point without consequence to the salary cap.

OL Randin Crecelius After spending 2018 on the practice squad, the former rookie free agent sustained a concussion early in training camp and was placed on IR at the end of the preseason.

RB Gus Edwards The second-year backup to Mark Ingram averaged 5.3 yards per carry and would start for plenty of teams around the league, making him a great value to the organization.

DB Fish Smithson The 25-year-old Baltimore native was signed late in the preseason and ended up on IR just a few days later.

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Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following playoff loss to Tennessee

Posted on 14 January 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens seeing their season come to an end in a shocking 28-12 divisional-round playoff loss to Tennessee, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Those wondering how Baltimore would handle playing from behind couldn’t have liked the answer, but perception wasn’t helped watching Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City erase a 24-point deficit like it was nothing and Russell Wilson nearly bringing Seattle back at Lambeau. Improvement there is the next step for this offense.

2. Lamar Jackson was the first to say he didn’t play very well, but drops were a big problem as you could point to as many as seven passes that should have been caught — even if some weren’t on target. Another impactful wide receiver would be ideal in Jackson’s continued development.

3. I’m not sure why Gus Edwards received so few touches with Mark Ingram not 100 percent, but the last drive of the first half (13 dropbacks) and the fourth quarter (27 dropbacks) really skewed the run-pass ratio on which many are dwelling. Still, Greg Roman seemed out of sorts.

4. Committing to run is tough when gaining 38 yards on the first 22 first-down plays. However, as Twitter user @Yoshi2052 noted, there wasn’t a designed run on first down after the 9:03 mark of the second quarter. Baltimore netted one yard or worse on 24 of 40 first-down snaps. Yuck.

5. Tennessee’s 217 rushing yards were the fourth most allowed by the Ravens in team history. A run defense ranking 21st in yards per carry allowed (a franchise-worst 4.4) and 19th in efficiency benefited from playing with big leads all season. Upgrades at inside and outside linebacker are in order.

6. It was a tough time for Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon to have one of his worst games. His missed tackle on a Ryan Tannehill third-down scramble extended the Titans’ first touchdown drive, and he missed another on Derrick Henry’s soul-crushing 66-yard run in the third quarter.

7. Sorry, I’m not going to knock John Harbaugh for doing what he did all year on fourth-and-1 situations after the Ravens went 8-for-8 in that department during the regular season. You’re going to bust sometimes at the Blackjack table, and it just happened at the worst possible time — twice.

8. The Titans were set up on a short field for three of their four touchdowns, but the Baltimore defense offered no sudden-change impact or resistance inside the red zone. The Ravens just couldn’t make the game-changing play on either side of the ball all night.

9. Few Ravens players stood out against Tennessee in positive ways, but Marquise Brown reminded once again why his future is bright with an offseason to now get his surgically-repaired foot 100 percent. His slight stature will always be a concern, but some unique ability is there.

10. Special teams offered no favors with a Brynden Trawick hold and a silly De’Anthony Thomas foul for blocking after calling a fair catch backing Baltimore up on second-quarter drives. The latter may have been the difference in needing to settle for a field goal before halftime.

11. After dominating with a 7-1 record and an incredible plus-159 point differential on the road this season, the Ravens fell to 3-4 in all-time home playoff games. They obviously earned the top seed with a 14-2 record, but home-field advantage probably wasn’t all that critical for this particular team.

12. While some opine about rust, is it possible blowing out Pittsburgh without Jackson in Week 17 left the Ravens feeling a bit too invincible going into the bye week as the world sang how great they were? It’s all conjecture, of course. The best team doesn’t always win. 

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates his touchdown run against the New England Patriots with offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (79) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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Ravens-Titans: Five predictions for Saturday night

Posted on 10 January 2020 by Luke Jones

There was a time when Ravens-Titans was the best rivalry in the NFL.

Divisional realignment all too quickly separated these old AFC Central foes, but Baltimore and Tennessee met three times in the playoffs in a nine-year period with each of the encounters memorable. We all remember Ray Lewis, Eddie George, Ed Reed, and Steve McNair, but even lesser names such as Anthony Mitchell and Gary Anderson elicit a reaction from both fan bases to this day.

We’ll see if Saturday’s divisional-round meeting provides the next instant classic or simply serves as another checkpoint for 14-2 Baltimore’s Super Bowl aspirations after a 12-game winning streak to close the regular season. An upset win would send the Titans to their first AFC Championship appearance since the 2002 season while the Ravens aim to advance to the conference championship for the first time since 2012 and host the AFC title game for the first time in franchise history.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the fourth time in the postseason with Baltimore holding a 2-1 edge and the road team prevailing each time. The Ravens and Titans are tied 10-10 in their regular-season history with Harbaugh’s team winning the most recent meeting, a 21-0 shutout in Nashville last season.

Below are five predictions for Saturday night:

1. Lamar Jackson will become the fourth quarterback in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in a playoff game. Trying to predict what happens with Mark Ingram and his lingering calf injury is tricky, but there’s no questioning Jackson’s involvement in the ground game after he carried the ball 11 or more times in eight games this year. Titans coach Mike Vrabel quipped the best way to slow Jackson is to tie his shoelaces together, but it’ll be interesting to see how the 23-year-old comes out of the gate in the biggest game of his life after three weeks off. It makes sense for Greg Roman to throw in an extra designed run or two early on to help his young quarterback settle in, but Jackson will play like the MVP.

2. Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown will each score for the Titans. The Tennessee offense isn’t as diverse as Baltimore, but it isn’t devoid of unique talent with the 2019 rushing champion and a 1,000-yard rookie receiver who finished second in the NFL in yards per catch (20.2). With the Ravens using nickel and dime packages so often to play to their strength in the secondary, it’ll be interesting to see how Wink Martindale balances the need to contain Henry while not allowing Brown or Corey Davis to get loose for Ryan Tannehill to take play-action shots. The Ravens rank 21st in yards per carry allowed and 19th in run defense efficiency, but an early lead would really neutralize Henry’s impact.

3. Marcus Peters will intercept a pass to stall a Tennessee drive. In a similar way to how Tannehill helped transform a stagnant Titans offense into one of the NFL’s best units, the acquisition of the ball-hawking Peters was the biggest factor in the dramatic improvement of the Ravens defense from the first month of the season. With Peters and a healthy Jimmy Smith on the field, Baltimore allowed 200 net passing yards only once in the final eight regular-season games. The Titans rank first in the NFL in red-zone touchdown percentage, but the Ravens are third in red-zone defense, meaning something will have to give. Three of Tannehill’s six interceptions this season came inside the red zone.

4. Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle will catch red-zone touchdowns. Tennessee will be without top cover linebacker Jayon Brown due to a shoulder injury suffered last week, which is bad news for a defense that’s already had its problems covering tight ends this season. However, the effectiveness of Pro Bowl selection Mark Andrews will be something to monitor as he continued to be limited with a right ankle injury this week and hasn’t appeared to move very well during practice time open to reporters. Even if Andrews isn’t 100 percent, Hurst and Boyle are very capable of making plays in the passing game and could take advantage of the Titans devoting more attention to the top option at the position.

5. A fast start will neutralize Tennessee’s game plan and propel the Ravens to a 30-16 win. As I wrote earlier this week, Baltimore starting strong could be the difference between a comfortable blowout and a game that goes down to the wire with the way the Titans like to play and their confidence level after a big win in New England last week. You always wonder how a team will respond after extensive time between meaningful games, but the culture created by an accomplished head coach should alleviate concerns of potential rust or coming out flat. The Ravens are the best team in the NFL, have the league’s MVP, and enjoy home-field advantage while Tannehill and the Titans have been a good story in the second half of the season that will come to its conclusion on Saturday night.

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Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram reacts while being introduced onto the field prior to an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Ingram returns for Ravens’ final practice before playoff game with Tennessee

Posted on 09 January 2020 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 3:30 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Running back Mark Ingram was back on the field for the Ravens’ final practice before Saturday’s divisional playoff game with Tennessee and is officially listed as questionable to play.

The Pro Bowl selection was suited up to practice and went through a workout that included stretching, high knees, jogging, and light running during the special-teams portion of the workout open to media. Ingram appeared to be moving well in his first football activity in front of reporters since injuring his left calf in the Week 16 win at Cleveland on Dec. 22, but what that means for his status against the Titans remains to be seen.

Head coach John Harbaugh only confirmed Ingram practiced on a limited basis after saying last Friday he expected Ingram to practice fully this week and then declining to update his status on Tuesday. An NFL Network report said the veteran back experienced some tightness in his calf at the start of the week, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman described Ingram’s status as “day-to-day” on Wednesday.

“That’s the definition of it,” said Harbaugh about Ingram being a limited participant. “We’ll see how it goes.”

The only other Baltimore player on the final injury report is tight end Mark Andrews, who was officially listed as questionable after being limited all week with a lingering right ankle injury suffered in Week 16. His status doesn’t appear to be in any question for Saturday.

Ingram wasn’t in the Ravens locker room after Friday’s practice and last spoke to reporters on Dec. 26, expressing relief at the time that he hadn’t suffered a more severe injury and confidence that he’d be ready for the Ravens’ first playoff game.

“I just did a step-back, and it just felt like somebody like kicked me or hit me in the back of my calf,” said Ingram, who was injured on the first play of the fourth quarter in the 31-15 win over the Browns. “I didn’t know if Lamar [Jackson] had cleated me when he ran by, but he didn’t. It just felt like somebody kind of popped a balloon in my calf. It was kind of scary, kind of nerve-wracking.

“You hear about that feeling a lot of times when guys do more serious stuff. I’m just happy that it wasn’t serious like that.”

Signed to a three-year, $15.5 million contract that included $6.5 million guaranteed in March, the 30-year-old rushed for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns on 202 carries and caught 26 passes for 247 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games. His 15 touchdowns scored tied Ray Rice (2011) for the single-season franchise record as Ingram was named to the third Pro Bowl of his nine-year career last month.

Should Ingram not be able to play in the Ravens’ playoff opener, second-year running back Gus Edwards would start in his place with rookie Justice Hill serving as the primary backup.

Meanwhile, the Titans will be without their top cover linebacker as Jayon Brown was ruled out with the shoulder injury sustained in last week’s wild-card victory over New England. His absence will hurt a Tennessee pass defense that’s already had difficulties covering tight ends this season.

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel also ruled out wide receiver Adam Humphries, who hasn’t played since sustaining an ankle injury in early December.

According to Weather.com, the Saturday night forecast in Baltimore calls for cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 60s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour. However, the rain predicted earlier in the week now isn’t expected to begin until after midnight.

Below is the final injury report for Saturday’s game:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: TE Mark Andrews (ankle), RB Mark Ingram (calf)

TENNESSEE
OUT: LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), WR Adam Humphries (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Cody Hollister

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Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards runs for a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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With Ingram limited, Edwards ready for main role if called upon

Posted on 08 January 2020 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With running back Mark Ingram still not practicing after apparently suffering a setback, the Ravens aren’t panicking ahead of their divisional playoff meeting with Tennessee.

As offensive coordinator Greg Roman put it, the Ravens “really don’t have to skip a beat” if Ingram can’t play, evident by their 223-yard rushing performance against a tough Pittsburgh defense in the regular-season finale two weeks ago. That’s not to say Baltimore isn’t hoping to have its Pro Bowl running back, who hasn’t played or practiced since injuring his left calf against Cleveland in Week 16.

“It’s day to day, so we’ll see. But that’s how it is in this league,” Roman said. “You’ve just got to be ready to adapt and adjust as it happens. Like in the course of a game, it happened a couple weeks ago against Cleveland. We had to make some adjustments there.”

The main adjustment would be turning to top backup Gus Edwards, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry this season and rushed for a career-high 130 yards against the Steelers in Week 17. The former rookie free agent from Rutgers led the Ravens in rushing last season and has served as one of the best short-yardage backs in the NFL this season, rushing for first downs on 34.6 percent of his attempts this season.

Averaging 5.3 yards per carry and rushing for 1,429 yards over his first two seasons, the 6-foot-1, 238-pound back is eager to show the Titans — or anyone else — he’s capable of being the feature back. Pro Football Focus has graded Edwards 26th among running backs this season.

“I like to take every rep with that mindset that it’s my opportunity to show what I can do,” Edwards said. “It’s unfortunate what Mark is going through right now, but I’ve got to step up. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to make plays, and I’m here to run the ball and help my team win games.”

While there should be little question about Edwards’ ability to run effectively against Tennessee’s 12th-ranked rush defense, the Saturday forecast calls for rain showers that could test the chemistry between Edwards and quarterback Lamar Jackson at the mesh point of Baltimore’s frequent read-option plays. The second-year back cited plenty of practice reps with Jackson as reason not to be concerned, but a couple miscues in the turnover department are seemingly what the Titans need in their effort to pull off a second-round upset.

Edwards had a fumble in each of the final two games of the regular season, but neither came on the hand-off from the quarterback.

“Ball handling and ball security comes into mind,” said Edwards of the wet forecast. “It’s a big part of the game, especially in the playoffs and especially in our offense where we’re running the ball so much. We definitely have to keep that in mind and protect the football.”

Should Ingram not be able to play in Saturday’s game, the Ravens may elect to promote either Byron Marshall or the newly signed Paul Perkins as a third running back behind Edwards and rookie Justice Hill on the game-day roster.

Tight end Mark Andrews is the only other Baltimore player on the injury report for a health-related reason as he continues to be limited with a right ankle injury sustained in Week 16. His availability doesn’t appear to be in question, but his speed and mobility will be worth monitoring after a three-week layoff from game action.

The Ravens made a 53-man roster move Wednesday by placing reserve offensive lineman Parker Ehinger (shoulder) on injured reserve and signing veteran offensive tackle Andre Smith. The longtime Cincinnati Bengal and former first-round pick from Alabama has made 98 starts in his NFL career and last appeared in a game in November.

Meanwhile, the Titans were again without inside linebacker Jayon Brown (shoulder) and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (foot) for Thursday’s practice. Wide receiver Adam Humphries (ankle) is not expected to play and has been sidelined since early December.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mark Ingram (calf), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Mark Andrews (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)

TENNESSEE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), LB Kamalei Correa (illness), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree’ Jackson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G Nate Davis (illness), RB Dion Lewis (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Cody Hollister (ankle), WR Kalif Raymond (concussion)

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Ingram absent from Ravens practice as concern grows about status

Posted on 07 January 2020 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens running back Mark Ingram was absent from Tuesday’s practice, increasing concerns about his availability for Saturday night’s divisional playoff game against Tennessee.

Just four days after saying the 2019 Pro Bowl selection was “on track to play” against the Titans and should be practicing “full speed” this week, head coach John Harbaugh deferred to the injury report when asked about Ingram’s status two hours before Tuesday’s practice. The 30-year-old has been sidelined since injuring his left calf in the Week 16 win at Cleveland on Dec. 22, making the possibility of a setback a concerning development with Baltimore’s postseason opener only four days away.

“We’re not talking about injuries this week,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll just wait and see. You’ll know on [Saturday] on all those guys.”

According to an NFL Network report, Ingram still has a chance to play Saturday despite feeling “some tightness” in his calf recently. Second-year running back Gus Edwards would start with rookie Justice Hill backing him up if Ingram is unable to play, but Baltimore signed veteran running back Paul Perkins to their practice squad Tuesday morning, which could be interpreted as another sign of concern about Ingram’s availability.

Edwards ran for a season-high 130 yards in the Week 17 win at Pittsburgh and has averaged an impressive 5.3 yards per carry this year, but he fumbled in each of the final two games of the regular season and doesn’t provided the same all-around skill set as Ingram, who also thrives as a pass blocker and as a receiver out of the backfield.

After initial fears that he’d sustained a serious injury, Ingram was optimistic late last month that he’d be available by the start of Baltimore’s postseason run.

“I have confidence I’ll be ready to go,” Ingram said on Dec. 26. “The team’s doing a good job, the training staff’s doing a good job [with] around-the-clock treatment and getting it ready to go. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready to go for that first playoff game.”

The only other Ravens player to miss Tuesday’s practice due to injury was reserve offensive lineman Parker Ehinger (shoulder), but tight end Mark Andrews remained a limited participant with an ankle injury sustained in Week 16. Andrews missed the regular-season finale with the injury.

Tennessee was without starting inside linebacker Jayon Brown (shoulder), starting right guard Nate Davis (illness), starting wide receiver Adam Humphries (ankle), and starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (foot) for Tuesday’s practice. Brown injured his shoulder in Saturday’s wild-card playoff win at New England while Humphries hasn’t played since Week 13.

Below is Tuesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Parker Ehinger (shoulder), RB Mark Ingram (calf), CB Jimmy Smith (non-injury), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Mark Andrews (ankle)

TENNESSEE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), G Nate Davis (illness), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree’ Jackson (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Cody Hollister (ankle), RB Dion Lewis (shoulder)
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Kalif Raymond (concussion)

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) tries to throw a pass from his team's end zone as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr (39) grabs him during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. Hodges was penalized for an intentional grounding penalty and the Ravens were given two points on a the safety. The Ravens won 28-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts during playoff bye week

Posted on 01 January 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens enjoying the bye week after a franchise-best 14-2 record and securing the AFC’s top seed for the first time in their 24-year history, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Eliminating Pittsburgh and extending the franchise-record winning streak to 12 games were fun accomplishments, but escaping Week 17 without any major injuries was the real win. The Ravens haven’t stayed as healthy as last year when they had the fewest adjusted games lost in the NFL, but they’re close.

2. If you’ve wondered how much credit Greg Roman deserves for this offense, look to Sunday when the Ravens rushed for 223 yards against one of the league’s best run defenses without arguably the best rushing quarterback ever, a Pro Bowl running back, and two Pro Bowl offensive linemen. Case closed.

3. Finding the appropriate words to describe a historic season for Lamar Jackson isn’t easy, but I keep coming back to him leading the NFL in touchdown passes despite 25 quarterbacks attempting more passes and ranking sixth in rushing despite 22 players having more carries. Electrifying efficiency.

4. The Ravens failed to have a single 700-yard rusher in 2013 and 2015 and just barely had one last year, but they became just the second team in NFL history to produce three 700-yard rushers in one season, joining Carolina in 2011. Seven teams didn’t have one this season.

5. Despite making a career-low 28 field goals because of the record-setting offense, Justin Tucker scored exactly 141 points for the fourth consecutive season. His 57 extra points were 15 more than he’d ever made in a campaign. Surprising math to get to the same endpoint for the Pro Bowl kicker.

6. Brandon Carr is entering the final option year of his contract, but his move to safety could extend his career for another season or two. The 33-year-old remains solid in coverage and came close to three sacks as a blitzer last Sunday. His versatility and durability continue to be valuable.

7. The Ravens and Robert Griffin III weren’t thrilled with Pittsburgh repeatedly hitting the quarterback on read-option hand-offs, but you’d have to anticipate more of that against Jackson in the postseason. I can’t blame opponents for doing it as long as the hits don’t blatantly cross the line.

8. A day after signing a contract extension, Marcus Peters was the one who nixed John Harbaugh receiving a Gatorade shower, citing how the Ravens had more to accomplish. It’s still remarkable how little Eric DeCosta traded for Peters compared to what the Los Angeles Rams paid for Jalen Ramsey.

9. Mark Ingram’s status will continue to be monitored, but Gus Edwards besting him in yards per carry for the season (5.3 to 5.0) is a reminder that he’s a starting-caliber back. If Ingram isn’t quite ready for the divisional round, the Ravens should be fine with Edwards and Justice Hill.

10. Anthony Levine saw his season average fall from 60.0 yards per rush to 31.0 after a successful fake punt that netted two yards Sunday. The Ravens ran fakes to Levine with a 35-3 lead in Week 1 and in the fourth quarter of Week 17 with no playoff implications.

11. The Ravens finished the regular season with a plus-249 point differential, the NFL’s highest since undefeated New England in 2007 at plus-315. They’re also the seventh team in the 16-game season era to score 500 points and allow fewer than 300. Five of those first six made the Super Bowl.

12. I wasn’t surprised by Ravens fans’ cheers upon learning New England had fallen to Miami, but Kansas City becomes a bigger threat to Baltimore’s Super Bowl aspirations with a week off and playing at home in the divisional round. Jackson facing the Chiefs is the way it should be anyway.

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Ravens-Bills: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 07 December 2019 by Luke Jones

Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen were the most scrutinized of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, but both are leading their teams to prosperity as the rest of the class struggles a year later.

Jackson’s MVP-sized leap has positioned the Ravens as the top team in the AFC entering Week 14 while Allen’s improvement has Buffalo in position for its first double-digit-win season in 20 years and only its second trip to the playoffs since 1999. Baltimore is trying to hold off New England for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while the Bills are just a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East, creating no shortage of ramifications for Sunday’s encounter at New Era Field.

It’s time to go on the record as these AFC teams meet for the ninth time in the all-time series with the Ravens holding a 5-3 advantage. However, the Bills are 2-0 against the Ravens in Buffalo.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Jackson will break the single-season rushing record for a quarterback with a highlight touchdown. Just 62 yards separate Jackson from Michael Vick’s mark of 1,039 rushing yards in 2006, making it a simple matter of when the Ravens quarterback breaks the record. He has rushed for at least 65 yards in eight of the last nine games and leads the NFL with nine run plays of at least 20 yards, so why not break the NFL record in style against a defense ranking 21st in the NFL in yards per carry allowed?

2. The Ravens defense will give up 140 rushing yards for the second straight week. Jackson isn’t the only flashy runner in this one as Bills running back Devin Singletary ranks third in the NFL at 5.6 yards per carry and trails only Jackson for the highest percentage of carries of 10 or more yards. Baltimore’s sensational offense has masked a run defense ranking 22nd in yards per carry allowed and 25th in efficiency. Both Singletary and Allen can be problematic on the edges if Buffalo stays in the game.

3. A punt block will help set up a Baltimore score. Marlon Humphrey blocked the first field goal of the season for the Ravens and the punt return team also came close to a block last week while the Bills rank 28th in special-teams efficiency and have been particularly vulnerable in the punt game this season. There’s no threat of bitter temperatures or major precipitation for Sunday’s game, but winds 15 to 20 miles per hour could be a factor in the kicking game, an area where Baltimore has a sharp advantage.

4. Mark Ingram will eclipse 100 rushing yards for the fifth time this season. The defenses that have done the most respectable job of slowing the Ravens — no one has come close to stopping them, of course — have taken away the run between the tackles and made Jackson more of a one-man show. With the Bills sporting the NFL’s third-ranked pass defense and wind being a factor, the Ravens will want to wear down a weak run defense with Ingram and Gus Edwards in a grind-it-out affair.

5. Baltimore will win its ninth straight game in a 26-14 final. Buffalo definitely earned some respect for its convincing road win over Dallas on Thanksgiving, but the Bills have played the easiest schedule in the NFL to this point and own the lowest strength of victory in the AFC. The Ravens not only beat the NFC’s former top seed in San Francisco last week, but they did it in a way that exposed a few flaws for the coaching staff to capture players’ attention in case anyone was growing a little too cocky after five straight double-digit wins. Allen has made real strides as a passer since early in the season and the Bills are good enough to pull off an upset in what should be a raucous atmosphere, but that would require the Ravens to provide some help with the kind of mistakes we’ve rarely seen over the last two months. Sunday won’t be a blowout, but it won’t feel like the Ravens are in real danger of losing either.

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