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Twelve Ravens thoughts with virtual offseason program winding down

Posted on 22 June 2020 by Luke Jones

With the virtual offseason workout program concluding and attention turning toward the uncertainty of opening training camp next month, I’ve offered a dozen Ravens thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Despite Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recent comments and positive cases around the NFL, John Harbaugh remains optimistic about playing the season, saying he won’t “run scared from a virus” while also acknowledging uncertainty and following protocols. Some will interpret that as cavalier, but coaches and players must prepare with full commitment.

2. All teams are in the same boat, of course, but Harbaugh predictably acknowledged the Ravens being “behind” where they’d normally be at this point. Much like it was with the 2011 lockout, continuity should be in Baltimore’s favor both with the coaching ranks and the roster.

3. With the NFLPA recommending players refrain from gathering for private workouts due to recent increases in positive cases, you wonder how rough those early practices could be even if training camp begins on time. At least with that 2011 lockout, players could work out together as much as they wanted.

4. Asked about Lamar Jackson playing beach football and hurdling a jet ski, Harbaugh said any conversation he’s had with the league MVP it will remain internal. It’s not the first or last time a team will hope to see a young star exercise a bit more caution. No biggie.

5. While describing Matt Skura’s recovery from a major knee injury as “remarkable,” Harbaugh said the Ravens should be fully healthy going into training camp and will “roll from there.” The health of players will definitely carry some additional connotations for the coming season.

6. Harbaugh is “very anxious” to see D.J. Fluker compete this summer and has been pleased with the veteran guard’s ability to learn the offense and keep up with the training program. It’s strange to remember coaches have yet to meet many newcomers to their rosters.

7. Asked about undrafted free agents and the increased difficulty those players could face in making the team, Harbaugh even lamented individuals who never got their chance to try out at rookie camp and be signed to the 90-man roster later on. Justin Tucker fit that description in 2012.

8. Those challenges as well as the reality of trying to play through a pandemic is why potentially expanding practice squads from 12 to as many as 16 players makes perfect sense. Keeping more talent in organizations would ease short-term outbreak concerns and benefit these players in the long run.

9. Baltimore has expressed interest in Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams before, but giving up what would likely be premium draft picks and committing to another top-of-the-market extension in addition to the upcoming deals we’ve discussed ad nauseam feels farfetched. But you never know.

10. According to Inside the League’s Neil Stratton, longtime scout Lonnie Young has retired to enter the private sector after more than a decade with the Ravens. You hate losing experience, but a successful organization is used to seeing good people move on from time to time.

11. Harbaugh said he respects Jackson’s recent comments about the Ravens taking Tennessee too lightly while disagreeing with the sentiment, saying his team “just didn’t play well.” That’s certainly true, but I’ll maintain having that extra week to hear such effusive praise from everyone didn’t help.

12. I try to avoid “hot takes” from national media types, but a year in which a pandemic canceled the normal spring program, is threatening to disrupt training camp, and could result in any player testing positive at any point isn’t when I’m going to ponder the Ravens going 16-0. Sorry.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts as virtual spring workouts continue

Posted on 27 May 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens and the NFL now in the early stages of the virtual offseason workout program, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After Gov. Larry Hogan gave permission, the organization entered “Phase I” for the opening of the Owings Mills facility, which permits returnees from the equipment crew, football video group, and the personnel department. Coaches and players still aren’t allowed in the building, but it’s a step in the right direction.

2. Those restrictions won’t prevent Baltimore players from working out together in South Florida as Lamar Jackson will hold informal sessions next week. The reigning MVP’s recent workouts with Marquise Brown highlighted on social media must have served as motivation for other teammates.

3. It’s been far from an ideal spring for players to keep in shape and prepare for the season, but the creativity has been fun to watch from afar such as the below example from Marlon Humphrey. I’ll be curious to see what technological and workout innovations stick beyond the pandemic.

4. Miles Boykin expressing confidence that he’ll “be able to play faster” in his second year reflects the steep challenge awaiting current rookies without a normal spring. Studying the playbook and virtual classroom work simply can’t replicate the challenging on-field application of concepts.

5. Ed Reed was the latest legend to speak with players virtually with Boykin describing his message as, “Take care of business — whatever it is.” The Hall of Famer discussed various topics, from finances and watching film to recovery and even locker room cleanliness. Reed remains one of a kind.

6. As Bill Belichick mentioned during the NFL 100 all-time team unveiling, Reed may have been the greatest punt blocker of all time, a cue rookies wanting to make a first-year impact should take. He was an absolute force on special teams before injuries eventually took him away from that realm.

7. Deep passing accuracy is still mentioned as a relative weakness for Jackson, but separate studies put him 16th (Pro Football Focus) and 12th (Football Outsiders) last season. With Brown and Boykin entering their second season, Jackson taking another step in the vertical game seems quite plausible.

8. Jamal Adams is a heck of a talent and drew trade interest from Baltimore last fall, but surrendering early draft picks and committing another market-setting contract to the secondary on top of the lucrative in-house extensions already on the horizon would make me take serious pause. You can’t pay everybody.

9. Speaking of safeties, this PFF piece on the three-safety defense in college is something to remember with the Ravens’ reputation for being ahead of the curve with innovations. Wink Martindale frequently used three safeties down the stretch last year, but not with the same principles as these college teams.

10. John Harbaugh was tied for 11th with 25-1 opening odds to win 2020 AP Coach of the Year, according to BetOnline. Dramatic improvement from the previous year usually prompts strong support for this award, so tangibly improving on a 14-2 regular season for him to repeat feels very unlikely.

11. As I get older, I more and more disagree with criticism for aging players who continue well past their prime. If they’re still competent enough in at least one team’s eyes, why walk away to appease anyone who isn’t their family? That goes for Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, or anyone.

12. There aren’t many stadiums where the Ravens haven’t won a game as they prepare for their 25th season in Baltimore, but they’ll have a chance to secure their first victories at Philadelphia and Indianapolis this fall. Of course, a road game could be quite different from what we’re used to.

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Ravens-Jets: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 12 December 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens can take the next step in their path to the postseason by clinching their second straight AFC North division title with a win over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

However, they’ll have to do it without left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who was officially deactivated after suffering a concussion in last Sunday’s win at Buffalo. Stanley didn’t practice all week and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report, leaving veteran swing tackle James Hurst to fill his all-important position protecting quarterback Lamar Jackson’s blindside. With Stanley out and Hurst moving into the starting lineup, Baltimore activated Hroniss Grasu and Parker Ehinger as its two reserve offensive linemen while rookie fourth-round guard Ben Powers was once again a healthy scratch.

As expected, Jackson is active and will start despite being limited with a minor quad injury sustained early in the second half of the 24-17 win over the Bills. The MVP favorite deemed himself ready to go in Tuesday’s media session.

Tight end Mark Andrews (knee) is also active and will play after going through his usual warmup routine with the other Baltimore tight ends. He missed much of last Sunday’s game, but the 2018 third-round pick was able to log limited practices on Tuesday and Wednesday and appeared to be moving well prior to Thursday’s game.

Defensive back Anthony Levine (ankle) and defensive end Jihad Ward (elbow) are also active after being limited in practices this week.

The Jets are in much worse shape from an injury standpoint after deactivating Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams (ankle), starting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee), first-round rookie defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck), and starting right tackle Chuma Edoga (knee). New York also placed starting tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle) on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the day.

Thursday night’s referee is John Hussey.

According to Weather.com, the Thursday night forecast in Baltimore calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures falling to the low 30s with winds light and variable and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their black jerseys with black pants while New York dons white tops and green pants for Week 15.

Thursday marks the 11th all-time meeting between these teams in the regular season with the Ravens enjoying an 8-2 advantage and a 5-0 record at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is aiming to extend its regular-season franchise-record winning streak to 10 games.

Below are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
OT Ronnie Stanley
LB Chris Board
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Anthony Averett
DT Justin Ellis
G Ben Powers

NEW YORK
S Jamal Adams
DT Quinnen Williams
OT Chuma Edoga
RB Bilal Powell
CB Brian Poole
WR Demaryius Thomas
CB Arthur Maulet

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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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Ravens-Jets: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 11 December 2019 by Luke Jones

The AFC-leading Ravens can see the light at the end of the tunnel and simply need to handle their business in December.

After dominating the NFL over the last two months, Baltimore has already locked up a playoff berth and can clinch its second straight AFC North championship with a win over the New York Jets on Thursday night. Of course, the Ravens have bigger goals in mind as they can clinch a first-round bye as early as Sunday and control their path to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with two wins in the final three weeks. John Harbaugh’s team currently has a 95.6-percent chance of securing the No. 1 seed, according to Football Outsiders.

Meanwhile, the Jets have won four of their last five games, but they were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week after a 1-7 start sunk their chances in 2019.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Jets for the 11th time in their regular-season history and own an 8-2 advantage. Baltimore has won eight of the last nine matchups and owns a 5-0 record against New York at M&T Bank Stadium.

Below are five predictions for Thursday night:

1. Lamar Jackson will become the second Ravens quarterback to throw for 30 touchdowns in a single season. Breaking Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback appears elementary with Jackson needing only 23 more yards on the ground, but Jackson leads the NFL in touchdown passes (28) despite ranking 25th in passing attempts, a stat illustrating the brilliant efficiency of this offense. Protecting him in the pocket is a greater concern with standout left tackle Ronnie Stanley doubtful to play, but the Jets rank 15th in passer rating allowed and 22nd in pass defense efficiency.

2. The Jets will allow a season-high 155 rushing yards. New York has allowed an NFL-low 3.0 yards per carry while Baltimore has run for a league-best 5.5 yards per rush, which should make for an entertaining matchup between those units. Jackson is nursing a sore quad and the Ravens have some concern about the lower-body hits he’s recently been taking — some legal, others borderline, and a couple correctly drawing flags — so they’d love to make this game more about Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards to protect their quarterback against a defense coached by Gregg Williams, whose history speaks for itself.

3. Sam Darnold will again see “ghosts” while throwing two picks and being sacked four times. The second-year quarterback has posted a respectable 92.7 passer rating since his Week 7 debacle against blitz-happy New England, but Pro Football Focus has graded Darnold 30th among 32 qualifying passers against the blitz and no one blitzes as frequently or effectively as the Ravens. That’s not a recipe for success playing on the road on a short week. Baltimore hasn’t intercepted a pass over the last two weeks after recording a pick in the eight previous games. A new streak begins Thursday.

4. Le’Veon Bell will catch a touchdown pass against an old foe. The biggest headline the former Pittsburgh star running back has made of late was his impressive bowling score the night before a game in which he’d been ruled out due to the flu. The marriage between him and the Jets was doomed from the start with head coach Adam Gase apparently not wanting the big-ticket free agent, but Bell has averaged only 3.2 yards per carry after his one-year holdout from the NFL. Maybe the 27-year-old finds some room on the edges against the blitz-happy Ravens, a team in which he had interest in the offseason.

5. The Ravens will win their 10th straight game in a 30-13 final over New York. You never quite know what to expect with these Thursday games and the Baltimore offense is more banged up than you’d like to see with an abbreviated week, but the Jets are dealing with an even longer list of injuries themselves and bring arguably the worst offense in the NFL against a defense playing as well as anybody since the season’s opening month. New York has played better of late, but its four wins over the last five weeks have come against teams with a combined 14-38 record while the Ravens just completed an undefeated stretch in which they played six out of seven games against teams currently 8-5 or better. Baltimore’s last two games were much more of a grind, but the Jets aren’t anywhere close to the caliber of San Francisco or Buffalo, which is why the Ravens will take care of business rather comfortably for their 12th straight win in prime-time home games.

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Ravens list Jackson, Andrews questionable and Stanley doubtful for Thursday

Posted on 11 December 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is expected to play against the New York Jets on Thursday night, but he’s unlikely to have his standout left tackle protecting his blindside.

Jackson was upgraded to full participation on Wednesday’s estimated injury report — Baltimore conducted a walk-through — and declared his intentions to play on Tuesday despite sustaining a minor quad injury on the 61-yard touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst early in the third quarter of Sunday’s 24-17 win at Buffalo. The 22-year-old noted that he got hurt throwing the ball and not running — a playful jab at his critics — but he appeared to be moving around fine in the portion of Tuesday’s practice open to reporters.

“I was just celebrating [after the touchdown]. But I was like, ‘Ugh, I’m kind of sore,’ but I’m good now,” said Jackson, who also deemed himself 100 percent. “It was worth it — 100 percent worth it. It was.”

While Jackson was officially listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, the Ravens have designated left tackle Ronnie Stanley as doubtful after he sustained a concussion at some point during Sunday’s win over the Bills. Stanley played every offensive snap, but he apparently reported concussion-related symptoms either later Sunday or Monday morning.

With Stanley not taking part in practices all week, veteran swing tackle James Hurst is expected to start in his place. It’s an unsettling development against a Jets defense that figures to be aggressive against the dynamic dual-threat quarterback, but Jackson expressed confidence in Stanley’s replacement, who has made 42 career NFL starts at different offensive line positions but has struggled at left tackle.

“We have James Hurst. I know he’ll fill in and do a great job,” Jackson said. “We want Ronnie back, but we have James. We’re going to be good.”

The biggest unknown among Baltimore’s injured players is probably tight end Mark Andrews (knee), who was listed as questionable after being a limited participant on Tuesday and Wednesday and missing the entire second half of the Buffalo game. Andrews leads the Ravens with 54 receptions for 707 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

Defensive end Jihad Ward (elbow) and defensive back Anthony Levine (ankle) were also listed as questionable.

The Ravens’ injury picture isn’t ideal, but the Jets are in even worse shape and have listed eight players as either out or doubtful to play in Week 15. Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams (ankle) and first-round rookie defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck) are doubtful to play while right tackle Chuma Edoga (knee) and starting tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle) have already been ruled out.

According to Weather.com, the Thursday night forecast in Baltimore calls for mostly clear skies and temperatures falling to the low 30s with no precipitation and calm winds.

Below is the final injury report for Thursday night’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: LB Chris Board (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Mark Andrews (knee), QB Lamar Jackson (quad), S Anthony Levine (ankle), DE Jihad Ward (elbow)

NEW YORK
OUT: OL Chuma Edoga (knee), TE Ryan Griffin (ankle), CB Brian Poole (concussion), RB Bilal Powell (ankle/illness)
DOUBTFUL: S Jamal Adams (ankle), CB Arthur Maulet (calf), WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee), DL Quinnen Williams (neck)
QUESTIONABLE: DL Henry Anderson (shoulder), OL Kelvin Beachum (ankles), S Matthias Farley (ankle), DL Steve McLendon (knee/hip), RB Ty Montgomery (foot/hip), DL Nathan Sheperd (ankle)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts going into Week 9

Posted on 29 October 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens coming off their bye week with a 5-2 record and a two-game lead in the AFC North, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The winless Miami Dolphins were the big only “buyers” on a toothless trade deadline day, but remember the Ravens acquired two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters two weeks ago for a benched linebacker and a 2020 fifth-round pick. That’s a lot more than other contenders could say.

2. That Eric DeCosta inquired about Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams reaffirms the philosophy of having a strong secondary above all else on defense. Legitimate pass-rush concerns remain, but having Peters and a healthy Jimmy Smith helps reset the defense closer to its pre-summer state. We’ll see how it plays out.

3. Not counting Pittsburgh’s annual trip to Baltimore, I’m not sure the Ravens have played a more anticipated home game in the regular season since hosting New England for Sunday Night Football in 2012, a contest sandwiched between their AFC Championship meetings. I can’t wait.

4. After labeling Lamar Jackson “a big problem” for his defense, Bill Belichick is bound to show the young quarterback something he hasn’t seen before. However, the future Hall of Fame coach hasn’t seen a talent quite like Jackson either. I’ll repeat that throughout the week.

5. If you bristled over the talk about the Ravens’ schedule prior to the win at Seattle, pump the brakes on being too dismissive about the New England defense’s slate of opponents to this point. The numbers are simply ridiculous — even against bad competition — in today’s NFL.

6. The Ravens are 9-2 immediately following their bye in the John Harbaugh era with the only defeats coming in 2013 and 2015, two of Harbaugh’s three non-winning seasons. That doesn’t guarantee victory, but Baltimore usually plays its best with extra time to prepare, which isn’t a given in this league.

7. Former Raven Lawrence Guy has carved out a nice place for himself in New England, but his career highlight may now be his involvement in a play the “Butt Fumble” thought was embarrassing. Congratulations are in order for his first career interception.

8. I’ve been asked recently about Gus Edwards receiving more touches. Edwards has averaged 5.2 yards per carry since Week 3 while Mark Ingram — a more complete back — has been slowed some recently, but there’s only one football. I suspect we’ll see a few more carries for Edwards down the stretch.

9. After watching another uninspiring performance by Cleveland and Pittsburgh falling behind 14-0 to Miami before waking up to regroup, I remain convinced it would take quite a collapse by the Ravens to not win the AFC North in comfortable fashion. Those division foes aren’t reeling off a long winning streak.

10. The Willie Snead extension didn’t prove to be the harbinger of a deadline trade, but Baltimore had under $2 million in salary cap space and needed flexibility for inevitable roster maneuvering the rest of the way. It’s a solid move to keep a reliable slot receiver who’s a good blocker.

11. News of C.J. Mosley missing at least another five to six weeks with a groin injury was bad news for the Ravens’ projected third-round compensatory pick. The more time he misses, the greater the chance that selection becomes a fourth-rounder. Mosley missed just three games in five years with Baltimore.

12. The Ravens will be wearing their black jerseys for the first time this season, and Ed Reed will be in the house to receive his Hall of Fame ring at halftime. As if you needed more reason to be pumped for a game against Tom Brady and the undefeated Patriots.

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