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Ravens re-sign return specialist De’Anthony Thomas

Posted on 14 March 2020 by Luke Jones

The Ravens re-signed wide receiver and return specialist De’Anthony Thomas to a one-year deal to presumably compete for a spot in what they hope will be an improved return game for the 2020 season.

Signed to the 53-man roster in early November, the former Kansas City Chief appeared in eight regular-season games, averaging 7.2 yards per punt return and 16.6 yards per kick return. The Ravens envisioned Thomas being an upgrade to previous punt returner Cyrus Jones and kick returner Justice Hill, but he posted worse averages as Baltimore would finish 30th in the NFL in team kick return average and eighth in team punt return average. The 27-year-old drew criticism in the playoff loss to Tennessee for an unnecessary roughness penalty that pushed the Ravens back to their own 5-yard line late in the first half, a foul that preceded a 91-yard drive resulting in only a field goal.

Thomas played only three offensive snaps for the Ravens last season, carrying the ball one time in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. In six seasons with the Chiefs, the 5-foot-8, 176-pound receiver caught 65 passes for 509 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.

Despite their overall success on special teams in the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens have struggled to find explosiveness in the return game since the days of Jacoby Jones, featuring a revolving door of return men over the last five seasons.

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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 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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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles against the Cleveland Browns during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. The Ravens won 31-15. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 16 win at Cleveland

Posted on 23 December 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens clinching the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs for the first time in team history in a 31-15 win over Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The turning point of Sunday’s victory was the 14-0 run over the final 78 seconds of the first half, but the defense forcing a three-and-out between those two touchdown drives without cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith on the field was enormous.

2. I saw a little Ben Roethlisberger in Lamar Jackson’s second touchdown pass in which he evaded pressure in the pocket and then muscled an end-zone throw to Mark Andrews. His speed and agility are givens, but Jackson doesn’t get enough credit for his strength.

3. Jackson recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season — equaling the total produced by all Ravens players from 2015-17 — and now owns the ninth 1,200-yard rushing season in franchise history. Not bad for a quarterback.

4. The Baltimore run defense has been fairly scrutinized despite a shiny ranking in yards per game allowed, but it answered the bell holding Nick Chubb to 45 yards after he embarrassed the Ravens in Week 4. The dime package sometimes springs leaks against the run, but not this week.

5. The decline of the ground game was a major part of the post-Super Bowl XLVII era with the Ravens producing only one 1,000-yard rusher — Justin Forsett in 2014 — over six seasons. To now have only the seventh 1,000-yard rushing duo in NFL history with one being their quarterback is remarkable.

6. You never want to see fumbles, but it really is amazing that miscues at the mesh point between Jackson and Mark Ingram have been so rare this season. John Harbaugh will now hope his team got that seemingly overdue sloppiness out of its system after a season-high three fumbles.

7. On a day when the defense had some trouble getting off the field due to several drive-extending penalties, Chuck Clark was credited with four pass breakups to continue his breakout season. Two of those breakups came on Cleveland’s final three-and-out of the first half.

8. Mark Andrews is three receiving yards shy of Todd Heap’s single-season team record for a tight end, but a tender ankle could impact his Week 17 status. He may need to settle for becoming the third Raven to catch 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Michael Jackson and Torrey Smith.

9. Ingram will have nearly three weeks to recover from a left calf strain, but Justice Hill scoring his first NFL touchdown should provide a confidence boost if the Ravens need to lean on the rookie a little more in the postseason. The fourth-round pick’s opportunities have been limited.

10. L.J. Fort having two interceptions wiped away by a penalty and a replay review prompted me to look up whether he’d ever picked off a pass. His only career interception came in his first NFL game seven years ago — in Cleveland. Quite the coincidence that likely prompted some memories.

11. We know the 2019 Ravens’ legacy will ultimately be defined in the postseason, but Football Outsiders ranks them very favorably among the greatest regular-season teams of the last 35 years. Knowing the best team doesn’t always win the Super Bowl, remember to enjoy the journey — even as the favorite.

12. We place such importance on the postseason while oddly marginalizing it in the record book. That’s why I had bristled some over this year’s team being recognized as having the longest winning streak in franchise history when the 2000 Ravens won 11 in a row overall. They’re now even.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 4 loss to Cleveland

Posted on 01 October 2019 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 07 September 2019 by Luke Jones

Sunday marks the official beginning of a new era for the Ravens.

Of course, the soft opening of the Lamar Jackson era last year brought the first AFC North championship since 2012 and a return to the playoffs after a three-year absence, but the Ravens have since said farewell to future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs, four-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley, six-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle, and 2018 team sacks leader Za’Darius Smith in addition to former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. The mass exodus from the NFL’s top-ranked defense leaves Baltimore without a former first-round pick at outside linebacker or in its entire front seven for the first time in franchise history, putting more pressure on a deep and talented secondary to account for concerns about the pass rush.

How quickly a younger defense adjusts and a rebuilt offense grows will determine how successful John Harbaugh’s team will be in 2019. The first test comes against Miami, a rebuilding team with no immediate direction beyond collecting assets for the future.

It’s time to go on the record as the Dolphins play the Ravens for the sixth time in the last seven seasons with the latter winning four of the previous five meetings. Baltimore leads the all-time regular-season series 7-6 despite a 3-5 record at what is now called Hard Rock Stadium. That doesn’t include the Ravens’ two postseason victories in Miami during the 2001 and 2008 campaigns.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Lamar Jackson will start fast with a touchdown pass and a run for a score. I’m really looking forward to watching Jackson in his first full year as a starter and expect the Ravens to be more aggressive passing the ball in the first half, especially on first downs when he completed just under 68 percent of his throws and produced a 100.6 passer rating on 56 attempts last year. That said, there isn’t much experience in that Miami front seven to expect the discipline to contain Jackson’s mobility on zone-read plays and run-pass options, which will lead to some rushing opportunities off the edge.

2. A communication breakdown will lead to a Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown to Albert Wilson. We all know the story with Fitzpatrick, who is capable of getting into a groove in which he torches opponents and then reverts to looking like one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Meanwhile, Wink Martindale has said the biggest challenge in replacing the veterans on his defense has been communication with the pre-snap adjustments and disguise the Ravens use. Even against a below-average offense, a hiccup won’t be surprising considering how little starters played in the preseason.

3. Tight coverage will contribute to four sacks and an Earl Thomas pick in his Ravens debut. I’m admittedly not a believer in the pass rush going into 2019, but that won’t be a problem Sunday with the Dolphins replacing both of their starting offensive tackles and coming off a season in which they surrendered 52 sacks. Strong pass coverage will again help create sacks for the Ravens this season, but Thomas reminded this week he was brought to Baltimore to help create more turnovers. He’ll get one against an overly-aggressive and desperate Fitzpatrick in the second half.

4. Mark Ingram will headline a 215-yard effort from the Baltimore ground game. We’ll see more offensive balance from the Ravens this season, but not when they have a lead in the second half as they will Sunday. The Dolphins ranked 31st in run defense and 26th in yards per carry allowed at 4.8 last year, and there’s little reason to think that will markedly improve under new head coach Brian Flores. Ingram will carry the workload in the first half, but Greg Roman will mix in more carries to Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill after intermission to shorten the game.

5. The Ravens do what they’re supposed to do in a 30-10 win over a bad football team. You gladly take this kind of road game on your schedule, but there’s little upside from an eyeball test perspective with the Dolphins front office tanking in 2019. The Ravens simply need to play a clean football game in which they take care of the ball, minimize penalties, and take what Miami gives them. It’s in Martindale’s nature to be aggressive on defense, but Fitzpatrick is the kind of quarterback who will eventually give you the game the longer you remain disciplined. We know anything can happen in the NFL and Miami still has some talented football players on both sides of the ball, but there’s little excuse for Harbaugh’s team to leave South Florida without a season-opening win.

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Baltimore Ravens cornerback Cyrus Jones (27) celebrates his interception on a pass from Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Tanner Lee with teammates, including defensive back DeShon Elliott (32), during the second half of an NFL football preseason game, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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Return game to remain fluid for Ravens entering season

Posted on 05 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens confirmed Cyrus Jones is “the guy” as the primary punt returner entering the 2019 season, but that doesn’t mean the Marquise Brown experiment is over.

Despite muffing two punts in the preseason finale against Washington, the 2019 first-round pick will continue to field punts in practice in hopes of it paying off at some point down the line. Jones prevailed in the summer competition with Tyler Ervin, who was claimed off waivers by Jacksonville last weekend, but special teams coach Chris Horton still views the speedy Brown as a wild card to potentially provide a spark.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound receiver didn’t register a punt return in his decorated career at Oklahoma, but he returned nine punts for 182 yards and recorded a 73-yard touchdown return for College of the Canyons — a California junior college — in 2016. That’s a far cry from returning punts in the NFL, however.

“We put a guy out there in a game situation and we want to see if he can do it,” said Horton about Brown’s struggles fielding punts against Washington. “When [he] put those two balls on the ground, it just told me and told our coaches we just have to continue to practice him back there and continue to get him more reps. He’s going to be a guy that we can put back there and give us a little bit of excitement.”

The depth chart released by the public relations staff this week lists veteran slot receiver Willie Snead as the second-string punt returner and Brown as the No. 3 option.

The kick return spot remains more fluid with Chris Moore again topping the depth chart after leading the Ravens with 22 returns for 491 yards last season. Rookie running back Justice Hill is an intriguing option despite returning only one kickoff for nine yards in the preseason and not serving in that capacity at Oklahoma State.

“We have guys that we can throw back there,” Horton said. “Chris Moore has done an outstanding job for us. We love what Justice Hill brings. We gave Cyrus some opportunities in the preseason. We’ll go forward, and you guys will find out on Sunday.”

Rookie first-round pick added to injury report

Deemed “full-go” physically by head coach John Harbaugh earlier this week, Brown was added to Thursday’s injury report with a foot issue presumably related to his January surgery that sidelined him during spring workouts and for the start of training camp.

Brown was listed as a full participant in practice, but it was a reminder that he’s returning from a Lisfranc injury that will continue to be monitored and managed when necessary.

Cornerback Brandon Carr (hip) practiced fully after being limited Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s injury report:

BALTIMORE
FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (foot), CB Brandon Carr (hip)

MIAMI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Trent Harris (foot)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Johnson Bademosi (hip), G Danny Isidora (hamstring), S Bobby McCain (shoulder), LB Andrew Van Ginkel (foot), WR Albert Wilson (hip)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Charles Harris (wrist)

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