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andrews

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Ravens-Rams: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 25 November 2019 by Luke Jones

How long has it been since the Ravens last lost a game?

Kenny Young started at weak-side inside linebacker in that ugly home loss to Cleveland on Sept. 29, was benched a week later, and has now been a Los Angeles Ram for six weeks. The Ravens will try to extend their longest winning streak since 2000 with a seventh straight victory Monday night against a desperate Rams team that has won three of its last four and is trying to stay in the NFC wild-card race.

As expected, Baltimore will be without starting nose tackle Michael Pierce, who was deactivated for a second straight game with a right ankle injury. Pierce practiced on a limited basis Thursday before missing the rest of the week and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Reserve defensive tackles Domata Peko and Justin Ellis will again be counted on to step up in Pierce’s place.

Wide receiver Chris Moore is active and will make his return from a two-game absence due to a broken thumb. The Ravens are happy to have Moore’s special-teams contributions back in the picture.

Rookie cornerback and USC product Iman Marshall is active and expected to make his NFL debut after missing most of the season with toe and hamstring injuries. With safety Bennett Jackson and cornerback Anthony Averett both being healthy scratches for Monday’s game, Marshall will play on special teams and serve as a reserve cornerback for a defense that relies heavily on its secondary play.

The Rams will welcome back wide receivers Brandin Cooks (concussion) and Robert Woods (non-injury) after both missed game action recently. Their presence will provide a needed boost for Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff and a once-explosive offense struggling to find its 2018 form.

Monday’s referee is Craig Wrolstad.

According to Weather.com, the Monday night forecast in Los Angeles calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s with calm winds and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens will be wearing their all-purple “Color Rush” uniforms while the Rams don gold jerseys and gold pants for Week 12.

Monday marks the seventh all-time meeting between these teams with the Ravens holding a 4-2 edge. Baltimore is aiming for a team-record fourth consecutive road victory that would clinch its first winning away record in the regular season since 2010. The Ravens aim to improve to 9-5 on Monday Night Football in the John Harbaugh era despite this marking the 12th time they’ve played on the road.

Below are Monday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DT Michael Pierce
CB Anthony Averett
S Bennett Jackson
DL Zach Sieler
G Ben Powers
WR Jaleel Scott
QB Trace McSorley

LOS ANGELES
OT Rob Havenstein
WR Nsimba Webster
DB Darious Williams
CB Dont’e Deayon
S Jake Gervase
LB Natrez Patrick
OL Jamil Demby

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peters

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Ravens beef up injury-depleted secondary with Peters addition

Posted on 15 October 2019 by Luke Jones

Having watched the Ravens secondary be ravaged by injuries since the start of training camp, general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t wait around until the Oct. 29 trade deadline to act.

Sending disappointing second-year inside linebacker Kenny Young and a reported 2020 fifth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore acquired two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters to boost a pass defense ranking a disappointing 25th in the NFL. Peters should immediately step into the starting lineup opposite standout cornerback Marlon Humphrey and help stabilize a secondary that’s gone from one of the league’s deepest to a question mark in only weeks.

A 2015 first-round pick out of Washington, Peters has led the NFL with 24 interceptions over the last five years and was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons with Kansas City. Traded to the Rams after the 2017 campaign, the 26-year-old shook off a rough start with his new team last year to help Los Angeles advance to Super Bowl LIII.

Pro Football Focus has graded the 6-foot, 195-pound Peters as the 14th-best cornerback in the NFL this season, the final year of his rookie contract paying him $9.069 million. His uncertain contract status was believed to be the driving force behind the Rams’ decision to part with Peters despite having just placed other starting cornerback Aqib Talib on injured reserve this week.

(Updated 8 p.m. — The Rams acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville in exchange for two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick Tuesday evening.)

In six games this season, Peters has registered two interceptions, 14 tackles, and four pass breakups.

The Ravens have been decimated by injuries at the cornerback position after losing above-average nickel back Tavon Young to a season-ending neck injury in August and veteran starter Jimmy Smith to a Week 1 knee injury that’s sidelined him for the last five games. Making matters worse have been the recent season-ending knee injuries sustained by veteran starter Tony Jefferson and second-year reserve DeShon Elliott at the safety position. In Smith’s absence, Baltimore had been relying on unproven cornerbacks such as Maurice Canady and Anthony Averett, who had both been picked on in coverage at various points since Week 2.

With Smith believed to be nearing a return, it will be interesting to see how the secondary shakes out as the Ravens now have three high-profile cornerbacks who’ve mostly played on the outside in their careers. It’s worth noting, however, that Humphrey has lined up in the slot some when traveling with opponents’ No. 1 receivers in recent weeks.

Veteran Brandon Carr has served as the primary nickel in Tavon Young’s absence this season, but he did practice a good bit at safety in the spring and summer, giving defensive coordinator Wink Martindale another potential wrinkle. In response to their problems at inside linebacker, the Ravens played quite a few snaps in a dime package against Cincinnati in Week 6 that featured strong safety Chuck Clark moving to the “Mike” linebacker spot and Elliott playing on the back end next to free safety Earl Thomas.

After reportedly showing interest in Ramsey last month, DeCosta was still able to address an immediate concern without the same long-term risk by trading a young player who had fallen out of favor and a Day 3 pick. Should the Ravens choose not to re-sign Peters to a lucrative extension in the offseason, they would likely receive an attractive compensatory pick in the 2021 draft.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether DeCosta will be able to address a pass rush that’s been perceived as a greater concern than the depleted secondary since the start of the season. Having lost outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency, Baltimore is tied for 24th in the league with just 11 sacks in six games.

With a two-game lead in the AFC North and about to face six teams with a .500 or better record over their next seven games, the Ravens clearly signaled their strong intentions to contend in the AFC with Tuesday’s trade.

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andrews

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 6 win over Cincinnati

Posted on 15 October 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their second straight game in a 23-17 final against Cincinnati, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Sunday reminded how small the margin for error is in the NFL in a game Baltimore dominated statistically. A kick return and a fumble led to 10 first-half points for the Bengals and turned what could have been a comfortable win into a one-score game.

2. Lamar Jackson rushing a season-high 19 times predictably reignited the debate over how much running is too much, but Colin Kaepernick and Michael Vick are the only two NFL quarterbacks to ever run for more yards in a game. Let’s not forget we’re watching someone special here.

3. That we barely mentioned Jackson completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 236 yards speaks to how much he’s improved in that department. He didn’t have to make too many difficult throws against the Bengals, but he remains on pace for a 4,000-yard season through the air.

4. Jackson has a total of two fumbles through six games after fumbling at least once in each of his eight starts last year. It’s just another box the young quarterback has checked after so much fair concern about his ball security.

5. The defense allowed just 4.5 yards per play and played well despite the pass rush being a non-factor until late in the game. Andy Dalton does average the quickest time from snap to throw among quarterbacks with at least 90 attempts, but pressuring the passer remains a big problem.

6. I was intrigued to see Wink Martindale use four outside linebackers at one time to rush the passer with some success on a handful of plays. We saw that look a few times early last year and will probably see more of it moving forward.

7. Mark Andrews said he’s not going to stop being himself on the field, but Ravens tight ends should probably chill on the hurdling a little bit after his fumble. We’ve seen a few fun highlights, but a turnover that cost Baltimore points outweighs the minimal positives.

8. Even with Patrick Onwuasor out because of an ankle injury, Kenny Young and Chris Board failed to play a single defensive snap against the Bengals. Credit Eric DeCosta and the coaching staff for regrouping on the fly, but what an offseason miscalculation that was at the inside linebacker position.

9. You hoped Marquise Brown’s absence might lead to Jackson’s in-game chemistry growing with other wide receivers, but none registered more than three receptions or 28 receiving yards. The 18-yard gain to Miles Boykin on a run-pass option was encouraging, but that was about it.

10. Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort started at inside linebacker, Chuck Clark is wearing the green-dot helmet and starting at safety, Pernell McPhee is averaging a career high for snaps, and former practice-squad safety Bennett Jackson is now on the 53-man roster. Just how we pictured it this summer, right?

11. The Ravens are tied for the NFL’s easiest schedule thus far, but Dallas lost to the winless Jets and the Chargers were flattened by one-win Pittsburgh and its third-string quarterback. It’s a strange, week-to-week league that’s more about survival than expecting to play your best football for all 16 games.

12. Few would have expected Anquan Boldin to retire as a Raven after the organization foolishly traded him away after Super Bowl XLVII, but it was great seeing him back in Baltimore as Sunday’s “Legend of the Game.” He shared the following story during his retirement press conference:

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marquisebrown

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Ravens-Bengals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 13 October 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens will be without their leading wide receiver as they welcome Cincinnati to town for Week 6.

After missing the entire week of practice with a right ankle injury sustained in last Sunday’s overtime win at Pittsburgh, rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown is inactive. Head coach John Harbaugh had labeled the first-round pick a game-time decision after Friday’s practice, but Brown didn’t work out on the field at M&T Bank Stadium in the hour leading up to the inactive list being released.

Baltimore saw its early offensive success fizzle when Brown left the Steelers game midway through the second quarter, and he was ineffective upon returning in the fourth quarter, making only one catch for three yards. The speedy Oklahoma product has registered 21 catches for a team-leading 326 yards and three touchdowns in his first five NFL games while other Baltimore wide receivers have combined for 24 receptions for 336 yards and four touchdowns this season. Needless to say, the Ravens need some combination of Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, and rookie Miles Boykin to step up against the Bengals.

The Ravens will also be without starting inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (right ankle), who didn’t practice all week and was spotted wearing a walking boot on Tuesday. His absence further complicates a struggling position group that turned to the just-signed Josh Bynes as the starting “Mike” linebacker against the Steelers. That move allowed Onwuasor to move back to the weak-side spot where he had played well in the previous two seasons.

With Onwuasor out, veteran L.J. Fort was lining up at the weak-side spot during warmups while Kenny Young and Chris Board lined up with the second defense. Young was a healthy scratch last week after starting three of the first four games while Board played only one defensive snap in Pittsburgh.

Onwuasor’s absence and Tony Jefferson’s season-ending knee injury last week leave Sunday’s Ravens defense with just two remaining starters — defensive tackle Brandon Williams and cornerback Brandon Carr — from the group that lined up on the first defensive snap against the Bengals in Week 11 last November (see below). Of course, that doesn’t include cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who played 42 of 55 defensive snaps in that contest.

Third-year safety Chuck Clark is expected to wear the “green-dot” helmet with the speaker to relay calls to the defensive huddle after Onwuasor and Jefferson were the ones to previously handle those responsibilities this season. It’s a lot to ask of someone who’s made just three career NFL starts, but Clark is regarded by teammates and coaches as one of the smartest players on the team.

With Brown sidelined for Sunday’s game, second-year wide receiver Jaleel Scott is active for the first time in his NFL career. It will be interesting to see if offensive coordinator Greg Roman gives the 6-foot-5 Scott any looks in the passing game with the Ravens lacking play-making ability at the position without Brown.

Recently-signed defensive lineman Jihad Ward is also active for Baltimore.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) is missing his fifth straight game.

There were no surprises among the Cincinnati inactives after the Bengals officially ruled out six players on Friday, a list including seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle), two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee), and offensive tackles Cordy Glenn (concussion) and Andre Smith (ankle). John Jerry — officially listed as a guard — is expected to start at left tackle, which is not an encouraging situation for an 0-5 Bengals team that’s already surrendered 20 sacks this season.

Sunday’s referee is Clay Martin.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the mid-60s with winds light and variable and only a slight chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their purple jerseys with white pants while Cincinnati dons white tops with black pants for Week 6.

Sunday marks the 47th all-time meeting between these teams with the series tied at 23-23. The Ravens are seeking back-to-back wins against the Bengals for the first time since the regular-season finale of the 2011 campaign and the 2012 season opener. Yes, it’s been a long time.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Marquise Brown
ILB Patrick Onwuasor
CB Jimmy Smith
CB Anthony Averett
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack
QB Trace McSorley

CINCINNATI
DE Carlos Dunlap
DT Ryan Glasgow
OT Cordy Glenn
WR A.J. Green
OT Andre Smith
DE Kerry Wynn
QB Jake Dolegala

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humphrey

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 5 win in Pittsburgh

Posted on 08 October 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens snapping their two-game losing streak with a 26-23 overtime win in Pittsburgh, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Sunday’s game was far from “must-win” territory, but the Ravens came away with an “exhale” victory. It wasn’t pretty and real concerns persist, but you never take a victory at Heinz Field for granted, no matter the Steelers quarterback. We’ve seen backups win in this rivalry before.

2. Marlon Humphrey made the play of the game, but I’m impressed by his willingness to point out when he can be better, highlighting breakdowns and bad plays like his failed strip of JuJu Smith-Schuster earlier in the game. The 23-year-old wants to be the NFL’s best, and he’s getting closer.

3. Justin Tucker receives more publicity than any kicker in the league, but it still doesn’t do justice to his brilliance. Not only did he make tying and winning kicks in the open end of a stadium notoriously tough on kickers, but his kickoffs gave Pittsburgh poor field position all day.

4. Josh Bynes hadn’t played in a game since November and hadn’t been with a team since being cut by Arizona in March before signing Wednesday, starting, playing 43 snaps, and recording five tackles and an interception. That is remarkable and speaks to his drive to be ready for that opportunity.

5. That sequence of events also reflects how desperate the Ravens had become at inside linebacker. It’s telling that Kenny Young was inactive and Chris Board played only one defensive snap, but moving Patrick Onwuasor from the “Mike” spot back to the weak-side position was also a plus.

6. Lamar Jackson had his worst passing performance of the season, but his 14 carries for 70 yards reminded why you like his skill set even when he’s not succeeding from the pocket. He needs to be better, but his legs were vital as Baltimore couldn’t run between the tackles.

7. Was it any coincidence the offense fizzled from the time Marquise Brown left the game with an ankle issue? The ground game is paramount, but this passing attack isn’t very potent when Brown or Mark Andrews is limited physically. Both were banged up by the end of Sunday’s game.

8. The last drive of the first half was embarrassing. Starting at their 11 with 1:36 to go and two timeouts, the Ravens ran twice to move the chains, huddled with the clock running, took a sack, huddled again, and then Jackson was picked. Did the coaches leave the field early?

9. I don’t believe Earl Thomas had malicious intent with his helmet-to-chin hit on Mason Rudolph, but he appeared to be caught between trying to disrupt the passing lane and hitting the quarterback, which resulted in him launching into Rudolph. That was a disturbing scene.

10. The offensive line struggled against the Pittsburgh front, but Ronnie Stanley continues to have a Pro Bowl-caliber season with Pro Football Focus grading him first in pass blocking and fifth overall among offensive tackles. He’s going to be commanding a ton of money in the near future.

11. Maurice Canady went from being waived at the end of the preseason to starting and playing very well in Pittsburgh. His performance has been crucial, especially with second-year cornerback Anthony Averett disappointing in his opportunity to fill in for the injured Jimmy Smith.

12. Truthfully, I’m not yet sure how good the Ravens are when the teams they’ve defeated have a combined two wins, but Baltimore has the same number of victories as the rest of the AFC North combined. That always helps as a team tries to address its problems.

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kennyyoung

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 06 October 2019 by Luke Jones

PITTSBURGH — Changes to the defense headlined the Ravens’ inactive list prior to Sunday’s AFC North showdown with Pittsburgh.

Ranked 27th in total defense after allowing a total of 73 points and over 1,000 yards in its two-game losing streak, Baltimore deactivated inside linebacker Kenny Young and cornerback Anthony Averett despite the two serving as starters in Week 4 and over much of the first quarter of the season. Averett had lost playing time to cornerback Maurice Canady in each of the last two games while Young sits after the Ravens signed veteran inside linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort earlier in the week.

During pre-game warmups, Bynes was lining up as the starter next to Onwuasor, a remarkable development considering he last played in an NFL game last November and hadn’t been with a team since being released by Arizona in early March. Bynes, 30, registered 40 starts over his first eight seasons.

It’s no secret the coaching staff has been displeased with the performance of the inside linebackers, and fellow second-year player Chris Board is a better special-teams player than Young, explaining why he was active over the 2018 fourth-round pick. Averett being inactive means the Ravens have just five true cornerbacks available for Sunday’s game, a list that includes starters Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr, Canady, and special-teams contributors Cyrus Jones and Justin Bethel.

Center Matt Skura (knee) and defensive tackle Brandon Williams (knee) are both active and will play after missing practice time this week and being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Jones is also active despite showing up as questionable on the injury report with a foot issue on Friday.

Wanting extra depth with Williams not 100 percent, the Ravens elevated defensive lineman Zach Sieler to the 53-man roster from the practice squad Saturday. He will be part of the rotation including Williams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, and Patrick Ricard. Rookie Daylon Mack played only nine snaps in his NFL debut last week and was deactivated for Week 5.

After some substantial injury questions throughout the week, the Steelers will have the services of top wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe) and starting tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder). McDonald missed Pittsburgh’s Week 4 win over Cincinnati while Smith-Schuster re-injured his toe against the Bengals.

These teams are meeting for the 47th time in the regular season with the Steelers leading 25-21, but the teams are 4-4 over the last four seasons. Including the playoffs, the Ravens are 12-13 against Pittsburgh in the John Harbaugh era.

The Weather.com forecast in Pittsburgh calls for cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the low 70s with the chance of some afternoon showers and winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Walt Anderson is the referee Sunday’s game.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with purple pants while Pittsburgh dons its black tops with yellow pants.

Here are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
ILB Kenny Young
CB Anthony Averett
QB Trace McSorley
CB Jimmy Smith
WR Jaleel Scott
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack

PITTSBURGH
WR Donte Moncrief
FB Roosevelt Nix
OLB Anthony Chickillo
G Fred Johnson
OT Chukwuma Okorafor
TE Zach Gentry
DE Isaiah Buggs

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Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (11) makes a one-handed touchdown catch in front of Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr (24) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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Loss in Kansas City reflects growing pains for revamped Ravens defense

Posted on 23 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Some growing pains were always likely for the Ravens defense, especially when playing the NFL’s MVP and best offense from a year ago in Week 3.

It was easy to be dismissive of the departure of several key veterans in the offseason, citing the bloated contracts they received with their new teams and a notion that they’re overrated or past their prime. Some even had the gall to suggest the exits of mainstays such as C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Eric Weddle would be addition by subtraction for a faster, younger defense in 2019.

That certainly wasn’t the case Sunday when the Ravens defense surrendered more than 500 yards in a 33-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Last December’s 27-24 overtime loss was far from perfect, but Baltimore allowed 61 fewer yards on 19 more plays in that contest that also included Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill and starting left tackle Eric Fisher, who both sat out with injuries Sunday. The Chiefs registered four plays of more than 35 yards compared to just one last year — Patrick Mahomes’ miracle 49-yard completion to Hill on fourth-and-9 to set up the tying score late in the fourth quarter.

No, the Ravens defense wasn’t good enough Sunday — few are against Mahomes and Kansas City — but that doesn’t mean head coach John Harbaugh or anyone else should be panicking. There wasn’t a more difficult game on the schedule going into the 2019 season, but the Ravens still fell by just five points despite neither side of the ball performing at its best. There’s no shame in a revamped defense being unable to match last year’s showing or Lamar Jackson and a young offense not quite being ready for a full-blown shootout in the season’s third game.

“Can we play better? We will play better, and we’ll learn a lot from that experience,” Harbaugh said. “That team is no better than us, but they played better than us. Let’s get better. Let’s play better. Let’s coach better. Let’s get ourselves to the point where we can go into a game like that and win.

“We weren’t good enough on Sunday based on the way we played. But we will be because these guys aren’t backing down.”

There are issues to correct, however.

The coverage breakdowns that surfaced in Week 2 when Arizona rookie Kyler Murray threw for 349 yards continued against Mahomes, who was much more adept at making the Ravens pay for their mistakes. Cornerback Jimmy Smith remains sidelined with a sprained MCL in his right knee while nickel corner Tavon Young was lost for the year in August, but the secondary can’t chalk up all hiccups to those absences — as significant as they might be.

Six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas presented an upgrade from the aging Weddle’s individual play, but the latter was the quarterback of the defense last year, diagnosing opponents’ plays and serving as a traffic cop for Wink Martindale’s deceptive schemes. That’s not to suggest Thomas, Tony Jefferson, or anyone else is incapable of filling that role, but it’s a different dynamic needing time to gel like the Ravens defense did down the stretch in 2018 after a shaky middle portion of the season.

Baltimore wasn’t tested by a woeful Miami offense in the opener and played well enough in the red zone and on third down to overcome coverage mistakes against the Cardinals, but it was the wrong time to be playing the Chiefs’ mighty offense, evident by Mahomes’ 83-yard touchdown strike to a wide-open Mecole Hardman on a drive that began on Kansas City’s own 4 in the second quarter.

“You never know the exact route you’re going to get, but there are principles involved in those coverages,” said Harbaugh, who added that the coaching staff must better prepare players for every situation. “We’ve had breakdowns two weeks in a row in different coverages. And that’s not good. That’s what costs you big gains when you’re playing good teams who are explosive as [the Chiefs] are and can make those plays. We just can’t have it. Our guys know it.”

The problems extend beyond the secondary as Ravens inside linebackers have struggled to hang with tight ends and running backs more frequently than the too harshly criticized Mosley would in coverage in the past. After platooning effectively last season, Patrick Onwuasor and Kenny Young have made some splash plays in expanded roles, but the Ravens have missed the down-to-down consistency and aptitude of the four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker. Some overpursuit and difficulty shedding blocks also contributed to Kansas City averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

None of this is to suggest Mosley was worth the $17 million per year the New York Jets are paying him, but Sunday was a reminder why the Ravens were still trying to re-sign him before the bidding became too lucrative in the end. Replacing him is easier said than done — even if he wasn’t Ray Lewis.

“We have not been great in man coverage all the time,” said Harbaugh of his inside linebackers. “We’ve had some really good moments, and then we’ve had some not good moments. We had one situation where it was a half-roll pass in a certain zone coverage that we didn’t get back to the spot where we want to be, and they hit [Travis] Kelce over the middle one time. It’s different issues. We can be better there.”

Outside linebacker was discussed at great length throughout the spring and summer, but the same questions persist three weeks into the season. The Ravens have received quality play from starters Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee, but Harbaugh called out 2017 draft picks Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams and their need to be better as the pair has combined for five tackles, zero sacks, and one quarterback hit in 125 combined snaps this season.

Harbaugh was more forgiving of rookie Jaylon Ferguson in his NFL debut, but setting the edge against the run — an underrated part of Suggs’ game even late in his career — has been problematic for the young outside linebackers, another reason why Martindale has leaned so heavily on Judon and McPhee. Against the Chiefs, Judon played 58 of 68 defensive snaps while McPhee took 56. More effective as a situational pass rusher on a limited pitch count throughout his career, McPhee has already played 118 snaps, more than halfway to his total of 204 with Washington last year.

Williams, Bowser, and Ferguson aren’t just going to be handed snaps, however.

“Those reps are definitely up for grabs. We’ll see who takes them,” Harbaugh said. “In my mind, those young guys, the reps are there. We need to give our older guys a break. They can’t be playing all those snaps all year.

“We want to play fast defense. We want to be rested and healthy. But none of those guys have stepped up in my mind and taken the reps yet. That’s disappointing, so we’ll see who’s the man for the job. The ball is in their court.”

The good news is most of the aforementioned players are young and capable of improving as the year progresses. The return of a healthy Smith in a few weeks should help calm the secondary at the very least while the Ravens search for more consistency and production at inside and outside linebacker.

Again, the Chiefs averaged just over 35 points per game last season. Concerns about the Ravens defense aren’t as severe as Sunday’s loss suggested just like the group wasn’t as good as the season-opening win over woeful Miami indicated. The truth lies in between with the Ravens having much work to do to become a top-flight defense rather than the ordinary group that experienced too many breakdowns Sunday.

There’s still plenty of room and time to grow.

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marquisebrown

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 1 win over Miami

Posted on 10 September 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their season opener in a record-setting 59-10 final at Miami, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Jimmy Smith missing “multiple weeks” with a knee injury will test the diminishing depth at cornerback, but the silver lining is an extended audition for Anthony Averett, whom the Ravens have viewed as possible starter material. Averett can now prove it with Smith in the final year of his deal.

2. You can’t expect an 83-yard touchdown every week, but Lamar Jackson’s first scoring throw to Marquise Brown came on a simple run-pass option against an eight-man box. Those backside double slants will kill defenses if Jackson simply plays pitch and catch.

3. Jackson’s “not bad for a running back” quip received much attention, but the image below shows a third-and-three play in which the left edge was clear and Ronnie Stanley was signaling for him to run to easily move the chains. A moment later, Jackson threw the beautiful bomb to Brown.


(Screen grab courtesy of NFL Game Pass)

4. Speaking of the 2019 first-round pick, just 14 snaps produced four catches, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. Just imagine what he might do when fully acclimated to the offense. For those keeping track, he’s now one touchdown shy of Breshad Perriman’s career total with Baltimore.

5. The pass rush produced three sacks and 12 quarterback hits, but failing to create havoc against that overwhelmed Dolphins line would have been a red flag. Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser played pretty well, but pass rush remains a real question mark until we see it against a better opponent.

6. Bradley Bozeman received praise from John Harbaugh and earned another start at left guard for Week 2 at the very least. He helped set the tone for the day with a excellent pull block to spring Mark Ingram for 49 yards on the first play from scrimmage.


(Screen grab courtesy of NFL Game Pass)

7. Patrick Onwuasor is so aggressive that he occasionally takes himself out of the play and still has to show consistency in coverage, but he’s the fastest linebacker Baltimore has had since a young Ray Lewis. He was incredibly active and played all but one defensive snap.

8. After a quiet first half, Mark Andrews became the monster reporters watched all summer with six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown after intermission. Deep-strike passes may not be there every week, but you should get used to hearing “Jackson to Andrews over the middle.”

9. Leading 35-0, the Ravens had every right to run a fake punt with plenty of ballgame left late in the second quarter. However, going for a fourth-and-goal at the 3 with a 52-10 lead and under 10 minutes to go seemed a bit much or “Belichickian,” if you will.

10. Despite Chris Board having a clear lead throughout the spring and summer competition, Kenny Young played eight more snaps at the weak-side inside linebacker position. A preseason concussion cost Board some time last month, but Young has apparently stepped it up in recent weeks.

11. In his first game as general manager, Eric DeCosta watched his two big free-agent acquisitions — Ingram and Earl Thomas — immediately make splash plays and his first ever draft pick catch two touchdowns in the opening quarter. DeCosta couldn’t have written a better opening script.

12. Reports of Miami players wanting out after the embarrassing loss raise a real question. Tanking in basketball or baseball is one thing, but putting your body on the line with no chance of winning in a sport with greater safety concerns and non-guaranteed contracts? I don’t blame them at all.

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Ravens add veteran inside linebacker Paul Worrilow to roster mix

Posted on 23 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With final roster cuts a week away and attempting to add depth to one of their most inexperienced positions, the Ravens signed veteran inside linebacker Paul Worrilow Friday.

The 29-year-old has started 52 games in his NFL career, but he missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, an injury from which he’s been slow to recover. Philadelphia released Worrilow last weekend after he’d only practiced on a limited basis this summer and hadn’t yet appeared in a preseason game.

Worrilow will have a week to prove he is both healthy and deserving of being the Ravens’ fourth inside linebacker behind starters Patrick Onwuasor and Chris Board and 2018 fourth-round pick Kenny Young. Rookie free agent Otaro Alaka has been the consensus favorite to win a 53-man roster spot if general manager Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh choose to keep a fourth player at the position. Board has been sidelined since sustaining a concussion in the second preseason game last week.

An undrafted free agent out of Delaware in 2013, Worrilow almost immediately became a three-year starter for Atlanta and registered at least 95 tackles in each of those seasons. He moved into a reserve role for the Falcons in 2016 before signing with Detroit a year later, making 30 tackles and starting eight of 13 games.

His contributions on special teams are likely to be valued more than his ability at linebacker since the Ravens would prefer to limit Onwuasor’s responsibilities as he steps into a large defensive role. Worrilow played at least 229 snaps on special teams in each of his last two healthy seasons.

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Ravens linebacker Board leaves Thursday’s game with concussion

Posted on 15 August 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens took a hit at a position where they can hardly afford one in Thursday’s 26-13 preseason win over Green Bay.

Second-year inside linebacker Chris Board sustained a concussion and didn’t return after a helmet-to-helmet collision late in the first half. The 2018 undrafted free agent initially tried to stay in the game, but cornerback Maurice Canady noticed Board was woozy and signaled for the training staff before an injury timeout was called. Board was immediately taken to the locker room and declared out for the rest of the game at the beginning of the second half.

“He said he’s fine, but concussions are like that,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll have to see how that goes. It doesn’t seem to be serious, but that’s one we will be very careful with.”

Depth at the position was already tenuous after the free-agent departure of four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and the Ravens choosing not to draft an inside linebacker or bring in an accomplished veteran to replace him. Fourth-year linebacker Patrick Onwuasor has stepped into Mosley’s old “Mike” position to positive reviews, but Board has held a clear edge over 2018 fourth-round pick Kenny Young as the starting weak-side inside linebacker this spring and summer.

The North Dakota State product finished with one tackle before his head injury.

Rookie inside linebacker Otaro Alaka was also shaken up on the opening kickoff of the second half, but he returned to action later in the third quarter. The Texas A&M product is considered the best of Baltimore’s rookie free agents at the position and would certainly be in the running for a roster spot if the team chooses to keep four inside linebackers.

Alaka registered a game-high six tackles, including two for a loss, in Thursday’s win.

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