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San Francisco 49ers defensive back Marcell Harris (36) strips the ball from Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) to cause a fumble in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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On imperfect day, everything still falls into place for Ravens

Posted on 02 December 2019 by Luke Jones

The weather was miserable.

The defense allowed its first opening-drive touchdown of the season and its highest rushing total since Week 4, the last time the Ravens actually lost a game.

The Baltimore offense produced its season low for points while Lamar Jackson lost a fumble for the first time since January and produced his lowest passing yardage total of the season.

Sunday felt far from perfect as the Ravens trailed in a game for the first time since before Halloween, yet they still beat the best team in the NFC. And they went to bed Sunday night knowing they now occupy the top spot in the AFC and control their path to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time in team history.

The 20-17 win over San Francisco was both a commentary on the 49ers being a dangerous adversary and how our expectations have changed watching the Ravens play nearly flawlessly over the previous six weeks. Beating a 10-1 opponent by any means and score should be celebrated unconditionally, but perceptions are warped when you’ve beaten the previous five opponents — four of them with winning records — by an average margin of four touchdowns, leaving some to ask a question or two about what happened after the grind-it-out win.

The truth is this was as valuable a victory for John Harbaugh’s team as any this season in how it relates to the big picture. The Ravens earned an abundance of style points in recent weeks and have really tested conventional thinking, but we know winning in the NFL isn’t easy. That’s a lesson that probably doesn’t need to be reiterated to the likes of Marshal Yanda, Earl Thomas, or Jimmy Smith at this point, but there were just enough mistakes on each side of the ball Sunday for the coaching staff to have the attention of anyone who might have been feeling a little too invincible after winning the previous three games by a combined 109 points.

You’re unlikely to see many plays from Sunday’s performance in Jackson’s 2019 highlight reel — other than his juke on 49ers cornerback K’Waun Williams that left Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams to “hope his ankles are OK” after the game — but the 22-year-old again played like an MVP when it mattered, going 3-for-3 for 27 yards and picking up two critical first downs on short-yardage runs on the final drive. After the game, Jackson said the cold, rainy weather messed with him “a lot” as a passer and he was still angry about the third-quarter fumble that threatened to swing the game in favor of the 49ers, but the ball remained in his hands whenever the Ravens needed a play against a tough San Francisco defense that was determined to hit the young quarterback hard and often. He rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth time this year, an NFL single-season record for a quarterback.

Sunday was also a reminder of what the Ravens still have in their back pocket despite not needing them as often this season. The light workload for veteran punter Sam Koch has served as a punchline for weeks, but his 61-yard punt pinned the 49ers back at their own 1 late in a third quarter that had featured Jackson’s fumble, a long San Francisco drive that ended with a field goal to tie the game at 17, and another Baltimore series that had stalled.

Then, there was Justin Tucker making his 15th career game-winning field goal. Attempting such a high-leverage kick from 49 yards away in those conditions, many kickers would probably hope for it be a coin flip. But Tucker again showed why he’s the NFL’s best, even if he’s kicking more extra points than field goals these days.

The Ravens now find themselves in the top spot via their head-to-head tiebreaker win over New England in Week 9. Baltimore will be favored to win each of its final four games to close the regular season. But a tweet from retired linebacker and current director of player engagement Jameel McClain late Sunday should resonate after the Ravens won their eighth straight game, their longest ever regular-season stretch.

Sunday showed the Ravens don’t need to be at their best to beat a top-tier opponent, a terrifying proposition for the rest of the NFL. But the narrow win reiterated that it won’t be easy the rest of the way.

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Ravens-Rams: Five predictions for Monday night

Posted on 24 November 2019 by Luke Jones

You win on the road in the regular season to play at home in January.

The 8-2 Ravens travel to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in hopes of improving to 5-1 on the road and winning what would be a team-record fourth straight regular-season away game. Baltimore hasn’t posted a winning road record since 2010, but an explosive offense and a rapidly improving defense have traveled well, making John Harbaugh’s team the best in the NFL in the eyes of many.

Meanwhile, the 6-4 Rams are aiming to record their fourth win in five games as they enter Week 12 three games out in the NFC West and 1 1/2 games behind the second wild-card spot in the NFC. The urgency is certainly there for Los Angeles to take care of business at home.

It’s time to go on the record as these teams meet for the seventh time ever in the regular season and first time since 2015. The Ravens lead the all-time series by a 4-2 margin and are 2-0 in the Harbaugh era, but this is their first ever trip to the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Below are five predictions for Monday night:

1. Marcus Peters will register an interception against his former team. The Ravens defensive back insists he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder returning to Los Angeles after being traded last month, but that won’t stop the man Wink Martindale called a cornerback “savant” from preying on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, whose superb first two seasons under coach Sean McVay feel like a long time ago. Peters came away with an interception against Kansas City on Monday Night Football last year, and he’ll pull off the same trick against another former team.

2. Brandin Cooks will catch a touchdown as the Rams use a no-huddle approach. Teams need to be aggressive and step outside their comfort zone if they want to have a real chance to beat Baltimore on either side of the ball right now. An up-tempo, no-huddle attack is a risky proposition with the Ravens’ ability to control the clock on the other side, but it neutralizes Martindale’s ability to substitute and tests the stamina of what’s still an ordinary group of pass rushers. New England had some success with this strategy in Week 9, but no Baltimore opponent has really tried it since then.

3. Lamar Jackson will throw touchdowns to Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst. The Rams have a talented trio at cornerback, but Ravens wide receivers aren’t a big part of the passing attack anyway, which will make it interesting to see how Los Angeles defensive coordinator Wade Phillips tries to use top corner Jalen Ramsey. Rams linebacker Cory Littleton is strong in coverage and safety Taylor Rapp is capable as well, but their responsibilities against the run will make it difficult to consistently stick with Baltimore’s tight ends. Hurst has caught 20 of his 24 targets and is long overdue for a score.

4. Aaron Donald will record a sack for the sixth straight game. You need Pro Bowl-caliber talent and discipline at every level to have any meaningful chance of slowing down Jackson and the Ravens offense, but the biggest key might be having an interior player who can control the line of scrimmage against the run and pass. Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward did it in Week 5 — the Ravens’ worst offensive showing of 2019 at just 3.8 yards per play — and Donald is widely considered the NFL’s best defensive player. Marshal Yanda, Matt Skura, and Bradley Bozeman will have their hands full.

5. Another strong dual-threat showing from Jackson will be the difference in a 27-16 win. The more desperate Rams coming away with a victory wouldn’t shock me as this is one of Baltimore’s more difficult remaining games on the schedule and I’m not expecting Harbaugh’s team to win out looking from a macro perspective. At the same time, it’s tough envisioning the Los Angeles defense getting enough stops and a middling Rams offense producing enough touchdown drives for the math to add up unless the Ravens beat themselves with turnovers and penalties. Over the last four games, Baltimore has committed just three turnovers with ex-Raven Cyrus Jones and backup quarterback Robert Griffin III accounting for two. This team is making explosive plays and playing smart football, a good formula for winning anywhere. It doesn’t hurt having the current MVP favorite on your side either.

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Lamar Jackson leads all players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Posted on 20 November 2019 by Luke Jones

Lamar Jackson has not only become the favorite for league MVP in his first full season as a starter, but the Ravens quarterback is currently leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting.

The Ravens lead all 32 teams in total votes received with Jackson, fullback Patrick Ricard, guard Marshal Yanda, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., cornerback Marcus Peters, and kicker Justin Tucker leading AFC voting at their respective positions. Jackson has received 146,171 votes compared to 116,325 for Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes for the top two spots overall and in the AFC quarterback race.

Jackson enters Week 12 ranked fourth in the NFL in passer rating (106.3) and first in yards per carry (6.9) while ranking 11th or better in the league in rushing yards, completion percentage, touchdown passes, and passing yards per attempt, illustrating the dynamic dual-threat impact he’s brought to a Ravens team off to its best start since 2012. He would become the first Baltimore quarterback to play in the Pro Bowl since Vinny Testaverde after the Ravens’ inaugural 1996 campaign.

The 22-year-old missed out on his third straight AFC Offensive Player of the Week award to Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen on Wednesday, but news of Jackson leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl voting speaks to his remarkable rise in his second season.

“Football is No. 1 in his life,” said Yanda, who is in the running for his eighth Pro Bowl selection of the last nine years. “Some guys that come through, they like what the game gives them, but they don’t necessarily like the game all the time. This kid loves ball. He loves football. He loves getting better. He’s a competitive guy.

“On Sunday, he’s a competitive son of a gun, and that’s what you need.”

Peters and Tucker are each aiming for their third Pro Bowl nod while Ricard and Brown haven’t been selected before.

Fan voting concludes on Dec. 12 while players and coaches cast their choices on Dec. 13 with each group counting for one-third in determining the 88 players selected to the game. Pro Bowl rosters will be announced on Dec. 17.

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Lamar Jackson misses Thursday’s Ravens practice due to illness

Posted on 07 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed Thursday’s practice with an illness that isn’t expected to jeopardize his availability for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

Jackson was the second Baltimore player to miss practice due to being under the weather this week after seven-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda didn’t participate in Wednesday’s workout. It’s never ideal for your starting quarterback to miss practice time three days before a game, but the Ravens are preparing to face a winless Bengals team ranking last in the NFL in total defense and rush defense, which should ease concerns. Baltimore is aiming for its first season sweep of Cincinnati since 2011 after winning 23-17 at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 6.

Third-string quarterback Trace McSorley did his usual work on the scout-team special-teams units as No. 2 quarterback Robert Griffin III threw passes to tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle during the media viewing portion of practice, another indication that the Ravens expect Jackson to be OK to play on Sunday.

Coincidentally, the only other time Jackson has missed a regular-season practice in his brief NFL career was the Thursday prior to his first start against the Bengals last November, which was also because of illness. Two of Jackson’s four career 100-yard rushing performances have come against Cincinnati, including his career-high 152-yard outburst on Oct. 13.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday wearing a brace on his left knee after tweaking it in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over New England.

After receiving a veteran day off on Wednesday, safety Earl Thomas was listed as limited as he continues to nurse a minor knee issue. Wide receiver Chris Moore was limited with a left thumb injury for the second straight day and didn’t attempt to catch any passes with that hand during the portion of practice open to the media.

A day after suffering a setback with the ankle injury that’s sidelined him since the start of training camp, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has all but ruled himself out for Week 10. Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor indicated Green was ready to make his season debut prior to Wednesday’s practice, but the seven-time Pro Bowl selection is experiencing swelling in his ankle that’s prevented him from practicing this week. It’s another tough blow for a struggling team whose chances for Sunday’s game already weren’t great with rookie fourth-round quarterback Ryan Finley making his first NFL start.

Green, a 2011 first-round pick who’s given the Ravens defense significant problems over the years, is in the final year of his contract.

“I’m a competitor. I want to play, but sometimes you go through these bumps in the road that you’ve got to stay focused,” Green told reporters in Cincinnati on Thursday. “You’ve got to look at the long-term picture. I’ve got to make sure I can play for another five years without having to worry about this thing, not just thinking of the now.”

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: QB Lamar Jackson (illness), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thumb), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Mark Ingram (non-injury)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Darqueze Denard (hamstring), TE Tyler Eifert (non-injury), OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), DE Carl Lawson (hamstring), G John Miller (groin)

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Marquise Brown making plays, pushing way through trying rookie season

Posted on 06 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If anyone understands the challenges faced by Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown during his rookie season, it’s teammate Jimmy Smith.

In 2014, the veteran cornerback sustained a Lisfranc injury from which he’s felt effects for years. That Brown has been productive at all after missing the entire spring and part of training camp recovering from the left foot injury that required surgery in January is impressive.

“It’s a tough injury, extremely tough,” Smith said. “I know what he’s going through as far as every time he gets up and wakes up and it’s cold outside, that thing hurts. I understand it. And having a high-ankle [sprain] — which I also had — back to back, he’s fighting his way. He’s coming up making plays. He’s keeping his head up.

“All the guys talk to him. I’ve been in his ear letting him know, ‘You’re going to get over it eventually.’ But I’m proud of the way he’s bounced back and performed.”

That high-ankle sprain Brown sustained to his right leg in the Oct. 6 win at Pittsburgh sidelined him for the final two games before the bye week. After returning to play 40 snaps in Sunday’s 37-20 win over New England, Brown wasn’t on the Wednesday injury report for the first time since Week 5, but that doesn’t mean he’s fully recovered as he still walked with a slight limp during the portion of practice open to media.

Head coach John Harbaugh has said Brown is “nowhere near where he’s going to be” as a player, an impressive assessment considering he remains Baltimore’s leading wide receiver with 24 catches for 374 yards — numbers second to only tight end Mark Andrews — and three touchdowns in not even six full games of action. His diving third-down reception to move the chains and 26-yard gain on a jet sweep pass on the opening drive against the Patriots were an early boost to both the Ravens and Brown’s confidence as the first-round pick returns from his latest ailment. He’ll hope to build on that three-catch, 48-yard performance in Sunday’s trip to Cincinnati after missing the Week 6 game against the Bengals last month.

“It’s just more like with the team being out there with the guys, not wanting to let them down,” Brown said. “But they all encourage me. They know I’m not 100 [percent], but they’re like, ‘When you’re out there, you’re going to make plays.’ I just keep that in my head.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was absent from Wednesday’s practice after tweaking his left knee on backup running back Justice Hill’s run 2-yard run with 6:22 to play in Sunday’s 37-20 win over New England. Despite being in obvious discomfort for the remainder of that final touchdown drive, the fourth-year offensive lineman played every remaining offensive snap and was deemed OK by head coach John Harbaugh when asked about Stanley’s status on Monday.

Right guard Marshal Yanda also missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness he caught from his children, according to Harbaugh.

Return specialist and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas made his practice debut and appears to be a good bet to at least see action as a kick returner against the Bengals. Harbaugh said the Ravens will “see how it shakes out” in regards to Thomas’ game-day role after punt returner Cyrus Jones lost a fumble in the second quarter against the Patriots.

“Just catch the ball. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to do,” said Jones, who hadn’t fumbled since Week 14 of last season after a history of ball-security problems with New England. “I’ve got one job: catch the ball. Catch the ball.”

In other roster-related news, cornerback Maurice Canady was claimed by the New York Jets after being waived to make room for Thomas on Tuesday.

Baltimore signed running back Byron Marshall to its practice squad Wednesday.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor initially expressed his expectation that seven-time wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) would make his season debut against the Ravens, but Green didn’t practice Wednesday after experiencing discomfort during a walk-through and is now considered day-to-day, a concerning development for an 0-8 team starting rookie quarterback Ryan Finley for the first time on Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thumb)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Tyler Eifert (non-injury), WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Darqueze Denard (hamstring), OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), DE Carl Lawson (hamstring), G John Miller (groin)

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Revisiting 2019 Ravens predictions coming out of bye week

Posted on 28 October 2019 by Luke Jones

Looking back at preseason predictions can be an amusing or embarrassing exercise, but that’s what makes it fun, right?

If we truly knew how the Ravens’ 2019 season would play out, I’d spend less time writing about it and more time pondering my retirement plans at the nearest sportsbook. As it relates to the present, I originally envisioned Baltimore being 4-3 at the bye with the result of the Cleveland and Pittsburgh games flipped and a loss at Seattle in Week 7. I certainly didn’t anticipate the rest of the AFC North being a combined 4-17 entering Monday, which bodes very well for the Ravens the rest of the way.

Let’s review how my 10 Ravens predictions for 2019 are holding up through the bye week and adjust where necessary:

1. Lamar Jackson won’t break Michael Vick’s season rushing record for a quarterback, but his 3,000 passing yards and 60-percent completion percentage will be positive steps in his development.

Remember Week 1 when Lamar Jackson ran the ball only three times, one of those being an end-of-half kneel? The 22-year-old quarterback has registered double-digit carries in four of the last six games, leads the NFL in yards per carry (6.9), and is 10th overall in rushing. He’s not only going to shatter Vick’s record (1,039 yards in 2006), but Jackson will finish with just over 3,400 passing yards and a completion percentage over 60 percent. We’re watching a special talent who has shown marked improvement from his rookie year and is firmly in the MVP discussion halfway through the season.

2. The defense will register 37 sacks and see its pressure rate fall to the bottom half of the league.

I was too generous in the sack department as Baltimore is currently on pace to finish with 27 quarterback takedowns, but there is at least some evidence suggesting the pass rush is better than the sack total indicates if you look at quarterback hits and ESPN Analytics’ pass rush win rate. Of course, Pernell McPhee’s season-ending injury complicates that argument and puts more pressure on Eric DeCosta to land a pass rusher by Tuesday’s trade deadline. The biggest factor helping the pass rush could be the acquisition of Marcus Peters and the return of Jimmy Smith, who should provide better coverage in the secondary. Put me down for 30 sacks by season’s end.

3. Mark Ingram will give Baltimore its first 1,000-yard rusher since Justin Forsett.

The former New Orleans Saint has been as advertised with a 4.7 yards per carry average and is on pace to gain 1,074 rushing yards. However, it’s fair to note that opposing defenses have been more successful slowing the Baltimore ground game between the tackles in recent weeks as Ingram has averaged only 3.2 yards per attempt over the last three contests. Opponents must make a conscious choice between accounting for runs between the tackles and trying to prevent Jackson from killing them off the edge. With that push-pull dilemma, Jackson and Ingram will become the first teammates to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season since Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams for Carolina in 2009.

4. Mark Andrews and Patrick Onwuasor will take a step forward.

If there was one prediction I was confident about prior to the season, it was Andrews breaking out as one of the NFL’s top tight ends. Even with some nagging injuries and a nightmare Week 7 showing against the Seahawks, Andrews is on pace to become the first tight end in team history to go over 1,000 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Onwuasor has taken a step back after struggling at the “Mike” linebacker position and missing the last two games with a high ankle sprain. How that impacts his value going into free agency will be interesting, but his return to the weak-side spot should be a plus for him and the pass rush when considering Onwuasor’s ability to blitz and the 5 1/2 sacks he collected last year.

5. Gus Edwards and Jimmy Smith will take a step back.

Since averaging an underwhelming 3.35 yards per carry in the first two games, Edwards has been very productive at 5.2 yards per carry over the last five contests. The problem continues to be few chances when you’re behind arguably the most dynamic running quarterback in NFL history and a two-time Pro Bowl back in the pecking order. Edwards could see a few more carries here and there, but there’s only one football to go around. Smith’s knee injury on the sixth defensive snap of the season was unfortunate in a contract year, but it’s the story of his career as he’s now missed at least four games in seven of his nine seasons. The 31-year-old does have time to rebuild some value and give the Ravens a boost the rest of the way, but we’ll always wonder how much better Smith might have been with good health.

6. Ben Powers will be starting at left guard by the bye week.

Based on comments made by offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris last week, there’s little reason to believe Bradley Bozeman won’t be starting at left guard against New England. The second-year lineman hasn’t been great every week, but Pro Football Focus has graded him 42nd among qualified guards, a reminder that there just isn’t as much quality around the league as fans and some media want to believe when scrutinizing individual teams. Powers has been a healthy scratch every week and received a lengthy look at left guard early in training camp before falling out of the starting race, factors leading one to believe the 2019 fourth-round pick isn’t beating down the door for a starting gig at this point. If anything, fellow rookie Patrick Mekari would seem to be the first in line to replace Bozeman.

7. A rough November will cost the Ravens their chance at winning the AFC North.

This month’s schedule remains challenging with three of the four opponents sporting no worse than a 5-3 record and even lowly Cincinnati coming off its bye to host the Ravens in Week 10, but John Harbaugh’s team clearly has some room for error with the rest of the AFC North under .500. Even a disastrous November coupled with Pittsburgh or Cleveland reeling off a perfect month would leave the Ravens in the thick of the division race entering December. More importantly, the convincing road win over the Seahawks provided much confidence that the Ravens can at least hold their own with five of the next six games coming against teams owning winning records.

8. Miles Boykin will tie the franchise rookie record for touchdown receptions with seven.

If you’d told me at the start of the season that one of Baltimore’s two rookie wide receivers would have 21 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns at the bye, I would have picked Boykin after Marquise Brown missed the entire spring and a large portion of the summer recovering from Lisfranc surgery. Boykin does have two touchdowns and has recorded his two longest catches over the last two games, but he has much work ahead to match the record shared by Torrey Smith and Marlon Brown. If fully healthy — a fair question after a two-game absence — Marquise Brown has the better chance to break it.

9. Marlon Humphrey, Marshal Yanda, and Earl Thomas will be named to the Pro Bowl.

Despite being a little less consistent than last season, Humphrey has made enough splash plays to keep himself in position for his first Pro Bowl invitation with a strong finish to the season. The 35-year-old Yanda is no longer the best guard in football, but he continues to play at a high level to presumably receive the nod for the eighth time in his career. Thomas hasn’t been spectacular, but he has played well and benefits from a strong reputation around the league in the same way Eric Weddle did. I’ll add Jackson and Andrews to my list of Pro Bowl picks with Ronnie Stanley being a first alternate.

10. A December rally will lead to a 9-7 finish and another trip to the playoffs.

With the current state of the AFC North and the Ravens off to a 5-2 start, anything less than a division championship and a home playoff game would be a big disappointment, but the final month of the season does look more difficult than it did several weeks ago with San Francisco still undefeated and playoff-hopeful Buffalo likely having much to play for in Week 14. I thought throughout the offseason that the Ravens had a higher ceiling — and a lower floor — than in recent years because of their youth, but Jackson’s development was always going to be the biggest factor determining their fate. With the second-year quarterback playing like a legitimate MVP candidate, I see the Ravens going 11-5 and advancing to the divisional round of the playoffs. A deeper postseason run no longer feels farfetched if they can stay healthy the rest of the way.

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 7 win at Seattle

Posted on 22 October 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning for the first time ever in Seattle and going into the bye week with a 5-2 record after a 30-16 victory, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Just three weeks after a disastrous performance against Cleveland, the Baltimore defense held the red-hot Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to 16 points while scoring two touchdowns of its own. Eric DeCosta and Wink Martindale deserve much credit for revamping and stabilizing this unit on the fly.

2. After taking two cross-country flights in just over 48 hours and learning a new defensive playbook in a few days, Marcus Peters couldn’t have had a more impressive Ravens debut with his 67-yard interception return for a score. It helped that he’d played Seattle two weeks earlier.

3. Taking away three quarterback kneels, Lamar Jackson averaged nearly 11 yards per carry on Sunday. Jackson is third in the NFL in rushing since Week 2 and has totaled more rushing yards than seven other teams. Don’t let understandable concern for his health cloud how special this really is.

4. Jackson ran all over the Seahawks despite having problems with which cleats to wear on the slippery CenturyLink Field turf. I had to chuckle over his post-game comment about a linebacker catching him being unacceptable. Quarterbacks usually say something like that about defensive tackles.

5. Earl Thomas didn’t make any game-changing plays against his old team, but you couldn’t help but feel he truly became a Raven on Sunday as so many teammates expressed strong desire to win for him. The veteran safety’s emotion after Jackson’s 30-yard run in the fourth quarter said it all.

6. The conditions weren’t easy, but Jackson and the offense need more from their pass catchers. Mark Andrews will rebound from his nightmare performance and Marquise Brown is expected back after the bye, but a more consistent No. 3 option feels like a must with some tough opposing defenses looming.

7. Josh Bynes was a familiar name and had made 40 career starts prior to returning to Baltimore, but L.J. Fort had made only three NFL starts and played more than 100 defensive snaps in a season just once. Fort’s play has been superb compared to even the most optimistic expectations.

8. The fourth-down touchdown in Seattle will be remembered for years to come, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Jackson’s third-down completion to Hayden Hurst earlier in that drive. It was an excellent throw on the run and a good catch on the sideline.

9. Seeing Marshal Yanda’s agreement with Jackson wanting to go for the fourth-and-8 and his post-touchdown reaction says much about the 22-year-old quarterback’s leadership. The seven-time Pro Bowl guard carries no bravado, so to see such genuine excitement was really something.

10. I was a little surprised to see John Harbaugh call for the field goal after the recent analytics talk, but how he handled Jackson’s desire to go for it is what makes him such a good coach. The decision was ultimately his, but he knows when to trust his players.

11. Nearly 5 1/2 years after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the New York Giants, reserve safety Bennett Jackson made his NFL debut with a tackle on the Ravens’ first kickoff of the game. What a special moment for the Notre Dame product and his family.

12. Remember that discussion about the October woes in recent years? After going 7-17 in October games from 2013-18, the Ravens went 3-0 with victories at Pittsburgh and Seattle, two of the more difficult places to play in the NFL. Not a bad way to go into the bye week.

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Former Raven Suggs returns to place most assumed he’d never leave

Posted on 13 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Marshal Yanda said seeing his name on the scouting report was “pretty funny.”

Rookie Jaylon Ferguson mimicked him in practices this week wearing a new No. 56 unfamiliar to Baltimore while Marlon Humphrey noted it would be strange seeing him in Arizona Cardinals red.

When Terrell Suggs arrives at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday morning, he’ll walk into the visiting locker room, a place he never entered in 16 years with the Ravens. As the seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker who played more regular-season games than any other Raven noted, “It will be kind of weird for all of us.”

“When the schedule came out, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to downplay it as just another game.’ But we all know that’d be bulls–t,” Suggs said on a conference call with Baltimore reporters this week. “It’s kind of a unique situation, isn’t it? It’s kind of weird. Everybody is just kind of anxious to see what it’s going to be like.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Unlike Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed’s free-agent departure in 2013 when the organization showed only tepid interest compared to the more lucrative three-year, $15 million contract he signed with Houston in the weeks following Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens wanted Suggs to return for a 17th season, which would have matched Hall of Fame inside linebacker Ray Lewis for the longest tenure in franchise history. The 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year may not be the dominant and feared player he once was, but he’d still be lining up as the Ravens’ starting rush linebacker had he stayed put.

Of course, the business side of the game has a way of complicating matters as contract talks stalled leading up to free agency and the Cardinals offered Suggs $7 million guaranteed for the 2019 season. The Ravens came “close” to matching that offer in owner Steve Bisciotti’s words, but the thought of playing in Arizona — where he attended high school and college — and seeing so many other veterans exit aided in the 36-year-old’s decision to go home.

“There wasn’t really a moment,” said Suggs about signing with the Cardinals. “They (the Ravens) essentially made a last push. They did. I just felt it was time. It was time.”

Coming off Sunday’s 59-10 win in which Lamar Jackson tied a franchise record with five touchdown passes and produced the only perfect passer rating in team history, the Ravens know the future is now. Jackson is the new face of the franchise while Suggs saw his former Super Bowl-winning quarterback traded in the offseason and his two legendary former teammates of a decade — Lewis and Reed — officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame these last two summers. Those factors are more than enough to make anyone question his football mortality.

After spending years as the last man standing from the old defensive guard that included Lewis, Reed, and the recently-retired Haloti Ngata, Suggs could see the defense getting younger down the stretch last year. And though legitimate questions remain about an inexperienced pass rush that could still use him this season, Suggs apparently felt it was best to move on, a sentiment he shared with former teammates such as inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor.

“When he left, he texted me and said, ‘It’s time for you guys to start your own legacy and start the new brand of Raven football and just continue to be what the Ravens are all about,'” Onwuasor said.

His presence is still felt in the building as he stays in touch with teammates and is still mentioned in meeting rooms with his reputation as a brilliant student of the game. More than a few players laughed this week when asked to share stories about Suggs, often reluctant to share their colorful nature. Viewed as the talented class clown early in his career, the 2003 first-round pick from Arizona State grew into a leadership role over time while maintaining his boisterous demeanor, whether it was singing loudly on his way out to the practice, taking Bisciotti’s golf cart for a joyride, or wearing a gladiator mask during pre-game introductions.

Much like Suggs didn’t become a carbon copy of Lewis following his post-Super Bowl XLVII retirement, the Ravens haven’t replaced his defensive leadership with a single person this year, instead trusting a group of incumbents and veteran newcomers Earl Thomas and Pernell McPhee to help lead in their own ways. It’s never the same when an iconic player departs, but that’s a testament to the individual rather than a slight to anyone else.

“His name still comes up,” said Ferguson, who broke Suggs’ NCAA record for career sacks and was drafted this spring as part of the attempt to replace him. “He’s an awesome pass rusher. He’s one of the best pass rushers in history.

“His name has got no choice but to come up.”

Suggs will be more than just a name Sunday as he tries to help the Cardinals defense slow Jackson and a talented, young offense that surprised everyone last week. He and two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Chandler Jones will try to get past Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., two offensive tackles Suggs has faced plenty in a practice setting.

Regardless of how much he has left in his 17th NFL season — he registered just 1 1/2 sacks after Week 7 last year — Suggs showed plenty of juice last week with two sacks and a forced fumble in his Arizona debut. The thought of playing his final game in Baltimore has undoubtedly crossed his mind in a way it didn’t during the playoff loss in January when everyone assumed he’d be back.

Being the movie buff and screenwriter he is off the field, Suggs having a big returning performance has to be part of his script even as he said, “You kind of have to let it write itself.”

There’s a job to do on both sides, but Sunday is sure to be entertaining, weird, and emotional after Suggs’ abrupt departure in March.

“I couldn’t help myself; I watched him play last week on tape,” said defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who coached Suggs for seven seasons and still beams over his accomplishments. “He hasn’t lost a step. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

“But I think it’s going to be harder for him.”

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Worrilow leaves Ravens day after signing contract

Posted on 24 August 2019 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 5:15 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Paul Worrilow’s Ravens career could be over before it ever started.

The veteran inside linebacker wasn’t on the practice field Saturday, less than 24 hours after signing a deal with Baltimore. According to NFL Network, Worrilow, 29, plans to retire from the NFL, but head coach John Harbaugh only said he was still contemplating his future. Multiple reports indicated Worrilow has chosen to remain with his wife, who is scheduled to give birth next month.

“I spoke to him last night, and he was great,” Harbaugh said. “He was all ready and excited to go, so I was surprised. I assume he’s trying to figure things out and work things out with what he wants to do — he and his family. Every person has the right to do that, so we’ll just kind of see what he decides. We’ll respect it, whatever it is.”

The Ravens signed Worrilow to improve their depth at inside linebacker behind starters Patrick Onwuasor and Chris Board and 2018 fourth-round pick Kenny Young. The 2013 undrafted free agent from Delaware has started 52 games in his NFL career with Atlanta and Detroit, but he missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, an injury from which he’s had difficulty recovering. Philadelphia released Worrilow last weekend after he was limited in training camp and hadn’t played in the first two preseason games.

His contract was officially terminated Saturday.

Worrilow may not have been practicing, but the Ravens welcomed a number of veterans back to the field, a list including Board (concussion), starting offensive linemen Marshal Yanda (foot) and Ronnie Stanley (ankle), and wide receiver Seth Roberts. Jermaine Eluemunor remained out with an undisclosed injury — Bradley Bozeman started at left guard in the third preseason game — but the presence of Yanda and Stanley was a clear step toward the offensive line stepping up preparations for the Sept. 8 opener in Miami.

Yanda didn’t play in the first three preseason games while Stanley sat out against Philadelphia, a development that likely contributed to the Ravens holding out starting quarterback Lamar Jackson in the third preseason game.

“They’ve been practicing all along. Marshal missed the last week or so, but he’s the one guy that can afford it,” said Harbaugh about Yanda and Stanley. “That was an opportunity to give those other guys a lot of reps. Ronnie has been out there for mostly all of the practices.

“They filled right in today. It’s time to go.”

Cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maurice Canady, and Iman Marshall, safety Earl Thomas, outsider linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, defensive tackle Gerald Willis, and offensive linemen Greg Senat and Randin Crecelius didn’t participate in Saturday’s workout. Ferguson, Senat, and Willis worked out with Eluemunor on a side field during the portion of practice open to reporters.

Inside linebacker Nicholas Grigsby was waived Saturday.

Backup quarterback Robert Griffin III won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against Washington, but Harbaugh said his availability for Week 1 “shouldn’t be a problem” as he continues to increase his activity level. The 29-year-old sustained a small fracture in his right thumb on July 27, but he’s continued to practice on a limited basis.

Harbaugh confirmed the obvious for Thursday’s game, but he didn’t disclose whether rookie first-round receiver Marquise Brown would play against Washington after making his preseason debut against the Eagles. The head coach reiterated he’s pleased not to have to trim the roster from 90 players to 75 prior to the last exhibition game, a roster cut-down day that was eliminated in 2017.

Teams must trim rosters to the league-mandated 53 players by 4 p.m. next Saturday.

“We won’t play any of the starters in this game for sure” Harbaugh said. “The special teams starters, we won’t play those guys either. They went to 90-man [two years ago], which I think was smart. It gives everybody an opportunity to get a lot of reps in the last game.

“When you cut 15 guys, those are guys that are going to play in this game. This is their opportunity, so those will be the guys that play.”

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Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of second preseason game

Posted on 13 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens concluding open training camp ahead of the second preseason game against Green Bay, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Marlon Humphrey was consistently the best player on the field these last three weeks, but his attention to detail also stood out. When he wasn’t taking reps, you’d frequently see the third-year corner reviewing plays on a tablet. He’s on track for a Pro Bowl season if he stays healthy.

2. His practice return brought relief Tuesday, but I believe more every day that expectations for Marquise Brown need to be tempered, especially early in the season. The effects of a foot injury for a speed-dependent player and limited practice time don’t exactly set the rookie up for immediate success.

3. Eric DeCosta deserves praise for fetching a fifth-round pick for Kaare Vedvik, who’s never played in an NFL regular-season game. It was wise not to get greedy knowing a couple misses Thursday could have made potential trade partners quickly reconsider interest. Baltimore’s kicker development is second to none.

4. We’ve spent much time talking about Lamar Jackson as a passer, but John Harbaugh described him as having “very high emotional IQ” to explain his natural leadership qualities and why teammates gravitate to him. There’s no way to quantify that, but it has to help at the quarterback position.

5. Along similar lines, defensive players seem to feed off Earl Thomas, who has picked his spots to show emotion and leads more by example. There’s been an adjustment for him playing in a more complex system than he did in with Seattle, but it’s going to be fun watching him.

6. Hayden Hurst had arguably his best practice of camp Tuesday, looking much more like the player we saw last summer before the foot injury. Besides health, a key for him is maintaining confidence and not letting a rough play linger in his mind, something Mark Andrews seems adept at doing.

7. With Iman Marshall missing three straight practices after appearing to have a thigh issue, many are assuming that could “stash” the rookie on injured reserve. That may prove true, but you hate seeing a young corner miss out on valuable reps with final cuts still more than two weeks away.

8. I wouldn’t have said Michael Floyd was even in the running for a roster spot prior to the preseason opener, but he’s turned in some of his best practices this last week. With Seth Roberts missing time and Brown’s status still spotty, Floyd has some daylight to make a push.

9. The Ravens are smart to play it safe with Marshal Yanda and a lingering foot issue, but I can’t help but think back to him acknowledging how big a factor health will be in determining how much longer he plays. This offensive line desperately needs him at his best.

10. With four cornerbacks missing practice and Maurice Canady only returning to the field Tuesday, how the Ravens line up in the secondary against the Packers could be interesting. It’s a reminder why Baltimore values depth at the position after being so shorthanded there several years ago.

11. I’ll never profess love for preseason football, but at least we’ll get to see Aaron Rodgers. Fans weren’t complaining, but it was a bummer not seeing him play when the Ravens went to Lambeau two years ago. The Packers will again play in Baltimore in the 2021 regular season.

12. If you already have an eye toward the season, 10 of the Ravens’ 16 games come against defenses that ranked in the bottom 10 in yards per carry allowed last season. Yes, it’s a new year, but that’s reason for optimism, even if you’re not yet buying the Jackson hype.

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