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Ravens-Chiefs: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 22 September 2019 by Luke Jones

The most anticipated meeting of Week 3 may not produce the offensive fireworks many anticipated as the undefeated Ravens go on the road to take on the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs.

The weather could be a lingering factor as heavy rain fell throughout the night and morning in Kansas City with a light shower or thunderstorm still possible during the game. The field at Arrowhead Stadium was covered for the most significant precipitation, but it remains to be seen how the natural grass surface holds up. Temperatures will approach the mid-70s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.

The field conditions will make ball security more critical than usual for both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson in this showdown of talented, young quarterbacks in the AFC.

Despite some concerns about a lingering foot injury, tight end Mark Andrews is active and will play. The 2018 third-round pick leads Baltimore in receptions and recorded back-to-back 100-yard receiving games to begin the season, a product of the great chemistry he’s developed with Jackson. Andrews’ effectiveness on a wet field will be worth monitoring as fellow second-year tight end Hayden Hurst could step into a larger role if necessary.

Fullback and defensive tackle Patrick Ricard (back) is active after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) and safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) are inactive after being officially ruled out Friday.

Hoping to repeat last December’s effort in which Mahomes was hit 15 times in the 27-24 overtime loss, the Ravens have activated rookie third-round pick Jaylon Ferguson to give them an additional pass-rushing option. Ferguson was a healthy scratch for each of the first two games, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has remained complimentary of his progress since the start of training camp.

Kansas City will be without Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill (shoulder) and starting left tackle Eric Fisher (groin) against the Ravens, but veteran running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) is active for Sunday’s game. Claimed off waivers by the Chiefs earlier this week, former Ravens offensive tackle Greg Senat is inactive.

The referee for Sunday’s game is John Hussey.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with black pants while the Chiefs don red jerseys with white pants for their home opener.

Sunday marks the ninth all-time regular-season meeting between these teams with Kansas City holding the 5-3 advantage. However, Baltimore is 3-1 in four trips to Arrowhead, which includes a 2010 wild-card playoff win.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Jimmy Smith
S Brynden Trawick
ILB Otaro Alaka
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack

KANSAS CITY
WR Tyreek Hill
RB Damien Williams
OT Greg Senat
OT Eric Fisher
C Nick Allegretti
OT Martinas Rankin
DL Khalen Saunders

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lamarjacksonchiefs

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Ravens-Chiefs: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 21 September 2019 by Luke Jones

What more could you ask for in Week 3?

Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale suggested we could be seeing the next Brady-Manning rivalry as Lamar Jackson and Baltimore travel to Kansas City to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s an exciting thought after last December’s 27-24 classic in which the Chiefs narrowly prevailed in overtime.

In his second season, Jackson has taken a gigantic leap to draw comparisons to Mahomes, whom no one expected to be the 2018 NFL MVP at this time a year ago in his first full season as a starter. These two will be exciting to watch for years to come, and these teams meeting again in January wouldn’t be surprising, regardless of Sunday’s outcome.

It’s time to go on the record as these 2018 division winners meet for the ninth time in the all-time regular-season series. Kansas City holds a 5-3 advantage, but the Ravens have won two of the three regular-season games played at Arrowhead Stadium as well as the 2010 wild-card playoff game.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Willie Snead will be more involved with 75 receiving yards and a touchdown. With rookie Marquise Brown among the league leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, the lack of production from the other wide receivers — six catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns in two games — hasn’t been an issue so far. However, as opponents focus more on slowing Brown as well as tight end Mark Andrews, Jackson will need to turn to others with Snead’s ability over the middle making him a logical choice. The veteran slot receiver had five catches for 61 yards against the Chiefs last year and will provide an effective safety net for Jackson playing in front of his first raucous road crowd of the season.

2. Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones will record two sacks. The Chiefs may not have too many defensive players who scare you, but Jones is among the best inside pass rushers in the NFL, posing a problem for center Matt Skura and left guard Bradley Bozeman. Inside pressure gave the Ravens major problems in last year’s playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and Jones’ 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame regularly disrupts passing lanes. Controlling the pass rush will be a critical objective for both teams as the Chiefs will be without starting left tackle Eric Fisher, but Jones has the ability to wreck a game inside if you don’t have a good plan to account for him.

3. Jackson and Mahomes will each throw their first interception of 2019 in otherwise strong performances. The early-season comparisons between the two are striking as the young quarterbacks have each thrown seven touchdowns and haven’t thrown a single pick in a combined 134 pass attempts. In fact, Jackson’s last interception in the regular season came against Oakland last Nov. 25 while Mahomes has thrown only one since Ravens safety Chuck Clark picked him off last Dec. 9. With rain in Sunday’s forecast and both quarterbacks eager to put on a show in a big game early in the season, we’ll see a couple turnovers mixed into impressive games from Mahomes and Jackson.

4. Travis Kelce will have over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown reception. The Baltimore defense mixed up its coverages last December as the All-Pro tight end caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, but Kelce also drew a pass interference call to set up an easy 1-yard touchdown. Tony Jefferson missed last year’s meeting with the Chiefs and figures to match up against Kelce at times, but I just don’t see a particularly encouraging solution to slowing him, a problem Kansas City could also face with Andrews. With Tyreek Hill out this time around and the Ravens focused on limiting big plays, Mahomes will turn to Kelce frequently in the intermediate portion of the field.

5. The Chiefs will pull out a 31-27 win in a close game that lives up to the hype. I like the Ravens’ chances in this one more than I did last year with the improvement of Jackson and the passing game, but there was some leaky coverage Miami wasn’t capable of exploiting in Week 1 and more breakdowns against Arizona last week, a concerning trend when playing Andy Reid’s dynamic passing game on the road. I expect the Ravens to use some ball control like last year to try to keep the Chiefs offense off the field, but the between-the-tackles running game hasn’t been as consistent early on, which will leave the ball in Jackson’s hands more frequently. The 22-year-old quarterback will have a good day, but I’m just not sure the Baltimore defense is on the 2018 group’s level or that a talented but young offense is quite ready yet for a full-blown shootout if that’s what happens Sunday. I’ll give a slight nod to Kansas City, but the Ravens will have no reason to feel discouraged about their efforts in this one.

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andrews

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Ravens list Andrews, Ricard as questionable for Kansas City game

Posted on 20 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens listed standout tight end Mark Andrews and defensive lineman/fullback hybrid Patrick Ricard as questionable for Sunday’s much-anticipated tilt in Kansas City.

Both are set to play against the Chiefs after practicing Thursday and Friday, but Andrews remained a limited participant with a lingering foot issue while Ricard (back) practiced fully Friday. Andrews’ effectiveness will be worth monitoring, but the ailment didn’t seem to hinder him much in Week 2 as he registered eight receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown in the 23-17 win over Arizona.

As expected, the Ravens officially ruled out safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (right knee) after neither practiced this week. Head coach John Harbaugh said Smith is making progress in his recovery from the Grade 2 medial collateral ligament sprain sustained early in the season opener at Miami.

“He’s doing well. He’s very positive,” Harbaugh said. “We can’t say for sure; he hasn’t run yet. But he’s close to that. He’s on schedule, and we’ll know more in the next probably two weeks.”

Smith’s status is more notable with the Ravens’ reported interest in Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who played in the Jaguars’ win over Tennessee Thursday night. The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback was coveted by the Ravens in the 2016 draft and would require a substantial price in a potential trade as well as a lucrative contract to retain his services beyond the 2020 season.

Without Ramsey’s name being mentioned, Harbaugh was asked Friday how much he pays attention to potential player acquisitions and trade rumors.

“I see the direction we’re going with that,” said Harbaugh as he laughed. “I keep track of most of it. I don’t know anything about that, and obviously, you can’t and you would never comment on another player on another team. It’s just not what you do and it’s illegal, according to league rules.

“But I’m like fans; I read it. It adds a little interest because if someone gets traded to a team that we’re playing or away from a team that we play, that matters to us. If we’re ever involved in one of those, then that really matters to us. But it’s not something you could ever comment on anyway.”

The Chiefs are in a worse place than Baltimore from a health standpoint after officially ruling out three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill (shoulder), starting left tackle Eric Fisher (groin), and running back Damien Williams. Running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) was designated as questionable, but the veteran was able to practice fully Friday.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale downplayed the significance of Hill’s absence while complimenting the creative play-calling of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

“Let’s see, Hill runs about a 4.21 [40-yard dash]. They put in a guy that runs about a 4.22 40,” Martindale said. “So, they’re fast. And Andy Reid, we talk about all these young, innovative offensive coordinators. I hope he doesn’t get mad at me saying this, [but] he’s the grandfather. He’s the ‘O.G.’ of the innovators of offense. And the offense that he has there in Kansas City, everybody steals from.”

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Kansas City calls for rain and temperatures in the low 70s with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour. Some heavy rain is possible, which would add an interesting twist to an exciting matchup.

“I heard that it could rain,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t really have any other thoughts on it other than we’ll just go play in it and try to make sure we do a good job with the ball handling and the footing and those kinds of things.”

Below is the final injury report for Week 3:

BALTIMORE
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)

KANSAS CITY
OUT: OT Eric Fisher (groin), WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder), RB Damien Williams (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: RB LeSean McCoy (ankle)

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Ravens defense aiming to finish job against Kansas City this time

Posted on 20 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The numbers are very good for the Ravens defense so far.

Through two games, Baltimore is second in total defense, first in rush defense, fourth in points allowed, fifth in third-down defense, and tied for ninth inside the red zone. You’ll gladly take that kind of defensive profile over the course of the season with few concerns.

But what have we truly learned about the Ravens defense watching games against what could be the worst team in modern NFL history (Miami) and a rebuilding team with a rookie quarterback making his first career road start (Arizona)? Appropriately praising Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense for setting franchise records in Week 1 is one thing, but how do you judge a defense that does about what you’d expect of any good unit against such competition?

The Baltimore defense was always going to be good, but it’s a matter of just how good, a relevant question when you’re traveling to Arrowhead Stadium for the best game of Week 3.

“Miami was Miami. They’re struggling this year,” said six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas about the unit’s performance through two games. “But last week [against Arizona], we kind of felt a little type of way because we didn’t dominate like we wanted to dominate. It was a lot of well-schemed-up plays. We got to watch the tape, and we learned from those mistakes.

“Hopefully, we get them corrected once we get out there against Kansas City because it’s a copycat league.”

Yes, the Ravens were without cornerback Jimmy Smith — and will be again Sunday — and were already dealing with the loss of nickel corner Tavon Young, but surrendering 349 passing yards, 6.5 yards per play, and seven pass plays of 20 or more yards to Kyler Murray and the Cardinals don’t look like harbingers for success against 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. It’s difficult to expect the same results on third down and inside the red zone against an offense that scored just over 35 points per game last year and has averaged nearly as many (34.0) in two road wins to begin 2019.

Still, the Ravens were that close to knocking off the Chiefs in a 27-24 overtime loss last December, which should give them plenty of confident going into Sunday.

It’s a different year, of course, with the likes of Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, and Eric Weddle out of the picture, but the formula for success remains as the defense allowed just 24 points in regulation in that Week 14 clash, the Chiefs’ lowest output of the 2018 season. The Chiefs won’t have star wide receiver Tyreek Hill and starting left tackle Eric Fisher, but there’s still four-time Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and no shortage of speed at wide receiver.

Most importantly, they have Mahomes, whose sensational 48-yard completion to Hill on fourth-and-9 kept his team alive and allowed them to tie the game late in the fourth quarter last year.

“You have to handle the series of events,” defensive coordiantor Wink Martindale said. “He’s going to make plays. We know that going in. But what we can’t do is let him make too many plays, and then we have to play great red-zone defense.”

The Ravens did that for long stretches of last year’s game, holding Kansas City scoreless on four of five possessions in the third and fourth quarters and forcing field goals on two of five trips inside the red zone. With Jackson and the offense confident and playing at a higher level than last year, you’d love the Ravens’ chances to win with a comparable defensive performance. But if this one turns into a full-blown shootout, is the Ravens offense truly ready to go toe to toe with an proven heavyweight in a hostile environment for 60 minutes?

Keeping the Chiefs in the mid-20s on the scoreboard is easier said than done with their offense already completing 14 passes of 20 or more yards, two more than the explosive Ravens. That’s with the speedy Hill having played just 12 snaps before injuring his shoulder in the season opener, forcing the Chiefs to turn to veteran Sammy Watkins and younger options Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman.

Thomas believes he’s just the guy to limit those offensive explosions, something the Ravens didn’t do on Mahomes’ game-saving play to Hill last season. It’s a big reason why general manager Eric DeCosta made the four-year, $55 million investment in the former Seattle Seahawk’s services.

“I think that comes down to personnel,” Thomas said. “Luckily, the Ravens have me playing free safety, controlling the deep end. I plan on eliminating all the big plays.”

It isn’t just about the vertical passing game as Kelce can frustrate defenses in the short-to-intermediate portion of the field and Kansas City uses its running backs as receivers out of the backfield as effectively as anyone. That creates quite the challenge for strong safety Tony Jefferson and Ravens linebackers, who all experienced hiccups in pass coverage last week. As head coach John Harbaugh noted, the Ravens will throw enough coverage looks at Kelce to “try to keep the batting average down just a little bit,” understanding he’s going to make his share of plays.

Perhaps more than anything, we’ll truly find out about the pass rush that was scrutinized throughout the spring and summer. Thanks to promising starts by Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee, the Ravens lead the league with 20 quarterback hits over the first two weeks, but Pro Football Focus ranked Arizona 30th and Miami 32nd in its offensive line rankings entering the season. It’s nothing for which to apologize, of course, but drawing conclusions against that level of competition would be premature.

The good news for the Ravens is that the Chiefs will be depending on former Cleveland first-round bust Cam Erving at left tackle to protect Mahomes’ blind side. If Martindale’s defense wants to approach the 15 quarterback hits registered in Kansas City last December, that matchup will be one to exploit.

Amid the hype for Mahomes-Jackson II, the Ravens have a great opportunity to avenge last December’s loss while proclaiming themselves legitimate Super Bowl contenders with a win. It’s the kind of game in which we used to ask if the offense would be able to do enough, but times are certainly changing and a younger defense is aiming to prove its standard remains high in matchups such as these.

If the defense can again keep Mahomes and the Chiefs from lighting up the scoreboard, there’s no reason to think Jackson and an improved offense won’t get the job done. And if it again come down to the ball being in Mahomes’ hands late, there’s experience from which to draw.

“You have to play to the whistle,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “He’s a guy that can extend the play — smart guy, big arm, strong arm. You’ve got to lock in each and every down. They have a lot of different movements and gadgets and a lot of different things going on with their offense, so you have to have disciplined eye control, 100 percent communication, and just play as a unit for 60 minutes.”

Sixty minutes, indeed.

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andrews

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Andrews, Ricard practice as Ravens move toward Kansas City showdown

Posted on 19 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens tight end Mark Andrews continues to deal with a nagging foot issue, but that didn’t keep him off the field Thursday.

Baltimore’s leader in receptions practiced on a limited basis after missing Wednesday’s workout, diminishing any doubt about his status for Sunday’s showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs. A major part of the NFL’s top-ranked offense through the first two weeks of the season, Andrews hopes the strong chemistry he’s developed with quarterback Lamar Jackson will travel to Arrowhead Stadium, the place the Ravens lost a 27-24 overtime heartbreaker last December.

“That was a big-time game, kind of a nail-biter game. A lot of guys kind of grew up in that game,” Andrews said. “I think Lamar being able to play a tight game like that was big for his growth. It’s one of those games that I don’t think a lot of people have forgotten to this day.”

Defensive lineman and fullback Patrick Ricard also returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session with a back issue.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) and safety Brynden Trawick (elbow) were the only players on the 53-man roster not to participate in Thursday’s workout. Smith won’t play against the Chiefs while Trawick is appearing more likely to miss Sunday’s game, which would leave the Ravens without one of their best special-teams players and depending on younger options to pick up the slack.

“You’ll see we won’t lose a step with those guys,” special teams coach Chris Horton said. “The guys that we put in there, those guys have worked hard this [summer] to give themselves an opportunity go out and play. Whoever we put in there, we’re going to expect the same kind of effort, the same kind of physicality. And those guys will go out and play.”

Kansas City running back Damien Williams missed his second straight practice with a knee injury while fellow running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was a visitor at Thursday’s practice as he spent some time chatting with head coach John Harbaugh and Pro Football Hall of Famer and Baltimore Colts legend Lenny Moore, who remains a frequent visitor in Owings Mills. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey stepped out of a defensive backs drill to greet Hyde and shake his hand.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION – TE Mark Andrews (foot), DL/FB Patrick Ricard (back)
FULL PARTICIPATION – S Earl Thomas (non-injury)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE – OT Eric Fisher (groin), WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder), RB Damien Williams (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION – RB LeSean McCoy (ankle)

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andrews

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Andrews still dealing with foot issue as Ravens prepare for Kansas City

Posted on 18 September 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Mark Andrews didn’t register a catch in the 27-24 overtime loss at Kansas City last December, but the Ravens expect a much different output Sunday in a showdown between undefeated teams.

Andrews is not only becoming Lamar Jackson’s most reliable target, but the 2018 third-round pick is rapidly emerging as one of the NFL’s best tight ends as he enters Week 3 seventh in the league in receiving yards and first among all tight ends. Of his team-leading 16 receptions, six have gone for 20 or more yards and 12 have gone for first downs.

With eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown in the 23-17 win over Arizona, Andrews became the first tight end in Ravens history to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games.

“He knows how to get open. He knows how to use his body. He has a knack for the game,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s not all Xs and Os on a card or a play sheet. A lot of it is the human element, the backyard part of it, the feel for where the defender is at, the connection between the quarterback and the receiver to be on the same page.

Andrews is thriving despite a lingering foot issue that again kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. The 24-year-old sat out last Friday’s workout before playing against the Cardinals, which does ease immediate concern about his availability against the Chiefs as long as he’s able to log some practice time by the end of the week.

Fullback and defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (back), safety Brynden Trawick (elbow), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) also missed practice. Smith is not expected to play against Kansas City while Harbaugh has expressed uncertainty about Trawick’s status for Week 3.

Safety Earl Thomas received a veteran day off.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs will be without their starting left tackle against the Ravens as Eric Fisher is expected to undergo groin surgery this week. Pro Bowl wide receiver Tyreek Hill also remains sidelined with a shoulder injury sustained in the season opener.

Kansas City’s top two running backs, Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, also missed Wednesday’s practice.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Mark Andrews (foot), DL/FB Pat Ricard (back), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Earl Thomas (non-injury), S Brynden Trawick (elbow)

KANSAS CITY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Eric Fisher (groin), WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder), RB LeSean McCoy (ankle), RB Damien Williams (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (elbow), OL Cam Erving (elbow), TE Travis Kelce (knee), QB Patrick Mahomes (ankle), WR Demarcus Robinson (elbow)

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marquisebrown

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 2 win over Arizona

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens starting 2-0 for the third time in four years after a 23-17 win over Arizona, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Terrell Suggs’ return to Baltimore was uneventful as he finished with three tackles. He was paid handsomely to return to play in his home state, but I couldn’t help but wonder if witnessing the dramatic improvement from Lamar Jackson firsthand made him regret that decision a little more.

2. The zone coverage breakdowns were concerning — especially with Kansas City up next — but the situational defense was exactly what you want to see. The Cardinals were 3-for-12 on third and fourth downs and 1-for-4 inside the red zone. That’s how you survive giving up 6.5 yards per play.

3. We noted last week that Jackson didn’t throw much outside the numbers against Miami, but that wasn’t the case in Week 2 as he completed passes all over the field (see below), including his beautiful 41-yard completion to seal the six-point win. This is really getting fun.

4. Aside from a Kyler Murray 31-yard pass to KeeSean Johnson in the second quarter, Brandon Carr was stellar with a team-high seven tackles, the second sack of his career, and a pass breakup. Having the versatility to play the nickel is another reminder how valuable his 2017 signing was.

5. The only player to have more receiving yards than Marquise Brown in his first two NFL games was Anquan Boldin in 2003. So much for tempering expectations for a 22-year-old who missed the entire spring and a large portion of summer practice reps. He’s making it look easy.

6. As unexpected as Brown’s immediate success might be, Mark Andrews dominating over the first two games isn’t surprising. He’s caught 16 of the 17 passes on which he’s been targeted so far. Todd Heap’s single-season record of 855 receiving yards by a tight end is in real jeopardy.

7. Sacks are just part of the equation when evaluating a pass rusher, but Matthew Judon has collected one in each of the first two games. He didn’t hit the two-sack mark until Week 9 last season. His contract year is certainly off to a strong start.

8. Pernell McPhee split a sack with Patrick Ricard and played 40 snaps. That workload is more than you’d like to give the 30-year-old with an injury history, but McPhee is the only one offering much pressure when lining up inside.

9. The motion, pre-snap movement, and deception the Ravens are using has to be dizzying for opposing defenses. Jackson’s touchdown to Hayden Hurst came after the tight end flipped to the right side, chipped an edge rusher, went to the ground, and jumped up to catch an easy 1-yard score.

10. Unsuccessfully going for a fourth-and-3 from the Arizona 43 on the second drive drew some criticism, but it’s the aggressiveness we’ve come to expect from John Harbaugh. Give me the coach trying to win as opposed to playing not to lose like kicking three field goals inside the 5.

11. Ben Roethlisberger is out for the year, winless Cincinnati was throttled in its home opener, and Baker Mayfield and Cleveland hardly looked like a well-oiled machine against the injury-ravaged Jets after being embarrassed by 30 points at home in Week 1. The AFC North is Baltimore’s division to lose.

12. Change was a theme at the stadium with the debut of new public address announcer Greg Davis and Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” replacing U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” for player introductions. My favorite change, however, was the return of the Ravens shield as the midfield logo.

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lamarjackson

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Confidence in Jackson evident as he plays Ravens “closer” in Week 2 win

Posted on 15 September 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Ravens were clinging to a 23-17 lead in a game much closer than many anticipated.

The defense had forced back-to-back three-and-outs against Arizona, but impressive rookie quarterback Kyler Murray had made enough throws and Baltimore had experienced enough breakdowns in coverage over the course of Sunday afternoon to worry. Facing a third-and-11 at their own 44-yard line with 3:05 remaining, the Ravens punting the ball back to the Cardinals was an uncomfortable thought.

“You need a closer, man,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “You need somebody to go out there, do the dirty work, and get it done.”

Such a third-and-long situation last year likely would have called for a run, which sometimes even worked and would have at least kept the clock running with Arizona out of timeouts. Or, perhaps a simple run-pass option to set up an easy underneath throw or the possibility of Lamar Jackson keeping the ball, getting to the edge, and outrunning the defense to move the chains.

Not anymore.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman showed just how confident the Ravens are in their 22-year-old quarterback and his arm with an empty backfield and speedy rookie Marquise Brown in the slot. Jackson went for the jugular.

“We’ve got to get the first down,” Jackson said. “There’s man coverage on him, no safety help over top, and he ran a great route. I just had to make a great throw. He came down with the catch. I had other options, but that was the best one to go to at the time.”

Even with tight coverage on the play, Cardinals cornerback Tramaine Brock didn’t have a chance. It was a perfect throw and a great catch for 41 yards.

“That was a great pass,” said Brown, who finished with eight catches for 86 yards. “I seen it in the air, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is money right here.’ I couldn’t mess that one up.”

Ballgame. You can cross another question off the list as Jackson made an MVP-like throw in the clutch to seal a narrow victory.

Following his record-setting performance in last week’s 59-10 blowout win over Miami, Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 270 yards and run for 120 in a game, dual-threat production that was needed with Ravens running backs gaining a pedestrian 62 yards on 17 carries. Any remaining critics — who are dropping like flies these days — will again try to point to below-average competition while ignoring the obvious.

The Ravens may have something really special on their hands.

That’s not to say Jackson was perfect on Sunday. After a first half closely resembling the Dolphins game by going 12-for-16 for 171 yards and two touchdown passes to Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, Jackson appeared frustrated at times in the second half, missing a few open throws and going 11-for-20 for 60 yards before the game-sealing strike to Brown. The second-year quarterback was happy with the win after the game, but he lamented penalties and missed opportunities that led to only six points in the second half.

It was another excellent performance, but one not good enough for Jackson, a quality that’s going to allow him to be as good as he can possibly be. That mindset is why teammates and coaches were so excited seeing his improvement throughout the offseason.

There will be some bumps in the road ahead, but the throw he delivered when the Ravens needed it most is why they’ll have plenty of confidence going into Arrowhead Stadium next week. After nearly grinding out an upset with its ball-control offense against the Chiefs last December, Baltimore now has to believe it can hang if this rematch turns into more of a shootout between Jackson and 2018 league MVP Patrick Mahomes.

After throwing for just under 600 yards and seven touchdowns — the latter already surpassing his total from his rookie campaign — in his first two games of 2019, Jackson has given future opponents much to consider beyond his legs, which were working just fine against the Cardinals. Defensive coordinators preparing for the Ravens won’t be getting much sleep until further notice.

“They’re going to have to figure it out for themselves,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But this league has a lot of smart people and a lot of great players. As Lamar well knows, they’ll be chasing our scheme. We’ll play one of the best teams in the league next week in Kansas City. The stadium will be rocking. It’ll be deafening.

“We’re going to have to be a much better football team next week than we have been last week or this week. That’s just the way the league works.”

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Ravens-Cardinals: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 15 September 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Old meets new as Terrell Suggs returns to M&T Bank Stadium as a member of the Arizona Cardinals against a young Ravens team with a new face of the franchise.

After a record-setting performance in the 59-10 win over Miami to open the 2019 season, the Baltimore offense will be introduced with 22-year-old quarterback Lamar Jackson scheduled to be the last one out of the tunnel. Against the Dolphins, Jackson tied a team record with five touchdown passes and recorded the only perfect passer rating in Ravens history, a historic Week 1 performance that earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Suggs embraced former Raven and close friend Haloti Ngata with a big hug on the sideline during warmups, but he didn’t interact with any Ravens coaches or players on the field. The movie buff posted a video on Instagram Saturday quoting “The Dark Knight” character Harvey Dent: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

As expected, tight end Mark Andrews (foot), wide receiver Marquise Brown (hip), and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (back) are all active despite missing practice time this week and being listed as questionable on the final injury report. With Jimmy Smith out with a right knee injury, the Ravens elevated Maurice Canady to the 53-man roster Saturday to add more depth at cornerback against rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and a Cardinals offense that used four-wide sets more than the rest of the NFL combined in Week 1.

Smith took the place of recently-waived offensive tackle Greg Senat, but the remaining six players on the inactive list were unchanged from Week 1 with third-round outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson and fourth-round guard Ben Powers both deactivated for the second straight week.

Arizona received a scare Sunday morning with starting left guard Justin Pugh coming down with an illness, but the seventh-year veteran is active.

Former Ravens wide receiver Michael Crabtree is active and will make his Cardinals debut. Former Ravens tight end Maxx Williams is also now with Arizona and caught up with several teammates prior to warmups.

Sunday’s referee is Ronald Torbert.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Baltimore calls for mostly skies and temperatures reaching the mid-80s with calm winds five to 10 miles per hour.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys and purple pants for their home opener while Arizona dons red jerseys and white pants.

Sunday marks the seventh time the Ravens and Cardinals have met in the regular season with Baltimore holding a 4-2 advantage in the all-time regular-season series. The Ravens are 2-1 against Arizona at home with the only defeat coming at Memorial Stadium in 1997.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
ILB Otaro Alaka
CB Jimmy Smith
OLB Jaylon Ferguson
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack

ARIZONA
OL Lamont Gaillard
OL Joshua Miles
OL Jeremy Vujnovich
OL Brett Toth
WR Andy Isabella
DL Jonathan Bullard
DL Michael Dogbe

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Ravens-Cardinals: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 14 September 2019 by Luke Jones

A pair of 22-year-old starting quarterbacks may not produce an instant classic Sunday, but it’s the kind of matchup that makes you ponder an exciting future as the Ravens host Arizona.

Lamar Jackson took a dramatic leap forward with his five-touchdown performance in the season opener while Kyler Murray showed his promise late as the Cardinals rallied to force a Week 1 tie with Detroit last week. Of course, Jackson has a head start in his development after helping lead the Ravens to their first AFC North title since 2012 last season, and one could argue his early success was a factor leading teams to view Murray differently as he was taken first overall by the Cardinals in April.

That story aside, Baltimore aims to begin 2-0 for the third time in the last four seasons before a challenging trip to Kansas City next week.

It’s time to go on the record as the Cardinals play the Ravens for the seventh time in their history with Baltimore leading the all-time regular-season series 4-2. Arizona won the most recent meeting in 2015, but the Ravens are 2-1 against the Cardinals in Baltimore with the only loss coming at Memorial Stadium back in 1997.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Lamar Jackson will rush for 50 yards and throw touchdowns to Mark Andrews and Willie Snead. Jackson made his harshest critics look foolish with a record-setting performance in Week 1, but you hope expectations haven’t swung too far in the opposite direction as some are already touting him as an MVP candidate. I’m not buying his three rushing attempts becoming the new norm, especially with teams seeing you can’t sell out to take his legs away without consequences through the air. Arizona gave up a combined 13 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns to Detroit slot receiver Danny Amendola and tight end T.J. Hockenson last week. That bodes well for Snead and Andrews.

2. Terrell Suggs will register a strip-sack in his return to Baltimore. Questions about how the 36-year-old former Raven will hold up over a full campaign are more than fair based on the last few seasons, but Suggs was very active in his Cardinals debut with two sacks, one of them resulting in a fumble. Lost in Jackson’s Week 1 passing brilliance was that he didn’t fumble in a game he started for the first time in his career, an encouraging development. Offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. will have their hands full against Suggs and two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Chandler Jones, and Suggs will have active hands knowing Jackson’s problems with ball security last year.

3. Baltimore will bat three passes at the line of scrimmage, one leading to an interception. Shorter quarterbacks are capable of NFL success, but the 5-foot-10 Murray had four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last week, which did little to quell concerns about his stature. The rookie didn’t push the ball down the field a ton, but he threw it in every direction, making it critical for Baltimore pass rushers to get their hands up in passing lanes. Pernell McPhee and Chris Wormley have the potential to be big factors as inside rushers since the Ravens must be disciplined on the edge against a mobile quarterback who throws on the run effectively.

4. David Johnson will pick up 110 total yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s four-wide offense. With no disrespect meant toward Larry Fitzgerald, the rest of the Cardinals wide receivers don’t scare you from a matchup standpoint. However, Kliff Kingsbury used four wide receivers on two-thirds of Arizona’s plays in Week 1, which could open things for Johnson as a receiver down the seam. It’ll be fascinating to see how Wink Martindale attacks a unique offense with a group of cornerbacks at less than full strength, but his inside linebackers will be tested more this week against Johnson, who will try to slip out of the backfield to try to neutralize the pass rush against a rookie quarterback.

5. The Ravens will not dominate to the degree they did in Miami, but the outcome won’t be in doubt in a 31-14 win. I have a tough time seeing a path to victory for the Cardinals that doesn’t include multiple Baltimore turnovers or a couple injuries at key positions, but Murray’s performance over the final 25 minutes last week reiterates that the Ravens shouldn’t take this team lightly as the rookie will show his potential on a couple scoring drives. We’ll see a less spectacular but more balanced performance from Jackson, who will make plays with his arm and his legs to the delight of an energetic home crowd. Arizona will be more careful in pass coverage than the Dolphins were, but that will open up more room for Mark Ingram and the Baltimore rushing attack to control the tempo and the clock. The Ravens know they need a 2-0 start with the schedule toughening up considerably beginning next week, and John Harbaugh’s team will take care of business in comfortable fashion.

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