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earlthomas

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 9 win over New England

Posted on 05 November 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens improving to 6-2 for the first time since 2012 after a 37-20 win over New England, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore couldn’t have asked for a better start with 17 points on the first three drives against a team that hadn’t allowed more than 14 points in an entire game. The Ravens gained 133 yards in that first quarter while the Patriots possessed the ball for all of 132 seconds.

2. You knew it couldn’t continue to be that easy when Cyrus Jones muffed the punt early in the second quarter. The Gilman product has been pretty sure-handed with the Ravens, but coughing one up against his original team had to bring back some unpleasant memories that hopefully won’t linger.

3. The defense did strong work holding the Patriots to field goals on the final two drives of the first half, but kicking twice inside the 5 didn’t feel very “Belichickian.” Was it hubris that his defense had figured out the Ravens offense or some telling concern about his own offense?

4. To drain more than 17 minutes from the clock over its last two drives (not counting the final two kneels) speaks to this offense’s ability to crush an opponent’s soul. Lamar Jackson’s conversions to Mark Andrews and Willie Snead in that third-quarter drive were massive when leading by just four.

5. Earl Thomas played his best game as a Raven as he recorded a quarterback hit and grabbed his first interception since the opener. However, his best play came late in the second quarter when he broke up a Tom Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman at the goal line.

6. Marquise Brown didn’t post big numbers in his return from an ankle sprain, but his diving third-down reception and his catch and run for 26 yards set the tone on that opening drive. He wasn’t at full speed, but his presence is important for this offense to continue to thrive.

7. The rotation at inside linebacker was about what we expected, but Patrick Onwuasor reminded why he’s more effective playing the weak-side spot. He tied for the team lead with eight tackles, recorded a sack on a blitz, and forced the fumble returned for a touchdown by Marlon Humphrey.

8. Sunday was five seasons in the making for Nick Boyle, who caught his first career touchdown. Boyle is the constant in a tight end room that’s changed plenty since he was drafted in 2015 — three rounds after Maxx Williams — so it was cool seeing him enjoy the celebration with teammates.

9. Not only did Brandon Carr see extensive work at safety in the dime and quarter packages when Chuck Clark moved to linebacker, but he often played deep as Wink Martindale moved Thomas around the field. Carr, 33, rolls with the punches and embraces whatever the defense needs from him.

10. In addition to the conservative decisions to kick short field goals, New England committed four penalties that gave the Ravens first downs, headlined by a neutral-zone infraction turning a short field goal into a touchdown on the opening drive. A few of those flags were back breakers.

11. No team has advanced to the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye since the 2012 Ravens. At 6-2, the goal is no longer to simply win an underwhelming AFC North. Several tough opponents remain, but securing the first weekend off in January is more than doable.

12. Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, and Lenny Moore being in the building was special and highlights how incredible Baltimore’s football history is. Seeing Reed watch from the sideline reminded me of the legendary Johnny Unitas watching the new Ravens years ago. Sunday night was an electric atmosphere.

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lamarjackson

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MVP truth about Lamar Jackson clear after Ravens’ latest signature win

Posted on 04 November 2019 by Luke Jones

Three letters reverberated around M&T Bank Stadium following Lamar Jackson’s final touchdown run in the Ravens’ convincing 37-20 win over New England on Sunday night.

M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!

It’s a chant that’s rarely been uttered for a Ravens player — not counting two Super Bowl celebrations, of course — in the history of the franchise. Jamal Lewis garnered light consideration on his way to a 2,000-yard season in 2003 before finishing fourth in the voting and settling for Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may have heard a stray chant from time to time in their respective primes, but only two defensive players — Alan Page (1971) and Lawrence Taylor (1986) — have ever been voted AP NFL MVP, meaning neither Hall of Famer had any legitimate chance.

Yes, the truth is now clear, even if you were still holding back after Jackson’s performance in the road win at Seattle two weeks ago. A three-touchdown night against a Patriots defense off to a historic statistical start through its first eight games put the 22-year-old quarterback firmly in the MVP running — even if he has a greater team goal in mind than the one thousands of Ravens fans were referring to.

“We’ve got a lot of season left to play,” Jackson said. “We’re worried about the next game. I don’t really care about [MVP]. I appreciate it, but like I said before, I want something better than that.”

Look beyond the numbers — which are damn good already — and recognize what you’re watching with your own two eyes every week. As Jackson himself noted, there’s a long way to go, but he’s a legitimate MVP candidate and the Ravens are a strong Super Bowl contender after starting 6-2 for the first time since 2012.

That’s not to say Jackson is the favorite with the likes of Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, and Patrick Mahomes still in the MVP mix to varying degrees. In the same way the Triple Crown categories — batting average, home runs, and runs batted in — carried the MVP clout in baseball for years before modern analytics helped us more fully appreciate a generational all-around talent like Mike Trout, MVP quarterbacks have been judged solely on their passing acumen with few exceptions over the years.

Jackson is an exception. He could end up being the ultimate exception if he continues ripping through the quarterback rushing record book. That’s not something to be dismissed as a footnote or little more than a tiebreaker when comparing him to other quarterbacks who have only a fraction of the athleticism and running ability he possesses. Jackson’s 637 rushing yards are still more than four other entire teams through Week 9.

It’s time for dwindling critics to stop viewing that ability as something for which he needs to apologize and to start appreciating how special it truly is. Yes, he could get hurt on any given play just like the many quarterbacks who’ve been injured standing in the pocket this year instead of being on the move and avoiding contact as Jackson is seemingly adept at doing. There’s always that risk for any player.

No, Jackson isn’t the best passer in the league and may never be despite the substantial improvement he’s already shown from his rookie year. But he ranks 13th or better in passer rating, QBR, and yards per attempt and is on pace to throw for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter. And he’s done that without the legitimate No. 1 wide receiver that many of the aforementioned quarterbacks enjoy.

Of Baltimore’s six conversions on third and fourth downs against the Patriots on Sunday, all but one came on pass completions against the AFC’s best defense, illustrating the faith both he and the coaching staff have in his right arm in key moments.

Simply put, the gap between Jackson and the best passers in the league is a hell of a lot smaller than the discrepancy between him and all but a few quarterbacks in the rushing department. That dual-threat ability that includes a pace of rushing for over 1,250 yards — which would shatter Michael Vick’s single-season quarterback record — is far more valuable than a less mobile quarterback with moderately better passing numbers.

But it’s more than just the combination of passing and rushing numbers that make his MVP candidacy legitimate. Having won 21 straight games against rookie and second-year quarterbacks, the Patriots and their various defensive looks never fazed Jackson from the moment he was in the grasp on his third-down pass to Marquise Brown on the opening drive until his 1-yard touchdown push with 3:19 remaining in the game. He is as cool as young quarterbacks come and continues to make highlights every week while committing just five turnovers all season after ball security was a major problem in his rookie year.

Few quarterbacks — especially young ones — consistently make dynamic plays while also taking care of the football, but that’s exactly what Jackson is doing with 17 total touchdowns, only five interceptions, and not a single one of his four credited fumbles lost. The four quarterbacks drafted before Jackson in last year’s first round have combined for 29 total touchdowns and 33 interceptions this season, reminding us how challenging this really is and how easy Jackson is making it look.

“He has a very high football IQ. He also understands the moment. He has poise,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It just goes to the way he thinks and the way his mind works. He has an amazing ability to take a lot of factors, a lot of things — play clock, play call, personnel, formation, defense that presents, whatever changes that have to made — and just process all of that in that kind of a moment, which is what makes the position at quarterback so difficult.”

The best MVP argument for Jackson is how much better he makes the rest of his team, an assessment not made with haste after observing the first 15 regular-season starts of his young career. Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and the rest of the coaching staff built an offense around his strengths this past offseason, but it’s a system that wouldn’t work without him.

Jackson’s move to the starting lineup last November instantly turned one of the NFL’s worst running games into the best because of the pressure his athleticism puts on a defense used to playing 11-on-10 football on the ground. That dynamic rushing attack has allowed the Ravens to dominate time of possession, protect leads, and keep their defense better rested over 60 minutes. Jackson’s ability to take off from the pocket forces opponents to play more zone coverage, making it easier for Baltimore’s tight ends and wide receivers to find open windows and for Jackson’s accuracy issues to be mitigated.

Even when much of that breaks down like it did against the Seahawks two weeks ago when the between-the-tackles run game wasn’t there and his receivers couldn’t catch a cold, Jackson is capable of putting his team on his back. Whether he’s throwing five touchdowns and posting a perfect passer rating, rushing for 100 yards, or simply playing smart and efficient football without the gaudiest of numbers like he did against the Patriots, you can easily see his teammates — young and old — believe in him.

That may not garner the necessary support with voters used to viewing MVP quarterbacks through a more traditional lens, but those qualities could take the Ravens deep into January.

Or even February.

“I’m right with the crowd. I mean that. This man is the MVP,” six-time Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas said. “I’m right behind him. I’m backing him. He makes my job easier, and when you finish the game like that, it’s just a sigh of relief again for us.”

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jimmysmith

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Ravens-Patriots: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 03 November 2019 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For the first time since 2012, Sunday Night Football has returned to Baltimore with the Ravens hosting the undefeated New England Patriots in the headline matchup of Week 9.

After much discussion all week about Lamar Jackson facing Bill Belichick’s top-ranked scoring defense, we’ll find out how the 22-year-old handles what one of the best defensive minds in NFL history throws at him in these teams’ first meeting since 2016. Of course, the Ravens are trying to maintain the momentum of a three-game winning streak that’s propelled them to the No. 2 seed position in the AFC entering Sunday night. The Ravens are seeking their first 6-2 start since the 2012 season and their first four-game winning streak since 2013.

Despite missing Friday’s practice with a thigh issue to go along with the sprained right ankle that cost him the last two games, rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown is active and returns to action for the first time since Week 5. His speed will be needed to help keep a tough Patriots defense honest throughout the evening, but his effectiveness will be closely monitored.

As expected, cornerback Jimmy Smith (right knee) and inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (right ankle) are also active and will make their respective returns. Smith hasn’t played since injuring his knee on the second defensive series of the season in Miami on Sept. 8, so it will be interesting to see how much defensive coordinator Wink Martindale leans on him in a deep group of cornerbacks. Onwuasor missed the last two games after hurting his ankle in the overtime win at Pittsburgh.

Backup safety and special-teams contributor Bennett Jackson is active after missing the final two practices of the week with an ankle issue, but the Ravens deactivated reserve cornerback Maurice Canady, who was limited all week with a thigh injury originally sustained against Cincinnati in Week 6.

New England running back James White is active after being added to the injury report as questionable with a toe injury on Friday. He ranks second on the Patriots with 42 catches for 358 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots activated rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry from injured reserve Saturday, but the first-round pick is inactive for Sunday night’s game.

Sunday’s referee is Carl Cheffers.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday night forecast in Baltimore calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid-40s at kickoff with winds light and variable and no chance of precipitation.

The Ravens are wearing their alternate black jerseys with white pants while New England dons white tops with navy blue pants for Week 9.

Ravens legend Ed Reed is in attendance and will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony.

Sunday marks the 10th all-time regular-season meeting between these teams with the Patriots holding an 8-1 advantage and a 3-1 record in Baltimore. Counting the postseason, the Ravens are 3-6 against New England in the John Harbaugh era, which includes a 2-2 split in playoff games.

Below are Sunday night’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Jaleel Scott
CB Maurice Canady
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack
DL Zach Sieler
DE Ufomba Kamalu

NEW ENGLAND
WR N’Keal Harry
OL Korey Cunningham
WR Gunner Olszewski
DB Joejuan Williams
RB Damien Harris
QB Cody Kessler
TE Matt LaCosse

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marquisebrown

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Ravens wide receiver Brown expected to play against New England

Posted on 01 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown is still expected to make his return to action for Sunday night’s tilt against New England, but how effective he’ll be remains to be seen.

The rookie first-round pick sat out Friday’s practice and was officially listed as questionable to play against the Patriots. Brown has missed the last two games with a right ankle sprain sustained in Week 5 and has been seen walking with a limp this week, but Friday’s injury report listed him as also dealing with a thigh issue, which may help explain his absence after two days of limited practice work.

Baltimore gave Brown the final practice off in each of the first three weeks of the regular season, but no other players received a day off from practice this week coming off the bye.

“We’re just managing that. There’s a certain number of reps that we’re kind of working through right now with him,” said head coach John Harbaugh after Friday’s practice. “I do expect him to be out there on Sunday unless something unforeseen happens. You can never be sure, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was upgraded to full participation on Friday and will play for the first time since injuring his right knee early in the Sept. 8 season opener against Miami. The 31-year-old began practicing on a limited basis while wearing a bulky brace two weeks ago, but he sported a lighter wrap on his right knee this week.

With cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Brandon Carr all in the mix, the Ravens won’t feel pressured to play Smith an excessive number of snaps after missing six straight games. Smith was officially designated as questionable on the injury report.

“He moved well. Jimmy and I just talked out there at the end of practice,” Harbaugh said. “He feels good, moved well. He’s going to play if that’s what you’re asking, and I expect him to play at a high level.”

The Ravens also listed inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (right ankle) and cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh) as questionable after both were limited in practice all week. Onwuasor is expected to return after a two-game absence.

Safety Earl Thomas (knee) is officially questionable after being limited for the second straight day, but he made clear his intentions to play on Thursday.

Another situation worth monitoring has nothing to do with an injury, but it involved wide receiver and special-teams standout Chris Moore, who left the field after what appeared to be a heated discussion with Harbaugh during the portion of practice open to media. It’s unclear whether Moore returned to practice, but Harbaugh downplayed the incident without offering any details.

“It’s just an internal thing,” Harbaugh said. “Not a big deal — we hope. It’s fine.”

The Patriots listed eight players as questionable on their final injury report, but the most interesting development was the addition of running back James White, who was limited on Friday with a toe injury. White ranks second on the team with 42 catches for 358 receiving yards and a touchdown and is a versatile weapon in the New England offense.

New England also listed No. 1 wide receiver Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), right guard Shaq Mason (ankle), and safety Patrick Chung (heel/chest) as questionable, but that trio practiced all week on a limited basis.

Former Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was claimed off waivers by the Seattle Seahawks, whose priority was three spots after Baltimore’s. In other words, general manager Eric DeCosta didn’t put in a claim for the talented but troubled receiver.

According to NFLWeather.com, the Sunday night forecast for Baltimore calls for clear skies and temperatures falling into the low 40s by kickoff with winds around five miles per hour and no chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle/thigh), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), S Bennett Jackson (ankle), G Patrick Mekari (back), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
QUESTIONABLE: RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring), RB James White (toe)

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earlthomas

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Coming off bye, Ravens believe defense moving in right direction

Posted on 31 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Earl Thomas has played Tom Brady and undefeated New England on the NFL’s grandest stage and wasn’t about to miss Sunday night’s showdown because of a minor knee issue.

The Ravens safety returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday’s workout, but he removed any doubt about his availability against the team that edged him and the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX nearly five years ago. Thomas is expecting an electric atmosphere with Baltimore hosting its first Sunday night game since beating the Patriots back in 2012, and it’s an opportunity for the Ravens to make another major statement after the road win over Thomas’ old team two weeks ago.

“That’s why you prepare, so that you can go out there and have fun and dominate,” said Thomas, who added how this is the kind of matchup a player tells his kids about one day. “Hopefully, that’s what happens. The black-on-black [uniforms] are going to be fire. The fans are going to be fired up. It’s going to be at night at 8:30. I’m very excited about it. Everybody in this locker room is excited about it.”

The Ravens defense has endured its share of season-ending injuries since training camp, but Sunday could mark the healthiest it’s been since Week 1 as veteran Jimmy Smith (right knee) is expected to make his return after a six-game absence. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will now have no shortage of flexibility at cornerback with Smith joining the trio of Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Brandon Carr.

Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor is also expected to be back in action after missing the final two games before the bye week due to a high ankle sprain. With veteran Josh Bynes stepping into the “Mike” linebacker role at which Onwuasor struggled early in the season, the Ravens will use Onwuasor at the weak-side spot. It’s the position at which Onwuasor excelled last season, collecting 5 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.

“I’m looking forward to seeing ‘Peanut’ get back out there,” Martindale said. “That’s going to help us. That strengthens our defense. There will be roles for everybody that dresses, especially for this game because they do such a good job of showing you something they haven’t shown or things like that.”

Entering Week 9 just 16th in total offense, the New England offense has benefited from playing with the AFC’s best unit on the other side of the ball, but the Ravens are still aware of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ ability to game-plan and Brady’s awareness to expose an opponent’s weakness. Thanks to a combined six touchdowns scored on defense and special teams, New England is averaging an NFL-best 31.3 points per game, just ahead of the Ravens’ 30.6 scored per contest.

Since ranking 27th in total defense and 23rd in points allowed after the Week 4 loss to Cleveland, the Ravens have made personnel changes and have improved to 16th in both yards and points allowed per game. The defense is coming off its best performance of the season in the 30-16 win over the Seahawks that included an interception return for a touchdown from Peters and a fumbled return for a score by Humphrey.

“I really like the direction that we’re going,” Martindale said. “We’re playing with a lot better fundamentals, knock-back at the line of scrimmage. Our eyes are in the right place in coverage. Our leverages and angles of the football have improved immensely, and most importantly, our tackling has.

“Obviously, we had a rough stretch there, and there’s a focus on making sure we do everything right. I’m excited where that’s going.”

Reserve safety Bennett Jackson (ankle) was the only Baltimore player not to practice Thursday, but reserve offensive lineman Patrick Mekari (back) left the field with head athletic trainer Ron Medlin during the portion of practice open to reporters. Rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (right ankle) was a limited participant for the second straight day.

The Patriots removed Brady from the injury report after the 42-year-old quarterback was limited with right shoulder soreness on Wednesday.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Bennett Jackson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), G Patrick Mekari (back) , LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), S Earl Thomas (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring)

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marquisebrown

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M. Brown, Onwuasor back at practice as Ravens get ready for New England

Posted on 30 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Aiming to make a statement against the defending Super Bowl champions and the AFC’s last undefeated team on Sunday night, the Ravens gladly welcomed back two starters in their first full practice since the bye week.

Sidelined since suffering ankle injuries in the Oct. 6 win at Pittsburgh, rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown and veteran inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor were limited participants in Wednesday’s workout. Head coach John Harbaugh said both remain “on track” to play against New England earlier this week, but Brown chose his words more carefully when asked to assess his chances of suiting up for Sunday’s game.

The Ravens are hoping a healthy Brown can help unlock a vertical passing game that’s largely been dormant since the first two games of the season when he registered a combined 12 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns. The injury to his right ankle was a frustrating development for the 2019 first-round pick, who missed spring workouts and the start of training camp while recovering from offseason Lisfranc surgery on his left foot.

“It’s very tough just to sit and watch after sitting and watching [previously] since I’ve been here,” Brown said. “It’s tough, but I have good teammates and good people around me.

“We’re taking it day by day. I want to be out there, so hopefully I can.”

Onwuasor is working his way back from a high ankle sprain and is expected to settle into a three-man rotation with starting “Mike” linebacker Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, who started the last two games in Onwuasor’s absence. The arrivals of Bynes and Fort have helped stabilize an inside linebacker position that was very problematic early in the season, but Onwuasor’s ability to blitz from the weak-side spot could provide a boost to a pass rush that’s managed only 12 sacks in seven games.

In addition to Brown and Onwuasor, veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith is expected to make his long-awaited return from a right knee injury sustained in the Sept. 8 opener at Miami. The 31-year-old practiced on a limited basis two weeks ago before sitting out the Week 7 win in Seattle, but he deemed himself “ready to go” before Wednesday’s practice.

“Knees are a little different,” said Smith, who’s missed the last six games. “I just take it day by day working hard with the trainers and just making sure I feel good and taking care of the rest of my body because sometimes in rehab, that stuff kind of goes away. But we worked hard every day with that and made sure I could cut and do everything I needed to do to get out here for this week.”

Only one player on Baltimore’s 53-man roster was absent from Wednesday’s workout as free safety Earl Thomas sat out with a knee issue. It’s unclear whether he hurt his knee in the Seattle game or is dealing with more general soreness, but the six-time Pro Bowl selection has regularly received Wednesday practices off during the season, making his absence less concerning for the time being despite it coming off the bye week.

New England’s entire roster took part in Wednesday’s practice in some capacity, but 14-time Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady was limited due to a right shoulder issue. The 42-year-old’s status for Sunday isn’t believed to be in any danger, but the Patriots did re-sign backup quarterback Cody Kessler earlier this week.

The Patriots also listed wide receiver Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), safety Patrick Chung (heel/chest), and right guard Shaq Mason (ankle) as limited participants. Mason sat out New England’s win against Cleveland last Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S Earl Thomas (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (knee)

NEW ENGLAND
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: QB Tom Brady (right shoulder), RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Patrick Chung (heel/chest), WR Julian Edelman (chest/shoulder), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee), G Shaq Mason (ankle), WR Gunner Olszewski (Ankle/hamstring)

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bradyravens

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Twelve Ravens thoughts going into Week 9

Posted on 29 October 2019 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ravens add ex-Patriot Richards after Bethel signs with New England

Posted on 24 October 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and New England have indirectly swapped special-teams contributors.

After releasing veteran cornerback and three-time Pro Bowl special-teams player Justin Bethel in a decision driven solely by the NFL’s compensatory pick formula earlier this week, Baltimore signed veteran defensive back Jordan Richards on Thursday morning. Richards was released by the Patriots Tuesday to make roster room to sign Bethel.

A 2015 second-round pick out of Stanford, Richards had appeared in three games for New England this season, playing 60 snaps exclusively on special teams and making two tackles. The 26-year-old was originally drafted by the Patriots and has made 19 starts in 59 career games with New England and Atlanta. Richards signed a one-year deal with Oakland in April before being released at the end of the preseason, eventually re-signing with New England on Oct. 2.

General manager Eric DeCosta had released Bethel to keep the organization in position for a projected 2020 fourth-round compensatory pick. Tennessee’s release of former Baltimore defensive end Brent Urban last weekend had removed the pick from the Ravens’ compensatory ledger, leading to a difficult choice to cut Bethel despite him leading the team with five special-teams tackles.

The Richards signing still leaves the Ravens with one open spot on the 53-man roster after outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps. Defensive line coach Joe Cullen mentioned practice-squad edge rusher Aaron Adeoye as an option, but Baltimore fans will continue to hope for a trade for an impact pass rusher between now and Tuesday’s deadline.

The Ravens also signed outside linebacker Demone Harris to their practice squad earlier this week. Harris was most recently with Tampa Bay and shared his whirlwind week on his official Twitter account.

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decosta

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DeCosta, Ravens add future asset even with current concern

Posted on 29 August 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens still don’t have an answer at left guard while Jermaine Eluemunor might still develop into a starting-caliber NFL lineman.

That’s why general manager Eric DeCosta sending Eluemunor to New England didn’t quite add up with many assuming the return being only a throwaway late-round draft pick. Even with coaches’ frustration over the 2017 fifth-round pick’s conditioning and inconsistent play that prompted others to receive fleeting first-team reps, the Ravens continued giving him the bulk of the starter snaps throughout the spring and summer, making it evident they still preferred the 6-foot-4, 335-pound lineman over their other in-house options.

That seemingly reached a breaking point, however, when Eluemunor left the field in a cart when the Ravens were practicing against Philadelphia early last week. He missed the Eagles game — Bradley Bozeman started at left guard — and hadn’t returned to first-team duties in the portion of practices open to reporters earlier this week.

Bill Belichick and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots surrendering a 2020 fourth-round pick in exchange for Eluemunor and a 2020 sixth-round pick said plenty about both the embattled 24-year-old and DeCosta’s eye toward the future on the cusp of the 2019 campaign. Like the Ravens, New England clearly likes something in Eluemunor, which will make it interesting to see if renowned offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia can get the light bulb to come on for him. Even if that happens, the Ravens were compensated well for two potential seasons of Eluemunor and a sixth-round pick, making this trade quite different than sending the oft-injured Alex Lewis and his expiring rookie contract to the New York Jets for a conditional seventh-round pick carrying little value.

Of course, if the same issues follow Eluemunor to New England, the Ravens will have pulled off a steal.

Optimism remains high for 2019 as the Ravens plunge headfirst into the Lamar Jackson era, but DeCosta is positioned to be very active next offseason when Baltimore will be fully out from under the Joe Flacco contract from a salary-cap standpoint and is now projected to have nine picks in the first five rounds of the 2020 draft. That cap space and draft capital should be more than enough to meaningfully address any weaknesses — left guard, the pass rush, or anything else — that might not bring answers this fall. With Jackson’s fifth-year option taking his rookie contract through 2022, DeCosta recognizes the Ravens’ advantageous roster-building window remains open for quite some time.

Make no mistake, left guard remains a real concern with the season opener just 10 days away, but it’s not as though the Ravens were close to trusting Eluemunor even if he was the best blend of short- and long-term consideration. Perhaps Bozeman, James Hurst, 2019 fourth-round pick Ben Powers, or some other lineman not currently on the roster will eventually stabilize the position, but the Patriots are now the ones tasked with trying to cultivate Eluemunor’s frustrating potential.

If the former Raven blossoms, DeCosta has a solid chance of recouping that value down the line anyway.

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Ravens trade Eluemunor, sixth-rounder to New England for fourth-round pick

Posted on 28 August 2019 by Luke Jones

A day after head coach John Harbaugh expressed uncertainty about the starting left guard competition, the Ravens jettisoned the man who’d been lining up there the most this spring and summer.

General manager Eric DeCosta made his third trade of the preseason Wednesday, sending third-year offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor to the New England Patriots for an undisclosed draft pick. The deal is pending the passing of a physical.

(Updated 12:15 p.m. Thursday: The Ravens traded Eluemunor and a sixth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for a fourth-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.)

The 2017 fifth-round pick from Texas A&M appeared in 17 games and made three starts over his first two seasons, but he entered the spring practicing as the first-team left guard while former starter Alex Lewis recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Eluemunor’s path for the starting job seemingly improved when Lewis was traded earlier this month, but conditioning concerns and inconsistently play drew the ire of the coaching staff and prevented him from ever seizing control of the job.

The problem is no one else has stepped forward with rookies Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari as well as second-year lineman Bradley Bozeman all receiving first-team reps at different points this summer to mixed reviews. Bozeman has most recently lined up as the starting left guard since Eluemunor sustained some sort of injury during the joint practices in Philadelphia last week, but versatile veteran lineman James Hurst has also been noted as an option at left guard this spring and summer and has started multiple games there in the past.

The position remains one of Baltimore’s biggest concerns with the opener less than two weeks away.

“I’m sure there are people in the building — coaches and such — who have their opinions, but I’m very open right now,” said Harbaugh about the left guard spot Tuesday. “It will probably, in all honesty, remain a competition until somebody establishes themselves as the established starter. There’s a difference between being a starter and an established starter.

“That person is going to have to continue to earn that by how they play into the regular season, and I’m quite sure a certain one or more guys will step up.”

The departure of the 6-foot-4, 335-pound Eluemunor also raises the question of who might back up starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Eluemunor started one game at left tackle in place of Stanley last season and played well there in the second preseason game against Green Bay. Hurst has struggled mightily playing the position in the past while 2018 sixth-round offensive tackle Greg Senat missed the last two preseason games and only returned to practice earlier this week.

DeCosta traded Lewis to the New York Jets for a 2020 conditional seventh-round pick and kicker Kaare Vedvik to Minnesota for a 2020 fifth-round pick earlier this month.

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