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A “Lamarvelous” performance by Ravens as Mr. Jackson brings the heat all day long in Miami

Posted on 09 September 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

It was over early on Sunday afternoon in Miami. The Baltimore Ravens ran left and threw right and did almost everything perfectly.

I won’t be the guy who points out that they bobbled the opening kickoff.

The legendary performance of Lamar Jackson and the offense will be talked about until the next time a quarterback around here goes 9-for-9 with four touchdowns to start a day and ends it with a “perfect” passer rating of 158.3 in a 59-10 road win over a team and a franchise in a world of aquamarine hurt.

Books might one day be written with this as Chapter 1. And I might be the only one writing them again but I can say I was there in Miami on that steamy Opening Day when the purple mystery was unleashed on the NFL.

Look, Lamar ran the ball like crazy last year. He took over an offense that wasn’t his – in midflow with the season on the line and the job of the head coach in limbo – and made it work every week for two months until the Chargers gave him fits and sent him home.

But everyone in the NFL sphere knew it was going to take more than the mentality of a running back and pitching the ball around backwards to win consistently. And Lamar is so insulted and driven by that. It clearly stands in the center of motivating him, this criticism of his ability to read defenses and beat an NFL team with his arm.

“Not bad for a running back,” said the 22-year old with the purple Heisman chip on his shoulder.

Apparently, Sunday was what it looks like when he’s mad.

Lamar Jackson feels like a winner.

Whatever the “it” factor and aura that permeates greatness – all legends are constructed and created of those events when athletes do things that no one has ever seen done – Lamar has that kind of ability.

I’ve been to Miami a lot of times (and by the way, the stadium still sucks, Stephen Ross). I’ve seen a handful of World Series games, three Super Bowls, the Rolling Stones and a couple of playoff football games. I was even there the night that they put Dan Marino into the Hall of Fame in the rain.

I won’t soon forget the Lamar Jackson Show on a 94-degree day in Miami Gardens.

Sunday was a kid coming back to his home turf and showing what he’s learned so far. It was as impressive as anything you’ll ever see in a professional sporting event – a 59-10 win with QB rating perfection and a seat on the bench at 3 p.m.

Looking up at the scoreboard when the score was 28-0, it was clear we were seeing No. 8 do the things that needed to be done if that Chargers fiasco in January is not to be repeated. And eight months later, whatever that “Lamarvelous” performance was to begin the 2019 season at Hard Rock Stadium, it should roll into some legitimate expectations in Baltimore for the rest of the year.

The Ravens appear to be a good NFL team with one of the most exciting players in the sport emerging with a unique skill set.

When it became apparent that the outcome wasn’t going to be in question – and I’m not sure if that was when it was 28-0 or 35-3 – I tweeted that Ryan Fitzpatrick would provide a fair test the rest of the day for the defense. And Fitzpatrick did until he was pulled for Josh Rosen, who every team in the NFL preferred over Lamar Jackson just 18 months ago.

And Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale couldn’t have a paid a more wily veteran than Fitzpatrick, who would gunsling and fearless his way throughout the heat of the afternoon, challenging a young-ish defense that is trying to learn to communicate and gel.

It’s one thing to have preseason or backfield “friendlies” during August. But the game moved at a different speed in the heat of Miami and the Ravens as a team really answered that call.

It could’ve gotten sloppy or chippy or stupid late in a blowout win. It didn’t.

Lamar to Andrews looks special. Mark Ingram looks like a leader. Earl Thomas looks like a franchise kinda player with plenty to prove in his November.

All of the toys of Eric DeCosta were brought out of the purple garage for a spin.

I was the idiot asking Marquise “Hollywood” Brown some South Florida geography questions at his locker last week. On Sunday, he ran toward both oceans and away from anyone who can’t get him on the ground immediately.

Hollywood Brown. No one can catch him!

When the only thing you’ve done wrong all day is field questions about running up the score on the road with fake punts, you’ve had a helluva day.

And no coach named “Harbaugh” has ever pulled the foot off the gas. And, I’m sure he’s said at some point repeatedly, “I don’t even know what that means!?”

If you don’t want a fake punt run at you when it’s 35-3, then defend the play.

Now, the Arizona Cardinals will visit Baltimore to deal with the next round of purple mystery mayhem at the hands of this Lamar offense.

What will we see next week that we didn’t last week?

Youth is being served in Baltimore. Defenses are going to be physically tested – as will the passing prowess of Lamar Jackson under duress once better teams start appearing on the other sideline.

This is the part where I mention that the Miami Dolphins will get blown out of a dozen games this year with that ragtag outfit.

Kansas City on the road in two weeks will prove more. Hapless Cleveland will be playing for their season by the time they limp in here in a few weeks. And the Pittsburgh Steelers looked quite vulnerable late in the Foxborough evening under the lighthouse.

Now, it’s time to dazzle the home crowd against Kyler Murray on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Make no mistake about it – it is a fun time to be a Baltimore Ravens fan. Lots of hope and fun and unknowns.

The purple bandwagon will welcome you back onto the boot.

We still have some room.

 

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earlthomas

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Ravens-Dolphins: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 07 September 2019 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

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

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

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

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

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

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stevesmith

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Nine Ravens players absent from practice on Wednesday

Posted on 19 October 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Already dealing with a litany of injuries, the Ravens added starting quarterback Joe Flacco to the list as they continued preparations for their Week 7 meeting with the New York Jets.

The 31-year-old signal-caller was absent from Wednesday’s practice as he deals with a right shoulder injury. He played all 83 snaps in Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, but the veteran appeared to be banged up in the post-game locker room after the game.

Flacco said he did not feel any discomfort during the game and only felt “a little something” in the post-game locker room on Sunday.

“We’re just going to see how the thing goes during the week,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a chance to play. I don’t know what the percentage is. No one gave me a percentage on it. I believe he has a legitimate chance to play.”

The Ravens were also without wide receivers Steve Smith (ankle) and Devin Hester (thigh), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (biceps) and Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring), and cornerbacks Shareece Wright (thigh) and Jerraud Powers (groin) on Wednesday.

Harbaugh said Monday that Suggs and Yanda are unlikely to play until after next week’s bye, but he didn’t rule out the former trying to play against the Jets if his arm were to improve.

“Last time he [tore his other biceps], he played the game after the first game,” Harbaugh said. “If he comes up and says he can play, then we’ll put him out there. He’s not a long-term deal, either.”

The good news for Baltimore was the presence of cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion), who was practicing with a red non-contact vest over his jersey. His limited participation would mean he’s reached the penultimate step in the concussion protocol before being cleared to return to full action.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace (ribs) and Breshad Perriman were also practicing with red vests during the open portion of practice, but they were not listed on the injury report.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle Rick Wagner (thigh) were both present and working during practice, a good sign for their availability against the Jets. Stanley was a full participant in practice for the first time since Week 3 while Wagner wasn’t even listed on Wednesday’s report.

As expected, running back Lorenzo Taliaferro and cornerback Asa Jackson were both practicing. Taliaferro has begun his 21-day practice window after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list while Jackson is currently on the practice squad and could be an option for depth with the current injuries in the secondary.

Meanwhile, the Jets officially named Geno Smith their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling mightily in the midst of a 1-5 start.

Left tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (knee), and defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) were absent from Wednesday’s practice for New York.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Elvis Dumervil (foot), QB Joe Flacco (right shoulder), RS Devin Hester (thigh), LB C.J. Mosley (thigh), CB Jerraud Powers (thigh), WR Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), LB Terrell Suggs (biceps), CB Shareece Wright (thigh), G Marshal Yanda (shoulder)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (foot)

NEW YORK
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OL Ryan Clady (shoulder), LB Darron Lee (ankle), OL Nick Mangold (knee), OL Brent Qvale (neck), CB Buster Skrine (non-injury), DL Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: TE Braeden Bowman (knee), LB Bruce Carter (foot), RB Matt Forte (knee), LB David Harris (hamstring), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Steve McLendon (back), DB Darryl Roberts (shoulder), OL Brian Winters (knee)

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Ravens cornerback Jackson to miss rest of season with knee injury

Posted on 15 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — An unfortunate year at the cornerback position only got worse Monday with the news that Ravens cornerback Asa Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that Jackson suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Harbaugh ruled out safety Terrence Brooks (knee) for the rest of the season immediately after Sunday’s game as the rookie suffered a PCL injury on the opening kickoff against the Jaguars.

Jackson’s injury doesn’t sound as serious as Brooks’ ailment, but the timetable would not allow him to return quickly enough to justify carrying him on the roster for the final weeks of the season.

“He’s got a PCL [injury]. It’s like a five-week injury,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll be ruling him out the rest of the way.”

With Jackson becoming the fifth Ravens cornerback to be placed on injured reserve this season, four cornerbacks remain on the 53-man roster — Lardarius Webb, Rashaan Melvin, Anthony Levine, and the recently-signed veteran Antoine Cason. Jackson spent two months on IR-designated to return with a turf toe injury earlier this season and had just been activated in Week 14.

The Ravens have yet to officially place Jackson and Brooks on IR, but they will take another peek at what’s available on the free-agent market, something general manager Ozzie Newsome should be used to doing this season.

“I don’t think you ever feel like you have enough depth to get you through, so we’ll be looking at all of our options,” Harbaugh said. “It’s one thing to hope to have a guy, and it’s another thing to find a guy. We’re just looking at our options right now as we speak, and we’ll have some answers probably over the next two days on that.”

Melvin received the bulk of the opportunities when Jackson exited on Sunday, making five tackles and a pass breakup in his first NFL game. The sixth-year veteran Cason

Meanwhile, the Houston Texans are in even worse shape at the quarterback position as they’re set to welcome the Ravens to NRG Stadium in Week 16.

Head coach Bill O’Brien announced rookie quarterback Tom Savage will miss this Sunday’s game with a knee injury after he replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick in their Sunday loss to Indianapolis after the veteran suffered a broken leg. Those injuries coupled with Ryan Mallett previously going down for the season with a shoulder injury mean the Texans will be turning to their fourth quarterback of the 2014 seson.

Who that will be remains to be seen as O’Brien will choose between Thad Lewis and Case Keenum, who was waived by the Texans at the end of the preseason and spent most of the year with the St. Louis Rams before being signed off their practice squad by Houston on Monday morning.

“We’ll try to anticipate as best we can how we think they’ll attack us — scheme-wise and philosophically how they’ll approach the game — and try to gear our game plan and our reps accordingly as best we can,” Harbaugh said. “Who plays quarterback is definitely a part of that. We’ll be looking at that, and we’ll have to prepare for both of those two [quarterbacks].”

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