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A bright purple idea to replace The Ray Lewis Squirrel Dance with a new thing

Posted on 30 October 2019 by Nestor Aparicio

Because most of you know I turned the Ravens bye week into a “buh-bye” week at WNST and served up a healthy dose of Baltimore Positive conversations, I had some time to digest the Ravens win in Seattle in many ways from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The incredible win at The Link in The Emerald City was certainly a statement win for the 2019 version of the Ravens but also for the franchise and its new leader Lamar Jackson, who has electrified the sport and suddenly reinvigorated the football energy in Baltimore. This kind of Sunday night against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots is everything you’d want for our city and our stadium as Light City – the coolest idea our city has had to bring people back to the Inner Harbor since Governor Schaefer built Harborplace – kicks off in earnest in my ‘hood.

(This is your official invitation to come back downtown and participate in what is great about Baltimore! I will be happy to show you around!)

One thing that a puke green weekend 3,000 miles away in the rain in Seattle showed me was how rowdy a city hungry for football can still be – but also how really inspired the brilliant “12th man” brand they have created for the Seahawks is on game day as a real home field asset. The fans and locally chosen Seattle celebrities and dignitaries and former greats get to raise the flag and make the crowd go berserk at kickoff.

I remember what that was like in Baltimore when Ray Lewis danced every Sunday to ignite an energy that made 33rd Street feel like a bingo hall.

You don’t have to be a rock and roll fan to know that seeing Mike McCready of Pearl Jam stoke the crowd is pretty bad ass. (Of course that didn’t help the Seahawks players tackle Lamar Jackson 20 minutes later but I think you get my point, especially if you ever attended a game where No. 52 did the Squirrel Dance and the hair on the back of your neck stood up. I remember to never forget!)

I have been wanting to write and discuss this for a month now but there was NOTHING that has happened at a Ravens game recently that surpassed that moment when Brian Billick came out of that tunnel holding up the Lombardi Trophy against the Browns on that day they put him into the Ring of Honor.

It occurred to me that we had 105 players (and lots more significant humans if you count coaches, staff and other “ring wearers” from the organization and front office) on the field who won the Super Bowl as Baltimore Ravens and deserve to hoist that silver trophy for the fans one more time.

If Brad Downs and the folks over at the purple palace want my best idea for free, here it is:

Bring back a Super Bowl 35 or 47 champion EVERY week for as long as they are alive and have them lifting the Silver Betty (or its 12-year baby brother “Joe”) and make that our “12th man” or some kind of replacement for the irreplaceable and never to return Ray Lewis Squirrel Dance.

Anquan Boldin came out and took a bow two weeks ago. Was the Lombardi Trophy unavailable that day? Imagine how nuts the crowd would’ve gone?!?

We once had Nelly and “Hot in Herre” and a transcendent football player who now has a statue at the gate. That ain’t coming back any more than the Johnny Unitas statue next to it is walking back into Memorial Stadium in black high tops.

In Baltimore, Maryland, we have trophies that should be shown off more often than the humble Ravens have cared to do so in recent years – and that should change.

I’d never let a team walk into our stadium and not know and FEEL it ever again.

I know it didn’t go well against the Cleveland Browns after the Billick silver “sky spear” than it went for the Seahawks two weeks ago at Century Link Field, but it is a moment worth replicating and certainly better than anything goofy Terrell Suggs ever did in the aftermath of the Ray Lewis Squirrel.

The Ravens could sell it and stock it with players who were a part of a championship team. And then encourage it for the alums who made big plays in January that led to those Super Bowl parades. And every one of them was on the field for many a Ray Lewis Squirrel Dance and a confetti shower.

THAT’S the way to kick off a game against Tom Brady – or anyone for that matter – if you want to intimidate the opponent. If Billick can roll out of the tunnel with Silver Betty then why not James Trapp or Mike Flynn from Tampa? Or Michael Oher or Bryant McKinnie from New Orleans?

We are 23 years into this thing and the Baltimore Ravens are always chasing their own greatness and higher standards than the orange puke across the parking lot where they canceled their own offseason fan festival and still treat the fans like an ATM. As a guy who has dedicated his life to the passion around Baltimore sports, I have seen how hard the Ravens franchise and its human beings have had to work in the aftermath of London and the aging

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earlthomas

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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 7 win at Seattle

Posted on 22 October 2019 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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lamarjackson3

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Two decisions, MVP-like performance prove to be difference for Ravens

Posted on 21 October 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens offense had run only three plays in nearly a full quarter of action, thanks in part to newly acquired cornerback Marcus Peters’ interception return for a touchdown late in the second quarter.

Midway through the third quarter of a 13-13 game, Seattle was dominating time of possession by almost 11 minutes and had carried the ball five times for 31 yards on its second drive of the third quarter. Facing a fourth-and-3 from the Baltimore 35, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll could keep his offense on the field to try to wear down a front that was already down a starting outside linebacker or try a 53-yard field goal on a wet surface — with a kicker not named Justin Tucker.

Jason Myers missed wide right, and with that failed kick went Seattle’s best chance to seize control of the game. Perhaps the Ravens defense would have stopped the Seahawks on fourth down anyway, but it was a decision that stood in stark contrast to what would happen on the ensuing drive.

John Harbaugh had decided to go for a short field goal on fourth-and-2 from the Seattle 8. After two Mark Andrews drops, a delay of game, and a fantastic 13-yard run by Lamar Jackson on third-and-15, the Ravens head coach was going to take the sure three points and a lead late in the third quarter. But after settling for field goals on each of their two red-zone trips in the first half, Jackson was having none of it as he came to the Baltimore sideline and the field goal team ran onto the field.

“I’m like, ‘This time we aren’t kicking no field goal because Russell Wilson is getting the ball again,'” Jackson told reporters in Seattle, “and if we didn’t score, it might look ugly.”

Harbaugh acquiesced and called a timeout before Jackson powered his way behind a heavy front into the end zone to give the Ravens the lead for good in one of their biggest road victories in years. It was a defining moment for a 22-year-old quarterback who’s not only emerging as a legitimate MVP candidate in his first full season as a starter but as the unquestioned leader of his team.

It was ultimately about trusting your best player rather than analytics or settling for a small lead in a game with more than 16 minutes remaining.

Whenever the Ravens needed a play on a day when his best wide receiver was out and his top pass catcher — tight end Mark Andrews — had the worst game of his career, Jackson said no problem, rushing 11 times for 119 yards before taking the final three kneels of the 30-16 victory. Critics may mock Jackson going 9-for-20 for 143 yards on a difficult passing day in which he wasn’t helped by the wet conditions or his receivers, but anyone who watched objectively wouldn’t even try to diminish the performance. Jackson was the best player on a field that included Wilson, the early MVP favorite who threw his first interception of the season and completed less than 50 percent of his passes against a rejuvenated and revamped Baltimore defense that scored two touchdowns.

Unsurprisingly, Jackson was the talk of both locker rooms after the game, a theme becoming more popular by the week.

“We can’t rush how we want,” Seattle defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “Can’t get out of the rushing lane because we’re scared he’s going to run with the ball like he did today. Even though we stayed in our rush lane, he still found a way and made a play and got through there. He made a lot of guys miss today. He had a good game.”

Jackson is now on pace to run for a staggering 1,316 yards, a single-season total eclipsed by only Jamal Lewis (three times) and Ray Rice (twice) in Ravens history. His arm wasn’t the difference in Sunday’s game, but the young quarterback is completing 63.3 percent of his pass attempts and is on pace to throw for just under 3,800 yards with a 94.1 passer rating, the kind of progress with which both the organization and fans would have been thrilled in the offseason. As Peters noted about his new quarterback after Sunday’s win, “He’s only going to get better.”

The Ravens now enter their bye week with a 5-2 record and a 2 1/2-game lead in the AFC North. It’s their first time entering the off-week with a winning record since 2014, the last time they won a playoff game. Harbaugh’s team is not only sitting pretty in a lackluster division, but the Ravens now see a wide-open AFC behind undefeated New England, especially with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes expected to miss at least a few weeks with a knee injury suffered last Thursday night.

The win over the Seahawks transformed thoughts of the Ravens being merely the best team in a bad division and benefiting from a soft early schedule to visions of 2019 being something special. Of course, there’s a very long way to go with the Ravens playing five of their next six games against teams currently sporting winning records, but none of those games — not even Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and defending champion New England coming to town in two weeks — seem as daunting after wining in Seattle, one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL for years.

It started with contrasting decisions by two Super Bowl-winning coaches in the third quarter and ended with the ball in the hands of the game’s best player.

The Ravens should like their chances with Jackson every time.

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marquisebrown

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Ravens-Seahawks: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 20 October 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens will be without their top wide receiver for a second straight game.

After missing the entire week of practice, rookie Marquise Brown will not play against Seattle as he continues to recover from a right ankle injury sustained two weeks ago in Pittsburgh. Head coach John Harbaugh didn’t want to rule Brown out after Friday’s workout, but it was apparent he was very unlikely to play after missing two whole weeks of practice.

Brown’s absence is bad news for a passing game struggling to make big plays in recent weeks. After completing 16 passes for 20 or more yards over the first three games of the season, the Ravens have a total of just six over their last three games.

Inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) was also deactivated after not practicing the entire week and will miss his second straight game. Veteran L.J. Fort is expected to again start at the weak-side inside linebacker spot next to “Mike” linebacker Josh Bynes with Chris Board serving as the primary backup.

Cornerback Marcus Peters will indeed make his Ravens debut after being acquired from the Los Angeles Rams Tuesday and logging only two practices with his new team. That’s good news for a Baltimore secondary that will be without veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) for the sixth straight game and cornerback Maurice Canady, who hurt his hamstring in last week’s win over Cincinnati. Second-year cornerback Anthony Averett is active despite missing the final two practices of the week with an ankle injury.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is active and will start despite being slowed by a knee injury this week. He had been listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he practiced fully Friday to ease any lingering concerns about his availability against the Seahawks.

Safety Bennett Jackson is active and will finally appear in his first NFL game five years after being selected by the New York Giants in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. The Ravens signed Jackson off the New York Jets practice squad this week after he’d spent parts of the last two years with the organization. He’s expected to play on special teams and could be a part of some defensive sub packages after second-year safety DeShon Elliott was lost for the season due to a knee injury last week.

The Seahawks are dealing with some notable injuries of their own as they deactivated starting left tackle Duane Brown (biceps) and starting defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle) for Sunday’s game. Starting safety Bradley McDougald is also out with a back injury.

Seattle right guard D.J. Fluker is active after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury.

Prior to Saturday’s 4 p.m. roster deadline, the Seahawks activated defensive tackle Jarran Reed and placed tight end Will Dissly (Achilles tendon) on injured reserve. Reed just served a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, but he’s coming off a 2018 campaign in which he collected a career-high 10 1/2 sacks, making him a potential problem for Baltimore’s interior offensive line.

The Ravens and Seahawks will be meeting for the sixth time ever in the regular season with Seattle having won each of the last three meetings and holding a 3-2 advantage. Baltimore is winless in its two previous trips to CenturyLink Field and hasn’t beaten the Seahawks since a 44-41 thriller at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 23, 2003.

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Seattle calls for cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the low 50s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and only a 25-percent chance of some rain showers.

The referee for Sunday’s game will be Brad Allen.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with purple pants while Seattle dons its blue tops with blue pants for Week 7.

Below are Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
QB Trace McSorley
WR Marquise Brown
CB Jimmy Smith
CB Maurice Canady
LB Patrick Onwuasor
G Ben Powers
DT Daylon Mack

SEATTLE
DE Ziggy Ansah
OT Duane Brown
WR Gary Jennings
S Bradley McDougald
G Jordan Roos
WR John Ursua
S Lano Hill

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andrews

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Ravens-Seahawks: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 19 October 2019 by Luke Jones

The vaunted Ravens defense against the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom,” right?

Not these days as offense is currently king in both Baltimore and Seattle while the defenses are rather pedestrian.

Sunday’s tilt provides the Ravens a major test after entering Week 7 tied for having the NFL’s easiest schedule by winning percentage and holding the second-lowest strength of victory in the AFC (not including winless Miami and Cincinnati). The Ravens can’t control which teams they play, of course, but a win against a 5-1 Seahawks team would be quite a statement to the rest of the conference still finding its way behind undefeated New England.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens meet the Seahawks for just the sixth time ever with Seattle holding a 3-2 series advantage. Baltimore is winless in its only two trips to CenturyLink Field and hasn’t defeated the Seahawks since Nov. 23, 2003, a crazy 44-41 overtime final.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Earl Thomas will grab an interception against his old team. The six-time Pro Bowl safety took the high road and expressed respect for his former organization this week, but you know Thomas would love nothing more than to stick it to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll for fazing him out of Seattle’s plans in his mind. More importantly for the Ravens, Thomas’ confidence is growing as he noted he’s having fun and defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has given him “that green light.”

2. Russell Wilson will go over 35 pass attempts for just the second time this season. The veteran is overdue to throw his first pick of 2019, but making his offense one-dimensional by shutting down the run may not be that desirable. The Seahawks are right on the Ravens’ heels in terms of run-pass ratio, but Seattle ranks 17th in yards per carry at 4.1 compared to Baltimore’s league-best 5.5 yards per attempt. In other words, why run so frequently with mediocre results instead of giving Wilson more chances to make plays with his arm? He’s second in the NFL at 9.0 passing yards per attempt. The Ravens taking away that “balance” by completely stopping the run could actually prove to be detrimental.

3. Mark Andrews will go over 100 receiving yards and catch a touchdown. Speedy wide receiver Marquise Brown appears unlikely to play after missing another full week of practice, putting even more pressure on Andrews to be the go-to guy for Lamar Jackson and the passing game. The Seattle defense has given up three touchdown passes to tight ends and 66 or more receiving yards to Cincinnati’s C.J. Uzomah and the Rams’ Gerald Everett, who had a career-high 136 two weeks ago. Even with the Ravens’ lacking a vertical threat, Andrews should have another big day.

4. Tyler Lockett and D.K Metcalf will catch touchdowns against a reshuffled secondary. We’ve seen the defense take positive steps in each of the last two weeks, but forgive me if I’m not convinced holding Devlin Hodges-led Pittsburgh to 23 points and the winless Bengals to 17 constitutes a real breakthrough. I like the Marcus Peters acquisition, but the high-variance cornerback had to fly across country twice in little more than a 48-hour period and is still learning a new playbook. This trade will pay off, but that won’t come until after the bye week when Peters can catch his breath.

5. Red-zone and third-down efficiency will be the difference as the Ravens fall 30-23 to Seattle. Baltimore will try to control the clock with the ground game and keep Wilson off the field as much as possible, but that only works if you’re finishing drives with touchdowns rather than field goals, which is easier said than done against a good opponent on the road. The Seahawks rank seventh in third-down defense and tied for 15th in red-zone defense, superior to the Ravens defense in both departments. This will be a close game that could go either way, but Wilson is playing too well right now to bet against him, even if Jackson gives you a real chance to win whenever he steps on the field.

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marquisebrown

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M. Brown, Onwuasor, Stanley questionable for Ravens-Seahawks game

Posted on 18 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens could again be without wide receiver Marquise Brown and inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor after neither practiced all week in preparation for Sunday’s game at Seattle.

Officially listed as questionable, Brown and Onwuasor sat out the Week 6 win over Cincinnati and haven’t practiced since injuring their ankles against Pittsburgh on Oct. 6. Head coach John Harbaugh indicated at the start of the week they’d need to log some practice time to play against the Seahawks, but he seemingly changed his tune Friday in what may amount to little more than some gamesmanship. Under Harbaugh, injured players have rarely played in a game after missing the entire practice week.

“We don’t like to have that rule,” Harbaugh said, “so we’ll just leave that up in the air right now.”

After practicing Thursday and Friday, new Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters should see extensive action against Seattle, especially with reserve cornerbacks Maurice Canady (hamstring) and Anthony Averett (ankle) listed as questionable to play. Canady didn’t practice all week while Averett missed workouts on Thursday and Friday, leaving their availability in doubt.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith was listed as doubtful after practicing on a limited basis this week for the first time since injuring his right knee in the season opener. The veteran appears likely to make his return to action after next week’s bye.

With the Los Angeles Rams having played the Seahawks just two weeks ago, Peters had the advantage of already being familiar with Sunday’s opponent while trying to learn a new playbook this week.

“He looked good. He’s ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “As I said, he’s going to play. He’ll probably play a lot, so we’re looking forward to it. He looks good, and our coaches have done a good job of getting him up to speed. He’s done a really good job of studying and being up to speed.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) was upgraded to full participation Friday and is expected to play on Sunday.

The Seahawks listed left tackle Duane Brown (biceps) and strong safety Bradley McDougald (back) as questionable despite neither practicing all week. Right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) could make his return to action after sitting out Seattle’s win at Cleveland last week.

The Weather.com Sunday forecast in Seattle calls for rain showers and temperatures reaching the mid-50s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and a 70-percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report for the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: CB Jimmy Smith (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Anthony Averett (ankle), WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee)

SEATTLE
OUT: TE Will Dissly (Achilles)
DOUBTFUL: S Lano Hill (elbow)
QUESTIONABLE: OT Duane Brown (biceps), S Bradley McDougald (back), DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), G D.J. Fluker (hamstring), DE Quinton Jefferson (oblique)

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Future meets present at quarterback as Ravens aim to take down Seattle

Posted on 18 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The greatest praise Ravens defensive players have offered Lamar Jackson is admitting how much they dislike facing the dual-threat quarterback in practice.

It’s why any comparison made to Russell Wilson serves both as a compliment to the Seattle quarterback and a reminder of what still lies ahead for a 22-year-old making just his 15th career start against the 5-1 Seahawks on Sunday. Such a juxtaposition would have been mocked by many only a month or two ago, but Jackson’s substantial improvement as a passer doesn’t make it farfetched to think he could be as accomplished as the Super Bowl-winning Wilson one day.

“I think he’s the only guy that I’ve seen do it pretty effortlessly like Lamar does,” said cornerback Marlon Humphrey of Wilson, who’s the current favorite to be the NFL’s MVP. “We always say we don’t want to play Lamar, so I guess we’re kind of playing a polished-up, couple-years-down-the-line Lamar. We definitely better get ready because he definitely can do it all.”

Jackson is hardly a carbon copy of the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, of course, but certain similarities are undeniable. Five quarterbacks were selected ahead of Wilson in the 2012 draft with even the Seahawks passing on him twice before the third round; four quarterbacks were taken before Jackson last year with the Ravens making him their second selection of the 2018 draft. Both have fought NFL quarterback constructs with Wilson being only 5-foot-11 and Jackson pushing back against the “athlete” label that prompted some evaluators to suggest a position change before last year’s draft.

The differences are clear as Jackson has no peer among rushing quarterbacks with the mobile Wilson having run for more than 600 rushing yards in a season just once in his career and the Baltimore quarterback currently on pace to run for over 1,200 this year. Wilson is the more accurate passer, but it’s worth noting he had a completion percentage of only 57.8 percentage over his three years at North Carolina State — Jackson completed 57 percent in his career at Louisville — before completing 72.8 percent of throws in his senior season at Wisconsin, a jump that improved his draft stock considerably.

Jackson has markedly improved his completion percentage from 58.2 percent as a rookie to 65.1 percent this season and is on pace for 4,000 passing yards, but his athleticism is what makes him truly unique as he became the first quarterback to ever win the NFL’s Ground Player of the Week Award for his 152-yard rushing effort against Cincinnati last Sunday. He also threw for 236 yards against the Bengals, making him the first to ever pass for 200 yards and rush for 150 in an NFL regular-season game.

Not bad for a young quarterback whose team has gone 10-3 in the regular season since he became the Ravens starter last November, trumped only by Seattle’s 11-2 mark over that time.

“I just want to do what I have to do to win with my guys,” Jackson said. “I see other quarterbacks. I see them play. They do a great job. But like I said, it’s a new era, and they need [dual-threat quarterbacks] right now. It’s not the same as years before.”

Jackson would be the first to tell you the 30-year-old Wilson remains on another level right now as he has 14 touchdowns and a league-leading 124.7 passer rating. He’s graded as Pro Football Focus’ top quarterback through Week 6 and has yet to throw an interception in 189 pass attempts.

Wilson still doesn’t hesitate to leave the pocket, either, as his 151 rushing yards rank fifth among quarterbacks this season. He isn’t as likely to take off for a big gain, but the veteran’s ability to extend plays and improvise as a passer puts incredible pressure on opposing secondaries to hang with downfield targets Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Jackson taking off and throwing on the run more effectively could be the final step to making him unstoppable.

“It’s sort of like playing against Steph Curry in basketball, if you will,” said Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale about Wilson. “You can pick him up from half court, and he’s going to try to drive by you when you’re saying ‘keep him in the pocket.’ Or, you can slack off, and he’s going to pull up and hit a three. He’s just playing at a really high level right now, and I don’t argue with anybody that’s saying he’s playing at an MVP level.”

The Ravens defense will surely have their hands full, but a middle-of-the-road Seahawks defense must deal with Jackson, who creates as many headaches for defensive coordinators as anyone in the league in his first full season as a starter. Making his first start at a raucous CenturyLink Field will be a tall order, but the Ravens have been impressed with Jackson’s poise on the road, which includes two one-score losses at Arrowhead Stadium in his young career.

Seattle is a far cry from its “Legion of Boom” days defensively, but it will still be a great test and opportunity for a young quarterback garnering some MVP attention himself.

“He’s just way, way more advanced. We do so much more now,” said head coach John Harbaugh about Jackson’s growth from his rookie year. “Our motions are more complex. Our cadence is more complex, both verbal and silent. We’re under [center]; we’re in the gun; we’re pistol; we’re empty. We do a lot of different things, and he’s really done a good job handling all of it.”

It won’t be easy for Jackson and the Ravens, who could be without speedy wide receiver Marquise Brown for the second straight game. Baltimore has managed just six pass plays of 20 or more yards over its last three games after producing 16 over the first three weeks of the season.

The Ravens defense added two-time cornerback Marcus Peters earlier this week, but the middling unit is still trying to find its way with new pieces and a pass rush that’s accounted for just 11 sacks in six games. Seattle will easily provide the toughest test since Kansas City and Cleveland combined to shred the Ravens for 73 points and over 1,000 yards in Weeks 3 and 4.

But much like the Seahawks with Wilson over the years, the Ravens are quickly finding they always have a chance with Jackson at the helm. Win or lose Sunday, that’s an exciting thought that bodes well for the future.

“It’s a playoff-caliber team, playoff-caliber environment,” running back Mark Ingram said. “We aspire to be one of the best teams going into the playoffs and winning championships, so you have to be able to do things like that if you want to be a championship team. It’s a big challenge for us.”

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marquisebrown

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Marquise Brown absent again as Ravens prepare for Seattle showdown

Posted on 17 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens would love to jump-start their vertical passing game in time for a difficult test at Seattle, but their biggest threat to do it remains sidelined.

Wide receiver Marquise Brown missed his fifth straight practice Thursday and appears in danger of missing his second straight game. The 2019 first-round pick injured his right ankle in the Week 5 win in Pittsburgh and hasn’t practiced since returning in the fourth quarter of that overtime contest. Head coach John Harbaugh indicated Monday that Brown would need to log some practice time this week to play against the Seahawks.

Since completing 16 passes of 20 or more yards over the first three games of the season, the Ravens have just six over the last three contests as opposing defenses began taking measures to limit the deep ball even before Brown’s injury. The speedy rookie’s absence has left tight end Mark Andrews as Lamar Jackson’s only consistent downfield threat in the passing game.

“Marquise can definitely affect the game that way,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “But we’ve got [other] guys that can do it as well. A lot of it starts with how the defense chooses to play. But we’re always looking for them for sure. It’s definitely a focus of ours I would say. A lot of different ways to do it too.”

After arriving at the team facility Wednesday evening and spending three hours diving into the playbook with defensive backs coaches Chris Hewitt and Jessie Minter, newly-acquired cornerback Marcus Peters made his practice debut with Baltimore and is expected to play on Sunday. Harbaugh said Peters will play “as much as he can” in Week 7, but coaches have already complimented the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback’s football intelligence.

With fill-in cornerbacks Maurice Canady (hamstring) and Anthony Averett (ankle) missing Thursday’s practice and veteran starter Jimmy Smith (knee) only returning to practice this week for the first time since the season opener, Peters playing is almost a necessity for the NFL’s 25th-ranked pass defense.

“There are maybe a couple of different things terminology-wise that he has to get used to,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “He said he’d let me know by Friday if he’s ready to go with the whole thing, and I said, ‘Just lie to me and tell me that you are, and we’re just going to play you.'”

Smith practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day as he continued to wear a bulky brace on his right knee. The 31-year-old admits he initially thought the worst about his knee before further tests revealed a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

The Ravens haven’t yet ruled out Smith for Sunday’s game, but the more realistic target for his return appears to be the Week 9 home meeting with New England.

“I’m trying to be careful with it. We have a bye week next week, so I’m just trying to be smart with it,” Smith said. “Things are going according to plan. I feel really good. I’ll get out there in warmups on Sunday.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s workout. Harbaugh has said he expects the fourth-year offensive lineman to play against Seattle, but Stanley was more conservative with his comments before Thursday’s practice.

“We’ll make the decision when the time comes. Right now, I’m feeling pretty good,” said Stanley, who didn’t miss any snaps in last Sunday’s win over Cincinnati until the final three Jackson kneels. “We’ll see. I’ll talk to them after today and see how I am out there on the field. We’ll come to a decision soon.”

The Seahawks were again without left tackle Duane Brown (biceps) and defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle), but right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Anthony Averett (ankle), WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), DT Brandon Williams (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (knee), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Brandon Carr (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)

SEATTLE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle), TE Will Dissly (Achilles), OT Duane Brown (biceps), S Lano Hill (elbow), S Bradley McDougald (back)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: G D.J. Fluker (hamstring), DE Quinton Jefferson (oblique)
FULL PARTICIPATION: RB Chris Carson (non-injury), WR Tyler Lockett (non-injury), LB K.J. Wright (knee)

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Waiting on Peters, Ravens practice without seven others Wednesday

Posted on 16 October 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens readying for a challenging trip to Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, the arrival of cornerback Marcus Peters headlined the conversation.

The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback didn’t arrive at the Ravens’ training facility in time to take part in Wednesday’s practice, but the deal sending inside linebacker Kenny Young and a 2020 fifth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Peters was finalized, paving the way for his Thursday practice debut. Learning Baltimore’s complex defensive system in just a few days will pose a challenge, but head coach John Harbaugh expects Peters to play “as much as he can” against Seattle with the bye week to immediately follow.

“He’s one of the top corners in the league. He plays the way we play,” Harbaugh said. “When I say that, you know the coverages we play. You watch us every day, so he fits in really well that way and gives us another weapon back there so we can do the things we want to do defensively. That’s what I’m excited about.

“We don’t want to be hamstrung. We want to be able to play the way we want to play. He’s going to help us do that.”

Having lost slot cornerback Tavon Young for the season in August and outside cornerback Jimmy Smith for the last five games, the Ravens took a meaningful step to rebuild their depth at the position in hopes of being more flexible and dynamic in the secondary. Cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr played every snap in last Sunday’s win over Cincinnati, but defensive coordinator Wink Martindale had the luxury of rotating his top four corners last season to help keep players fresher and healthier, something the Ravens would like having the option of doing again.

How the secondary alignment shakes out remains to be seen, but it’s a good problem to have with six of the next seven games coming against teams .500 or better.

“Definitely excited anytime you can get a Pro Bowl corner,” said Humphrey about Peters. “Another thing I thought about was, ‘What can I learn from him?’ Twenty-four interceptions in four, five years, however many years. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working pretty well.”

The Peters trade wasn’t the only positive news for the secondary Wednesday as Smith returned to the practice field for the first time since injuring his right knee in the season opener against Miami. Wearing a thick brace, the 31-year-old went through individual drills during the portion of practice open to reporters.

Four players were absent for injury-related reasons as wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle), inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), cornerback Maurice Canady (hamstring), and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) all sat out. Brown and Onwuasor haven’t practiced since sustaining their right ankle injuries in the Week 5 win at Pittsburgh while Canady hurt his hamstring late in Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati.

Stanley hurt his knee in the second half of the Bengals win, but he didn’t miss any snaps until the final three plays in victory formation and was initially expected to practice on a limited basis Wednesday.

“Ronnie is going to be good. He did a good job of fighting through it in the game,” said Harbaugh prior to practice. “It was painful, but it was something that we expect him to be out there to some degree today. We’ll see how it goes, and [we] expect him to be ready to go on Sunday.”

Safety Earl Thomas, running back Mark Ingram, and Carr were each given a veteran day off from practice.

The Seahawks are dealing with their own injury concerns with left tackle Duane Brown (biceps) and right guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) both missing Wednesday’s practice after sitting out their Week 6 win at Cleveland. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright (knee) and defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle) also sat out with ailments.

Seattle lost tight end Will Dissly to a torn Achilles tendon against the Browns.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Maurice Canady (thigh), CB Brandon Carr (non-injury), RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Jimmy Smith (knee)

SEATTLE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Will Dissly (Achilles), OT Duane Brown (biceps), G D.J. Fluker (hamstring), S Lano Hill (elbow), S Bradley McDougald (back), LB K.J. Wright (knee), DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Tyler Lockett (non-injury), RB Chris Carson (non-injury)

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scott

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Orioles continue bullpen shuffle by recalling Scott, Kline

Posted on 21 June 2019 by Luke Jones

The Orioles continue to seek fresh arms and palatable answers in the American League’s worst bullpen.

After optioning relievers Paul Fry and Evan Phillips to Triple-A Norfolk early Friday morning, Baltimore recalled left-hander Tanner Scott from the Tides and right-hander pitcher Branden Kline from Double-A Bowie for the second contest of a four-game set in Seattle. With starting pitcher John Means going to the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder strain a day earlier, manager Brandon Hyde was forced into a bullpen game for the second time in three days with lefty Sean Gilmartin opening Friday’s tilt against the Mariners.

The hard-throwing Scott had gotten on a role for the Tides in recent weeks, pitching to a 1.96 ERA and striking out 22 batters over his last 18 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old has struck out a very impressive 13.1 batters per nine innings over 61 2/3 frames in the majors, but control problems and extreme inconsistency prompted demotions both at the end of spring training and after a 2 1/2-week stint with Baltimore in April.

Scott had a 3.57 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks in 22 2/3 innings with Norfolk this season, but he will need to improve upon his career 5.69 mark in the majors to stick with the Orioles this time around.

Kline, 27, making his major league debut two months ago was an uplifting story after his well-chronicled injury history in the minors, but his initial success in the majors was fleeting as he had been scored upon in five straight appearances with the Orioles before being optioned to the Baysox earlier this month. The right-hander has a 5.89 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with Baltimore this season.

Fry had been one of Hyde’s few trusted relievers all season until he’d surrendered six earned runs in his last five appearances covering 2 1/3 innings. The 26-year-old lefty owns a 4.75 ERA in 30 1/3 innings this season and wouldn’t figure to be in the minors for long.

Phillips had been recalled for his fifth stint with the Orioles Thursday before once again being sent out. He has a 7.79 ERA in 17 1/3 innings for Baltimore in 2019.

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