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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 10 win at Cincinnati

Posted on 12 November 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their fifth consecutive game in a 49-13 final at Cincinnati, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After posting a 158.3 passer rating 30 miles from his hometown in Week 1, Lamar Jackson had another perfect day 100 miles from where he won a Heisman Trophy at Louisville. Playing like that in front of so many who watched him on his path to NFL stardom is special.

2. Being traded in the middle of a contract year can be a challenging transition, but Marcus Peters has now returned two interceptions for touchdowns over his first three games as a Raven. A cornerback with a boom-or-bust reputation is putting himself in position for a huge payday.

3. Marquise Brown has caught seven of eight targets for 128 yards and a touchdown since returning from an ankle sprain. The rookie performing like this at less than 100 percent continues to be impressive and encouraging for his future if he can stay healthy.

4. The Ravens haven’t posted a winning road record in the regular season since 2010, but they’re 4-1 in away games this season and 6-2 on the road since Jackson became the starter last year. Road success in the regular season is what allows teams to play at home in January.

5. Brandon Williams has played some of the best football of his career in recent weeks, which included a season-best seven tackles in 59 defensive snaps with Michael Pierce exiting Sunday’s game early. Williams’ Week 4 spat with Earl Thomas feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

6. Nick Boyle had four catches for a career-high 78 yards and has now set a new single-season high in receiving yards nine games into 2019. Mark Andrews headlines, but all three Baltimore tight ends have been superb, combining to catch 71.6 percent of targets for 949 yards and seven touchdowns.

7. In a combined 30 snaps between offense and defense, Patrick Ricard had a big block on Mark Ingram’s touchdown run, recorded a tackle for no gain, logged a strip-sack returned by Tyus Bowser for a touchdown, and had another tackle for a minimal gain. That’s quite a splash.

8. The “Heisman Package” resulted in a 12-yard gain as Jackson pitched to Robert Griffin III on the option. As John Harbaugh said, “Guys like to have fun,” but I’m now expecting Vinny Testaverde, Ricky Williams, and Troy Smith to come back if they’re serious about this Heisman thing.

9. With the return of Jimmy Smith, the arrival of Peters, and the shift of Brandon Carr to safety and Chuck Clark to the box in the dime, Anthony Levine has played only 11 defensive snaps since the bye. Levine is a good player, but it speaks to improved secondary depth.

10. Sam Koch didn’t have to punt until the 1:14 mark of the fourth quarter in Cincinnati. His career low for punts in a season is 60, but the longtime Raven is currently on pace to punt only 37 times in 2019. Things sure have changed here in Baltimore.

11. Jackson did the heavy lifting, but CBS play-by-play man Kevin Harlan’s call of the electric 47-yard touchdown run was a lot of fun. Harlan is one of the more underrated broadcasters in the business. “He is Houdini!” will be remembered by Ravens fans for a long time.

12. I couldn’t have been the only one who thought of Tony Siragusa late in the Ravens’ 2000 playoff win over Tennessee when Jackson was shown wearing sunglasses on the sideline. Siragusa gets bonus points for taking those shades from Brian Billick and that being a more important game, however.

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Ravens working out former starting quarterback Kyle Boller on Thursday

Posted on 18 April 2012 by Luke Jones

Yes, you read that headline correctly.

Former starting quarterback and 2003 first-round pick Kyle Boller will be back in town and working out for the Ravens on Thursday, according to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, who said former Steelers backup Dennis Dixon will also be working out for Baltimore. Former Indianapolis quarterback Curtis Painter will join them, per Albert Breer.

Dixon had been linked to the Ravens as a potential target last weekend by a report from St. Louis.

Boller was the starting quarterback in Baltimore from 2003 to 2005 and was most recently the backup quarterback of the Oakland Raiders the last two seasons. Replacing the injured Jason Campbell last year, Boller started in Week 7 but threw three interceptions in the first half before being benched in favor of Carson Palmer, who had only been acquired earlier in the week leading up to the game.

Entering his ninth year, Boller suffered a shoulder injury and missed the entire 2008 season, his last year with the Ravens.

The Ravens’ brass recently expressed their confidence in second-year backup Tyrod Taylor, so it is surprising for the team to have such interest in veteran options after carrying only two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster during the 2011 season. However, Taylor’s athleticism could lead to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron wanting to use him in more gimmick plays as he did with former backup Troy Smith a few years ago — a luxury you don’t really have with only one reserve quarterback available.

A potential return by Boller would undoubtedly spark controversy and discussion from a significant portion of the fan base that made no secret of its disdain for him, with some at M&T Bank Stadium even cheering when Boller was injured in the 2005 season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

Boller has thrown for 8,931 yards in his career with 48 touchdowns and 54 interceptions.

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Former Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger retires

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Former Ravens quarterback Marc Bulger retires

Posted on 03 August 2011 by Luke Jones

Still without a veteran to back up starting quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens will be unable to call upon Marc Bulger, who intends to retire after 11 seasons in the NFL.

The 34-year-old signal caller was the Ravens’ backup quarterback in 2010 after signing a one-year, $3.8 million contract, which paid him a higher base salary than Flacco. However, Bulger did not take a snap all season as Flacco started all 16 games.

The Ravens currently have sixth-round pick Tyrod Taylor and practice squad member Hunter Cantwell as the only quarterbacks on the roster behind Flacco. Despite a strong endorsement from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Tuesday and the fact that Flacco has never missed a game in his three-year career, it’s unlikely the Ravens would feel comfortable with the listed 6-foot-1 Taylor as the backup quarterback.

Bulger’s best years came with the St. Louis Rams, where he began as the No. 2 quarterback behind Kurt Warner and eventually became a two-time Pro Bowler. He finishes his career with 122 touchdown passes, 93 interceptions, and an 84.4 quarterback rating.

With Bulger no longer an option as the backup quarterback, general manager Ozzie Newsome must now deal with an underwhelming quarterback market that includes Jake Delhomme, Brodie Croyle, Patrick Ramsey, J.P. Losman, and Chris Simms. Former backup Troy Smith, who wound up in San Francisco after being cut prior to last season, is also a free agent.

As NFL teams must be under the salary cap for the start of the new league year on Thursday, other veteran backups could be added to the list of potential insurance policies for Flacco.

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Blog & Tackle: Revisiting 2008 draft intrigue: Ryan or Flacco

Posted on 10 November 2010 by Chris Pika

With the focus this week on the quarterbacks in the Thursday night game – the Ravens’ Joe Flacco and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, I was reminded of a piece I wrote after the 2008 NFL Draft evaluating SI.com’s Peter King’s reporting of draft-day intrigue involving the Ravens, Falcons and Rams.

Tuesday, King re-visited the 2008 NFL Draft weekend in his SI.com MMQB Mail blog on Tuesday, and he repeated his reporting from that time that the Ravens had offered St. Louis their first-, second- and fourth-round picks in 2008 plus a third-round pick in 2009 for the No. 2 slot in 2008, which King presumes the Ravens would have selected Ryan in that spot.

BaltimoreRavens.com writer Sarah Ellison made mention of King’s article Wednesday in her “Late For Work” blog on the club’s website, and it is worth mentioning that Kevin Byrne, the club’s VP of Public & Community Relations shot down that particular piece of reporting in his draft day blog of April 27, 2008. Byrne’s key observations in the “The Byrne Identity”:

I started thinking: Am I out of the loop on my team? I just left my guys and there was no indication this was happening. The reality: St. Louis was leaking info that the Ravens wanted the 2nd pick to select Matt Ryan. Why? They wanted the Falcons to react and give them a draft choice to move one space to make sure they got Ryan. Ah, the games continue.

I mention this here because the Flacco-Ryan debate and the choice both the Falcons and the Ravens faced was very hot in the days before and after the 2008 NFL Draft. It is my contention now that either quarterback would have achieved the same results in the other’s huddle.

Flacco was expected to be the “quarterback of the future” in Baltimore and back up either Troy Smith or Kyle Boller in 2008. With Smith’s viral infection and Boller’s shoulder injury, Flacco became the man earlier than expected and seized the job. Flacco inherited a playoff-ready club with a veteran defense in 2008, and did not have to carry the team with his arm.

Not so in Atlanta. The Falcons decision on who to take had far-reaching implications for a franchise in turmoil in the wake of the dual Michael Vick (indicted) and Bobby Petrino (abandoned team for Arkansas head coach job) sagas, as King reported in Sports Illustrated the week after the draft. Ryan had to beat out just Chris Redman for the starting job, and it was no secret that he was the better man very early in training camp.

Both Flacco and Ryan are solid quarterbacks and solid citizens. And because of the comparisons of both coming out of college, both are tied at the hip when anyone discusses the quarterbacks of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Since King re-visited the Ravens “offer” to St. Louis, you get a chance to re-visit my estimation on what actually happened that weekend. The key portions from my “Blog & Tackle” April 28, 2008 WNST.net blog “Interesting Moves And Disinformation”:

Now for the intrigue. (Kevin) Byrne said he had been in the Ravens’ draft room and that there was no indication of a deal working between Baltimore and St. Louis. His verdict was that St. Louis leaked the “trade” info to get the Falcons to move one space from No. 3 to No. 2 to secure Ryan and for St. Louis to gather picks.

Two things of interest here: Rams’ VP of personnel Billy Devaney was the former assistant GM of the Falcons until February of this year and (Peter) King worked from the Falcons’ media area in Flowery Branch and had access to the Falcons’ decision makers (who may have leaked or confirmed the “trade” details given by the Rams). Devaney, knowing his former bosses and some of the Falcons’ early draft plans, probably knew how to push some buttons in Atlanta.

The way it goes down is much like a poker game. The Rams call the Falcons and say in a nutshell, “Baltimore really wants Matt Ryan and has offered trade terms X. We are interested because Chris Long is our guy, we don’t need a QB and we could use the extra picks. What do you want to do? ” If you believe Byrne’s version, and I do, then the whole thing is a bluff by Devaney to get the Falcons to panic and jump one spot. In the end, Atlanta stood firm and the top three went off the board in the order most expected.

But regardless whether there was an offer or not, depending on who you believe, King’s final statement on the matter in his MMQB Mail piece Tuesday rings true for all involved:

So believe me, Atlanta’s happy Baltimore didn’t make the deal, and Baltimore’s happy the Rams didn’t take the deal. Baltimore has Flacco and Rice. Atlanta has Ryan. Both teams are living happily ever after.

Thursday night, both Flacco and Ryan lead their respective teams in what could be the best game of the NFL’s Week 10 schedule. But just for a moment, imagine Ryan in a Ravens jersey and Flacco in a Falcons one — would the paths the two franchises have taken since the 2008 NFL Draft been any different?

For up-to-date Tweets on the NFL and the Ravens, please follow me on Twitter (@BlogAndTackle). For more national NFL stories, please visit my personal site at BlogAndTackle.net.

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Quoth the Raven: SURPRISE!

Posted on 05 September 2010 by WNST Interns

There are generally surprises on every team when the 53-man roster is announced. In my opinion, the biggest surprise from the Ravens’ roster cuts yesterday was QB Troy Smith. When he was drafted I thought that Smith had a bright future in the league, and I still think he could be a solid quarterback. It’s fairly obvious at this point that he probably won’t start for the Ravens anytime soon, however that’s not to say that he couldn’t play somewhere else. (We should also keep in mind that five players will be allowed to be place on the practice squad; odds are Smith will be one of those five.)

The bigger surprise to me isn’t that Smith was cut outright, but that the team’s only going with two quarterbacks. While it certainly helps to have that extra roster spot potentially for another wideout or running back, I think it’s a very risky move. You never know when a backup, or even a third stringer is going to be pressed into action in the NFL. I’m reminded of the 1990 game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and Redskins when nine different Washington Redskin players were carted off the field (including two quarterbacks). As I said, you just never know what’s going to happen in an NFL game. Speaking of the Redskins, they had a similar setup last year with Jason Campbell and Todd Collins being the only two QB’s on the roster. However at the time the Redskins also had Antwaan Randle-El, who was a quarterback in college. I’m sure that Harbaugh will designate someone as the “emergency quarterback,” however I think going into the season with only two QB’s is a bit of a calculated risk.

Safety Ed Reed has been placed on the PUP list, which will mean he’ll be eligible to play only after the first six games of the year. Billy Cundiff ended up winning the kicking battle, and will be the Ravens’ kicker going into week one (and presumably for the entire season). Keep in mind that the Ravens had issues in the kicking game almost all of last season, with Stephen Haushka getting cut in November after shanking a few attempts. Cundiff’s a bit of a journeyman and he’s been around the league a few times, so one has to hope that Cundiff will get the job done for the Ravens’ special teams this year.

The Ravens also traded linebacker Antwan Barnes to the Philadelphia Eagles for an undisclosed 2011 draft pick. Speaking for myself, I firmly believe in building a team through the draft, so if you have a guy like Barnes for whom you can get a draft pick, I’m all for it. Obviously you don’t want to give away the house so to speak (and I don’t think the Ravens did that), but a GM like Ozzie Newsome will be able to find a diamond-in-the-rough with a later round draft pick. Ultimately, here’s the list of final cuts made by the Ravens yesterday:

TE Davon Drew, CB Travis Fisher, DB K.J. Gerard, K Shayne Graham, WR Justin Harper, CB Chris Hawkins, DB Brad Jones, G Bryan Mattison, OLB Albert McClellan, T Joe Reitz, WR Eron Riley, QB Troy Smith, RB Curtis Steele, T Devin Tyler, WR Demetrius Williams

Ultimately like them or not, everyone else that was on the roster are your 2010 Baltimore Ravens. People can debate the roster moves all they want, but ultimately all of that will be a moot issue if the Ravens beat the Jets on September 13th.

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Ravens Training Camp: The impressive and disappointing

Posted on 20 August 2010 by Luke Jones

Another Westminster training camp has concluded with the Ravens now focusing their attention to the final three games of the preseason before the 2010 regular season gets underway against the New York Jets on Sept. 13.

Saturday night’s meeting with the Washington Redskins will be a key audition for  bubble players as coach John Harbaugh has already stated how important the second preseason game is for evaluating rookies and reserve veterans fighting for a roster spot.

Much will change before the initial cutdown to 75 players takes place on Aug. 31 and the final cut to 53 on Sept. 4, but here’s a breakdown of players—by position—who impressed and disappointed in Westminster.

QUARTERBACKS
Impressed: Joe Flacco is an easy choice after a strong camp with his new offensive weapons. The third-year quarterback still must prove he can read and throw to the middle of the field, but Anquan Boldin and a strong group of tight ends will certainly help.

Disappointed: Troy Smith knew his standing in the organization changed dramatically after the acquisition of Marc Bulger, and the former Heisman Trophy winner did nothing to push the veteran for the backup job. Smith lacks size and was too erratic in Westminster. He will stick as the No. 3 quarterback, but his performance made the Ravens look very wise for signing Bulger.

RUNNING BACKS
Impressed: Hard to go with anyone but Ray Rice at this spot despite Willis McGahee looking solid and healthy as well. Rice looked to be in mid-season form the first day veterans reported to Westminster. It will be another Pro Bowl season for the third-year back if he remains healthy.

Disappointed: Not his fault, but Matt Lawrence’s chance of making the 53-man roster continues to diminish as he remains on the physically unable to perform list. He is a capable special teams player when healthy, but this summer’s roster is too deep.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Impressed: Everyone assumed Mark Clayton would be cast aside in the offense when the Ravens acquired Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth, but the former starter had a strong training camp, catching everything thrown his way. Stallworth was the logical choice as the No. 3 receiver, but Clayton received more reps in three-wide sets over the final two weeks of camp.

Disappointed: The Ravens loved what they saw out of David Reed during the OTA schedule, but the rookie failed to adjust to the quicker speed of training camp. Considered a sure-handed receiver coming out of Utah, Reed dropped countless passes and was not been given much of a look as a kick returner. Demetrius Williams is clearly ahead of Reed in the battle for the fifth receiver spot.

TIGHT ENDS
Impressed: Ed Dickson looked more like an established—not to mention explosive—veteran than a rookie on the upper fields at McDaniel College. The 6-foot-4 Dickson has tremendous size and great speed for a tight end. His versatility will be a welcome addition when the Ravens use him in two-tight end sets and at H-back on occasion. On a side note, Todd Heap had an excellent camp, showing he’s still capable of producing when healthy.

Disappointed: Already facing an uphill battle to make the roster after the drafting of Dickson and Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew was not able to stay on the field this summer. Drew showed more consistency than he did last season as a rookie, but it’s difficult to make the team when you’re never on the field. He’ll need to get healthy and make an impact in the remaining preseason games.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
Impressed: Fellow guard Ben Grubbs earns more notoriety, but Marshal Yanda was ferocious in Westminster, proving he’s all the way back from the horrific knee injury he suffered two seasons ago. Yanda anchored and stood up Terrence Cody during a 1-on-1 drill in one of the highlights of the summer, just a couple plays after the 350-pounder had blown up the highly-regarded Grubbs.

Disappointed: Showing up 30 pounds lighter without the coaching staff’s approval and injuring his back on the first day of full-team workouts made Jared Gaither a slam-dunk choice. Not only are there concerns whether he’ll be ready by Week 1, but he’s missed valuable time to adjust to the right tackle position.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Impressed: He got off to a slow start while adjusting to playing with the 15 extra pounds he gained in the offseason, but Paul Kruger became a force on the defensive line, off the edge and even sliding to the inside in the nickel package. If Kruger can replicate what he showed in Westminster over the last two weeks, the Ravens will have another factor in the pass rush.

Disappointed: None. This is the deepest unit on the team. The only disappointment on the defensive line is the reality that the organization will have to cut a couple of talented players due to numbers.

LINEBACKERS
Impressed: His performance in the Carolina game aside, Jameel McClain was the biggest surprise of camp over the first three weeks, working at inside linebacker with the first defense. McClain played the run well and showed competence in pass coverage, but it did not carry over against the Panthers in the preseason opener. The competition for the starting job next to Ray Lewis is still wide open. Antwan Barnes earns an honorable mention.

Disappointed: The likely favorite to win the second inside linebacker spot prior to camp, Dannell Ellerbe came to Westminster out of shape and trailed McClain and Tavares Gooden for much of the way. Ellerbe improved his standing as the weeks progressed, but it was apparent how unhappy the coaching staff was as Ellerbe worked with the second defense in Westminster.

CORNERBACKS
Impressed: Expected to be brought back slowly, Fabian Washington provided a much-needed lift to the secondary when he returned to the field during the first week of camp. Washington appeared quick and made more plays as the weeks progressed. He will see his first game action against the Redskins on Saturday night and will be relied upon to be the team’s top corner, even if he’s nowhere near a true No. 1.

Disappointed: The injury to Domonique Foxworth is most appropriate here, but the brief eight-day stint of Walt Harris takes the cake in this department. He was unable to show he had anything left in the tank despite a solid career. And it’s tough labeling the likes of Doug Dutch and Chris Hawkins as disappointments if you never had any expectations to begin with.

SAFETY
Impressed: While no one compares to Ed Reed, Tom Zbikowski eased concerns at the position with a very strong showing in Westminster. Zbikowski is faster and showed a strong nose for the football this summer after doing an adequate job in Reed’s place for four games last season. Despite not knowing the status of its future Hall of Famer, this unit of safeties looks very sound with Zbikowski and Dawan Landry anchoring the secondary.

Disappointed: Though labeling him a disappointment is bit strong, Ken Hamlin has done little to challenge Zbikowski for the free safety position, partly because the latter was excellent in practice. Hamlin was solid, but unspectacular, running with the second defense. The former Cowboy has great size (6-foot-2) but needs to show a stronger special teams presence to stick around when Reed returns to the field.

SPECIALISTS
Impressed: Yes, he’s younger, cheaper, and healthier, but the Ravens clearly loved what they saw from Morgan Cox to have jettisoned veteran Matt Katula two days after the preseason opener. Fans can only hope we won’t hear his name again all season.

Disappointed: Though he’s kicked reasonably well, the Ravens certainly wished Shayne Graham had seized early control of the competition with Billy Cundiff. Until the final two days of camp, Cundiff had outperformed the former Bengal by a slight margin. Graham struggled with field goals outside 45 yards in Westminster but kicked better during the practice at M&T Bank Stadium. The smart money is still on Graham to be the kicker, but the battle has been closer than most people thought.

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GAMEDAY: Five compelling Ravens to watch tonight

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Luke Jones

With the pregame buzz of a nationally-televised game inevitably wearing off shortly after the actual game begins (the first preseason game always provides that letdown, doesn’t it?), fans must channel their focus on individual standouts among many with no chance of making the 53-man roster in early September.

Stars such as Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco, and Ray Rice will only be making cameo appearances, but the stakes are much higher for lesser-known players yet to make their name popular in the Charm City. A few are battling for starting positions while others are simply contending for a spot on the 53-man roster, with the Ravens or one of the other 31 teams in the National Football League.

Below is a list of five players to watch in tonight’s game against the Carolina Panthers. A couple of familiar names are trying to enhance their stature while the others have stood out in training camp and can improve their position for making the squad—in Baltimore or elsewhere—with strong performances in the preseason.

1. LB Jameel McClain

We all expected a battle between Tavares Gooden and Dannell Ellerbe for the inside linebacker spot next to Lewis, but McClain has emerged as the biggest surprise of training camp. The third-year linebacker was a special teams standout in his first two seasons with the Ravens, but he’s taken an overwhelming majority of the reps with the starting defense while Gooden and Ellerbe have worked with the second team.

McClain is beginning to draw comparisons to former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott in that both went undrafted, played multiple positions in college, and earned their money via special teams in the infancy of their respective careers. McClain can play all four linebacker positions in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme, but he credits being able to focus on the inside spot as a major factor for his new-found status as a defensive starter.

Of course, being a starter in training camp doesn’t mean he’ll start in September, but it’s apparent how far McClain has progressed from the summer of 2008 when he was a nondescript linebacker-defensive end trying to make the team. His steady play in all aspects of the game makes him a valuable asset to the defense.

“That’s what [McClain] is, he’s consistent,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s physical between the tackles. He’s solid in pass coverage.”

2. OT Oniel Cousins

The 2008 third-round draft choice has drawn the ire of many in his brief opportunities to play in his first two seasons, but this is a critical preseason—and season—for Cousins. With Jared Gaither’s status up in the air, physically and contractually, tonight will be a valuable first step for Cousins to alleviate concerns at the right tackle position and convince the coaching staff he can eventually be an NFL starter.

Cousins began training camp on the non-football illness list after having a procedure to remove a cyst in his throat earlier in the summer, but one wouldn’t know he only returned to the practice field a week ago by the way he’s played.

“I think what [Cousins] has done has been pretty amazing,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just made up so much ground in the last week that he’s practiced. He looks good, so he should play quite a bit [on Thursday].”

With Gaither still sidelined with back spasms and other tackles (Tony Moll, Ramon Harewood, and Stefan Rodgers) banged up, Cousins will receive extensive playing time against the Panthers.

3. CB Prince Miller

At 5-foot-8, the diminutive cornerback has listened to doubters throughout his football career. It didn’t stop Miller from making 31 career starts at Georgia and matching up against the best receivers the highly-competitive SEC had to offer.

Miller has struggled in camp against taller receivers such as Anquan Boldin and Demetrius Williams, but shows good athleticism and an impressive skill-set in special teams, a critical factor for any player on the roster bubble.

The rookie was away from camp for two days to witness the birth of his first child but has played the nickel and dime positions with the first-team defense, largely because of the team’s health issues in the secondary.

With Chris Carr likely out and Fabian Washington a game-time decision, Miller will likely man the nickel with the starting defense in the first quarter and play extensively when the starters are removed.

“We gave him a couple days off [to be in Georgia for his child’s birth], and he did have fresh legs [Tuesday],” Harbaugh said. “I think it helped him. He kind of had the little bounce in his step, but he’ll play a lot on Thursday night along with those other young guys.”

4. LB Albert McClellan

The Ravens scouting department manages to find an impressive “hybrid” on the rookie free agent list seemingly every year, and McClellan fits that description this summer. The defensive end-linebacker has performed admirably in Westminster, even picking off Troy Smith and returning it for a touchdown in a red zone drill.

It’s no secret McClellan faces an uphill battle to make the team with such a deep linebacker unit already in place, but the same was said about McClain in 2008 before the Syracuse rookie won a roster spot with big performances in the preseason.

McClellan was a three-time captain at Marshall and accumulated 19.5 sacks in his collegiate career as a defensive end, earning second team All-Conference USA honors as a senior and first-team honors as a junior. Even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, McClellan figures to have a good chance to catch on elsewhere or make the developmental squad.

5. DT Lamar Divens

With the Ravens drafting defensive linemen Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones in April, the 343-pound Divens has become a forgotten man in a very deep group of defensive linemen. Durability is an issue with the third-year tackle, finishing the season on Injured Reserve in 2008 (shoulder) and spending the entire 2009 campaign on IR (shoulder).

Divens has impressed during training camp, constantly getting to the offensive backfield while playing on the second and third defensive units. With so many defensive tackles on the roster, he is a long-shot to stick with the Ravens, but a strong preseason improves his chances to catch on elsewhere.

He will receive extensive playing time in the second half.

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Live from Westminster: Over-30 club given day off as Ehrlich visits practice

Posted on 05 August 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — It was another day of training camp with another celebrity sighting at McDaniel College.

While the hoopla from Wednesday’s visit from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Hall of Famer John Madden was absent, former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich attended practice with his family. Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Senior VP of Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne joked they expected Gov. Martin O’Malley to visit on Friday after seeing Ehrlich in Westminster.

As for the morning practice, it was an “over-30” day as veterans 30 or older were given the morning off as has become the custom with Harbaugh’s camps. This group included Todd Heap, Derrick Mason (ankle), Walt Harris, Travis Fisher, Trevor Pryce, Kelly Gregg, and Ray Lewis. Safety Ed Reed (hip), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quad), and center Matt Birk (elbow) would also fall into this group, but the three remain on the PUP list.

Quarterback Marc Bulger provided a scare when he injured a finger taking a snap in the morning session and went inside with a member of the training staff. However, Bulger returned to the field and the injury is not considered serious, according to Harbaugh.

“He took a snap on the finger,” Harbaugh said. “It’s nothing major; it’s not broken. He should be fine.”

Tackle Oniel Cousins (throat surgery) returned from the non-football illness list to practice for the first time on Thursday morning. The third-year tackle had a cyst removed from his throat a few weeks before training camp.

The Ravens still have five players on the physically unable to perform list, which includes Reed, Birk, Ayanbadejo, running back Matt Lawrence (knee), and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee).

Stay right here for more updates throughout the day (time-stamped below) and check out the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Billy Cundiff, and Shayne Graham as well as quarterback Troy Smith’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson immediately following the morning practice.

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5:25 p.m. — The afternoon practice was largely a walk-through as players practiced in shells and shorts in the sweltering heat of Westminster. The “over-30” club against sat out with other starters, including receiver Anquan Boldin, taking it easy during the afternoon session. Cornerback Fabian Washington did not practice as he continues to receive periodic rest.

The Ravens will be back on the field Friday morning for an 8:45 workout. The afternoon session will be a special teams practice at 2:00.

1:40 p.m. — This nugget of information brought a smile to my face as the Ravens are conducting a vote of whether to adapt the Baltimore Colts fight song (with new lyrics) as their new fight song.

As a third-generation Baltimore football fan, I cannot endorse this move enough as the Ravens fight song has never caught on in the Charm City as fans continue to hold the old Colts song in high esteem.

Here’s the link at BaltimoreRavens.com: http://blogs.baltimoreravens.com/2010/08/05/vote-on-the-ravens-fight-song/

1:35 p.m. — Joe Flacco has had a fantastic start to training camp in Westminster, but this morning was not the third-year quarterback’s finest outing as he tossed several interceptions during passing drills and 11-on-11 sessions.

Fabian Washington dropped a sure interception on a pass intended for Dennis Pitta in the end zone, but free safety Tom Zbikowski—who continues to be an early star in Westminster—capitalized on his opportunity to intercept Flacco, taking it to the end zone for a touchdown.

Following the play, we saw our most entertaining celebration of the summer as Chris Carr placed the football down and Zbikowski attempted a short field goal. It was no good.

Amusing as it was, we won’t have to worry about Zbikowski tossing his name into the kicking competition after that display.

Flacco was also picked off by cornerback Marcus Paschal in the morning workout.

12:50 p.m. — We saw a rare hiccup in an otherwise tight kicking competition as Billy Cundiff struggled, missing kicks from 32, 43, and 48 yards unofficially. Cundiff converted his other attempts including a 35-yarder during 11-on-11 periods.

Cundiff and veteran Shayne Graham have both performed well in Westminster, unlike last summer when Steve Hauschka and Graham Gano struggled mightily for periods of time during camp.

It is believed Graham has the inside track on the kicking job, but both kickers are putting themselves in good position for a job, whether with the Ravens or another NFL team.

“I feel for the most part I’ve been hitting the ball well,” Graham said after Thursday morning’s workout. “I think I’ve had one day when I wasn’t happy with the way things ended up. That’s going to happen.”

Graham praised the Ravens coaching staff for simulating more game situations than other teams he’s played for in the past. Of course, the four preseason games will create a clearer picture in the competition than practice kicks sailing through the uprights at McDaniel all summer.

12:40 p.m. — Expectations are high for rookie tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta after the Ravens selected the two in the third and fourth rounds respectively. Both have shined at times, but Dickson has played exceptionally well, catching nearly every ball thrown his way and created separation in routes against linebackers and safeties.

Todd Heap is still on top of the depth chart, but Dickson could conceivably push the veteran for playing time as the season progresses and he grows more comfortable in Cam Cameron’s offense.

“You try not to put an expectation on a guy because it’s usually limiting,” Harbaugh said of Dickson. “You say, ‘This guy’s better than we thought he was going to be,’ but gosh, we hoped he was going to be great. Ed’s played really well, but he’s got to sustain it. It’s tough. We’re just starting camp, basically, so he’s got a lot of work to do.”

Dickson has worked with the first team in two-tight end sets as well as spelling veteran Todd Heap on occasion.

12:30 p.m. — After a slow start to the morning workout, the team conducted a fairly extensive live session with most the first-team units going against the second-team units.

At one point, after the second-team offense ran successfully against the starting defense on successive plays, Harbaugh was very unhappy and let his defense know about it.

“That was our first defense getting their [butts] kicked!” shouted Harbaugh after another first-down run during the live session. “That was our second-team offensive line!”

Needless to say, Harbaugh wasn’t too thrilled when he was asked about it after practice, citing his preference not to discuss what’s said on the field.

“You don’t see a lot of things,” Harbaugh said. “That’s part of coaching a football team. We’ve got a lot of guys working hard. We’re a tight-knit group and that’s the way it’s got to be. [Reporters] don’t need to know everything.”

12:20 p.m. — The Ravens worked out a few cornerbacks after practice with only Chris Hawkins from LSU (and formerly of Jacksonville) confirmed. Whether or not the Ravens choose to sign any of these nondescript guys, it won’t do anything to address concerns at the position.

12:15 p.m. — Several other players were limited during practice including offensive tackles Michael Oher and Jared Gaither. Oher had his right ankle taped at two different points during practice and was limited in the latter portion of the workout.

Gaither participated in individual drills but did not participate during 11-on-11 activity as he stood on the field with his helmet off. Of course, Gaither previously missed two days of practice with what was labeled “cramps” in his back last weekend.

Offensive lineman Stefan Rodgers also limped off the field during practice. He had previously missed time after suffering a lower leg injury.

Defensive back K.J. Gerard (hamstring) and tackle Tony Moll (concussion) failed to practice again.

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Live from Westminster: Cody passes conditioning test, vets checking into hotel

Posted on 28 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. — Good afternoon from McDaniel College as the Ravens have wrapped up their second day of partial-squad workouts with the biggest news being the debut of rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody who passed his conditioning test earlier this morning and participated fully in the morning workout.

This was obviously good news to coach John Harbaugh, who expressed pleasant surprise when learning the 350-pound tackle had passed the test. Rookie cornerback Prince Miller also passed the conditioning test and practice while the status of the other members of the PUP list remained unchanged for the morning session.

As for action on the field, it was another light, non-contact workout with players practicing in shells and shorts. Harbaugh will give the afternoon off to selected veterans already in camp as we await the arrival of the remaining veterans this afternoon.

Check back here throughout the day for updates (time-stamped below) and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from the field.

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5:30 p.m. — The Ravens have wrapped up the afternoon practice as the veterans continue to check into Westminster for training camp.

Most selected veterans who reported on Monday were given the afternoon off with the exception of a few practice squad players and the four quarterbacks on the roster.

In what might qualify as the first minor injury issue occurring at practice, defensive tackle Terrence Cody appeared to be suffering from a cramp in his right calf at the conclusion of practice. Members of the training staff with icing his lower leg, and the big man eventually walked off the field, albeit gingerly.

Receiver Marcus Smith had an impressive afternoon, snagging a bullet from Joe Flacco in the back of the end zone during a red zone drill. Smith is recovering from a torn ACL sustained in the preseason last year.

Backup quarterback Troy Smith threw what would have been a “pick-6” to rookie linebacker Albert McClellan at the goal line during the same red zone drill. McClellan has been impressive in the first two days of non-contact practice but doesn’t figure to factor into the team’s plans with an already deep linebacker unit.

We’ll next see the Ravens in action on Friday morning with the first full-squad workout at 8:45 a.m. Thursday is a team administrative day with all activity closed to the media and public.

2:45 p.m. — We’re counting down the minutes until the 3:30 workout, and I’m getting ready to head out to the field. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the latest updates. Perhaps a few of the veterans will stop by the upper fields at McDaniel College for a brief visit?

2:40 p.m. — Updating the status of Matt Birk, the veteran center has been placed on the PUP list after a minor elbow procedure earlier this offseason. It had previously been speculated Birk was dealing with a neck issue.

He isn’t expected to be on the PUP list for very long.

2:15 p.m. — As we await the start of the afternoon practice at 3:30, the veterans are beginning to trickle into the team hotel. Some to arrive already include Rice, Donte’ Stallworth (who was given a ride by the Pro Bowl running back), Antwan Barnes, Chris Chester, Tom Zbikowski, Ben Grubbs, and new impact receiver Anquan Boldin.

The arriving veterans will take their physicals this afternoon after checking into the Best Western.

12:45 p.m. — Given his time in Philadelphia and the Bengals appearing to be the biggest roadblock to the division title, Harbaugh was asked about his thoughts on the Bengals signing Terrell Owens to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

“I really like T.O.,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s a really good player. He’s a guy that we enjoyed being around for a couple years in Philly. I have a lot of respect for him. Obviously, it makes [Cincinnati] better.”

Marvin Lewis will have his hands full in Cincinnati with Owens joining flamboyant wideout Chad Ochocinco in the Bengals passing offense. It has the makings of a compelling reality TV show despite the headaches it may create for the former Ravens defensive coordinator.

“Marvin doesn’t need our sympathy,” said Harbaugh, drawing laughs from the media. “He’s not looking for it.”

12:40 p.m. — As mentioned before, it was another light day of practice this morning, but I thought I’d pass along a few notes of interest from the workout:

Matt Birk was on the field but did not participate as reports indicated he has been placed on the PUP list with a neck issue. He and Oniel Cousins (recovering from throat surgery) stood by the offensive linemen throughout practice.

During red zone drills (non-contact), rookie tight end Dennis Pitta was flagged for offensive pass interference after pushing off against Miller.

Receiver Mark Clayton—now battling for the No. 3 or 4 spot on the depth chart after starting for several seasons—caught a deep touchdown pass from Joe Flacco in the highlight play of the morning.

Backup quarterback Marc Bulger continues to be in more of a learning mode as he did not take too many reps during passing drills. Bulger, however, did work on plays later  during a walk-through portion of practice.

12:28 p.m. — Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice has just walked into the Best Western in Westminster, announcing his arrival at training camp.

12:25 p.m. — Though we’ve discussed the conditioning test for the last few days, Harbaugh finally explained what the test entails this morning after practice.

“It’s basically six [150-yard runs] in 25-yard intervals,” Harbaugh said. “Every position has a time, and then there’s a designated rest time that’s based on how long it takes to recover. It’s pretty well thought out.”

In other words, the time for a defensive tackle like Cody is not the same as the expectation for a defensive back such as Domonique Foxworth.

12:10 p.m. — Cody obviously expressed relief at the conclusion of his first practice after being cleared to play.

“It felt good [passing the test],” he said. “It was hard at first when I came in yesterday. I knew about the test, but I didn’t quite know how to run it.”

The 350-pound tackle failed the conditioning test on two occasions on Tuesday. Cody admits he still needs to improve his conditioning during training camp.

“It’s pretty good, but I can get better,” he said. “There’s always a lot of room for improvement. That’s what I had a talk with [Harbaugh], and it’s just I can get a lot better before the season starts.”

Despite some ribbing from defensive line coach Clarence Brooks and a few teammates on Tuesday, Cody received plenty of report as he prepared to take the conditioning test Tuesday morning.

“They weren’t too hard on him,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “That’s a tough task.”

11:55 a.m. — While John Harbaugh expressed a desire for rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody—who claims to be right around his listed weight of 349 pounds—to shed a few more pounds before the start of the regular season, it was clear how pleased the head coach was with Cody passing the test early this morning before the 8:45 workout.

“I have to admit I was surprised this morning,” said Harbaugh, who rarely shows such candor when talking about a player’s health or conditioning.

Harbaugh reiterated this morning he wasn’t terribly surprised Cody had failed the test, admitting it poses a challenge to new players, veterans and rookies alike.

“It’s more demaning than most teams I’d say.”

As stated above, rookie free agent Prince Miller also passed the conditioning test, but veteran cornerback Walt Harris, who failed the test on Tuesday, did not practice on Wednesday morning, an indication he has yet to pass it.

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Mount Cody passes Wed. AM conditioning test, back on field in Westminster

Posted on 27 July 2010 by Luke Jones

WESTMINSTER, Md. —  The Ravens have wrapped up their first day of workouts of the summer with rookies, quarterbacks, and selected veterans participating in helmets and shells without contact in the morning and afternoon sessions.

The biggest news of the morning was the first revelation of who would be placed on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start training camp. These players include rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody and cornerback Walt Harris, who did not pass their respective conditioning tests.

Others believed to be on the list are safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerbacks Fabian Washington (knee) and Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (leg), offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (throat), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), cornerback Prince Miller, and receiver Rodelin Anthony.

It is still undetermined whether Jared Gaither (foot) will be played on PUP, as he was not present for Tuesday morning’s session despite John Harbaugh saying he expected him to be there Monday afternoon.

Unlike the reserve PUP list that keeps a player sidelined for the first six weeks of the regular season, players may come off the active PUP list at any point during training camp. However, once they’re removed, they are no longer eligible to return to the PUP list.

Players on the active PUP list still count toward the 80-man training camp roster.

Check back here for more updates (time-stamped below) throughout the rest of the day.

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6:00 p.m. — The afternoon session was very uneventful with the team running through many of the same individual drills we saw in the morning in addition to some special team alignments lead by special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.

There was no change in status among the 10 players placed on the active PUP list this morning, but Terrence Cody did do some agility work and running at the conclusion of the afternoon session.

It clearly wasn’t a good day for the rookie defensive tackle as defensive line coach even playfully—but truthfully—labeled him as “persona non grata.”

Ouch.

The big piece of news from the afternoon session was the appearance of safety Ed Reed, who did some stretching and agility work with trainer Bill Tessendorf. Reed, placed on the active PUP list this morning, isn’t expected back at practice anytime soon, but it was good seeing No. 20 doing some work on the field as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

The Ravens will reconvene Wednesday morning at 8:45 a.m. for another day of lighter work by the quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans.

2:23 p.m. — With the controversy created in Dallas over rookie Dez Bryant’s refusal to carry veteran Roy Williams’ shoulder pads, the Baltimore media asked Flacco which rookie he had chosen to carry his pads for the start of camp.

Of course, the humble—and at times, sarcastic—quarterback declined to have any kind of special attention and insists he’s perfectly capable of carrying his own equipment off the field.

“I don’t want to have some guy carry my pads in,” Flacco said. “Shoot, I feel bad when I’m over signing [autographs] and I’ve got to take this stuff off because the equipment guys come up and take it in for me. … I’ll never do that just because that’s not the way I am.”

1:50 p.m. — After several of his new teammates made comments in support of Troy Smith as the backup quarterback in recent weeks, Marc Bulger had his first opportunity to get out on the field with his quarterback counterparts this morning.

Despite voicing reservations over general manager Ozzie Newsome changing the complexion of the quarterback depth behind him a week ago, Flacco offered an optimistic outlook for Bulger’s ability to pick up Cameron’s offensive system in a timely manner.

“[Bulger’s] been in a similar offense, so it’s just like the little things, the different little words that we have for certain things,” Flacco said. “He’s run the same plays just like everybody pretty much has.”

Harbaugh praised Bulger’s interaction with the other quarterbacks to this point.

“He looked good to me,” the head coach said. “I think he did a nice job in the meetings last night in terms of communicating with our guys, and [Flacco] took him through our offense a little bit. … I think he’s in a learning mode right now.”

1:30 p.m. — The afternoon practice will take place at 3:30 p.m., and we can expect the same type of OTA pace with rookies still getting acclimated to their first training camp.

Of course, Harbaugh said the real test will be Friday when the players put the pads on and hit for the first time this summer.

“Usually, at every level—junior high, high school, college—the first day the pads come on, all knowledge of football leaves their head,” the head coach said. “They forget where they’re supposed to line up. They forget what the play is because the pads are on. You kind of get through that on Friday, and hopefully Saturday that calms down a bit.”

And what should come as no surprise, given Harbaugh’s special teams background as a coach under Andy Reid in Philadelphia, the rookies must understand the importance of special teams in order to make a very crowded, competitive 53-man roster.

“We made a point to draft guys that understand that,” he said. “There won’t be a rookie that makes this team unless he can contribute on special teams, so those guys all know that.”

Any rookie not taking Harbaugh’s words seriously should only look to defensive end Paul Kruger, the team’s second-round pick in 2009, who spent nearly the entire first half of his rookie season on the inactive list a year ago because of his inability to contribute on special teams.

12:45 p.m. — Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron also spoke at the podium following the morning practice.

He expressed optimism for the potential of his offense this season, given the acquisitions of Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth. Cameron is confident they will pick up the offense quickly after playing in the same system in other places.

“A lot of these plays, we call them the same, they’ve been calling them the same at other places,” he said. “Those guys will come in and haven’t missed a beat. Really, the creativity, that’s kind of the easy part. Execution and getting everybody on the same page [is] what training camp’s about.”

When asked whether the playbook would be tweaked to accommodate his new weapons in the passing game, Cameron explain he’s always tweaking the offense but doesn’t expect to make any drastic changes—not that he’d admit it to the media anyway.

“Execution is where we’re going to get better,” Cameron said. “We’re going to get better at executing in the base offense, continue to run the football, and just execute better. And then, we’ll kind of let the plays evolve from there.”

12:20 p.m. — Head to the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault to hear from John Harbaugh, Cam Cameron, and Joe Flacco after the morning practice. You can also check out rookie receiver David Reed’s conversation with Thyrl Nelson right after the morning practice concluded!

11:55 a.m. — John Harbaugh spoke with the media following practice, describing the morning practice as a way to initiate the rookies and allow veterans coming off injury to work their way back slowly.

The head coach commented on players who failed the conditioning test, including Terrence Cody and newly-signed veteran cornerback Walt Harris.

“Part of our process is everybody’s got to pass a conditioning test to be sure that they’re ready to compete,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be hot out here. Our practices are fast.”

Harbaugh did not express too much shock in learning Cody had not passed the conditioning test, citing how others have failed the conditioning test in the past.

“I’m not surprised. It’s always every year certain guys struggle with that. Guys learn that there’s a certain level of expectation in terms of conditioning that goes with being an NFL team—especially with this team.”

The head coach also talked about his heightened expectations for the offense, citing a need to improve in the red zone. Harbaugh pointed to the continued improvement of Joe Flacco as the key for the offense moving to the next level.

“He’s really getting to that point where the whole offense becomes his offense,” he said, “so he can do more things, he can run more things, make more adjustments at the line of scrimmage, execute under fire a little bit when he’s got to play fast. I think one thing that’s really important is we’ve made a big emphasis on the red zone.”

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