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Ravens preparing for unknown with Cincinnati rookie quarterback

Posted on 08 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith looked up Ryan Finley on YouTube “just to see what he’s like, see how he throws.”

Coaches and players have watched video of the Cincinnati rookie’s preseason performance as well as his time as a three-year starter for an ACC program that’s produced three other current NFL starting quarterbacks. The Ravens have faced plenty of first-year quarterbacks over the years with much success, but preparing for a fourth-round pick who’s yet to take a regular-season snap can be unsettling, at least from a preparation standpoint.

“One of the coaches in the defensive meeting said, ‘What’s next? Are we going to watch the rival high school tapes before he went to N.C. State?'” said defensive coordinator Wink Martindale as he smiled. “I’d like to say we’re prepared for him, but we’ll see on Sunday.”

The circumstances were different a year ago, but it was the Ravens making the switch from a longtime veteran starting quarterback to a rookie after their bye week. The transition from Andy Dalton to Finley won’t be nearly as dramatic as Baltimore going from pocket passer Joe Flacco to the unparalleled athleticism of Lamar Jackson, of course, but the winless Bengals should have the Ravens’ attention with the change at quarterback.

That’s probably not a bad thing for head coach John Harbaugh as he tries to keep his first-place team focused and motivated against an 0-8 outfit after the emotion that accompanied the 37-20 win over previously unbeaten New England last Sunday night.

“Seeing a quarterback for the first time is tough because you haven’t seen him,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. They had to deal with that last year with Lamar when they came in here. The tables are turned a little bit on us that way, and we’re going to have to be very cognizant of that.”

Ironically, the 24-year-old Finley now becomes the oldest starting quarterback in the AFC North — Jackson is the youngest — as the Bengals want to evaluate the second player selected on Day 3 of this year’s draft. The popular opinion from pre-draft profiles was that the 6-foot-4, 207-pound does everything pretty well while lacking any standout traits. His accuracy, decision-making, and pocket mobility were frequently noted as strengths, but his arm strength and performance against the best competition in college left something to be desired.

After completing 64.5 percent of his passes and throwing 60 touchdowns over three seasons for the Wolfpack, Finley garnered positive reviews this preseason by completing 73.4 percent of his passes, throwing three touchdowns to just one interception, and posting a 99.3 passer rating in three games. It was enough for the 0-8 Bengals to want to sit Dalton, who sported a career-worst 79.2 passer rating this season, in favor of Finley.

“He’s kind of an older rookie in a sense with a lot of experience and all the traits that you look for in a quarterback,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. “He throws with great anticipation and accuracy, good leadership skills. The coaches there at N.C. State spoke very highly of him, a kid that transferred in and was able to become a leader on the team following a really good quarterback in Jacoby Brissett.”

Finley won’t have the services of seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green, who had initially been expected to make his season debut this week. The receiver trio of Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, and Alex Erickson is capable of making plays, but the rookie is playing behind an offensive line regarded as one of the NFL’s worst, which is bad news against a Ravens defense that likes to blitz more than anyone.

Baltimore should anticipate plenty of quick passing to try to offset those realities, but Martindale is embracing the unknown of a rookie quarterback and an opponent coming off a bye week with extra time to prepare.

“That excites us because of the flexibility of our defense [and] how you can play different players in different spots,” Martindale said. “We’ll see. Just like New England went up-tempo the entire game and the adjustments that we made there, I thought obviously we came out on the right end.”

Coming out on the right end is all that matters for the Ravens at a venue where they’ve won only once in the last seven trips. Much has changed over the last 12 months, but you’d like to think the memory of so many struggles against the Bengals is too fresh to take this team too lightly.

It was less than a month ago when the Ravens nearly doubled the Bengals in total yards, but a Cincinnati kick return for a touchdown and a Mark Andrews fumble transformed what could have been a blowout into a 23-17 home win for Baltimore. That should be enough to take at least a few extra moments to try to get ready for an unknown quarterback.

“What would last week’s win mean if we go out there and just lay an egg?” Smith said. “Nobody wants to do that. It doesn’t take any extra motivation to want to go out and win a game. We know what we’re here for. It’s only better if we win. We don’t want to lose. That sucks.”

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Marquise Brown making plays, pushing way through trying rookie season

Posted on 06 November 2019 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If anyone understands the challenges faced by Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown during his rookie season, it’s teammate Jimmy Smith.

In 2014, the veteran cornerback sustained a Lisfranc injury from which he’s felt effects for years. That Brown has been productive at all after missing the entire spring and part of training camp recovering from the left foot injury that required surgery in January is impressive.

“It’s a tough injury, extremely tough,” Smith said. “I know what he’s going through as far as every time he gets up and wakes up and it’s cold outside, that thing hurts. I understand it. And having a high-ankle [sprain] — which I also had — back to back, he’s fighting his way. He’s coming up making plays. He’s keeping his head up.

“All the guys talk to him. I’ve been in his ear letting him know, ‘You’re going to get over it eventually.’ But I’m proud of the way he’s bounced back and performed.”

That high-ankle sprain Brown sustained to his right leg in the Oct. 6 win at Pittsburgh sidelined him for the final two games before the bye week. After returning to play 40 snaps in Sunday’s 37-20 win over New England, Brown wasn’t on the Wednesday injury report for the first time since Week 5, but that doesn’t mean he’s fully recovered as he still walked with a slight limp during the portion of practice open to media.

Head coach John Harbaugh has said Brown is “nowhere near where he’s going to be” as a player, an impressive assessment considering he remains Baltimore’s leading wide receiver with 24 catches for 374 yards — numbers second to only tight end Mark Andrews — and three touchdowns in not even six full games of action. His diving third-down reception to move the chains and 26-yard gain on a jet sweep pass on the opening drive against the Patriots were an early boost to both the Ravens and Brown’s confidence as the first-round pick returns from his latest ailment. He’ll hope to build on that three-catch, 48-yard performance in Sunday’s trip to Cincinnati after missing the Week 6 game against the Bengals last month.

“It’s just more like with the team being out there with the guys, not wanting to let them down,” Brown said. “But they all encourage me. They know I’m not 100 [percent], but they’re like, ‘When you’re out there, you’re going to make plays.’ I just keep that in my head.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was absent from Wednesday’s practice after tweaking his left knee on backup running back Justice Hill’s run 2-yard run with 6:22 to play in Sunday’s 37-20 win over New England. Despite being in obvious discomfort for the remainder of that final touchdown drive, the fourth-year offensive lineman played every remaining offensive snap and was deemed OK by head coach John Harbaugh when asked about Stanley’s status on Monday.

Right guard Marshal Yanda also missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness he caught from his children, according to Harbaugh.

Return specialist and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas made his practice debut and appears to be a good bet to at least see action as a kick returner against the Bengals. Harbaugh said the Ravens will “see how it shakes out” in regards to Thomas’ game-day role after punt returner Cyrus Jones lost a fumble in the second quarter against the Patriots.

“Just catch the ball. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to do,” said Jones, who hadn’t fumbled since Week 14 of last season after a history of ball-security problems with New England. “I’ve got one job: catch the ball. Catch the ball.”

In other roster-related news, cornerback Maurice Canady was claimed by the New York Jets after being waived to make room for Thomas on Tuesday.

Baltimore signed running back Byron Marshall to its practice squad Wednesday.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor initially expressed his expectation that seven-time wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) would make his season debut against the Ravens, but Green didn’t practice Wednesday after experiencing discomfort during a walk-through and is now considered day-to-day, a concerning development for an 0-8 team starting rookie quarterback Ryan Finley for the first time on Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: RB Mark Ingram (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (knee), G Marshal Yanda (illness), S Earl Thomas (non-injury)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Chris Moore (thumb)

CINCINNATI
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: TE Tyler Eifert (non-injury), WR A.J. Green (ankle), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), G Alex Redmond (knee/ankle)
FULL PARTICIPATION: CB Darqueze Denard (hamstring), OT Cordy Glenn (concussion), DE Carl Lawson (hamstring), G John Miller (groin)

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Landry remains threat despite Miami’s offensive woes

Posted on 03 December 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens won’t know exactly what to expect from a Miami offense under new leadership on Sunday.

Ranking 27th in the NFL in total offense, rush offense, and points per game, the Dolphins fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on Monday with quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor now taking over the play-calling duties and quarterback Ryan Tannehill having more input with the offensive game plan. It can’t get any worse for a group that’s averaged just 20.5 points per game and ranks 31st in the NFL in third-down conversions at just 27.7 percent.

Now in his fourth year after signing a $96 million extension in the spring, Tannehill hasn’t had a poor season statistically, but his offense simply hasn’t gotten on track in a disappointing 2015 season that began with the Dolphins expecting to compete for a playoff spot.

“It’s a little bit of everything and everybody has their own piece of it for sure, absolutely,” said second-year wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is one of the few bright spots for Miami in 2015. “The key things are definitely turnovers and penalties. I think that has held us back thus far. If we find ways to eliminate that, then I think we can be an explosive offense.”

Building on a solid rookie season, Landry has become the Dolphins’ best offensive player in making 76 catches for 816 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown. The LSU product fell to the second round of the 2014 draft because of an underwhelming 40-yard dash time at the NFL scouting combine, but his 358 yards after the catch are tied for fourth among NFL wide receivers this season.

Though his pass defense has made modest improvement in recent weeks and is now up to 24th in the league, defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows whatever new wrinkles the Dolphins might show are bound to include new ways to get the football to Landry. The Ravens will need to know where Landry is at all times as they try to not only win their third straight game but also win a game in Miami for the third consecutive season.

“There are guys like that who do not necessarily go out and run a 40 that absolutely blows everybody’s mind, but they are just really good football players– great eyes, quick, good vision,” Pees said. “Not every great [skill-position player] in the NFL has been a 4.3 guy. There are guys that have good vision. He is one of those guys that when he catches a ball, it’s like a punt return. He has quick feet, exceptional eyes. His yards come running after the catch, and he makes a lot of people miss.

“I can’t tell you what it is; it’s just it.”

Landry takes a high number of snaps in the slot, meaning it will primarily be the responsibility of cornerback Lardarius Webb to keep him in check when the Ravens are in the nickel package. Maligned due to health concerns and uninspiring play over the last couple years, the 30-year-old has quietly had a solid season playing in all but one of Baltimore’s 11 games.

Despite expressing kind words for the Ravens secondary, the 5-foot-11, 202-pound Landry will be licking his chops against a pass defense that has struggled mightily to defend the middle portion of the field. And Baltimore defenders need to be sure tacklers when he gets the ball in open space.

“Obviously, you see a group of veteran guys,” Landry said. “Guys that have definitely made plays, guys that have consistently made plays, and guys that look like to be still having production. I have a lot of respect for those guys.”

The Ravens will need to show even more respect for Landry, regardless of what else a revamped Miami offense might throw their way on Sunday.

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