Monthly Archives: November 2017

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that the number of injuries on offense has taken the team to “unchartered territory.”

It’s also brought the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense to a popular fitness center.

“I was out there in pregame [Sunday in Minnesota], the stadium is filling up, it’s a big game, there’s a lot of energy,” Harbaugh said, “and I see ol’ Griff [Whalen] warming up like, ‘Man, this guy was at Gold’s Gym a couple days ago,’ and here he is!”

In a matter of three days, the receiver Whalen went from catching passes from former small college and high school quarterbacks to reeling in four from Joe Flacco and playing 58 snaps for the Ravens.

That’s the state of Baltimore’s banged-up offense, which is seemingly being held together by trainer’s tape.
John Harbaugh has had difficulty creating Ravens game plans, he said, with so many players out injured. Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports
Through seven weeks of the regular season, the Ravens (3-4) have nearly as many offensive players on injured reserve (nine) as offensive touchdowns scored (10). That injured reserve list includes Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda, running backs Danny Woodhead and Kenneth Dixon and starting left guard Alex Lewis.

Baltimore’s seven inactives Sunday featured three wide receivers (Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman and Chris Matthews), running back Terrance West, guard Matt Skura and tight end Maxx Williams. After Mike Wallace was knocked out of the game in the first quarter and Michael Campanaro was briefly sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Ravens couldn’t go three wide because they had only two healthy wide receivers.

“This is a little uncharted territory for — I don’t know how many teams have had this many injuries on offense,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of tough guys. We talked to them just now. It’s about mental toughness. It’s about just going out there, and you have to put everything aside and ignore the noise and go out there and fight. We have a bunch of guys that I know will do that. I’m looking forward to see how it plays out.”

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The injuries have taken a toll on the Ravens’ depth. They’ve also exasperated Harbaugh, who threw up his arms at one point when talking about the number of hurt players.
“We’ve had Jeremy [Maclin] out [at practice] the last two weeks, and he was unable to play,” Harbaugh said. “So I guess right now I’m just like, ‘I don’t know.’ The way it’s been going with all that — we’ll see. Whoever you see jogging out there at kickoff, they’ll be playing. Up until that point, I don’t know. I probably would like to be coy with you and say, ‘I’m not going to talk about it,’ but at this point it’s just like, ‘We’ll see.'”

It’s going to be a quick turnaround for the shorthanded Ravens, who host the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night. For Monday’s walkthrough, three offensive players didn’t practice (West, Williams and Campanaro) and five were limited (Wallace, Maclin, Perriman, Skura and tight end Ben Watson).

Harbaugh acknowledged that this number of injuries makes it more uncertain when trying to put together a game plan.

“We will have 11 on the field. I promise you that. That much we can guarantee,” Harbaugh said.

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Wide receiver Breshad Perriman looked up to the ceiling and tilted his head to the side when asked whether he understood why he was benched last Sunday by the Baltimore Ravens.

“Yeah, I understand. I do understand,” Perriman said Wednesday. “I don’t totally agree with it. But I understand why it happened. All I can control is me working hard every week and throughout practice and having it roll over to the game.”

Perriman was a healthy scratch on Sunday after he managed just seven catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns in eight games. The No. 26 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Perriman could be on his way to being among the franchise’s biggest draft busts.

For Perriman’s career, passes thrown his way have resulted in twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three). Perriman has never eclipsed 64 yards receiving in a game.
Breshad Perriman has been known to lack confidence when he has gone through adversity in the past. John Grieshop/Getty Images
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said making Perriman inactive for a game could be a way for the struggling receiver to reset and catch his breath.

“I’m hoping,” Perriman said. “It’s definitely going to be used as motivation. Any time you’re out there, it’s got to be some type of motivation.”

With Perriman a healthy inactive for the first time in his career, the Ravens went with Michael Campanaro and Chris Moore as the No. 3 receiver behind starters Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin on Sunday.

Harbaugh wouldn’t say when Perriman would be active for a game again, but he did offer his support.

“I do believe in Breshad,” Harbaugh said. “I do believe he is going to play well, and he will be back up just as soon as it makes the most sense for us to win the game, and it could be this week. We have not decided that yet.”

Perriman has been known to lack confidence when he has gone through adversity in the past. A season-ending knee injury in his rookie season left Perriman in a self-described “dark hole” in which he “shut everyone out.”

Do the Ravens need to make sure they keep Perriman’s spirits up?
“That’s a struggle throughout the year that you deal with on both sides of the ball, and with multiple players — not just him,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “Everybody deals with that. I think more than that I, and his teammates, can rally around him and remind him of those things — then yes, it’s definitely going to pay benefits in the future, and it starts with me.”

The Ravens have some questions on how they’ll handle Perriman after the season. Baltimore isn’t expected to pick up his fifth-year option, which means Perriman would have one year remaining on his rookie deal.

If the Ravens cut Perriman in 2018, it would free up $1.622 million in cap space and create $1.147 in dead money.

“It’s definitely a test,” Perriman said. “I’ve been through a lot of tests throughout my career, my life in general. I’m not worrying too much about it. I know I’ll overcome it. I’ll come back from this test better.”

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The Baltimore Ravens’ 2017 season has become one of attrition.

Starting defensive end Brent Urban suffered a Lisfranc injury in Sunday’s 44-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and will undergo foot surgery.
Ravens defensive end Brent Urban is helped off the field after injuring his foot in Week 3’s game against the Jaguars in London. Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Urban is expected to become the 16th Ravens player to be placed on injured reserve. This is an astonishing number considering it’s the start of Week 4. Baltimore has two more players on IR than anyone else in the league.

“We’ve had a lot of practice this year about guys stepping up,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’re good at it now.”

It’s getting to the point where it’s legitimate to wonder how many more injuries the Ravens can sustain and still compete for the AFC North title.

Urban would become the third starter lost for the season, joining guards Marshal Yanda (ankle) and Alex Lewis (shoulder). The Ravens, though, have lost significant contributors in running back Danny Woodhead (hamstring, designated for return candidate), nickel-backs Tavon Young (knee) and Maurice Canady (knee, designated for return candidate), running back Kenneth Dixon (knee), special teams ace Albert McClellan (knee) and returner Tim White (thumb).

This doesn’t include leading receiver Dennis Pitta, who was released after injuring his hip again, or leading tackler Zach Orr, who retired because of a congenital neck and spine condition.

Baltimore is hopeful the defense can absorb this loss better than its others. The Ravens have more depth at defensive line than anywhere else on the team. Baltimore is expected to turn to Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley, both recent third-round picks.

“Those guys are ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them play. We have some depth there. That’s the good news about that particular situation. It’s their turn to step up.”

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Injuries have derailed Urban’s career. A 2014 fourth-round pick, he tore his ACL in his first training camp and tore his biceps in his second one before returning to play late in the season.

Urban played in every game last season, but he sustained another setback when he got injured early in the second quarter in London.

He will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If this is the year the Baltimore Ravens end a two-year absence from the postseason, they’ll do so with a different looking team from the previous season.

Half of the Ravens’ lineup features new starters, and nearly one-third of their 53-man roster has changed.

But those numbers don’t really do justice to the Ravens’ roster turnover. Baltimore needs to replace 11,001 snaps (from a total of 20 players) from a year ago.

Yes, the core of the Ravens remains the same. Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback for the 10th straight season, Marshal Yanda continues to anchor the offensive line and Terrell Suggs leads another strong defense.

But a good chunk of the players who nearly upset the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas night for control of the AFC North are gone. In fact, 13 of the top 25 players in terms of snaps played either signed elsewhere, got released, retired or suffered a season-ending injury.

ROSTER TURNOVER
The Ravens need to replace 13 players who ranked in the team’s top 25 in terms of snaps played last season:
PLAYER POSITION SNAPS RANK NO. OF SNAPS
Jeremy Zuttah-y C 1st (tied) 1,053
Zach Orr-z ILB 5th 911
Rick Wagner-x OT 6th 879
Tavon Young-z CB 11th 789
Dennis Pitta-z TE 12th 764
Steve Smith Sr.-z WR 13th 680
Shareece Wright-y CB 15th 637
Timmy Jernigan-y DT 17th 602
Albert McClellan-z LB 18th 576
Vladimir Ducasse-x OL 21st 534
Alex Lewis-z OL 22nd 508
Jerraud Powers-x CB 23rd 482
Lawrence Guy-x DL 25th 461
x — Signed elsewhere as a free agent/not re-signed
y — Released/traded
z — Retired/season-ending injury
This isn’t necessarily a negative, either. The Ravens believe they’ve improved at some positions or gotten better value in terms of contracts.

Here’s a look at how the 11 starting spots have changed:

Wide receiver: Jeremy Maclin replaces Steve Smith Sr. The Flacco-to-Maclin connection should be a good one in theory. Flacco does his best work in between the numbers, and Maclin will line up in the slot and work over the middle. Still, it will be challenge for Maclin to develop the same rapport that the retired Smith had with Flacco.

Tight end: Nick Boyle replaces Dennis Pitta. It’s hard to compare these two tight ends. Boyle is more of a blocker, and Pitta led all NFL tight ends in catches last season before suffering another hip injury. But Boyle might surprise in the passing game, especially in the red zone.

Left guard: James Hurst replaces Alex Lewis. This is a difficult change for the Ravens. Lewis showed a lot of potential at guard before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Hurst is certainly versatile — he can play guard or tackle — but has struggled when pressed as a full-time starter.

Center: Ryan Jensen replaces Jeremy Zuttah. Jensen remained the backup to Zuttah all last season even though the three-year starter declined throughout the year. Now, after Baltimore cut Zuttah, the fiery Jensen makes his first NFL start at center in his fourth NFL season.

Right tackle: Austin Howard replaces Rick Wagner. The Ravens didn’t have the cap room to keep Wagner, who signed a free-agent deal with the Detroit Lions that averaged $9.5 million per season. Baltimore might have gotten a better value with Howard, who is averaging $5 million per season.

Fullback: No one replaces Kyle Juszczyk. The Ravens lost a Pro Bowl fullback to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency and then cut both full-time fullbacks on the roster (Ricky Ortiz and Lorenzo Taliaferro). The Ravens will use more two tight end and three-receiver looks this year. Boyle and defensive tackle Patrick Ricard can step in as a lead blocker when needed.

Defensive end: Brent Urban replaces Lawrence Guy. Urban was one of the more impressive defensive players in the preseason. The big question is whether he can remain healthy. Guy was a workmanlike lineman who left for the New England Patriots in free agency.

Defensive tackle: Michael Pierce replaces Timmy Jernigan. Pierce will pair with Brandon Williams to form one of the top run-stopping forces in the league. The former undrafted rookie has the potential to be Baltimore’s breakout star. Jernigan was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles after three inconsistent seasons.

Inside linebacker: Kamalei Correa/Patrick Onwuasor replaces Zach Orr. The Ravens don’t seem settled on whom will take over for Orr, last year’s leading tackler who retired because of a congenital spine and neck condition. Correa never convincingly won the job, and Onwuasor has shown flashes when given the chance to play.

Outside linebacker: Matt Judon replaces Albert McClellan/Elvis Dumervil. Judon slimmed down to become an every-down player, and he’s done so well in training camp and the preseason that no one has really noticed he’s a first-year starter. Baltimore wanted to get younger at this spot, which is why the team cut Dumervil. McClellan was expected to be the team’s special teams ace before tearing his ACL.

Cornerback: Brandon Carr replaces Tavon Young. Carr is the most durable corner in the NFL, and he’s better suited to play on the outside. Young was projected to play nickel-back before he tore his ACL in an offseason practice. The big question here is whether first-round pick Marlon Humphrey will overtake Carr for his starting job this year.