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Dec 17

Wednesday Ravens-Texans injury report: Torrey Smith, Justin Forsett no longer listed

Two recently injured players have apparently been given a clean bill of health this week.

Two names that have been on the injury report of late are no longer there.

Torrey Smith and Justin Forsett have apparently been given a clean bill of health — in football terms — and are no longer present on the injury report. That’s not to say they’re not dealing with the usual bumps and bruises. But they’re no longer deemed hurt to the point where the team feels compelled to let the league aware.

Chris Canty did not practice due to an ankle injury, which will be something to monitor this week.

Here’s the full injury report:

RAVENS

DID NOT PRACTICE: DE Chris Canty (ankle), S Will Hill (not injury related), WR Jacoby Jones (illness), G Kelechi Osemele (not injury related)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION: CB Anthony Levine (ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (back)

TEXANS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE: LB Brian Cushing (ankle), TE Garrett Graham (ankle), RB Arian Foster (hip), WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle), CB Jonathan Joseph (ankle), LB Mike Mohamed (concussion), QB Tom Savage (knee), OG Xavier Su’s-Filo (back), DE J.J. Watt (NIR)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Tyson Clabo (foot), LB Akeem Dent (neck), CB Kareem Jackson (knee), WR Andre Johnson (concussion), LB Whitney Mercilus (back), LB Jeff Tarpinian (knee)


Dec 17

Ravens Can’t Let Banged Up Secondary Derail Playoff Hopes

The Baltimore Ravens put two more defensive backs on injured reserve on Tuesday, with rookie safety Terrence Brooks and cornerback Asa Jackson being shelved for the year with knee injuries, via The Baltimore Sun‘s Aaron Wilson.

The move marks the fifth and sixth Ravens defensive backs to be placed on injured reserve for the year, leaving them as thin as they’ve been this season in the secondary, an area on defense that has been injury-weakened all year long. They join cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Danny Gorrer, Tramain Jacobs and Aaron Ross on the list.

The Ravens have already been forced to get creative at cornerback, using safeties Anthony Levine and Matt Elam both on the outside and in the slot. The Ravens have more depth at safety, allowing the team to move players around. But in terms of actual cornerbacks, the Ravens are down to recent signing Antoine Cason, Week 15 breakout Rashaan Melvin and veteran Lardarius Webb.

But with two games left to play and the postseason in their sights, another shuffling of the secondary couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

It’s not about the Ravens’ final two games, which make up the easiest schedule of any AFC North hopeful. The Ravens travel to Houston this week to take on the Texans and a fill-in quarterback—either Case Keenum or Thaddeus Lewis—before hosting the Cleveland Browns and rookie Johnny Manziel in Week 17. 

It’s the possibility of the postseason that makes the Ravens secondary a liability. Should the Ravens make it, whether as an AFC wild-card team or North champions, they will be tasked to slow down quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck if they are to make it to the Super Bowl.

With this cobbled-together group that becomes increasingly more difficult than if, say, Smith and Ross were joining Webb at the cornerback position or if a safety like Elam wasn’t playing out of position in the slot.

This fact is not lost on the Ravens, who, according to Wilson, worked out four cornerbacks on Tuesday. Quinton Pointer was signed to the practice squad while the team is likely still weighing its options on the other three: Anthony Gaitor, LeQuan Lewis and Brandon Smith, all of whom are journeymen having played with a combined 16 different NFL and CFL teams.

Even with an additional cornerback brought onto the roster, the Ravens still have trouble on their hands. The Texans and Browns should be manageable—Houston was averaging a 25th-ranked 209.1 passing yards per game before having to make this latest quarterback switch, while the Browns had just 54 yards of passing offense in Manziel‘s Week 15 debut.

Still, Baltimore’s passing defense has allowed an average of 259.9 yards per game, 30th in the league, and ranks 19th in yards per pass attempt at 6.9 yards and 11th in yards per completion at 10.5 yards. Even more disconcerting is that the Ravens defense has given up a ninth-ranked 49 pass plays of 20 or more yards. In total, the Ravens have given up 21 passing touchdowns this season.

At least Melvin, a 2013 undrafted free agent added to the Ravens’ roster in November, could provide some positive help for the Ravens at cornerback. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Melvin played 24 snaps in relief of the injured Jackson in Week 15. He was targeted four times and allowed one reception for 12 yards. He allowed no touchdowns, gave up just three yards after the catch and had one pass defensed.

Granted, he had that success against an anemic Jacksonville Jaguars offense, but he showed promise. On his first start, Melvin said to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com, “I’ve been sitting there for a while watching. I believe in myself. I was happy that the coaches allowed me to have an opportunity to go out there and show what I could do and contribute to the team.”

These next two games will be significant tests of Melvin’s readiness and the playoffs—should the Ravens get there—even more so. 

With such a make-it-up-as-you-go secondary, the Ravens will need the front seven to bail out the defensive backs. Luckily, the Ravens have a pass rush that can do this. For all the big plays the Ravens defense has given up in the passing game, it also ranks third in total sacks this season, with 45. 

It is led by linebacker Elvis Dumervil with 17.0, 11.0 from Terrell Suggs, 5.5 from Pernell McPhee and even 4.0 from rookie Timmy Jernigan, who has played only 234 defensive snaps this season. By disrupting quarterbacks up front, the cornerbacks and safeties have less passes to defend and less chances to give up big plays to the opposing offenses.

The offense too can do its part to help out the secondary. Through his last five games, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is Pro Football Focus’ top quarterback in the league. He’s completed 68.1 percent of his passes in that span for 715 yards, five touchdowns to just one interception and has been sacked once.

Further, the Ravens have a good run game behind Justin Forsett, who has 1,128 yards on 208 carries. He’s averaging 5.4 yards per carry, has eight rushing touchdowns and is responsible for a team-high 52 first downs—60 if his receiving first downs are added in.

Taken as a team, the Ravens can certainly overcome their issues in the secondary. It’s their only weakness—the pass rush is solid, the run game is as well and Flacco is doing that get-hot-at-the-right-time thing that is the hallmark of playoff-bound quarterbacks. 

Now, if the Ravens had trouble creating pressure on quarterbacks in addition to an injury-rattled secondary, then there would be trouble. But, then again, the Ravens wouldn’t likely be at nine wins and worthy of postseason discussion. 

So as long as the Ravens stay the course they have traveled this season—and particularly in the last month—the issues in the secondary shouldn’t affect their final two regular-season games.

The playoffs are another animal altogether. But even with their problems at cornerback, the Ravens have enough strengths to potentially carry them through. That is, of course, if the secondary limits the number of big plays leading to touchdowns, which is its biggest area of concern.

At least this has been an ongoing struggle for Baltimore all season long, which is a saving grace. This isn’t a new development, something it’s had to suddenly address and try to overcome. That familiarity could actually prove to be a benefit in an otherwise not-good situation.

What the Ravens must do is what they have been doing—trying to fill in holes in the secondary as best they can while relying more on the pass rush and offense to do the most work toward winning games. Wins have come despite of the woes in the secondary because everything else they are doing is working so well.

Read more Baltimore Ravens news on BleacherReport.com

Dec 17

Jaguars, Titans Battle for No. 1 Pick as AFC South Tries to Catch Andrew Luck

The Indianapolis Colts are your 2014 AFC South Champions. They mainly got there by beating up on the rest of the AFC South.

Since drafting quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts have gone 15-2 against fellow AFC South teams. Quarterback Matt Schaub cratering brought the Texans back to Earth, and the Jaguars and Titans have been mediocre at best over the past three seasons.

This year, the Jaguars and Titans have hit rock bottom. Going into their Thursday Night Football matchup, both teams are 2-12, tied with the Buccaneers and Raiders for the worst record in the NFL. Per Football Outsiders’ model, these teams combine for a 44 percent chance at having the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft, with Thursday night essentially serving as an elimination game for the honor. 

Both the Jaguars and the Titans have watched young quarterbacks drafted in 2014 flop in their rookie seasons. Blake Bortles looked extremely promising in the preseason, but you can argue that he has actually regressed as he’s gotten more reps down the stretch. Zach Mettenberger has good arm talent, but he plays like he’s been bolted to a spot on the ground

The result? Both are in the bottom six among all qualifying quarterbacks in DVOA and DYAR, per Football Outsiders. Bortles is dead last, with almost double the negative DYAR of Bucs quarterback Josh McCown.

However, it’s not just getting the No. 1 pick that vaults a team into contention: it’s about getting the No. 1 pick at the right time and in the right circumstances. The Texans can attest to this, as they had the No. 1 overall pick last year, decided there was no franchise quarterback, and picked outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who has undergone microfracture surgery and has an optimistic return to football timetable of mid-2015.

It may appear that the Jaguars and Titansespecially the Titansshould both tank to try to get Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. One NFL personnel man told Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King that Mariota is above Robert Griffin III as a prospect, and if you weren’t following the NFL at the time, trust me, RG3 was seen as a surefire top-tier quarterback prospect. There’s a reason Washington gave up three first-round picks to go get him.

However, are the timing and circumstances right? For the Jaguars, I think, they are rightfully not. For the Titans? They should be, but I don’t know if they will be. 

 

Blake Bortles Will Get Another Season

As much as I think the game has changed with first-round quarterback picksthe rookie-scale contracts introduced by the new CBA have accelerated things to where you can give up on someone much more quickly, a la the Bills and quarterback EJ ManuelI don’t think the Jaguars are going to give up on Bortles this soon. 

General manager David Caldwell pounded the table for Bortles. Caldwell told Sports On Earth’s Dan Pompei that he thought Bortles would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft had he gone back to school:

I had to watch every play he made about 24 times over the last eight months. I don’t understand what people were picking apart on him. Look, he’s not perfect. I think you get caught up when you are picking high that he has to be the next Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning or even Matt Ryan. If you go into it with that mindset, you will miss out on some good quarterbacks. He doesn’t have to be those guys. If he is the best he can be, that’s going to be pretty darned good.

A full offseason for Bortles and another high first-round pickI expect it will be spent on a pass-rusher like Nebraska’s Randy Gregory or Missouri’s Shane Raywill put the Jaguars right about in the same situation the Bills were coming into the 2014 season. The defense, while not as potentially dominant as Buffalo’s, should be good. 

It will be all on Bortles and the young receiving corps to step up and prove that they are able to lead this offense to glory. You’ll recall that this did not work out so well for the Bills, and in fact led to things like “Kyle Orton, midseason savior.” 

Bortles definitely has better pedigree than Manuel did. Whether he’ll reach his upside will determine much about the Jaguars’ future. I, personally, am as unsure about projecting Bortles forward as anything I’ve ever tried to forecast. The important thing, for now, is that he’ll continue to be given that chance. 

 

Really, a Team Would Intentionally Go into the Season with Zach Mettenberger?

I know, this sounds completely bonkers to me, too. But here we are. 

ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky advanced this thought in a piece breaking down Mettenberger‘s rookie season. In a piece that John Glennon did for The Tennessean, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski told the paper that he thought “Zach will be the quarterback for a long time in Tennessee.”

With all due respect to those men, I think allowing Mettenberger to keep Tennessee from drafting a quarterback would be a decision the Titans could regret for seasons to come. I can see why this is happeningboth head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster are big on tools, and Mettenberger‘s height and arm strength fit the classic definitions of what they are looking for.

At the same time, Mettenberger has so many flaws as to make his arm talent pointless. Mettenberger‘s arm is like painting the Sistine Chapel under an abandoned bridge in Detroit; sure, it’s pretty, but it does little to change the surrounding problems.

For Tennessee to advance forward with Mettenberger given the flashing alarm signalshis tape, his pedigree, his resultswould be pure lunacy. I’d rather fire Webster and Whisenhunt than pass on Mariota at the No. 1 pick if I owned the Titans.

But don’t put pure lunacy past the Titans at this point. A team needs to have the No. 1 pick in the right circumstances and with the right timing, and this is exactly the wrong time for the Titans to potentially draw it. Owner Tommy Smith is still getting his feet wet, and Wingus and Dingus have shown us very little since Whisenhunt rode Kurt Warner to a Super Bowl that shows us they know what they’re doing. 

I don’t put it past them that they’d pass on Mariota and roll with Mettenberger, because I think the game that they are trying to win exists in the past. 

 

Rivers McCown is the AFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Three-Cone Drill podcast. His work has also appeared on Football Outsiders and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at @riversmccown.

Read more Tennessee Titans news on BleacherReport.com

Dec 17

Ravens sign cornerback Chris Greenwood

Ravens fill out 53-man roster with a cornerback.

It was inevitable that the Ravens would fill out the 53-man roster with a cornerback.

And that’s what they did on Wednesday by signing cornerback Chris Greenwood off of the Minnesota Vikings‘ practice squad. Greenwood does have some game experience, appearing in three contests with the Lions in 2013. He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Lions in 2012.

Greenwood signed with the Vikings’ practice squad after failing to make Detroit’s 53-man roster out of training camp.

With Greenwood the latest corner to step foot on the roster, it can be assumed that both Rashaan Melvin and Antoine Cason will dress for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Those two, along with Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine, will probably be available on game days the rest of the way this year.

In the three games Greenwood appeared in for Detroit a year ago he made six tackles.


Dec 17

Terrell Suggs on Dan Patrick Show: Joe Flacco has ‘no rhythm’ as a dancer

Terrell Suggs had plenty of funny moments while appearing on The Dan Patrick Show.

If you need some laughs, do yourself a favor and listen to the above clip with Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs appearing on The Dan Patrick Show.

Suggs touches on a few points, with some great takes.

The first funny moment is the two talking about Joe Flacco as a dancer. Why? Who knows, yet it’s still funny. Suggs said Flacco has “no rhythm” though he’s never seen him dance.

He mentions that it sure looked like the Bengals wanted to get after Johnny Manziel in a 30-0 win over the Browns. Suggs mentioned that the combination of it being a revenge game and a rookie quarterback that’s received a lot of media coverage likely fired up the defense to just get after it on Sunday.

The interview is about eight minutes long and worth the watch.


Dec 17

Wednesday Ravens links: Sudden-change defense among NFL’s best, Owen Daniels stepping up

Read what others are writing about the Baltimore Ravens.

Ravens ‘sudden change’ defense among NFL’s best

The Ravens have been one of the NFL’s best teams at preventing teams from scoring after turning the ball over, writes The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli.

Ravens worked out four cornerbacks

On Tuesday, the Ravens worked out four cornerbacks before signing Quinton Pointer to the team’s practice squad, writes The Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson.

All eight sacks from the Ravens-Jaguars game

Purple Reign Show’s Ed Bandell posted a .gif of each sack from the Ravens-Jaguars game, as put together by Nadeem Kureishy from RavensFilmReview.Blogspot.com.

Owen Daniels stepping up in Ravens passing game

ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley discusses the rapport Joe Flacco and Owen Daniels have built this season, especially after Dennis Pitta went down with a season-ending hip injury.

Terrell Suggs saving best for last

CSNBaltimore.com’s Clifton Brown writes that Terrell Suggs is playing his best football late in the season as he has 7.5 sacks over the past five games.

Playoff contenders have something in common

BaltimoreRavens.com’s John Eisenberg writes that each playoff contender has a franchise quarterback on the team, indicating how valuable it is to have such a key player at the position.

Dec 17

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Complete Week 16 Preview for Tennesse

The Tennessee Titans will wrap up their season against division opponents, and first up is a road game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Dec. 18.

Both teams have struggled this year, and one of the Titans’ two wins came against the Jaguars in Week 6. That said, the Titans and Jaguars have split wins over the last five seasons, and the Jags now have home-field advantage.

The Titans are also in worse shape now than they were when they eked out the win earlier in the year. Both Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker are out, along with most of the offensive line and both playmaking receivers.

Right now, Tennessee is one of the most banged-up squads in the NFL.

Of course, Jacksonville has their own problems, which is why they have an identical 2-12 record.

Here’s a preview for the matchup between these two squads.

Begin Slideshow

Dec 17

Know Your Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 16)

Get to know the Titans’ Week 16 opponent — the Jacksonville Jaguars — in this week’s edition of “Know Your Opponent.”

Dec 16

Titans Notebook: Offense Turns Back to Charlie Whitehurst

Following injuries to Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker, veteran Charlie Whitehurst is back under center for the Titans.

Dec 16

Titans Notebook: Offense Turns Back to Charlie Whitehurst

Following injuries to Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker, veteran Charlie Whitehurst is back under center for the Titans.

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