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Pryor to have role this week for Raiders

Pryor to have role this week for Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) After spending most of the season on the bench, Terrelle Pryor has been playing a key role this week for the Oakland Raiders by impersonating Cam Newton in practice.

Pryor could have an even higher-profile role come game time Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp says Pryor will get on the field in certain specialty packages for the Raiders (4-10).

Pryor made his season debut last week, handing the ball off twice and throwing one incomplete pass as the coaching staff wanted to give him an entire series. The next step is using him in specific situations that can take advantage of his athleticism at quarterback.

``You'll see him a little bit on third downs, you'll see him maybe in the red zone, try to create a different look for the defense to contend with,'' Knapp said. ``It won't be so much the structure of last week, where he had a series, which we thought was fair to him. ... We're going to try to use some of his athletic ability this week.''

With more and more teams turning to dual-threat quarterbacks like Newton, Washington's Robert Griffin III or San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Pryor's athleticism has been tantalizing for Raiders fans looking for any kind of bright spot to a disappointing season.

As a star at Ohio State, Pryor showed many of the same skills those other young quarterbacks are displaying. He just wants the opportunity to prove he can do what they're doing in the NFL.

``Right now I don't want to compare myself to Kaepernick or Cam or any of those guys because them guys and Griffin have proved it,'' he said. ``I haven't proved anything. I can't really say I'd be like them. I don't know what I'm going to be like because I haven't even played yet.''

Pryor is using those skills right now on the scout team to help the Raiders prepare for Newton. Oakland has struggled most of the season defensively and now has to deal with a new kind of challenge. A running quarterback like Newton can beat teams with his arm, as a scrambler or on designed runs out of the read-option.

``He creates a lot of other issues that you have to worry about,'' coach Dennis Allen said. ``You have to worry about him in the passing game just scrambling around and keeping the play alive. Obviously, they use him in a lot of different ways in the running game also. He presents some unique challenges.''

In a league with more and more running threats at quarterback, Newton still is one of the most dangerous. He leads Carolina with 647 yards rushing and is averaging 6 yards per carry - trailing only Griffin for most by a quarterback.

He leads all quarterbacks with seven touchdowns rushing - more than twice as many as Oakland's team total of three - and has rushed for 1,353 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons in the NFL.

``I've dealt with scrambling quarterbacks before but nothing like Cam Newton,'' Raiders linebacker Miles Burris said. ``He's kind of a breed of his own. A lot of new quarterbacks nowadays, like RG3 and those guys, running around, they can threaten your defense in a lot of different ways. So, we got to go out there and just prepare the best we can. That's all we can do every week. Just fly around to the ball and good things happen if you work hard.''

Oakland hasn't had to deal with many running quarterbacks this season as the schedule has been filled with more traditional dropback passers Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco and Drew Brees.

The Raiders haven't allowed any quarterback to run for more than 35 yards, which Matt Cassel did back in October for Kansas City. In all, Oakland has allowed opposing quarterbacks to run for 143 yards on 41 carries, the longest a 19-yarder by Chase Daniel late in a blowout loss last month to New Orleans. Taking out 16 kneeldowns by the opponent and quarterbacks are averaging 6.6 yards per carry against the Raiders.

Oakland last faced a running quarterback more than a year ago and had trouble in a couple of those games. Christian Ponder scrambled his way to 71 yards on five runs for Minnesota. But Newton also has designed runs like Tim Tebow did a year ago for Denver; Tebow ran right through Oakland in his one start, gaining 113 yards on 13 carries.

The Raiders will dedicate a defender on certain plays just to track Newton.

``There's times in a game where if you don't have guys tracking him all the time, you can get in positions where he can hurt you,'' defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. ``He's very good in the red zone. That's a situation where you have to have guys responsible for him.''

NOTES: DT Richard Seymour missed practice again with a hamstring injury and appears likely to miss his seventh straight game. Seymour is still tied for second on the team with three sacks. ... S Tyvon Branch also sat out with an ankle injury, but still could play Sunday.

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

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Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale welcomes second chance at role

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Don Martindale wondered if he would ever get a second chance to be an NFL defensive coordinator after his one-and-done disaster with the Denver Broncos in 2010.

The Broncos went 4-12 that season and gave up more points (29.4 per game) and yards (390.8) than any team in the league. Those miserable numbers, not surprisingly, cost Martindale his job.

He latched on with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 as linebackers coach. After working diligently with several stars, including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Zachary Orr and C.J. Mosley, the 54-year-old Martindale last week was promoted to defensive coordinator.

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To say he's pleased to be in charge of an NFL defense again would be a profound understatement.

"Without a doubt," Martindale said Thursday. "My family knows it. Everybody knows it. My players know it. I can't wait."

His performance in Denver eight years ago is hardly worth putting on a resume, but Martindale believes it was a worthwhile experience.

"Even though the stats were what they were, I was really proud with how we played," he said. "I'm glad I went through that process because I think that makes me a better coach today. It's like I tell my guys: You either win or you learn."

Martindale's new job with the Ravens carries the responsibility of overseeing a unit that has long been among the best in the NFL, thriving under notable leaders such as Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan, Chuck Pagano and Dean Pees, who retired on Jan. 1.

"I've been preparing for this job all my life," Martindale said. "It's very humbling, but I understand the pressure and I look forward to the challenge."

Martindale takes over a defense that this season ranked 12th in net yards allowed, first in takeaways (34) and sixth in fewest points allowed (18.9). He has no plans to revamp the unit or change the philosophy, especially since head coach John Harbaugh stressed the need to retain continuity before launching his search for Pees' replacement.

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Martindale will, however, put his own stamp on the unit.

"I think personality-wise, and just calls, there's going to be some things that are the same. And then there are going to be sometimes where I'm going to pressure more," Martindale said. "I just think I have a more aggressive personality in calling the game. Sometimes, too aggressive. That's some of the things I've learned from the past."

His most daunting task will be finding a way to make the defense to come up big late in the game. In 2016, a fourth-quarter collapse in Pittsburgh cost Baltimore a playoff berth. This season, a fourth-down touchdown pass in the final minute by Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton bounced the Ravens from the postseason chase.

"Our mantra has always been to finish," Martindale said. "We're close. Obviously, the last two years, it's been the last play that's knocked us out of it. We are going to work diligently -- all of us -- with our package and situational football.

"That's going to be the next step, I think, that will skyrocket us. That's the big thing that I see. We were really good. Let's make it great."

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Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

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USA Today Sports

Offensive, defensive and rookie of the year awards for Ravens' 2017 season

The Ravens' season had it's ups and down, but out of it came some bright spots.

The defense continued to prove dominate and the offense found its groove during the second half of the season, but who stood out the most?

Offensive MVP: RB Alex Collins

Collins was a late preseason pickup after being cut by the Seattle Seahawks and Ravens fans are grateful they let him go. After new acquisition Danny Woodhead injured his hamstring on the first drive in Week 1 and Terrance West injured his calf Week 5 in Oakland, Allen emerged as a saving grace. He finished the season with 973 yards, six touchdowns and 212 attempts averaging 4.6 yards-per-carry. His longest rushing attempt was 50-yards against the Steelers in Week 4, and then in Week 14, rushed 120-yards on their defense. 

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Defensive MVP: OLB Terrell Suggs

This one was a toss up between Suggs and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but considering the level at which Sizzle is playing at in his 15th season, his 2017 performance is MVP worthy.

The 35-year old finished the season with 49 combined tackles, 12 assist, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. Suggs ranks 11th in the league in sacks and was voted to his seventh Pro Bowl, something that should be expected from the leader of a defense that finished the regular season ranked sixth in points allowed. During the Ravens' Week 12 matchup, Suggs proved he doesn't age when he strip sacked Texans QB Tom Savage with 4:44 remaining in the fourth, shifting the momentum back to the Ravens who were clinging on to a 23-16 win. He's suffered two Achilles tears and a torn bicep over the last 5.5 seasons but has remained Hall of Fame worthy. As of right now, T-Sizzle has no plans of retiring. 

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Rookie of the Year: CB Marlon Humphrey

The Ravens' 2017 first-round pick stepped up to the plate when starting CB Jimmy Smith's season was over after suffering a torn Achilles in Week 13. The rookie out of Alabama finished the season with 34 combined tackles, four assists and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus graded Humphrey the fifth-best cover corner in the league. QBs only had a 53.5 rating when they threw in his direction. PFF also gave Humphrey a 82.7 rookie rating. 

Humphrey will continue to prove his worth during the 2018 season if Jimmy Smith is still recovering come Week 1.

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Special Teams MVP: P Sam Koch

Koch is in his 12th season with the Ravens and he's continuing to prove how efficient that leg of his is. He had a season long of 67-yards and placed 40 of 84 punts inside the 20-yard line. Koch's accuracy earned him AFC special teams player of the week not once, but twice this season. The first came in Week 12 against the Houston Texans when he not only placed five punts inside the 20-yard line, but also faked a punt and threw a 22-yard pass to Chris Moore for a first down. The second honor came in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns after placing four punts inside the 20-yard line, three of them inside the five. While neither Koch or kicker Justin Tucker were named to the Pro Bowl, Ravens fans never break a sweat when the game is in their hands, or should we say, legs.