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Five Ravens who will be under pressure in second half of season

Five Ravens who will be under pressure in second half of season

Despite their four-game losing streak, the Ravens (3-4) return from their bye weekend very much in the AFC North race with the Steelers (4-3) and the Bengals (3-4-1).

With a week of rest and refocusing under their belts, it is time for the team to go to work. 

As the Ravens prepare to host the Steelers on Sunday, here are five Ravens who will be under pressure during the second half the season:

1. QB Joe Flacco

It’s obvious that Flacco (five TD passes, six interceptions, 75.4 quarterback rating) must raise his game for the Ravens to win the division. Yes the offensive line needs to protect him better, and offensive coordinator Marty Morninweg must stay more committed to the running game.

But as Flacco himself says, it starts with him. As he goes, so goes the Ravens’ offense in November and December.

2. WR Breshad Perriman

To get open more often, Perriman (14 catches, 183 yards) will have to run better routes and improve his chemistry with Flacco. However, Perriman has the speed to compliment Mike Wallace as a legitimate deep threat.

More consistency from Perriman would have a positive ripple effect on the entire offense.

3. TE Dennis Pitta

This has been an excellent comeback season for Pitta (38 catches, 335 yards), after two major hip surgeries. However, Pitta has not scored a touchdown, and the Ravens have struggled in the red zone. Pitta and Flacco hooked up for 10 touchdowns in 2012, including three during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.

If Pitta can re-establish himself as a red zone producer, it would take the offense to another level.

4. CB Jimmy Smith

Over the past month Smith has been superb, back to where he was before his Lisfranc injury in 2014. With two games against Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, two games against Bengals wide receiver A. J. Green, and one game against Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant remaining on the schedule, the Ravens are going to need Smith at his best.

“I think Jimmy is having one of the finest seasons of any corner in the league,” said secondary coach Leslie Frazier. “Jimmy is an underrated guy in a lot of ways. He can tackle. He can match up on top receivers. He is having an under-the-radar outstanding season, and hopefully he can stay healthy and it continues.”

5. OLB Za’Darius Smith

Sacks don’t tell the whole story for pass rushers, but Smith doesn’t have one, after getting 5 ½ as a rookie in 2015. With Elvis Dumervil (foot) and Terrell Suggs (biceps) dealing with injuries, the Ravens need young pass rushers like Smith to step up.

RELATED: BIG BEN'S STATUS FOR RAVENS GAME STILL UNCERTAIN

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Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

We've known the Ravens' 2018 preseason and regular season opponents for some time now, but the NFL finally released their full schedule with exact dates and times.

As they do every year, the Ravens will be seeing the Bengals, Steelers and Browns twice. 

For the ninth consecutive year, Week 16 and 17 will be divisional games with playoff implications.

The Ravens will also be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, bringing an extra preseason game to their schedule.

In the regular season, the birds will be flocking south to take on the Panthers, Falcons and Titans. They haven't seen the Panthers or Falcons since 2014 - both ending in wins - and came up just short against the Titans in their 23-20 loss last season.

The Ravens will only have to travel to the west coast once when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who they last saw in 2015 and earned a 29-26 win.

Not including AFC North rivals, the last time the Ravens saw their remaining five home opponents they came away with wins. Hopefully history will repeat itself.

Prime-time games, which the Ravens have two of, will kick off at earlier times than in the past. Monday Night Football will now start at 8:15 p.m. while Thursday and Sunday Night Football will start at 8:20 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular-Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thursday, 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sunday 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Saturday 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sunday 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.


PRESEASON 

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2, vs. Chicago Bears (Canton, OH), 8:00pm (NBC).

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 2: Mon. 8/20,  at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN).

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins*

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 at Washington Redskins

* - Game date and time not yet determined

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER