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1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Eagles

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1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Eagles

It's time again for our weekly predictions, as we look more closely at some of the key issues and players in Sunday's Ravens-Eagles game:
1. The Eagleswill not score on their opening possession.The Ravens allowed only oneopening-possession score in the regular season last year, a touchdown by SanDiego. The Eagles' first possession lastweek against Cleveland ended with a fumble, and the Ravens will keep the Eaglesat bay early again.2. Ray Rice willhave 20 touches.In 2010 and 2011,the Ravens were 21-2 when Rice had 20 touches, and 5-8 when he did not. Ricehad just 13 touches in the Ravens' 44-13 win over the Bengals on Monday night,in part because of the new-look offense, but also in part because he sat outmost of the fourth quarter once the Ravens got their big lead. This week willbe a tougher test, and Rice's number will be called more often.3. Joe Flaccowill be sacked at least three times.The Ravens' youngline, which featured two starters playing in their first NFL regular-seasongame (T Kelechi Osemele, G Ramon Harewood), fared pretty well against theBengals. But they yielded three sacks and the Bengals were missing one of theirtop pass rushers. The Eagles will spread their rushers wide, and DE Jason Babin (18 sacks last year), DT CullenJenkins and company will test the Ravens from the edge as well as stunting up themiddle.4. The Ravenswill have three pass plays of 20 yards.The Ravens hadsix plays of 20 yards last week, all through the air, and they spread thewealth around: Those six plays went to five different receivers: Torrey Smith,Anquan Boldin, Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson and tight end Dennis Pitta. Flaccowill again look downfield, and if the deep receivers stretch the field, Pittaand tight end Ed Dickson could work free for big gains underneath.5. The Ravenstight ends will have at least seven catches.Pitta and Dicksontotaled seven catches for 95 yards last week, and Pitta remains one of Flacco'sfavorite targets. He had a team-high nine passes thrown his way last week,finishing with five catches for 73 yards. Flacco will look to this duo oftenagain.6. CourtneyUpshaw will have at least four tackles.The Ravens' topdraft pick this April had an underwhelming training camp, at times slowed by ashoulder injury, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he is" startingto come around" and is "starting to feel a little more comfortable inthe defense." Just in time, too, because Paul Kruger (back) isquestionable, so it's possible Upshaw will start. He had four tackles off thebench against Cincinnati. Expect him to at least match that output against theEagles.7. The Eagleswill rush for more than 100 yards.Somewhat lost inthe Ravens' big win was a serious issue with run defense. BenJarvus Green-Ellisaveraged 5.1 yards a carry, and the Ravens allowed 129 yards rushing on 28carries (4.6 avg.). This week they must deal with LeSean McCoy, who ran for 110yards against Cleveland last week, as well as a scrambling Michael Vick.8. The Ravenswill get an interception.Vick threw fourinterceptions against Cleveland last week, and the Ravens have the personnel inthe secondary to make him pay for his mistakes again. The Ravens need togenerate a pass rush to force his hand. Will Ed Reed be adding to his NFLrecord for interception return yardage?9. The Ravenswill have a 30-yard kickoff return.One surprise lastweek was the Ravens used rookie Deonte Thompson, and not Jacoby Jones, as theprimary kick returner. He averaged 22.0 yards on four returns. Special teamscoordinator Jerry Rosburg wouldn't commit to that same arrangement this week,but both Thompson and Jones are big-play threats any time they touch the ball.10. Eagles 23,Ravens 20This is assumingthe Eagles' wide receivers are healthy enough to play -- and Lardarius Webb,for one, is sure they are. The Eagles and Michael Vick will not stumble and bumbleas bad as they did last weekend in Cleveland. The Ravens revamped offensive linewill face a very stiff test, and they need to protect Flacco if this new-lookoffense is to succeed. The Ravens won't lay an egg like they did in Week 2 the past two years, but the Eagles will have just enough to win their raucous home opener.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”

 

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