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Flacco, Ravens prepare for difficult opening test in Denver

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Flacco, Ravens prepare for difficult opening test in Denver

What: Ravens (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)

When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Where:  Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Five questions to ask heading into the Ravens’ season-opener

1. Can the Ravens’ defense avoid getting carved up by Peyton Manning?

The Ravens are sick of hearing about Manning throwing seven touchdown passes against them in the 2013 season opener. But it happened.

Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees refuses to dwell on the 2013 Denver debacle.

“This is not the same team that we had two years ago,” Pees said. “That game means nothing to me. And if any coach sits and looks at a game (from) two years ago, he’s a fool.”

However, this remains a severe test for the Ravens defense. Manning may not throw with the same zip anymore, but he’s difficult to fool, difficult to sack, and difficult to beat in Denver, where the Broncos were 8-0 during the 2014 regular season. If the Ravens aren’t solid defensively, they won’t win.

RELATED Ravens plan to avoid repeat of 2013 season opener

2.  Will the Ravens’ secondary avoid allowing big plays?

This goes hand-in-hand with question No. 1. The Broncos have two receivers who topped 1,000 yards last season, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both are dangerous running after the catch. The Ravens’ secondary looks improved on paper, with Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb starting at the corners, Kendrick Lewis and Will Hill at safety, and nickel corner Kyle Arrington. But they must cover well and tackle well, or a routine play could quickly become six points.

3. Will we see another big-time, big-spot performance from Joe Flacco?

Flacco loves this kind of stage – on the road, electricity in the air, Ravens as underdogs. This is usually when Flacco dials in, and on his last two trips to Denver, Flacco has thrown for at least 330 yards.

“I like going there,” Flacco said. “I have a good feeling about that stadium, even the first time I stepped in and just started warming up. It’s a pretty cool place to play.”

Those comments should concern the Broncos. When Flacco gets rolling, the Ravens can win anywhere.

4. Can Ravens running back Justin Forsett rip off some big runs?

There has been plenty of talk about the Ravens’ wide receivers, and concern about who will step up to help Steve Smith. There hasn’t been enough talk about Forsett, coming off a 1,266-yard season and running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Forsett led the NFL last season in runs longer than 20 yards, with 17. He’s fresh and healthy. If Forsett has a strong day, it will keep Manning off the field, and greatly improve the Ravens’ chances.

5.  Will the opening-game magic return for John Harbaugh?

The Ravens have the NFL’s best September record (17-8) since 2008, when Harbaugh became head coach. However, the Ravens have lost their last two season-openers. If the Ravens start 2015 with a win in Denver, it could set the tone for another strong September.

RELATED Update on Timmy Jernigan as DT returns to practice 

 

 

 

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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