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Getting Nicks back a big step for Giants

Getting Nicks back a big step for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The return of Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to practice Thursday after missing the previous day with a sprained left knee could only bode well for his on-field rapport with quarterback Eli Manning.

Nicks, whose 53 catches for 629 yards and three touchdowns is solid but not spectacular considering his first three years of work with the team, says he expects not only to be healthy enough to face the Ravens on Sunday, but to add some jump to his season.

``I feel like one day it can all turn around,'' Nicks said. ``I have to keep the right mentality and keep on working hard. I'm a man of faith, so I can't feel like I'm going through all this for nothing. Some good has got to come out of it.''

Nicks battled a toe injury at the beginning of the season, and then added the sprain in Week 2 against Tampa. He hasn't been the same game-breaking receiver since, as his timing with Manning and his overall speed suffered.

``I feel like I'm just off (with Manning) by a hair,'' Nicks said. ``But that's going to change.''

He failed to break a completion last week for big yardage despite having beaten a Falcons defender handily. He barely missed another throw that he could have laid out for, but chose not to.

``That one was in diving range, but I thought I could run up under it and get to the end zone,'' Nicks said.

Two other key Giants didn't practice Thursday for the second straight day: running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive end Justin Tuck. Bradshaw, nursing a sprained left knee that kept him out of last week's game, remained inside the trainer's room taking treatment. Tuck, who injured his shoulder against the Falcons, watched practice from the sideline on a stationary bike.

Coach Tom Coughlin said he expected Tuck to get back to work Friday, and added that if Bradshaw can take some snaps he would probably be available for action Sunday against Baltimore (9-5).

Tuck was talking about the Giants' sagging pass rush Thursday, but what he said could have applied to the general philosophy for this week's ``backs-to-the-wall'' game against the physical Ravens.

``Honestly, we have to stop worrying about what people write and what people say about our pass rush,'' said Tuck of a once-vaunted asset that has produced just 32 sacks this year compared to the 48 of a year ago. ``We have to stop looking for answers and instead start focusing on the answer, which is beat the guy in front of you.''

Regardless of the unit, beating the Raven in front of him will become a vital part of Sunday's game. The linemen are in general agreement that matching Baltimore's physicality is key, especially considering the 34-0 shutout loss to Atlanta involved everything but that.

Baltimore sports a tough running game behind Ray Rice, as well as a rugged defensive line that features tackle in Haloti Ngata. The Ravens could be getting back 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis from a Week 6 triceps injury. Ed Reed is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league.

For the defense, stopping Rice will mean gaining advantageous field position and putting quarterback Joe Flacco in third-and-long situations, the better to rejuvenate the Giants' flagging pass rush.

``Stop the run,'' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. ``That would help a whole heck of a lot to get our pass rush going.''

There are easier things to do, however. Rice, with nine touchdowns, has averaged 4.5 yards per rush in a 1,031-yard season. Being stout up front, especially in the middle, is where shutting him down starts. That task begins with the linemen defeating their offensive counterparts up front.

``It starts with winning your individual matchup,'' defensive tackle Chris Canty said. ``You have to do this in terms of team as well as individual. You have to make sure you do your job, do what's required of you, and don't do somebody else's job. You have to trust your teammates to do their job. Trust one another and be accountable and responsible.''

The offense dealing with Ngata and pass-rushing linebacker Terrell Suggs could be made tougher if center David Baas (hip and shoulder) and right guard Chris Snee (hip), both missing practice time this week, are not up to speed.

``We have to play physical no matter what game it is,'' Baas said. ``We didn't do that against Atlanta. This week, it has to be different.

The Ravens already have clinched a playoff spot for an NFL-best fifth consecutive season, but they have lost three straight. The Giants, mindful that a loss in Baltimore combined with Washington and Dallas victories and a Seattle win or a tie will end their playoff hopes, know the physical battle goes beyond individual issues like sacks and totals yards.

It's a matter of out-muscling the opponent this week.


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Ravens training camp preview: How effective of a season can Matthew Judon have?

Ravens training camp preview: How effective of a season can Matthew Judon have?

Rostered outside linebackers: Matthew Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Aaron Adoeye, Chauncey Rivers, Marcus Willoughby, John Daka.

If there was one position of “need” the Ravens didn’t address this offseason, it was outside linebacker.

The Ravens instead added to their interior defensive line and inside linebacking corps, but didn’t add a notable free agent or draft pick at outside linebacker. Instead, they’re set to run back the group from a year ago. 

The team ranked 21st in the NFL a year ago in sacks with 37, but second in quarterback knockdowns. Essentially, the team dialed up pressure more than anyone else in the league but didn’t get home enough. Now, they're hopeful they've fixed that problem.

And if there is a trickle-down benefit to the outside linebackers of those additions elsewhere, it’s that the Ravens’ outside linebackers should have more one-on-one matchups on the outside. Notably, that includes Matthew Judon. 

He finished the year with 9.5 sacks a season ago and had 33 quarterback hits — more than three times the second-place finisher on the roster. And now, he’ll play on the franchise tag in his fifth season in the league. As the team’s top pass-rusher, he’s got a lot of pressure on his back entering the 2020 season. 


If Judon is able to become an upper-tier pass-rusher this season, he’ll not only boost the Ravens’ defense, he’ll cement his monster contract that appears on the horizon, whether that comes from the Ravens or another team. 

But while Judon is the headliner of the Ravens’ edge rushers, in terms of success of the team this season, he might not be the most important part of the front seven. It might end up being whoever lines up across from him. 

Judon has shown the ability to be a No. 1 pass-rusher in the NFL, and with the benefit of an improved defense around him, it’s reasonable to assume he can repeat his 9.5 sack performance — or better it — in 2020. That shouldn't be the worry.

Where the true test will come, however, is who lines up as the second outside linebacker on the depth chart. 

Pernell McPhee had three sacks last season, but missed a majority of the season with a torn triceps. The team used rookie Jaylon Ferguson, who had 2.5 sacks, and Tyus Bowser, who had five sacks, in his absence.

With Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe on the defensive line, it’s reasonable to assume that the Ravens’ outside linebackers will get more favorable matchups. 

And if Judon and the host of other outside linebackers are able to get more one-on-one matchups, the Ravens’ could wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in 2020. 

So while the Ravens didn’t address their outside linebacker position this offseason, the additions elsewhere on the roster should provide the benefit that position group needed.

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Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

Report: NFL to cut preseason in half, taking away Ravens first and fourth preseason games against the Bills and Redskins

According to a report from ProFootballTalk, the NFL has scrapped its first and fourth preseason games this season and cut the preseason in half. 

The Ravens were scheduled to play the Bills at home on Aug. 14 to open the season, then end the preseason on Sept. 3 against the Redskins. 


Now, the Ravens’ tentative preseason schedule will have one road game, at the Cowboys on Aug. 22, and home against the Panthers on Aug. 30. 

According to the report, the move was spurred on by two factors: Firstly, that road teams would have trouble moving that many bodies and risk spreading COVID-19. Secondly, that no team has had on-field workouts this summer. Now, with training camps scheduled to start on July 28, teams will have more time to prepare for the season. 

The move came with coronavirus cases continually rising in the United States a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci said new cases could reach 100,000 per day if more preventative measures were not taken. On June 30, the U.S. had 46,042 new cases, the second-highest total since the pandemic began.

Baltimore is still set to report to camp at the end of the month, as is the rest of the NFL. With the new preseason schedule, they’ll have about three weeks to prepare for the first on-field game action of the season. 

The Ravens haven’t lost in the preseason since Sept. 3, 2015, when they lost 20-19 to the Falcons. 

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