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Key players emerge for Browns


Key players emerge for Browns

Josh Gordon only had one catch for the Cleveland Browns when they met the Ravens for the first time. Sunday, when the AFC North foes rematch in Cleveland, the receiver will play a far more vital role.

So will Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who was serving a suspension from the NFL for taking a banned substance when they lost 23-16 on Sept. 27 in Baltimore.

That meeting represents the last solid performance for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 356 yards. He has averaged less than 190 yards passing per game in his last three outings since then.

Having Haden there gives Cleveland more options if Flacco starts to find a groove, though that's no guarantee considering how inconsistent the Ravens' offense has been away from home.

Flacco opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in the second quarter of that first game. While Smith is the big-play deep threat in Baltimore, it was Anquan Boldin who gave the Browns fits. He had nine catches for a season-high 131 yards in that game.

"We play a mixture of coverages," Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said. "We'll play zone and man, and we pressure in different ways. You can't always just match Joe up, but if there is a receiver that we feel like warrants being matched, then of course we have the ability to do it."

Gordon, an undrafted rookie, had one catch for 16 yards and was easily forgettable. But he now leads the the Browns with 17 catches for a team-high 379 yards and four touchdowns. Gordon's totals tops all NFL rookies.

Injuries to key players and too many dropped passes by Cleveland's receivers has pushed him into the rotation. He has been referred to as "the kid from Baylor" several times this week because even the Ravens have trouble remembering his name.  The Browns have won two of their last three games after opening the season 0-5.

"Their receivers are getting better. The kid from Baylor is really improving and is becoming a big-play threat for them," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They’re just a good, young team, and they’re on the rise.”

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst


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."