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Major tests for Ravens secondary


Major tests for Ravens secondary

The Ravens patchwork secondary – without Lardarius Webb and former first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith – performed admirably at Heinz Field last week against Byron Leftwich and the Steelers.

But the challenge for this group is about to get a whole lot tougher, beginning with this Sunday’s game at San Diego.

“It’s going to be tested against San Diego for sure,” coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week. “…I expect them to continue to hold up their end of it. They have done probably a better than expected job – better than you could probably expect any secondary to do under those circumstances.”

The Ravens face  Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Sunday, and then could see Ben Roethlisberger next weekend in Baltimore. Even if Roethlisberger (shoulder, ribs) is unable to play, the Ravens face an impressive run of quarterbacks over the next month, including rookie Robert Griffin III with the Redskins followed by Peyton Manning of the Broncos and his brother, Eli, with the Giants.

That could be a tall order for a group decimated by injuries. Webb is out all season, and Smith, who underwent sports hernia surgery, is out indefinitely.

With Smith out, Corey Graham is expected to make his second straight start at cornerback in San Diego opposite Cary Williams. Graham was superb against the Steelers, with an interception, a pass breakup in the end zone and another across the middle when he hammered tight end Heath Miller.

The Ravens signed former Raider Chris Johnson as a free agent, but he was hurt in the first quarter at Heinz Field last Sunday in his first action of the season and is listed as doubtful for this week.

The fact that Johnson was immediately thrown into the nickel job against the Steelers, having just received his Ravens playbook a couple of days before, seems to say much about reserve corner Chykie Brown, whom Johnson essentially leap-frogged on the depth chart.

The Ravens, who espouse the philosophy that “you can never have too many cornerbacks,” suddenly don’t appear to have enough cornerbacks. Brown is likely to move in to the role of third corner/nickel back, and rookie Asa Jackson could see action as a dime back. Jackson, a fifth-round draft pick, has been on the roster all season but has yet to be active for a game.

It’s not exactly the secondary the Ravens drew up in August when they crafted the roster, but this patchwork group might be called upon early and often over the next month against some of the league’s best quarterbacks.



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Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

USA Today Sports

Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

The Baltimore Ravens cancelled Saturday night's free open practice at M&T Bank Stadium due to a forecast that calls for heavy rain and inclement weather.

There is no official word from the team on whether this practice will be resheduled, but it seems like Sunday may be an option, even though there's rain in the forecast then too.

Ravens fans who were looking to see first-round draft pick and potential future starting quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to wait for another day. His presence at training camp, an inevitable competition with the incumbent, Joe Flacco, and potential two-quarterback packages involving both of them are set to be some of the biggest storylines of Ravens camp this summer.

As a Heisman Trophy winner, Jackson was one of the most dynamic players in college football during his time at Louisville. If he can replicate that kind of performance in the NFL, he will be at plenty more training camp sessions for Ravens fans to watch.


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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."