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Shurmur confident Browns building a winner


Shurmur confident Browns building a winner

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Halfway through his second season, Browns coach Pat Shurmur sees dramatic changes in his fledgling team.

The mistakes are fewer. The practices are crisper. The injuries are healing.

With two wins in their past three games, the Browns, yes, the Cleveland Browns, who have spent most of the past decade wallowing in defeat, are starting to build something. One of the NFL's youngest squads is growing up, and the Browns (2-6) are beginning to believe they can do much more than compete on a weekly basis.

Shurmur has his team feeling it can win - with him.

``Obviously, record-wise we're not where I want to be right now,'' Shurmur said Monday. ``But I see a team that's improving. I see a team that's battling. I see a team that's with me every step of the way. And they believe in their coaches. And I see a team that's improving. I'm hopeful we're going to continue to make those improvements and win a heckuva lot of games.''

Battling brutal weather conditions on Lake Erie, the Browns did just enough Sunday for a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers, who seemed as if they couldn't wait to get out of the cold and rain and back to the West Coast. With their passing attack grounded by high winds, the Browns turned to running back Trent Richardson and the rookie piled up a season-high 122 yards on 24 carries and scored the game's only touchdown on a 26-yard, tackle-busting romp in the first quarter.

It was a game where points were precious, where every inch, foot and yard had added meaning. And unlike a week ago, when rookie Josh Gordon's drop of a certain touchdown pass cost the Browns in a 17-13 loss at Indianapolis, the Chargers made the game's biggest mistake as wide receiver Robert Meachem let a TD pass slip through his wet hands.

``The football gods looked down on us,'' Shurmur said. ``It wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect, but it's something that we can build on.''

The Browns showed some signs of maturity in winning their second straight game at home. They handled the nasty conditions, were called for just four penalties and did not commit a turnover, recovering two fumbles.

Shurmur has been criticized for pointing out progress following losses, but there's no denying the team made positive strides Sunday.

One of the biggest improvements came after the game. As Shurmur was about to announce, ``See you Wednesday'' and give his players a ``victory'' Monday off, he was interrupted by some of the Browns who told him they wanted to come to work and begin preparing for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

For Shurmur, that was a sign of his team's evolution.

``The fact that they wanted to do it the last week in October says a lot,'' Shurmur said. ``I've been around a lot of other good teams that will do whatever they can to get a `see you Wednesday.' That shows me that there's a level of maturity there. It shows me that these guys understand the importance of work.''

It was a welcomed development for many of the Browns, including kicker Phil Dawson, who has been with the club since 1999. Dawson has seen it all - the good, bad and ugly - during his time in Cleveland and the fact that so many players wanted to build off the win was proof that this group of Browns may be different that previous ones.

When Shurmur gave the Browns an extra day off following their win over Cincinnati on Oct. 14, they had a poor practice on that Wednesday and finished the week with the loss to the Colts. Dawson senses players learned their lesson.

``It's a good sign that guys recognize what's required,'' Dawson said. ``Everybody would like a day off, but we know where we are right now and guys want more wins, and when you have the new owner say he wants to get greedy with wins, guys stepped in line and want do that. And so today was productive and hopefully it will kick start a good week of preparation so we can go out and get another `w'.''

The win over San Diego was the first for new owner Jimmy Haslam, who after being presented with a game ball from Shurmur in the locker room, stepped forward and challenged the Browns ``to get greedy'' and want to win more.

Tight end Alex Smith said Haslam's words made a big impression with everyone who heard them.

``It was kind of an awakening for everybody that hey, it's go time,'' Smith said. ``Of course we're aware of that, but to hear that from the big guy just puts a little more into it. He said you know what, `Let's get greedy and get another win.' That was his final message to us and that's where everybody is right now.''

The Browns reached the season's midpoint with a one-point win. It began in September with a one-point loss to Philadelphia, one of several games the Browns would like to have back.

Shurmur, though, is looking forward and sees a team growing in many ways. Things are falling into place and there's even a chance his defense may have injured starting defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor in time to face the Ravens.

It's getting better for the Browns, and with a few more wins it could be much better for Shurmur, just 6-18 in two seasons.

``We function better as a team,'' he said. ``Our young skilled players on offense are better and we're getting production. We've won two games in the last three weeks. So let's call it for what it is. We're getting some defensive players back that will help us. If you function better and you're playing better and you win a couple games and you're getting some players back that can help you win, that helps me stay positive.''


NOTES: Shurmur said Richardson is ``no worse for wear'' after starting his second game with a rib cartilage injury. ... Smith started at fullback over Owen Marecic, who was inactive and hasn't helped his status with at least four dropped passes this season. Smith did a nice job helping open holes for Richardson. He was also involved in an animated conversation with one of the officials after he noticed the Chargers had 12 players in the huddle. ``Stanford guy,'' Shurmur joked about Smith. ``He can count.'' ... The NFL moved the trading deadline from 4 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday because of Hurricane Sandy.


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Baltimore Ravens 2018 Training Camp preview

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Baltimore Ravens 2018 Training Camp preview

The Ravens’ 2018 season is one of the most anticipated seasons in the last decade. 

From the coaching staff to the quarterback, the future of the franchise will be determined over 16 weeks. The work, however, beings now. 

The Ravens’ first training camp practice kicks off Thursday and there is a lot to keep a close eye on. Let's take a look at the many talking points of the 2018 preseason.

The Great Quarterback Debate:

Unless you’ve been in hiding since the NFL Draft, you know what all the hoopla is about. Joe Flacco remains the Ravens’ starter, but the competition at QB1 just got a little more interesting. The addition of Lamar Jackson has hopefully ignited a fire under Flacco and Jackson will get a year to learn under the 11-year veteran. If the season starts to go south early on, Jackson could come in as their starter and begin his role as the team’s next franchise quarterback. 

A lot could happen at the quarterback position over the next year, but one thing that is certain is all eyes will be on Lamar Jackson when he hits the field at training camp. You can't deny your intrigue. The Heisman winner had success both in the air and on the ground over his three years at Louisville, racking up record-breaking numbers. How the Ravens utilize Jackson will be interesting. Coach Harbaugh has already stated he will be active on game days and that they're experimenting with having Jackson and Flacco on the field at the same time. 

Oh, and then there's Robert Griffin III. We think you might know who he is.

The Ravens signed him to a one-year deal back at the beginning of April, but now with the addition of Lamar Jackson, another big training camp question arises. Do the Ravens keep a third QB on their active roster or do they send him on his way? RGIII has mentioned he's looking forward to mentoring the fellow Heisman Trophy winner in his first year in the league, but how much of that he'll get to do remains unseen.

A New Core Of Offensive Weapons: 

Flacco's declining numbers cannot be placed entirely on his shoulders. His options at wide receiver and tight end have been limited, but Ozzie Newsome – in his last year as general manager – made sure that would no longer be an issue.

Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John 'Smokey' Brown became Ravens in free agency and Breshad Perriman will fight for his final chance with the team after they declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. There is also 2018 draft picks Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley and undrafted free agents Jaelon Acklin and Andrew Levrone. Veteran Chris Moore and Quincy Adeboyejo will also be competing. Flacco mentioned during OTAs that he would be rounding up his receivers outside of practice to build chemistry. Come Thursday, we will see if the sparks have begun to fly.

The tight end depth chart will be looking very different for the Ravens as well this season. There was, of course, the additions of Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews – a pair of Top 100 picks – in the draft and undrafted free agent Nick Keizer. Veterans Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are returning, but who will be their starter Week 1 will be interesting to watch. Boyle was on the field for 66 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps in 2017, but injuries have hindered both Boyle and Williams. Williams missed 12 games in 2016 with a knee tear and five games in 2017 with an ankle sprain. Where he sits on the depth chart will rely heavily on how healthy he remains during an extended training camp. 

Critical Year for the Coaching Staff:

The 2018 season is the most critical one of John Harbaugh's 10-year tenure. As you've read many times this offseason, the Ravens haven't seen the postseason since 2015. And if that trend continues into the 2018 season, big changes to the offensive playcallers should be imminent. 

At his annual State of the Ravens press conference in February, owner Steve Bisciotti was questioned as to why no coaching changes – from head coach to offensive coordinator – were made after the Ravens' offense clearly had trouble getting things going all season long.

"I’m not going to give a ‘playoff or bust’ edict to you all, or to my coach," Bisciotti said.

"He’s under as much pressure, probably, than he’s ever been in his life, and I expect him to keep his chin up and take his positivity and his talents and make the most of this season. I may as well replace him now if I’m going to tell him, ‘Make the playoffs or you’re out of town next year.’ That’s just not the way to run a business.”

That mindset is understandable. Bisciotti noted Flacco has been through four offensive coordinators in five years and was comfortable with OC Marty Mornhinweg. Harbaugh's contract was extended through 2019, but if the season doesn't pan out as expected, the offensive could have a very different look in 2019. 

A Fast and Furious Defense:

Linebackers coach, Don 'Wink' Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator after Dean Pees' departure. Harbaugh hired within the organization to keep the defensive vision cohesive, but Martindale is bringing something different to the table. 

"He's just putting his personal fix on our defense and expanding it, giving the guys confidence to play fast," safety Eric Weddle said in a recent interview. "The idea is to do what's best for the defense, not what's best the individual."

It appears this year's defense will rely heavily on the instincts of its star players like Pro Bowlers Weddle, Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley. The defense has never had an issue being dominate, but you may be seeing a more creative defense come game days with players given the freedom to make decisions in real time. How well it works will be exciting to see. 

Other Notes: 

The Ravens placed six players, G Marshal Yanda, TE Vince Mayle, DE Brent Urban, CB Jaylen Hill, LB Bam Bradley and WR Quincy Adeboyejo on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin training camp. Yanda missed 14 games last season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Placing him on the PUP list to begin training camp is most likely out of precaution. He did not participate in any offseason workouts. 


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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp


Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

Football is back in session for the Ravens.

Their rookies are set to report to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md Wednesday. Veterans report next Wednesday, the 18th.

The team is reporting to training camp a bit earlier than most NFL teams. Due to Ray Lewis being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Oh, the Ravens will face the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. Teams participating are eligible to begin training camp earlier.

This rookie class is already generating national attention. While the Ravens stand by Joe Flacco as their QB1, first-round pick Lamar Jackson could cause a shakeup at some point during the season. And when it comes to much-needed offensive help, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could begin to provide relief. 

Third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. begins his journey with the Ravens in a more sentimental fashion. His father, Orlando "Zeus" Brown, also played tackle for the Ravens from 1996-98 and then again from 2003-05. Brown passed away in 2011. 

Stay with NBC Sports Washington throughout the next several weeks as we keep a close eye on the Ravens' preseason.