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Some Ray Lewis better than none


Some Ray Lewis better than none

No Ray Lewis hasn't been much of a problem.

The Ravens are 4-1 this season without the linebacker, who went out Oct. 14 with a torn triceps.

Last season, with Lewis gone with a turf toe injury, the Ravens went unbeaten. That’s 8-1 total.

Lewis’ return is on the horizon next month, but given how well the defense has been playing exactly how does he fit back in the mix?

Jameel McClain has filled his shoes in the middle, quarterbacking the defensive calls. Dannell Ellerbe, who left Sunday’s 16-13 overtime win at the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter with a foot and ankle injury, starts at weakside linebacker but has played that spot, too.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees also has done a masterful job at shuffling personnel to compensate for injuries along a front that hasn’t had Pernell McPhee, Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Ma’ake Kemoeatu for a total of nine games since Lewis’ injury.

"We’re committed to fundamental football," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, making a point to credit Pees. "We’ve put some packages together that have put guys in position to do the things they do best. But to me, that’s peripheral to the fact that we’re attacking the line of scrimmage better, we’re taking on blocks better, we’re tackling much better, our underneath coverage is much more disciplined and the eyes in the back end are getting better and better every week. We’re just playing better football."

At times, Pees has moved Ngata, a tackle, to the outside and put Arthur Jones, a defensive end, inside. Jones had two sacks against the Chargers from that spot. He has shifted where linebacker Terrell Suggs lines up. Linebacker Paul Kruger has flouished, registering sacks in three consecutive games. 

Much was made about Lewis before his injury as the Ravens defense struggled particularly against the run.

It was said Lewis was too slow, had trouble shedding blocks and was too frequently chasing plays in his 17th season.

But given the Ravens’ constant shuffling because of injuries, they can’t have too much depth.

The way Harbaugh spoke Monday, if Lewis’ triceps are properly healed he’ll get his share of snaps. But how many?

Lewis played all 71 defensive snaps in a 9-6 win at the Kansas City Chiefs when they allowed 214 yards rushing. In a 31-29 win vs. the Dallas Cowboys, the game when Lewis was injured in the fourth quarter, he played 76 of the snaps as the Ravens gave up a record 227 yards on the ground.

Harbaugh might want to tread carefully when it comes to altering his defense’s chemistry. Opponents have scored just 19.9 points per game in November.

Maybe Lewis gets his starting job back, but plays a reduced number of snaps to keep the Ravens fresher and more unpredictable as Pees has more options.

"Having him on your team can only make you better," said CSN analyst Brad Jackson, who played for the Ravens from 1999-2001, and acknowledging that McClain, Ellerbe and the like have benefitted and earned time, too. "The guys that are second-tier guys are now getting reps in games and they’re becoming better football players. That is going to help you down the road."

Couple that with Lewis' intangibles and come playoff time the Ravens' defense could be playing less like its No. 24 ranking today and more like its No. 2 ranking from a year ago when they advanced to the AFC title game.

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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."