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Five observations from Ravens' 22-19 preseason victory over Panthers

Five observations from Ravens' 22-19 preseason victory over Panthers

BALTIMORE – Five observations from watching the Ravens defeat the Panthers, 22-19, in the preseason opener at M&T Bank Stadium:

1. A trio of young Ravens running backs looked good.

Terrance West (nine carries, 25 yards), two touchdowns) made people miss and changed direction on a dime.

Kenneth Dixon (eight carries, 46 yards) ran through arm tackles with authority. Buck Allen (six carries, six yards) accelerated nicely after catching a screen pass for a 19-yard touchdown.

Finding enough touches for all of these backs could be a pleasant problem. Veteran starter Justin Forsett had the night off. But Forsett saw plenty of fresh legs waiting in the wings if he falters at all.

2. Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith spent plenty of time in the Panthers’ backfield.

Smith had an impressive strip sack in the first quarter, picking up where he left off last season, when he had 3 ½ sacks over the final three games. Smith is lining up as a defensive end, rush linebacker, and strong side linebacker. But Smith looks ready to blossom as a pass rusher.

 3. Two names to watch are fifth-round defensive end Matt Judon and free agent linebacker Chris Carter.

Judon looked much better on the field than he had during training camp practices.

He was a sack artist in college, and Judon’s athleticism give the Panthers’ offensive line problems. Judon could find a role as a situational pass rusher. Carter has already been with the Steelers, Colts and Bengals, and he’s longshot to make the team. But Carter’s quickness as an edge rusher jumped out.  He did play in two games for the Ravens last season.

4. Neither Jerraud Powers nor Sheldon Price had a stellar night at cornerback.

After Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright, the Ravens’ depth chart at cornerback remains very much uncertain.

5. Cornerbacks Kyle Arrington and Tavon Young left the game with injuries.

Arrington was being evaluated for a concussion. Young was having left knee examined. There was no immediate word on either’s condition.

 

 

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Pete Carroll has ‘nothing but great thoughts’ about former Seahawk safety Earl Thomas

Pete Carroll has ‘nothing but great thoughts’ about former Seahawk safety Earl Thomas

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he doesn’t harbor any negative thoughts or feelings about Earl Thomas. More specifically, about how Thomas' tenure ended in Seattle.

In a Wednesday conference call, Carroll said he loved coaching Thomas and hopes nothing but the best for him in Baltimore.

“I know that when we were together, we did everything we could to be great,” Carroll said. “Earl was an incredible competitor and I loved coaching him. And I like watching him play now. It’ll be fun playing against him.”

Thomas was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro in Seattle under Carroll’s watch, but the relationship soured toward the end of Thomas’s time in Seattle. After a holdout last season, Thomas broke his leg in the team’s fourth game of the season. While being carted off, he flipped off the Seahawks sideline in his last time in the uniform. 

He signed a four-year, 55 million dollar deal in the offseason to play with the Ravens, officially ending his nine-year stint as a Seahawk. 

Carroll, however, said he has no issues with how the relationship ended.

“Not really, I wish he could’ve played with us and we could’ve stayed together forever,” Carroll said. “That was kind of always the thought. But it didn’t work out that way and guys have got to go on their way and they do their business and do their stuff. Earl was a great Seahawk, he was a blast to coach, we had a great time here doing the things we did.”

As for whether the two could reconnect on Sunday, both Thomas and Carroll said they won’t plan anything. Instead, they’ll let it happen organically.

“I have nothing but great thoughts about Earl,” Carroll said. “I have great respect for him. If I get a chance to visit with him, I’ll visit with him like I always do.”

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Earl Thomas isn’t fazed, yet, by return to face Seahawks as an opponent

Earl Thomas isn’t fazed, yet, by return to face Seahawks as an opponent

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The last time Earl Thomas was in a Seattle Seahawks uniform, he sat on a medical cart with his broken left leg in a cast and his right middle finger extended toward the Seahawks bench. 

The ugly finish to Thomas' tenure as a Seahawk last September ended a nine year stint as one of the league's best safeties, in the league's best secondaries. Now a Raven, Thomas will return to Seattle on Sunday to face the Seahawks for the first time as an opponent. 

He’s mostly downplayed the situation, but Sunday will undoubtedly be an emotional game for both Thomas and the Seahawks organization. 

“It doesn’t matter who I’m playing for, I’m going out there and trying to win,” Thomas said. “Maybe when I get to the visiting locker room and see how that feels, it’ll add something to that. But other than that, it’s business as usual. I’m going out there to compete and make plays.”

Thomas spent the entirety of his eventual Hall of Fame career in Seattle as a member of the ‘Legion of Boom,’ one of the most famous defensive units in league history.

But his time in Seattle eventually soured as the years rolled on and Kam Chancellor retired, Richard Sherman left town and the unit slowly faded into history. 

That’s before things took a turn with Thomas’ contract and future with the team. After a holdout, he played in four games last season, totaling three interceptions, before breaking his leg and ending his excellent tenure as a Seahawk against the Cardinals. 

“I feel like they’re were trying to phase me out, they were thinking more linebacker-ish,” Thomas said. “They’ve got the three-headed monster with K.J. (Wright), Bobby (Wagner) and (Mychal) Kendricks, obviously coach (Ken) Norton is the D-Coordinator. He’s a linebacker at heart. I understood what was going on.”

As for what reception he thinks he’ll get from the Seattle fans, he’s unsure, but hopeful.

“Hopefully they respect what I’ve done, get a couple of cheers and not too many boos,” Thomas said. “But whatever happens, happens. Hopefully it’s love.”

Thomas has made a big impression on the Ravens just six games into his four-year contract, especially when a player of his stature signs with the Ravens. 

But the way his tenure ended in Seattle is still on the minds of everyone, including a few of his teammates.

“Since Earl’s been here he’s definitely been a pretty calm-mannered guy,” Marlon Humphrey said. “He’s been there for a long time. The thing that flashes, to me, is the little finger thing. I think there will definitely be a little tension there.”

Thomas said hasn’t planned to talk with anyone pregame and instead he’ll wait for it to happen naturally instead. 

But he did say that various members of the Seahawks organization have kept up with him throughout the course of the season.

“Especially guys on defense, some of my old coaches, some of the strength and conditioning staff,” Thomas said. “I’m sure during pregame, or warmups, if I see some guys and we start a conversation, I’m not going to go out there and not talk to anybody.”

Good memories are much easier to come by for Thomas. He was a three-time First Team All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowler, two-time Second Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion in Seattle. He paired with Chancellor on the back-end to create one of the most dominant safety pairings in NFL history as the duo helped lead Seattle to the postseason five times. 

The ugly way Thomas' tenure ended is still on the minds of everyone, but was closure, in a way. And Sunday represents the official closing of the book of his story in Seattle.

“I won so many games there, I grew up as a young man there, started when I was 20 years old,” Thomas said. “I’m always going to respect that organization and I’m always going to be a part of it.”

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