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Grading the Ravens defense, special teams vs. Patriots

Grading the Ravens defense, special teams vs. Patriots

The Ravens top-ranked defense went up to Foxborough to face its biggest test of the season, and they limped away -- literally, in the case of Jimmy Smith -- after Tom Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-23 Patriots win.

It was vintage Brady, who exploited mismatches and made the Ravens pay dearly for critical mistakes.

We've already handed out report cards to the Ravens offense, and now it's time to grade the defense and special teams.  

RELATED: RAVENS SAFETY ERIC WEDDLE TAKES BLAME FOR PATRIOTS' FINAL TOUCHDOWN

DEFENSIVE LINE: C+

Brandon Williams, who led the linemen with four tackles, blew up the Patriots pocket early in the game, but the Patriots had the ball for 10 minutes in the first quarter and that started to show as the game wore on

LaGarrette Blount finished with 72 yards on 18 carries, and the Patriots overall averaged 3.7 yards per rush.

Timmy Jernigan had his quietest game of the season.

LINEBACKER: C

Zach Orr continues to have a standout season. He had 11 tackles, including one on special teams. He has range to cover the field laterally and made a couple of impressive open-field, third-down stops to force punts.

The rush linebackers got a few hits on Brady but were not disruptive enough.

Brady made the Ravens pay when linebackers had to cover in space; running back James White, lined up wide against C.J. Mosley, turned a quick slant into a 61-yard gain.

SECONDARY: C-

Jimmy Smith did a good job containing Julian Edelman early, but as as happened before, when Smith left with an injury (ankle), things unraveled. Edelman finished with seven catches for 73 yards.

Jerraud Powers also had to leave (concussion protocol), which further thinned the secondary.

Eric Weddle had a team-high 11 tackles, a sack and an interception in the end zone to kill one Patriots drive, but he also had a disastrous mistake.

Weddle, who took responsibility for the play after the game, was either fooled by play action or cheated up anticipating a throw to Edelman. That left the middle of the field wide open after Chris Hogan ran past Matt Elam in the slot. Brady, as he will do, dropped the ball right into Hogan's arms for a 79-yard touchdown and a 30-20 lead.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+

Justin Tucker's streak ended at 35 consecutive field goals after Shea McClellin hurdled long-snapper Morgan Cox to block a 34-yard try. Tucker again, though, was a huge part of the Ravens offense with three more field goals, including his ninth of the season from 50-plus. That is one shy of the NFL single-season record.

Tucker's onside kick attempt left something to be desired.

Devin Hester played a huge part in the game's first points, and not in a good way. After signaling for a fair catch, Hester let a punt bounce and the Patriots downed it at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Kenneth Dixon was stuffed for a safety. Given that Hester brings no value at any other position, he has done little to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster going forward.

Sam Koch was inconsistent but did average 48.2 yards on six punts, including a 65-yarder.

The Ravens special teams came up with two fumble recoveries, which led to both touchdowns. Undrafted rookie Patrick Onwuasor forced a fumble on a Patriots kickoff and has been one of the Ravens top special teams players since being promoted from the practice squad in October.

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Ravens' Hayden Hurst hopes his story helps end stigma surrounding mental health

Ravens' Hayden Hurst hopes his story helps end stigma surrounding mental health

Hayden Hurst broke his silence on his struggles with depression and anxiety back in November following a documentary detailing how it affected his baseball career. The Baltimore tight end opened up even more about his experiences in an interview with First Coast News' Chris Porter and talked about his desire to end the stigma surrounding mental health. 

“I want to use my platform to help people,” he said. “For some reason, people equate mental illness with having to be ashamed. It’s something you shouldn’t talk about. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. Everybody goes through something. The best thing my parents ever did was just being available. There’s not really a right or wrong thing you can say or an answer that can change everything but just making sure you’re available and you’re understanding. If my story is going to change the narrative on this and people are going to talk about it more, then so be it.”

Before Hurst was selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Ravens, Hurst explained an unsettling incident in which he cut his own wrists and ended up in the hospital without even knowing it. 

“I woke up in the hospital,” Hurst said. “I didn’t know what happened. I had to have a friend fill me in. Apparently, I had been drinking and went into my apartment and cut my wrist. My friend found me in a puddle of blood. He called 911.”

It was at the moment he was hospitalized where Hurst realized he needed to ask for help. Now he spends his time, when he's not catching passes or blocking for Lamar Jackson, speaking to kids about his experiences and how important it is to ask for help. 

“I don’t have the answers to fix all of this. It’s still a trial and error to this day, but I will say I have much more good days than I do bad days. I’m not this superhero that’s portrayed on TV. I’m a regular person. I struggle with depression, anxiety and things like that.”

Hurst's foundation is hosting a golf tournament next week to help a Youth Crisis Center in Jacksonville, FL. 

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Ravens are releasing safety Tony Jefferson after three seasons in Baltimore

Ravens are releasing safety Tony Jefferson after three seasons in Baltimore

The Ravens are releasing safety Tony Jefferson after he spent three years in Baltimore, the team confirmed Friday.

The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was first with the news.

“This is the worst part of this business,” general manager Eric DeCosta said in a statement released by the team. “Tony is the consummate teammate and someone who is respected by everyone for his leadership, determination, humility and toughness. He’s a friend to all and a true Raven.

"We know he’s going to beat this injury, and we will be cheering for him all along the way. We wish the very best to Tony and his family.”

 

 

The safety suffered a knee injury against the Steelers in Week 5 and was out for the remainder of the season. He was replaced by Chuck Clark, who shined in his new role and received a three-year contract extension on Monday as a result. 

The Ravens will save $7 million by releasing the 28-year-old safety. He originally had a cap hit of $11.65 million for the 2020 season and will have a dead cap hit of $4.65 million. 

Jefferson started each of the 35 games he played in Baltimore and registered a total of 174 tackles and two interceptions across his three seasons. He played nearly every defensive snap before his injury, only coming off the field during the blowout over the Dolphins in Week 1. 

He spent the first four seasons of his career in Arizona before he left for Baltimore and a four-year, 34 million dollar contract. 

According to overthecap.com, the Ravens will be left with a touch over $31 million in cap space after Jefferson’s release. In an offseason with Matthew Judon as a free agent, Jefferson’s release gives them a little bit more flexibility with their offseason plans. 

The Ravens now have Earl Thomas and Clark as the team’s two top safeties, but there are still questions that persist for the depth at that position with Jordan Richards, who recently signed a one-year contract extension, and DeShon Elliott as the team’s backups currently under contract. Brandon Carr, who played safety down the stretch for the team, has a team option for 2020. 

While the safety position certainly isn’t a need for the Ravens at this juncture, there will almost assuredly need to be some younger talent added to the position. 

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