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Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott prepared to take leap with Tony Jefferson out for season

Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott prepared to take leap with Tony Jefferson out for season

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott have each waited their turns to be a regular on the Ravens’ defense. 

Clark has just two career starts as he found himself mostly buried on the depth chart for the last three seasons in Baltimore. Elliott, a second-year pro, missed all of last season with a fractured forearm. 

But after Tony Jefferson’s season-ending knee injury last Sunday in Pittsburgh, both Clark and Elliott are due up next to play crucial roles at safety.

“You can't really predict what the numbers will be exactly,” coach John Harbaugh said of splitting playing time with the two. “I think they'll be fairly balanced. It could go in one direction or another, but expect both of those guys to play quite a bit in the game."

Clark seems the most ready, however, to replace Jefferson, who tore his “at least” his ACL. 

In his fourth season as a Raven, teammates have raved about Clark’s intelligence on the field and in the classroom in preparing for games. 

In fact, it’s the first thing that stood out to fellow safety Earl Thomas when he arrived in Baltimore this past offseason.

"Yes, I saw it the first day at football school,” Thomas said. “He was on it. He was just like a starter. I was like, 'Bro, why are they bringing me in here when they've got this guy?' So, I have total trust in him and DeShon."

Clark has just three starts in his 36-game NFL career, but has been prepared for this moment since he entered the league as a sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech. 

“He’s just a good football player that loves to study the game,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “And you can see it out there. You could see it in practice yesterday. He loves the game of football, and he loves our defense. He knows all the checks, and it’s like that for him.”

The other player pushing for the spot is Elliott, who has yet to register a start in his NFL career and has just five tackles in five games this season. 

That still doesn’t make him feel any less ready to take on new responsibility. 

“I’m always ready at all times,” Elliott said. “So, the fact that it happened this early, it’s a positive and a negative. A negative that ‘T.J.’ went down, but next man up. I take advantage of my opportunities. I say I’m a ball player. I’m going to keep balling. I’m going to make my plays, and just do me.”

Jefferson still will hang around the Ravens facility acting as a leader and provide a steadying veteran presence, but now, the job will be up to Clark and Elliott.

“Now, it’s time to take that step,” Matthew Judon said. “Football is a game of injuries, and you hate to see it happen, especially to a guy like Tony — to a leader like that. But I don’t think there’s going to be any drop-off with those two other guys.”

But for both of them, it was a long time waiting to get the chance to prove what they could do in a bigger capacity. Elliott’s was related to his injury and Clark’s was due to the talent on the Ravens roster but neither matters now.

The two will get their first crack at impressing the Ravens coaching staff on Sunday.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” Clark said. “It’s three years coming, now it’s here. Time to take advantage.”


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Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

Lamar Jackson ‘honored’ at the chance to break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record on Sunday

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson didn’t grow up watching Michael Vick play football in Atlanta. He was too young. 

That didn't stop Jackson, born when Vick had just finished his sophomore year of high school, from studying Vick's highlight tapes as a kid.

Now, on Sunday in Buffalo, Jackson has the chance to put his name in the record books ahead of his favorite player with the most impressive season a quarterback has ever had on the ground. 

With just 63 yards rushing, Jackson would rank first all-time for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season. The record, as of Thursday, is held by Vick with 1,039 yards rushing. Vick set the record in 2006 with the Falcons.

“It would be an honor,” Jackson said. “Like I said, Michael Vick is my favorite player. For me to do such a thing, it’s incredible. He had that record for a long time, and it will be pretty cool. But I’m focused on the win, regardless.”

Jackson has led the NFL’s most dynamic offense through the first 12 games with a mix of rushing and passing that’s kept defenses on their heels. He ranks ninth in the NFL with 977 yards, which is more than five teams have as a whole.

Currently, Jackson has rushed for 1,672 yards in 28 games in his NFL career, good for 44th all-time. 

Over a 16-game season, he’s on pace for 1,302 yards on the ground, which would shatter Vick’s old record and put Jackson in another stratosphere compared to some of the best mobile quarterbacks the league has ever seen. 

Should he finish with 1,302 yards this year, he’ll be at 1,997 yards through his first two NFL seasons. That would put him 32nd all-time and about 500 yards away from cracking the top 20. 

So as Jackson adds to his place in history in the long term, there’s a significant record to break in the short-term, too.


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Ravens defense faces another challenge in dual-threat QB Josh Allen

Ravens defense faces another challenge in dual-threat QB Josh Allen

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — When Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson take the field on Sunday, they’ll set an NFL record before either one takes a snap from under center. 

The matchup pits the two second-year quarterbacks against one another in the NFL’s best matchup for rushing quarterbacks in history. 

The biggest difference, however, is how those yards have been reached. Jackson’s speed and acceleration is something the league hasn’t seen before, and while Allen can move, it’s not just his moves that make him difficult to bring around. 

“He’s a big kid, man, he’s like tackling a tight end scrambling,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “It’s going to be a great challenge. So we’ll see what happens on Sunday. He makes a lot of plays on his feet, that’s been their success the last five, six weeks.”

At 6-foot-5, Allen has been a problem for opposing defenses to bring down all season. He’s rushed for 430 yards (third-best for quarterbacks) and eight touchdowns (tied for sixth in the NFL).

“It's not like he's a pipsqueak or anything like that,” Josh Bynes said. “He's a big, solid quarterback, and he runs like a running back. That makes it a little bit more challenging, because he's a quarterback, as well. So, we just have to make sure we wrap up and we bring our pads with us and bring our feet and just make sure we get him to the ground.”

Allen’s size has made him a tall-task for defenses, which plays out in a deeper dive of the numbers. 

According to Pro Football Reference, Allen ranks 22nd in the NFL in yards before contact at 2.2. Jackson ranks first at 4.8 yards.

But Allen averages 2.4 yards per rush after contact, 13th in the NFL and first for quarterbacks.

“When you watch him, he can run and move around,” Chuck Clark said. “He’s more elusive than what people would say or think. He can definitely get out the pocket, extend the play and run the ball himself. They’ve got a solid offense, they’re effective at what they do.”

Allen rushed for 631 yards last season in 12 games — the same amount as he’s played so far this year. He’s gotten better as a passer from a year ago, having improved his completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio. 

But while his big-time arm is something the Ravens are still focused on, it’s Allen’s legs — and size — that pose an extra dimension to his game that can be dangerous for the Ravens.

“You just have to be fundamentally sound and make sure you wrap him up, drive your feet if possible,” Michael Pierce said. “With the penalties, you have to be very careful. But he's a physical dude, big, 6-4 guy, so yes, you have to be fundamentally sound and bring your pads with you.”