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Cyrus Jones looking to seize new opportunity at slot corner

Cyrus Jones looking to seize new opportunity at slot corner

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Cyrus Jones’ old role with the Ravens was as a depth cornerback and return man on special teams. His new role could have much more significance. 

Despite a comfortable win over the Packers last Thursday, the good feelings were quickly dampened by an announcement from coach John Harbaugh that nickel cornerback Tavon Young would likely miss the rest of the season with a neck injury.

Young is still waiting to make a final decision, but with him out of the fold for a significant chunk of time, the race is on to try to replace him in an important role on the Ravens defense.

As of Saturday, one of the favorites to assume that role was Jones. He played 34 defensive snaps against the Packers (57 percent), the highest total on the defense, and is a top option for the Ravens in replacing Young.

“Tavon is a great player, I hate seeing what’s going on with him right now,” Jones said. “I’m praying for him, as all of us are, but it’s up to the next man to step up, whoever that is, and I’m just keeping on trying to come out here and practice hard and get better.”

Young signed a three-year, $25.8 million dollar contract in the offseason. The signing made him the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the league. 

Now, the Ravens will use a host of cornerbacks to assume Young’s role on defense. He had 37 tackles, two sacks and one interception last season. He also recovered three fumbles, two of which went for touchdowns. 

“We’ve got a lot of guys, it will be a little different plan if Tavon’s not there, in terms of playing more guys in the slot than we normally would’ve,” Harbaugh said.

Jones, originally a second-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2016, played 10 games in 2016 before a torn ACL and meniscus ended his 2017 campaign. 

He bounced between New England and Baltimore last season, twice, before settling into his role with the Ravens last year. He played in 13 total games, 11 of which were with Baltimore. 

As for this preseason, he’s registered six total tackles and an interception that went for a touchdown. He saw the majority of his work this preseason, though, against the Packers.

“I think I played hard, I think I played smart,” Jones said. “I got a little fatigued at the end, but overall, I think I’m holding my own out there, flying around and just trying to execute.”

Now, he’ll assuredly be in the mix at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr figure to be the team’s top cornerbacks, but Anthony Averett, Maurice Canady and the return of Iman Marshall could also play a part in how the Ravens fill the role.

Aside from the Young injury news, Harbaugh announced guard Marshal Yanda won’t play in the preseason, but will be ready for the season opener September 8 against the Dolphins. 

First-round pick Marquise Brown is on a much shorter trajectory, however, and could see playing time at the Ravens and Eagles joint practices Monday and Tuesday before the third preseason game of the season. 

That game won’t be a typical third preseason game, though, as Harbaugh told reporters quarterback Lamar Jackson won’t have much different of a workload than he did in the first two preseason games. He played 16 snaps against the Jaguars and 22 against the Packers. 

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Lamar Jackson's dual-threat dominance earns him another record-setting award

Lamar Jackson's dual-threat dominance earns him another record-setting award

Another week, another Lamar Jackson performance for the ages.

The second-year quarterback has already set numerous records in Baltimore, just 13 starts into his professional career.

Most of his record-book entries have come thanks to his legs. The QB is a prodigious rusher, one of the most talented running signal-callers in NFL history.

That talent helped earn him more honors after his whopping 152 rushing yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6.

Jackson got started on the ground early, racking up 111 rushing yards in the first half alone. He became just the third quarterback in the modern era to finish with more than 150 rushing yards, and he was rewarded with the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award.

Jackson was the first quarterback in the 17-year history of the award to even be nominated, and now he becomes the first at his position to win it.

Of course, it hasn’t just been on the ground where Jackson has impressed.

He kicked off his 2019 with a bang, throwing for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns on just 20 pass attempts against the woeful Dolphins in Week 1. For his efforts, Jackson was named the Air Player of the Week.

Jackson becomes, you guessed it, the first player in NFL history to win both the Air and Ground versions of the award in the same season, and he managed it just five weeks apart.

He really is one of the most gifted, unique athletes in NFL history. As the Ravens’ tweet says, he is “one of a kind.”

At this rate, it would be a surprise if he doesn’t break a few more barriers the rest of this season and beyond.

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‘It’s like facing Steph Curry’: Ravens hope to slow down MVP candidate Russell Wilson

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‘It’s like facing Steph Curry’: Ravens hope to slow down MVP candidate Russell Wilson

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — If there’s one person in the Ravens locker room who knows Russell Wilson, it’s Earl Thomas. 

Thomas, who spent nine years in Seattle before he came to Baltimore this past offseason, had practiced against Wilson every day since he entered the league in 2012. 

Now, he’ll be one of the central figures on defense as Baltimore heads to Seattle to face Wilson and the Seahawks. And this year, Wilson has been better than ever. 

“Everything is predicated off the run game, and we also know that Russell can extend plays,” Thomas said. “That's when he kind of works his magic — when he plays backyard football. And his receivers do a great job of just melding with him and creating space, boxing guys out and creating leverages and coming up with big catches."

Through just six games, Wilson has thrown for 1,704 yards — a 4,544 yard pace — and 14 passing touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s also rushed for 151 yards and has three rushing scores. He’s also completing 72.5 percent of his passes. 

Despite being in an offense that runs the ball about 50 percent of the time, Wilson has excelled. Specifically, he’s been nearly untouchable outside the pocket. 

And when he’s under pressure and has to escape, he’s one of the league’s best. 

“It’s just like all the other quarterbacks we’ve played before,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “You can say, ‘Keep him in the pocket.’ There’s times you think you have him in the pocket and he shakes you and he gets out of the pocket. He’s extending plays better than he ever has.”

The Ravens, who blitz as much as anyone in the NFL, will have to make the decision to try and contain Wilson in the pocket where he can pick apart the Ravens defense, or sit back and defend against the pass. Either way, there’s no good option.

“It's sort of like playing against Steph Curry in basketball, if you will,” Martindale said. “You can pick him halfcourt and he's going to try to drive by you or you can slack off and he's going to pull up and hit a three." 

The Ravens have their own, different, version of Wilson in Lamar Jackson, who the Ravens are hoping can simulate Wilson’s ability. 

But there are only a select number of players in the league that can do what Jackson and Wilson can do with a football in their hands.

"I think he's the only guy that I've seen do it pretty effortlessly, like Lamar does,” Marlon Humphrey said. “We always say we don't want to play Lamar, so I guess we're kind of playing a polished-up, couple-years-down-the-line Lamar. So, we definitely better get ready, because he definitely can do it all."

Against Wilson, the Ravens will have one of the toughest tasks in the NFL this season. Through six weeks, there hasn’t been a team that’s been able to slow him down. 

“Defensively, I'm sitting there watching Lamar, and I'm like, 'Oh, wow,'” Humphrey said. “So, I'm hoping that's not happening when I'm out there on defense with him (Wilson). But Russell, he really can get it done. I'm not really saying I'm a fan, but he's Russell Wilson. He’s a pretty big deal.”

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