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Josh Bynes was on his couch just over a week ago; now he’s a starting linebacker for the Ravens

Josh Bynes was on his couch just over a week ago; now he’s a starting linebacker for the Ravens

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Josh Bynes doesn’t feel like a veteran. It's hard for him to wrap his head around the fact that he's in his ninth season as a pro.

His story certainly doesn’t feel like that of a typical veteran story, either. But Bynes, at age 30, hasn’t had the normal season of a 30-year old linebacker. 

He was signed as a free agent on Oct. 2 to help out with Baltimore’s defensive issues. On Sunday, Oct. 6, Bynes played 42 snaps, predominantly at MIKE linebacker, which was the ninth-most snaps on the entire defense. He had five tackles and an interception and helped settle down a Ravens defense that needed direction. 

“That’s why he’s been around this league for so long,” Matthew Judon said. “It was very impressive and it wasn’t that he just got up to speed; he was out there leading.”

In a 26-23 overtime win against the Steelers, Bynes played a crucial role in directing traffic on the defense. He allowed Patrick Onwuasor to slide over to weak-side linebacker, which gave him one of his best games of the season.

“That’s what I’ve been used to starting from here, starting from when I was a kid, really,” Bynes said. “I was the only guy on our defense in high school that had a wristband. I was the only guy on our defense in college who told everybody what to do, checked the coverage, I was used to that for so long.”

Bynes’ interception set the Ravens up deep in Steelers territory on Sunday and eventually led to a touchdown. 

But his biggest impact was on the rest of the defenders, and how they settled into place with Bynes in the lineup.

“He communicates a lot,” Onwuasor said. “When he sees things, he lets me know and I let him know. We’re always communicating during the play. I feel like we’re playing way faster with him on the field and we’re getting a lot of stuff done.”

Bynes' last week has been a whirlwind, as he went from a free agent on his couch in Atlanta to a starting linebacker in a game between two of the NFL’s fiercest rivals in a matter of days. 

One of the reasons for his immediate playing time was his ability to put people in the right spot. Coaches and players had to check on him to make sure he was holding up conditioning-wise, but Bynes told them he was fine. It was a calming presence the Ravens defense sorely lacked in the first four weeks of the season.

“I love that responsibility and making sure I’m at peace and I’m calm, because it’s going to be a lot of things that happen,” Bynes said. “But for me it’s about being calm and poised and letting the game play itself out.”

For a while, however, it looked like Bynes might never reach a regular-season game again. 

He started his career in Baltimore and even made the Super Bowl-winning tackle on a kickoff in 2013. But he left for Detroit and later Arizona in later years. He made 80 tackles in Detroit in 2015 and 75 a year ago in Arizona. 

When Kliff Kingsbury was hired in Arizona, a new defensive staff was brought in and Bynes was shown the door just under a year after signing a three-year deal to stay.

“It was tough, I’m not going to sit here and say it wasn’t,” Bynes said. “It was pretty tough, especially I felt like I played really good last year. At the same time, the business is the business. A whole new staff comes into Arizona, everybody gets fired, I just become a casualty of that.”

Bynes admitted he thought about what his life would look like if his career was in fact over. He didn’t spend the preseason with any team and had to wait for October to get the nod to join a 53-man roster.

When the time came, Bynes — who didn’t get his playbook until Wednesday — was ready.

“I was up pretty late trying to study the playbook and I got up early enough so I could study the playbook and doing what I need to do,” Bynes said. “So when practice comes, it wouldn’t be foreign to me. I’ve already played it in my head 1,000 times.”

It was a surprise to most that Bynes played as much as he did on Sunday against the Steelers. It just wasn’t a surprise to Bynes, who has played that scenario in his head for each team he’s played for. 

And with his newest opportunity, he’s focused on doing whatever he can to stay on the field.

“I’m always preparing myself as a starter mentally and I always put myself in that position everywhere I’ve been,” Bynes said. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been in a starter position. That’s just how I go about the game.”

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Ravens vs. Texans Week 11: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Ravens vs. Texans Week 11: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Potentially the hottest team in the NFL, the Ravens enter Week 11 on a five game winning streak while sitting at 7-2. On top of the AFC North and in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, Baltimore has picked up impressive wins over the Seahwaks and Patriots in recent weeks, and is coming off of a dominating win in Cincinnati.

A lot of the success can be attributed to the play of Lamar Jackson. Baltimore's quarterback has been phenomenal as of late attacking teams through the air and on the ground with show-stopping plays. Jackson's 2019 campaign has thrust him to the front of the MVP conversation and has plenty of analysts backtracking on old takes.

The Ravens defense has come to play as of late as well. The acquisition of Marcus Peters looks to be exactly what Baltimore needed, as the cornerback's pick-6 on Sunday was his second in only three games as a member of the secondary. As of now, everything is clicking for the Ravens.

But, Sunday will provide another big test when Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans come to town. While Houston will be without start defensive end J.J. Watt, Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and company present a formidable challenge in what could be a potential postseason battle. Here's everything you need to know about the Week 11 matchup:

Ravens vs. Texans: How to watch

What: Week 11 of the NFL regular season

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Houston Texans

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD

When: Sunday, Nov. 17, at 1:00 p.m.

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Stream on FuboTV 

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090, 98Rock and 101.5 FM

Weather: 46 degrees, partly cloudy

RAVENS 2019 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE:

Week 1: Sun., 9/8 at Dolphins, 1:00 p.m. (W, 59-10)

Week 2: Sun., 9/15 vs. Cardinals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 23-17)

Week 3: Sun., 9/22 at Chiefs. 1:00 p.m. (L, 33-28)

Week 4: Sun., 9/29 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m. (L, 40-25)

Week 5: Sun., 10/6 at Steelers, 1:00 p.m. (W (OT), 26-23)

Week 6: Sun., 10/13 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 23-17)

Week 7: Sun., 10/20 at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. (W, 30-16)

Week 8: BYE week

Week 9: Sun., 11/3 vs. Patriots, 8:20 p.m. (W, 37-20)

Week 10:  Sun., 11/10 at Bengals, 1:00 p.m. (W, 49-13)

Week 11: Sun., 11/17 vs. Texans, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Mon., 11/25 at Rams, 8:15 p.m.

Week 13: Sun., 12/1 vs. 49ers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sun., 12/8 at Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Thu., 12/12 vs. Jets, 8:20 p.m.

Week 16: Sun., 12/22 at Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 17: Sun., 12/29 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

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Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson set to square off in ‘new era’ of quarterbacks

Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson set to square off in ‘new era’ of quarterbacks

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Don Martindale isn’t looking at Sunday’s matchup between the Ravens and Texans as a single game, but rather a game in a historical context. 

With two MVP candidates at quarterback on each side in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, the game isn’t just one that could be a playoff preview or a matchup between two of the NFL’s best, but rather a showcase of where the NFL is headed as a league.

The NFL is moving toward quarterbacks of the dual-threat variety, signal-callers that can beat teams in both the air and on the ground. Jackson and Watson are two of the NFL’s best in that department.

“It’s not just these two quarterbacks, but it’s the new era of quarterback,” Martindale said. “The lazy question is ‘Does practicing against Lamar help you for this?’ We’re preparing for more mobile quarterbacks this year than the old school, stay-in-the-pocket-and-play quarterback from the pocket.”

Jackson and Watson both entered the league with questions aplenty about whether the two quarterbacks, who relied so much on their legs, could be successful in the NFL. As of Week 10 of the 2019 season, those questions have been squashed. 

Jackson has totaled 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns through nine games and is on-pace for nearly 4,900 yards from scrimmage and 37 touchdowns. Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns through nine games, and is on-pace for 4,819 yards and 40 touchdowns.

If there are examples of the way the NFL game is headed, two of the best will be on the field on Sunday.

“I'd rather play against a quarterback that's going to stand there,” Earl Thomas said. “These quarterbacks coming now, they're able to run. They're able to throw it deep. They have the schemes. They have all the misdirection stuff. So I'm not enjoying these young quarterbacks that are coming into the league and doing all this spectacular stuff that they're doing. But, it's just the way the league is going now.”

The ability to both run and pass has left defenses flummoxed as to how to slow down the high-powered attacks, led by quarterbacks that can win with both their arm and their legs.

Last season, Jackson led all quarterbacks in rushing with 695 yards. Watson was in third with 551 yards.

“I know it's hard on defenses, because when you feel you have the offense figured out and you guys are covering everyone, the quarterback gets out, gets the first down, keeps the drive going,” Jackson said. “So, the defensive guys are on the field even longer. We're just doing our thing.”

But one of the storylines that makes Jackson and Watson’s stories so unique are the doubts they endured before taking over as quarterback.

Questions of durability, passing ability and most everything else followed both quarterbacks around from the time they were drafted to even today, where questions still persist about the viability of the running quarterback in the NFL.

“I guess I would question the questioners,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “When we evaluated Deshaun, we felt, obviously, very strongly about his ability to come in here and be a winner and develop into an excellent pro quarterback, which is what he's done. I definitely evaluated Lamar and met Lamar pre-draft, and he's a great player.”

To those in Houston and Baltimore, however, the idea that both Watson and Jackson couldn’t ever be successful seems wrong.

“So, 'wave of the future,' all those different things ... I think these guys are winners,” O’Brien continued. “They were winners in college. They were winners in high school, and they're winners now.”

While both Watson and Jackson — and other mobile quarterbacks around the NFL — may not have yet reached the top of the NFL passing charts, the added dimension of what they can do on the ground has made life incredibly difficult for defenders. 

“Peyton Manning was extremely hard to defend, Tom Brady was extremely hard to defend” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “But, neither one of them could run a 4.3 (40-yard dash), so you don’t have to worry about tackling them on any given play.”

Smith added that when a quarterback breaks the pocket and gets loose for a first down, it can be incredibly demoralizing for a defense that thinks it has forced a stop. 

That can be tough to prepare for, as opponents of the Ravens have noted routinely this season, when you can’t simulate the speed and movement of the opposing quarterback.

“What happens in the game where you’re playing a mobile quarterback is, when you’re practicing, you see a guy go by and say, ‘I got him,’” Martindale said. “In game, they don’t got him. So I think that’s the biggest thing, is just adjusting to the speed of it, of the mobile quarterback.”

Still, while it’s easy to draw comparisons to quarterbacks that can run and pass, and seemingly are the future of the NFL, Jackson doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Every mobile quarterback is unique, which makes them so difficult to contain.

“I play Lamar Jackson ball,” Jackson said. “I don't play nobody else’s ball.”

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