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Marshal Yanda returns to Ravens practice as offensive line picture slowly takes shape

Marshal Yanda returns to Ravens practice as offensive line picture slowly takes shape

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens offensive line is finally beginning to take shape. 

Right guard Marshal Yanda returned to the practice field Saturday, 15 days before the team’s regular season opener in Miami. He missed the last two weeks of practice. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley also returned from a left ankle injury.

Now, it’s a matter of getting the starting unit together.

“They’ve been practicing all along,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Marshal’s missed the last week or so, but he’s the one guy that can afford it. That was an opportunity to give those other guys a lot of reps. They’ve filled right in today. It’s time to go.”

With Yanda and Stanley on the offensive line, fourth-fifths of the starting unit was present at practice Saturday. The lone holdout was Jermaine Eluemunor, the presumed starter at left guard, who missed practice.

That leaves some inside spots open for competition, where Ben Powers and Bradley Bozeman have been looking to shore up the depth. 

“It’s good, every game, every Thursday you go out there and you get things you’re happy with that you’ve corrected over the course of the week, and you get things you need to address the next week,” Powers said. “Going into it every week, it’s just football.”

Powers, who mostly played left guard at Oklahoma, spent the majority of his snaps Thursday in Philadelphia at right guard. He took a few game reps, however, so the position isn’t completely foreign to him. 

Bozeman has also played reps at center and guard, so the interior offensive line has some versatility. Paired with Patrick Mekari and Patrick Vahe as well, the Ravens offensive line has depth up the middle.

“The inside did really well,” Harbaugh said. “The three young guys that you’re referring to I thought played very well. They all put themselves in contention, we’ve just got to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Aside from the offensive line, which should see some significant reps next Thursday in Washington, none of the Ravens starters will play. Harbuagh will decide how much key depth players like quarterback Trace McSorley will play on Monday.

And with roster cut downs a week from Saturday at 4 p.m., any playing time for depth players is crucial to earning their spot on the 53-man roster — in Baltimore or elsewhere. 

On the injury front, there was a noticeable lack of defensive backs present. Five missed practice, though there isn’t a cause for concern.

There were 12 players missing from practice Saturday morning: Randin Crecelius, Greg Senat, Jermaine Eluemunor, Brandon Carr, Tavon Young, Maruice Canady, Earl Thomas, Iman Marshall, Jaylon Ferguson, Nicholas Grigsby, Paul Worrilow and Gerald Willis.

It was later announced by Ian Rappoport that Worrilow, one day after signing with the Ravens, decided to retire at age 29.

According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, he left the Ravens stay at home with his wife, who is eight months pregnant. He’ll re-evaluate his NFL future at a later time.

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How the Ravens hope to ground the Air Raid offense on Sunday

How the Ravens hope to ground the Air Raid offense on Sunday

Robert Griffin III knows the Air Raid offense. He also knows not to call every version of it the “Air Raid.”

When Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired in Arizona, team’s intention was clear: Bring the “Air Raid,” or at least its concepts, to the NFL full-time. The team picked quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 overall to lead the offense, committing to the system full bore. 

Whatever you call it, the offense is going to test the Ravens defense — specifically the secondary — Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium. 

“Everybody has their own style,” Griffin said. “The foundation of the offense, of spreading people out, of trying to get easy completions, throwing the ball, it’s something that can translate to the NFL. I think our defense has a good grasp of what they’re going to be able to do, and what they can do.”

According to Sharpfootballstats.com, the Cardinals lined up with four wide receivers on 55 of their 82 offensive plays. They also lined up with three wide receivers on 15 plays and two wide receivers on nine plays. They never lined up with one or zero receivers. 

Murray threw the ball 54 times in the game, which went to overtime, as the Cardinals found their groove late in a 27-27 tie. 

But while the Cardinals are spreading things out, more so than any other NFL team, the concepts and route combinations aren’t foreign to the rest of the NFL.

“The thing of it is with Kliff’s offense, the offensive guys in this league have been stealing plays from him for years from Texas Tech,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “We’re just getting the full monty, if you will, of the Air Raid offense. History has a way of repeating itself in this league.”

The opportunity exists, though, for the secondary to have a big day.

“But I love these type of games, as a DB you’ve got to love these type of games,” safety Earl Thomas said. “These are two-pick games right here. You’ve gotta love it.”

Anticipating many four-wide sets from the Cardinals, the Ravens already made a move by promoting cornerback Maurice Canady from the practice squad. With Jimmy Smith’s MCL sprain, the move will add some depth to the secondary on a day when they’ll need it most. 

The Ravens will have to dictate much of their defensive strategy to stopping the offensive attack, but they’re not trying to change their defense too much. 

“We have safeties that can cover receivers as well in zone and man coverage, so we’ll be in different kinds of personnel groups, just like we always are, just in terms of how we want to game-plan and match those guys,” coach John Harbaugh explained. “We have a plan for that, obviously...but it’s a challenge. They’re spread out way more than anybody else.”

While the Ravens try to slow down Kingsbury’s attack, the long term sustainability of the offense remains a question to the rest of the league. 

Griffin doesn’t have any concerns.

“Just look at it this way: Almost anything is sustainable, as long as you’re committed to it,” Griffin said. “I had a coach tell me one time, ‘If you believe in something, then you have to go forth and do that thing consistently.’ That’s what they’re doing. They’re not partially doing the Air Raid, they’re fully committed to it.”

A full commitment to the offense, however, still means pulling from the rest of the league. 

The Cardinals don’t have an offensive coordinator, but Tom Clements is the team’s quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. He was with the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2016.

The concepts that the Cardinals are using have been around the NFL for years. Now it's being fully implemented, and it's just a matter of keeping opposing defenses on their toes.

“Well, that’s no different from any other offense in the NFL, you have to keep evolving,” Griffin said. “If you don’t evolve, yes, you can be extinguished. But if you keep evolving the offense and keep evolving how you run the offense, yeah, it’s sustainable.”

Long-term viability aside, the only evolution the Ravens are concerned with is how the Cardinals will change from week one to week two. And even that can be a mystery.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s four-wide or four tight ends,” Martindale began. “I have angst every Sunday. It’ll be interesting to see if they stay heavy with that (four wide receiver) package, because they have other packages as well, and they can still do all of the same things out of it. So, it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

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Ravens add cornerback Maurice Canady in preparation for Cardinals Air Raid offense

Ravens add cornerback Maurice Canady in preparation for Cardinals Air Raid offense

In preparation of the team's matchup against the Cardinals and their Air Raid offense, the Ravens added cornerback Maurice Canady to the 53-man roster off their practice squad. In a corresponding move, the team waived tackle Greg Senat.

With Jimmy Smith out with an MCL sprain, the team lacked depth at a position expected to be needed on Sunday. The Cardinals run their offense with a significant number of three and four-wide receiver sets, which is where Canady will come into play. 

Canady is a four-year veteran and was a sixth round pick of the Ravens in 2016. He'll play behind Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Anthony Averett on Sunday.

Senat was a 2018 sixth round pick of the Ravens and was one of nine offensive linemen on the team. 

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