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New host of talent helping Ravens defense recover from tough early stretch

New host of talent helping Ravens defense recover from tough early stretch

BALTIMORE — Just under two weeks ago, neither Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort or Jihad Ward were on the Ravens roster. 

On Sunday, the three of them contributed to the defense much more than anyone would have thought a few weeks, or days, ago. 

Through two games, it’s fair to say that the new additions are working out.

“I give the credit to them,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Our coaches have done a great job, obviously. And the good thing is, they’re veteran players. So they’ve been coached, they know how to play schemes. They know how they fit certain fronts.”

Bynes was a free agent that didn’t have a team from March to October, when the Ravens came calling. He had an interception last week in Pittsburgh and tipped a pass which led to an interception on Sunday against the Bengals.

Fort was released by the Eagles at the end of September and brought onto the Ravens roster three days later. He played mostly special teams last week, but saw an increase in defensive snaps against the Bengals. 

Both linebackers, Bynes and Fort were brought in to help fortify the Ravens run defense. 

Ward, a defensive lineman, was signed on Oct. 7 and immediately made active in his first game in Baltimore. Ward and Fort each had two combined tackles. 

“I’ve been on the field plenty of times, just keep it simple, just ball,” Ward said. “Just do what I’ve got to do. Give it all I got. Just show my respect to let them know me, that I’m a Raven. Just keep hustling to the ball, do what else we’ve got to do.”

The trio has come in and made an immediate impact on a Ravens defense that struggled through the first three weeks. 

While none of the new additions have been game-changers, they’ve filled their roles admirably in the best way they could.

“We need more vets in the NFL,” Pernell McPhee said with a chuckle. “They want to go young now, the NFL wants to go young, they want to cut all of us out. It is all good, but that is what happens when you get guys that know how to play the game and have been in the game a long time.”

All of the new additions downplayed the difficulty of learning the playbook, since they’ve been in the league for a few years now. 

Teammates have raved about how they’ve come in and done their jobs, too. 

There might not be a ton of game-changing plays from them yet, but for now, they’ve been exactly what the Ravens defense needed.

“They’re proud to be here,” Harbaugh said. “They want to be here and they’re playing at a high level for us. And really, just what we needed at the right time.”

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With MVP talks growing around Lamar Jackson, coach John Harbaugh expects nothing different from his QB

With MVP talks growing around Lamar Jackson, coach John Harbaugh expects nothing different from his QB

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The race for MVP is nearing the home stretch, and it appears Lamar Jackson is pulling out in front. 

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the odds for MVP currently have Jackson as the frontrunner for the league’s MVP award. 

After another blowout win, this time over the formerly 6-3 Texans on Sunday, Jackson has made himself one of the most dangerous players to defend in all of football. He’s done so against some of the best teams in the NFL.

He finished the Houston game with 17-of-24 for 222 yards passing, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 86 yards on the ground. 

“He’s just a special player,” Mark Ingram said postgame Sunday. “He’s going to only to improve, only continue to get better. He’s learning every week, getting better. We’re all just trying to do the best job we can do to make [his] job as easy as possible.”

Jackson is currently on pace for 3,613 yards passing, 30 TDs and eight INTs. He's also on-pace for 1,261 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns and no fumbles lost.

That would mean he'd end with 4,874 yards from scrimmage, 39 TDs, and eight turnovers.

Still, the Ravens aren’t expecting the growing optimism and attention to affect Jackson and how he handles his business. The Ravens expect him to be the same, potential-MVP, quarterback that he’s been all season.

“He’s done a great job of that and I’ll be absolutely expecting him to continue to do just what you’re talking about, the whole team,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of work to do. Bouquets are bait. No one can compliment us now, it’s too late. We’ve got way too much work to do and we’ve got things to accomplish, starting with the Rams on Monday night.”

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Here's why the Ravens didn't talk to Lamar Jackson at the 2018 Scouting Combine

Here's why the Ravens didn't talk to Lamar Jackson at the 2018 Scouting Combine

He's only started 17 NFL games, but the Ravens have found their franchise QB in second-year star Lamar Jackson. In his first full season as a starter, he's led Baltimore to an 8-2 record and put himself as the frontrunner for the league's Most Valuable Player award.

But on Thursday night in late April during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson likely did not know he would end up in Baltimore until moments before he was selected.

According to NBC Sports' Peter King, the Ravens avoided speaking to Jackson at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine for one main reason.

“We didn’t even interview Lamar at the combine because we didn’t want to be associated with him," Ravens' general manager Eric DeCosta told King. "We didn’t want rumors about us and him to start. They didn’t. We were proud of that.

"So we pick him, and to hear him talk, and to hear his emotion and to see Lamar on TV with Deion Sanders, so happy, and to see his conviction, and to see his competitiveness," DeCosta continued. "That’s a powerful thing. So, after the pick was announced, we hadn’t even had the chance to tell the scouts and coaches."

During the combine, many NFL teams wanted Jackson to work out as a wide receiver. But the Louisville product refused, insisting he was only a quarterback.

The Ravens traded back twice before selecting Jackson with the last pick of the first round. Of the extra picks they gained by trading down, they selected tight end Mark Andrews, who's become one of Jackson's favorite targets.

Baltimore pressed all the right buttons on draft day in 2018, and it's certainly paid off for them a year later.

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