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Ravens defense 'holds' attention of Browns' Baker Mayfield ahead of Sunday matchup

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Ravens defense 'holds' attention of Browns' Baker Mayfield ahead of Sunday matchup

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baker Mayfield may have discovered why the Baltimore Ravens defense has been so effective this season.

Mayfield, a rookie quarterback with the Cleveland Browns, faces Baltimore's second-ranked defense on Sunday. One of the members of that unit, safety Tony Jefferson, received a text message this week from Mayfield -- one former Oklahoma star reaching out to another.

"He said, `I'm watching this film, watching you guys hold,'" Mayfield wrote, according to Jefferson.

Jefferson said he replied: "They didn't call it."

Jefferson believes Baltimore's success on defense can be attributed to skilled players following a solid game plan.

"I just think we've been doing a good job executing," Jefferson said Wednesday. "We've worked hard throughout the week on what we want to attack and what we want to do."

Operating under first-year defensive coordinator Don Martindale, Baltimore (3-1) has limited the opposition to 275.8 yards per game, a meager 29.8 success rate on third down and is yielding only 16.25 points per game.

Most impressive of all, the Ravens have not yet given up a touchdown in the second half. While the players enjoy doing it, they're not fond of hearing about it.

"We didn't even know it was a stat until you all brought it up," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It's kind of like a pitcher with a no-hitter. Thanks for bringing it up. Good job."

Coach John Harbaugh broke it down this way: "The guys have gone out and played really well. That's really what it is. They've executed, make plays, turned it over a few times, stopped the run."

A solid unit should get even better this week with the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith, who missed the first four weeks of the season serving a suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Now in his eighth season, Smith will probably step right back into the starting lineup if he's ready by Sunday.

"We'll just have to see in practice how he looks and feels. I mean, he hasn't been here in four weeks," Harbaugh said. "He says he's been training and I'm sure he has. It will be fun to watch him play."

Although Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey have done well as starters, Harbaugh knows you can never have too many solid cornerbacks.

"It's going to be great to have all those guys that are good cover players," he said. "We can play any coverage we want, the way we want. It gives us a lot of options on defense."

The Ravens bottled up veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night in a 26-14 victory over the Steelers. Pittsburgh went 2 for 12 on third down overall and was held to 47 yards in offense in the second half.

"I feel like you give up 47 yards in the second half and shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers, that is noteworthy to say the least," Harbaugh said.

The next challenge is trying to stop a bold rookie in Mayfield, who has been playing with confidence since making his debut two weeks ago.

"Ben's seen it all, but Baker Mayfield is pretty advanced," Harbaugh said. "I don't think he's a rookie in the true sense. He seems like he's got a real good feel for the game."

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Greg Roman rebuilding Ravens offense with Lamar Jackson in mind

Greg Roman rebuilding Ravens offense with Lamar Jackson in mind

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Greg Roman is off to a running start in his new role as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, working long hours to construct a unit that can fully utilize the talents of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens closed the regular season with a 6-1 run behind Jackson, who keyed an effective ground game with frequent forays out of the pocket and downfield. Baltimore ended a three-year hiatus from the playoffs, winning the AFC North before losing to the Chargers.

The goal this offseason is to make an effective attack even better. Promoted last month from assistant coach/tight ends coach, Roman is rewriting a playbook that was originally devised for a pass-oriented offense led by Joe Flacco.

"We're trying, soup to nuts, from the ground up ... to hit the sweet spot with how we put this offense together," Roman said Tuesday.

The focal point is Jackson, the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 draft. After Flacco injured his right hip in November, Jackson took over and displayed the slick moves and elusiveness that earned him a Heisman Trophy at Louisville.

The rookie finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 719 yards. He spearheaded a ground game that finished second in the NFL with 152.6 yards per game -- including an league-high 1,607 yards rushing over the final seven games.

"You're going to see a lot of elements of that this year," Roman said.

The result, he hopes, is something on a much grander scale.

"We have run an offense here that has kind of morphed over the years, and we really want to start fresh, start new," Roman said. "Everything from our language, our formations, how we do everything. Rebuild the thing. That's one angle.

"The other angle is really, how do we want to move forward with Lamar Jackson? He's a unique player with a unique skill set, so let's build an offense that really accommodates that, as opposed to try to fit him into something that other people had once done."

Roman took over for Marty Mornhinweg in part because of his work as an offensive coordinator in San Francisco and Buffalo, where he helped construct effective attacks with running quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor.

At the time of Roman's hiring, coach John Harbaugh said, "Increasing Greg's responsibilities will help us get where we're going on offense."

Constructing a new playbook is not an easy process.

"It's a real grind. We're really looking at this as a completely new beginning, as if we were a new staff," Roman said. "I've kind of compared it to putting your kid's furniture together from IKEA or something. If you make one wrong move, you've got to take the whole thing apart and start over again."

For the offense to work, the Ravens must fortify the offensive line, get a rugged receiver capable of blocking downfield and hope Gus Edwards can continue to develop after a rookie season in which he was activated from the practice squad in October before running for a team-high 718 yards.

Most of all, however, they need Jackson to be better. His running prowess and determination are fine, but he had only one 200-yard passing game and fumbled 12 times.

"Moving forward, consistent fundamentals are what's really going to take him to the next level," Roman said, "because he's got all the ability in the world."

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Joe Flacco passes physical, is set to become Broncos' latest addition to QB carousel

Joe Flacco passes physical, is set to become Broncos' latest addition to QB carousel

Joe Flacco's journey out West is making progress.

The 34-year-old was in Denver last week and passed his physical with the Broncos, according to sources of Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, clearing a path for their trade with the Ravens to become official when the new league year begins March 13.

In a move that was expected as the team made it clear 2018 first-round pick Lamar Jackson is its future, the Ravens are reportedly sending Flacco to the Broncos for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Based off of one observant flyer at Denver International Airport, the former Super Bowl MVP flew commercial out of Denver in a very Flacco-like move.

'Joe Cool' will presumably be the Broncos' fourth starting quarterback in three seasons and the latest addition to their quarterback carousel.

The Broncos drafted Brock Osweiler 57th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, starting just seven games over four seasons and was eventually re-signed in 2017 where he only started four games. Then they drafted Trevor Siemian in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft, starting 24 games during the 2016-17 season, before trading up in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft for Paxton Lynch, who earned four starts in two seasons. They traded for Mark Sanchez in 2016, but he never made it to the regular season.

And finally, the Broncos signed free agent Case Keenum in 2018 to a two-year, $36 million deal. Keenum started all 16 games this season, going 365-for-586 for 3,890 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, general manager John Elway is now making room for Flacco for at least the next year. 

Flacco, who the Ravens drafted with the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, has no guaranteed money left with the Ravens and is working on a one-year, $18.5 million deal with two-team option years following that. It's not a bad deal for a team that can't commit to a starting QB. 

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