AFC North: Kelechi Osemele

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BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh couldn't remember exactly what he told his team before the game that led to a motivated 26-6 victory over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Nor could his players.

What did stick with Harbaugh was the fact that his players didn't have a missed assignment during practice Monday. Four hours after the release of running back Ray Rice, the players took to the field and were sharp with the game plan for the Steelers.

"So, that was a good indication," Harbaugh said after his largest margin victory over the Steelers since 2011.

How could the Ravens not be affected by a story that dominated headlines across the nation? The players simply understood the alternative of not being focused.

[+] EnlargeElvis Dumervill
Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT/Getty ImagesElvis Dumervil and the Ravens blocked out the Ray Rice distractions and put on a clinic in a 26-6 whipping of the Steelers.
The Ravens couldn’t start the season 0-2 with home losses to division opponents. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, no team has been able to reach the playoffs after such a start, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“We had no choice but to think about this game,” safety Matt Elam said.

The perception is that the emotions of the Rice saga would not allow the Ravens to devote all of their attention to the Steelers. The Ravens believe it’s easier than what outsiders think.

Harbaugh said his team was in what he called "that football cocoon." The Ravens banded together and played with an intensity that wasn't evident in the season opener.

"We are really isolated from all of that," Harbaugh said. "As a football team, we got into our meeting rooms and our locker rooms, and we go to work."

If there was any question whether the Ravens would be distracted by parting ways with the second-leading rusher in franchise history, they provided the answer in the first quarter.

Historically a slow-starting team, the Ravens set the tone when linebacker Daryl Smith forced a fumble at the Baltimore 15-yard line and Flacco converted that turnover into a 12-play, 85-yard drive. It was capped by Joe Flacco's 2-yard touchdown pass to Owen Daniels.

The Ravens' relentlessness continued until the fourth quarter. Left guard Kelechi Osemele realized the Ravens were wearing down the Steelers when he saw linebacker Lawrence Timmons throwing up on the field.

The Ravens were the more motivated team. They were the more desperate team. They were the more focused team. Some key numbers -- no turnovers, four penalties and 35 minutes in time of possession -- underscore that.

"As soon as the clock ticked to zero against Cincinnati on Sunday, there was a sense of urgency that we had to get back on the field," said Flacco, who went 10-for-10 passing for 84 yards and two touchdowns on the Ravens' two touchdown drives.

Many players don't enjoy Thursday games because the quick turnaround doesn't allow their bodies to recover. This time, the quick four-day turnaround was a welcomed change.

In many ways, the three hours at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday were the easiest part of an emotional week. It allowed them to get back to what they do best.

"It just felt good to get back to football," defensive end Chris Canty said. "We're answering a lot of questions about things that don't pertain to football, so I'm just really excited that the men in this locker room came together amid all of that adversity and we put the kind of performance out there that we did tonight."

Canty added, "It's been an emotional week. But, in the game of football, you've got to be able to play with emotion to play at your best. You could see it on the sideline. We were all cheering each other on."

In comparison, the adversity they faced on the field didn't seem so daunting. Running back Bernard Pierce, who was benched Sunday for fumbling, showed determination in running for 96 yards. The defense delivered turnovers two of the three times the Steelers got inside the 20-yard line (Smith's forced fumble and Haloti Ngata's interception).

As a result, the Ravens were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. For the first time since the football world saw Rice's latest video on Monday morning, the news swirling around the Ravens was good.

"I think adversity can bring you together, and our guys are made of the right stuff," Harbaugh said. "I'm proud of them for that."

BALTIMORE -- Wide receiver Steve Smith's best game of the preseason propelled the Baltimore Ravens to a 23-17 win over the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night.

After being quiet in the first two preseason games, Smith caught six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. His diving 24-yard touchdown catch with 25 seconds left in the first half broke a 3-3 tie, and the Ravens (3-0) never relinquished the lead.

Smith's determination was evident on his 30-yard catch in the first quarter. He essentially broke out of four tackles to turn a short pass into a big gain.

"I am getting more comfortable with the offense," Smith said. "Last week I really didn't play well. I didn't line up well, and my assignments were off. Today was a great opportunity to show that I can be an asset instead of the liability I was last week."

Here are some other thoughts on the Ravens' third preseason game:
  • Joe Flacco showed his resiliency once again. After being under fire for most of the first half, he calmly orchestrated a two-minute drive to end the half, completing 6-of-8 passes for 74 yards and one touchdown. He was not sharp early for a second straight week, throwing behind and late to his receivers. It didn't help that he was hit more than a handful of times. Flacco finished 16-of-23 for 180 yards.
  • Ravens cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown held up well against the Redskins' playmaking receivers. With the Ravens' top three cornerbacks (Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson) all sidelined with injuries, Franks and Brown limited DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to a combined two catches for four yards. Franks showed good anticipation except for a pass interference penalty on the opening drive.
  • The Redskins did a lot of blitzing (on runs and passes) for a preseason game, and the Ravens' offensive line struggled against it. Right tackle Rick Wagner got roughed up by Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, and left guard Kelechi Osemele got beat as well. Flacco was sacked twice in the first half after not getting sacked in the first two preseason games.
  • How thin are the Ravens at cornerback? The Ravens used safety Anthony Levine at cornerback for the first time. On one third-down play, the Ravens had four safeties on the field: Levine at cornerback, Terrence Brooks at nickelback, Matt Elam at strong safety and Darian Stewart at free safety.
  • The Ravens' athleticism on the defensive line shined in containing Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. Nose tackle Brandon Williams got into the backfield to drill Griffin and force an incompletion. Rookie Timmy Jernigan ran Griffin down to push him out of bounds for a sack.
  • It was an impressive first series for Brooks. He made an interception that was negated by penalty and then sacked Griffin on third down in the red zone. On that sack, Brooks showcased his speed by covering a lot of ground. Brooks is capitalizing on his time with the first-team defense.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have gone from the worst rushing team in franchise history to the NFL's top rushing team in the preseason.

Does this mean the Ravens' ground game is suddenly fixed? Are the Ravens going to be a top-10 rushing attack? Even coach John Harbaugh cautioned about jumping to such conclusions.

The Ravens have averaged an impressive 194 yards rushing -- 69 more than any other team in the league -- in what amounts to two meaningless games. What is real, however, is the Ravens' growing confidence.

Last season, the Ravens lost faith in their offensive line to open holes and their running backs to accelerate through them. It led to the Ravens running the pistol offense and spreading out teams with three wide receivers.

There is a different mindset this season. Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak want this to be a run-first team again.

There is a different attitude so far this preseason. The offensive line, which has three different starters since the end of last season, has pushed defenders off the line. Running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are lighter and, as a result, more explosive.

"Obviously, with last year not running the ball as much -- and that being on the offensive line -- [it] is something that we take pride in," said left guard Kelechi Osemele, who missed the final seven games last season after having back surgery. "So if we can run the ball early this year, that should continue to build our confidence throughout the season.”

Skeptics will point to the fact that the Ravens gained all of these yards against a beat-up 49ers front and an unproven Cowboys defense. But the numbers are still gaudy when compared to how the Ravens struggled last season.

The Ravens have gained 388 yards rushing in two preseason games. It took the Ravens until the fifth regular-season game last season to produce that number of rushing yards.

The biggest difference from last season can be summed up on Rice's first carry in Dallas. The offensive line got the Cowboys' front moving too hard to the left side of the field, and Rice made one cut to go untouched for 18 yards. It's difficult to remember many runs last year when the backs broke the line of scrimmage without being hit.

It's not just Rice who's having success. Pierce is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro is leading the NFL in rushing with 130 yards.

"I feel good about the run game so far, and we temper it with the fact that it’s two games in the preseason, and what matters is what you do when it counts," Harbaugh said. "[There is] a long way to go to be where we need to be to have the kind of success that we’re hoping to have.”

Ravens Camp Report: Day 12

August, 9, 2014
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:
  • Joe Flacco carried the momentum from a great season opener with a sharp practice. He continually found holes in the San Francisco 49ers zone, dropping in passes to his receivers. His best pass was a 50-yard completion to wide receiver Marlon Brown after Flacco rolled to his left and threw off his back foot.
  • There were no fights in the first joint practice with the 49ers. There were a few close calls, especially with guard Kelechi Osemele and linebacker Pernell McPhee. My guess is the players were warned about throwing punches after what the head coaches said before practice.
  • Jimmy Smith was the only cornerback who held up well for the Ravens. Smith set the tone in the one-on-one drill against Anquan Boldin, knocking the ball down in front of the former Ravens receiver. When Smith spoke to owner Steve Bisciotti during practice, I couldn't help thinking about the size of the check that Bisciotti will be writing Smith in a couple of years.
  • Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn't run in team drills for the first time in recent memory. The only way the Ravens can evaluate how he's progressed as a pocket passer is if he stays in the pocket. Taylor rushed his reads early and had several passes batted down when he tried to dump the ball off. He did finish with two deep throws, hitting Steve Smith (who had to dive for the ball) and Michael Campanaro.
  • Like he's done for most of camp, Osemele was crushing defensive linemen. Osemele knocked 49ers defensive tackle Tank Carradine to the ground three times during one session of team drills.
  • One of the more anticipated matchups didn't go the Ravens' way as Terrell Suggs couldn't get past 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. On the other side, Elvis Dumervil had his way with backup right tackle Jonathan Martin.
  • Cornerback Chykie Brown struggled again after putting together some decent practices. He was faked out early and often, allowing too many easy catches to 49ers receivers.
  • The Ravens started rotating rookie fifth-round pick John Urschel in with the second team at guard. This comes after Ryan Jensen got pushed around in the preseason opener. Jensen missed time in practice after injuring his left knee, but he returned after getting checked out by trainers.
  • Schedule: The Ravens hold their second joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers at noon Sunday.
  • Injury wire: This is the healthiest the Ravens have been since the start of camp. Only four players didn't practice. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his 10th straight practice. He last practiced July 25. ... G Will Rackley (head) also didn't practice. ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. ... DE Brent Urban (torn ACL) is out for the season.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- As the new offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, Gary Kubiak is envisioning shorter passes, quicker releases from his quarterbacks and a play that has been used infrequently in team history.

"I was telling John [Harbaugh] the other night: ‘You know, I think we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good screen team,'" Kubiak said. "Our guards not only are big and physical, but they can get out and run."

Screen passes can be an effective weapon. It's a high-percentage short pass to a running back that can generate yards if the offense gets downfield blocking and the defense is caught blitzing.

But the Ravens have rarely called this play, throwing 123 screen passes since 2001 -- the fourth fewest in the NFL over that span. Only the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have called it fewer times.

Kubiak feels that can change this season with left guard Kelechi Osemele and right guard Marshal Yanda. They're two of the most physical guards in the league, but they have athleticism for their size. For a screen pass to work, offensive linemen have to run and get in front of the running back in the flat.

It's interesting to note that Kubiak isn't known for using the screen pass often. During Kubiak's eight seasons in Houston, the Texans had 163 screen passes, which ranked 20th in the NFL.
ESPN.com polled 18 Baltimore media members for their top 20 players on the 2014 Baltimore Ravens roster. The countdown will run through the middle of July, just before the start of training camp. You can click here for an introduction on how the blog put together the rankings.

Let's continue the countdown ...

No. 16: Kelechi Osemele

Position: Guard

Total points: 109.

Highest ranking: No. 4. Lowest ranking: Not ranked.

Osemele
What you need to know: Osemele is coming off back surgery, which sidelined him for the final nine games of 2013. He has fully recovered and is expected to start at left guard. A second-round pick, Osemele started every game during the Ravens' 2012 Super Bowl season as a rookie.

Where Osemele should be ranked: I had Osemele at No. 16 on my rankings, although I was tempted to place him higher. He's been among the most impressive players at offseason workouts, and he could be the key to upgrading this offensive line. It wouldn't surprise me if Osemele made the Pro Bowl at some point in his career.

File this away: In two seasons, the versatile Osemele has started 27 games (including playoffs), with 16 coming at right tackle and 11 at left guard.

What the Ravens are saying about Osemele: "He's back to his usual self, running around. He's one of the best conditioned guys on the field -- just grinding, trying to get better. We're having to slow him down a little bit because it's been a while since he's played." -- offensive tackle Eugene Monroe

Here is the panel of voters: Morgan Adsit (WBFF-TV), Clifton Brown (Comcast SportsNet Baltimore), Jerry Coleman (105.7 The Fan), Bruce Cunnningham (WBFF-TV), Steve Davis (105.7 The Fan), John Eisenberg (Baltimore Ravens website), Pete Gilbert (WBAL-TV), David Ginsburg (Associated Press), Brent Harris (Comcast SportsNet Baltimore), Brett Hollander (WBAL Radio), Luke Jones (WNST Radio), Joe Platania (the Press Box), Gerry Sandusky (WBAL-TV), Mark Viviano (WJZ-TV), Aaron Wilson (Baltimore Sun), Matt Zenitz (Carroll County Times), Jeff Zrebiec (Baltimore Sun) and Jamison Hensley (ESPN.com).
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave updates on some injured players after the end of rookie minicamp Saturday ...

Offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele: He underwent season-ending back surgery in November. "K.O. [Kelechi Osemele] looks good. He’s been out here; he’s been 100 percent in what we’ve been allowed to do so far. So, we have seen really no issues with him at all."

Running back Bernard Pierce: He underwent rotator cuff surgery in January. "He’s been allowed to move around a little bit, but we just can’t risk him falling on it right now and getting a setback. So, you’re probably looking at training camp for him, which shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t get a setback.”

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro: The seventh-round pick tweaked his hamstring before the start of minicamp and sat out both practices. "He is going to have to work that back into shape and hopefully he’ll be back out there next week."

Defensive end Brent Urban: The fourth-round pick didn't participate in the Ravens' rookie minicamp, although it was expected. Urban had ankle surgery earlier this year and is not expected to practice until the end of the month at the earliest.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- If the Baltimore Ravens lined up for a game today, this is how coach John Harbaugh envisions the starting offensive line:
Zuttah
Osemele
Of course, this is subject to change. The Ravens don't play a game that counts until Sept. 7, and the draft in May can alter the Ravens' plans.

At the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday, Harbaugh provided some good insight on what was the weakest part of the Ravens' team last season ...

The Ravens intend on starting Jeremy Zuttah at center. Zuttah, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fifth-round pick, will replace Gino Gradkowski. Harbaugh informed Gradkowski, who struggled as a first-year starter, of the demotion on Monday. "Jeremy is a more experienced center-guard in this league," Harbaugh said. "The thing I liked on tape -- we studied him pretty hard -- he’s a big, rangy guy. He’s got length, he’s got size in there, he’s got experience and he’s also got, we think, a knack for the scheme we’re going to run offensively. He’s a good fit for us.”

The plan is to start the versatile Osemele at left guard. "That’s where I see him playing next year," Harbaugh said. "Could that change? Certainly, with the draft and that kind of thing. But let’s keep him in there at left guard. He’s got a lot of experience in there right now, he’s comfortable there, he likes playing on the left side. It provides us with some real size inside, some length inside, which is good. We can run all those twists and games and things in there, keep the pocket deep for Joe [Flacco]. That’s where we’re going right now, and we’ll see how it plays out.” Osemele could potentially move to right tackle if the Ravens draft a guard.

Wagner is penciled in at right tackle to replace Michael Oher, who signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency. A fifth-round pick a year ago, Wagner played 12 percent of snaps last season. "We put him in that role as a move tight end with the extra offensive lineman down at the goal line in short-yard situations, and he was very bad at it early and he became very good at it toward the end," Harbaugh said. "You start to learn how a guy thinks, so you learn how to teach him a little bit. I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to need a lot of reps to gain his confidence. And once he gains confidence in his techniques, he’ll be really good at it. Juan [Castillo] is a great trainer of offensive linemen, one of the best in the league, if not the best, at training guys in techniques. We think that Rick’s going to really benefit from that.” Jah Reid is in the mix at right tackle as well.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- All of the AFC coaches met with reporters Tuesday morning, and here are the highlights of the hour-long breakfast with Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh:
    Harbaugh
  • Harbaugh acknowledged he was surprised when owner Steve Bisciotti offered him a one-year contract extension last month.
  • Ray Rice was as heavy as 217 pounds last season, according to Harbaugh. The Ravens would like Rice to be around 207 pounds this season. Harbaugh reiterated that Rice "will be part of our team."
  • Harbaugh was very strong on three player arrests in a month span were "unacceptable."
  • Jeremy Zuttah, who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been brought in to be the starting center. Harbaugh talked with Gino Gradkowski, last year's starter, to break the news.
  • The plan is to start Kelechi Osemele at left guard, which is where he is most comfortable. But, depending on what the Ravens do in the draft, Osemele could still play right tackle.
  • As of right now, Rick Wagner would start at right tackle. Wagner was a fifth-round pick from last year. Of course, the draft could change this.
  • Asked how the Ravens would replace defensive tackle Arthur Jones in the starting lineup, Harbaugh talked about starting Brandon Williams alongside Haloti Ngata at defensive tackle. He also mentioned using Kapron Lewis-Moore as well.
  • Harbaugh has been "disappointed" in how backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor has played, but he said Taylor's best football is ahead of him. Given that Taylor has one year left on his contract, the Ravens are looking at quarterbacks in free agency and the draft.
  • Joe Flacco has workouts scheduled with his receivers, but Harbaugh doesn't know when they will occur.
  • Harbaugh said the Ravens aren't done in free agency. "I think we're actively engaged with a number of guys, some on our team and some who are free agents," he said.
  • In terms of tight ends, the Ravens have Owen Daniels and Ed Dickson on their radar.
  • The Ravens are looking to extend the contracts of cornerback Jimmy Smith and wide receiver Torrey Smith. The team will pick up the 2015 option on Jimmy Smith in May.
  • Harbaugh is in favor of expanding the replay system. He likes Patriots coach Bill Belichick's proposal of having everything subject to a coach's challenge.
  • The Ravens haven't talked to inside linebacker Rolando McClain about a potential return. Harbaugh, though, said he would welcome McClain if he can help the team. It depends on how hard McClain is working and how much he has matured, Harbaugh said.
  • Harbaugh said the Ravens will have a tougher and more physical training camp this year because his players are younger.
  • The seventh-round pick acquired from the Miami Dolphins in the trade for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie is for the 2015 draft, Harbaugh confirmed. It was originally reported it was for the 2014 draft.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh says it will be a competitive situation for every spot on the offensive line except right guard. But, before the vision of the line takes shape, the Ravens have to answer the biggest question facing them about the weakest area on the team.

How does Kelechi Osemele figure into the Ravens' plans?

Osemele
Osemele is coming off season-ending back surgery, and although he says there will be no limitation in his training in another month, this is a scary injury for an offensive lineman. The Ravens have to determine if he can be counted upon to start in 2014 because that will affect their priorities heading into free agency and the draft.

When healthy, Osemele is big, strong and nasty. He has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player. The Ravens just have to be confident that he can return to that form because they don't want to get stuck with someone like A.Q. Shipley, a hard-working but limited blocker, for another season.

"I would assume that he will be in that lineup somewhere because he's that kind of a player," Harbaugh said of Osemele. "But he’s got to come back and do it."

At this point, Harbaugh is right that only one spot on the line is certain -- right guard Marshal Yanda. Still, the decisions with the rest of the starters are presumably made already.

The Ravens have not hid the fact that they want to re-sign left tackle Eugene Monroe, especially after they traded a fourth- and fifth-round pick to get him in October. The coaching staff also has seen enough to know it needs an upgrade over Gino Gradkowski at center and it needs to part ways with free-agent right tackle Michael Oher.

Once again, it comes back to Osemele. If the Ravens are convinced he can make a full recovery, the next question is where to start him.

As a rookie, Osemele played all 16 regular-season games at right tackle before moving to left guard in the playoffs. In 2013, he started the first seven games at left guard before undergoing back surgery.

Where Osemele lands on the offensive line could come down to who the Ravens get in free agency and the draft. If the Ravens can add a guard, Osemele could go back to right tackle. And, if the Ravens bring in a tackle, he would stay at left guard.

Osemele has previously said he prefers to play guard, but he told reporters last week that he is open to playing wherever.

“I can’t wait to get on the field and try [my back] out,” Osemele said. “It’s been bothering me for a while now, and to be healthy, it’s going to be great. I can’t wait to get back out there and see what I can do.”
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's game against the New York Jets after he practiced all week.

Pitta returned to the field for the first time since dislocating his hip in late July. He remains on the injured reserve designated for return list.

Pitta
Asked if Pitta could be activated for Sunday's game, coach John Harbaugh said, "There's always a chance. I don't want to say 'no' and then he plays, and I don't want to say 'yes' and he doesn't play. There's always a possibility of (him playing)."

The Ravens would have to activate Pitta by 4 p.m. Saturday and announce a move to make room for him on the 53-man roster.

"We're going to see how I feel (Saturday) and we'll see how it feels (Sunday)," Pitta said, "and we'll go from there."

Pitta was the second-leading receiver on last season's Super Bowl team, catching 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. With Pitta out, Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson have combined for 39 catches and three touchdowns in 10 games.

Pitta sounded more optimistic Friday than he did when he spoke to reporters before his first practice Wednesday.

"I feel great. I feel really good," Pitta said. "It's amazing how it can come back. I'm feeling strong and running well. Everything's been positive."

Here is the other injury news:
  • Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata practiced for the first time in two weeks. He missed last Sunday's game with a knee injury. "We'll just have to see how he comes out of that right now," Harbaugh said. "It'll be interesting to see how he fared and how it feels (Saturday)." Ngata declined comment in the locker room Friday.
  • Left guard Kelechi Osemele had "successful" back surgery Monday, according to Harbaugh. Osemele is already walking and has visited Ravens headquarters. "He was in a little bit of pain," Harbaugh said. The projected recovery is three to four months.
OWINGS MILLS -- Three starters on defense for the Baltimore Ravens -- linebacker Daryl Smith, cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety James Ihedigbo -- are listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. All were limited in Friday's practice.

Smith
Daryl Smith (thigh) and Jimmy Smith (groin) returned to practice after missing the past two days. Daryl Smith, the team's leading tackler, walked off the practice field gingerly. The Ravens would likely start Josh Bynes, who had been a starter until Jameel McClain was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

Another concern is the Ravens' secondary. Jimmy Smith, who injured his groin last Sunday, declined comment in the locker room. Ihedigbo was added to the injury report Friday after he was limited with a toe injury. A third defensive back, backup cornerback Corey Graham (calf), is also questionable.

To add more depth, the Ravens activated Asa Jackson, who had been suspended for the first eight games, and placed guard Kelechi Osemele on injured reserve.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (foot) is listed as probable after having a full practice Friday. He sat out Thursday.

Here is the complete injury report for the Ravens:

QUESTIONABLE: CB Corey Graham (calf), S James Ihedigbo (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (groin), LB Daryl Smith (thigh) and WR Brandon Stokley (groin).

PROBABLE: WR Marlon Brown (finger) and LB Terrell Suggs (foot).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Recent NFL history says the Ravens can still reach the playoffs despite a 3-5 record. The Ravens' track record suggests they can rebound from this three-game losing streak.

But, to steal a line from Browns cornerback Joe Haden, it's becoming clear that these aren't the same Ravens of old. The old Ravens were perfect coming off the bye. The old Ravens were undefeated against the Browns over a stretch of 11 meetings heading into Sunday. In Sunday's 24-18 loss at Cleveland, the Ravens fell to the Browns for the first time since 2007 and dropped their first game following a bye under coach John Harbaugh. History hasn't become reality for the Ravens this season.

This is why it's difficult to think the Ravens can get everything back on track simply because they've done so in the past. There are too many recurring problems throughout the first half of the season -- slow starts, struggling running game and poor finishes on defense -- to believe everything is going to get rectified in the second half.

[+] EnlargeJohn Harbaugh
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJohn Harbaugh's Ravens are tied with Houston and Jacksonville for the most losses (four) in games decided by three points or fewer.
Harbaugh, though, would argue otherwise.

"As it stands, we're in a tough spot. But I believe in our guys, coaches and players," Harbaugh said Monday. "I know we have what it takes to be a very good football team in the second half of the season. What we do in the first half does not determine what we do in the second half. We have opportunities to accomplish everything we want to accomplish. We understand that. Now, our focus becomes one game. What we need to do is win one game. Momentum is a crazy thing. You have to stop theirs and build yours. Once you do that, you have a chance to build on that."

If you're searching for hope for the reeling Ravens, 32 teams since 2000 have reached the halfway point of a season with a .500 or below win percentage and still gone on to reach the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It has happened in each of the 13 seasons over that time, including three times last season: Redskins (3-5), Bengals (3-5) and the Seahawks (4-4).

The Ravens also have a history of recovering from losing three games in a row. This is the fourth time in Harbaugh's six seasons that his team has had such a losing streak. In 2008, the Ravens won four straight following a three-game losing streak. In 2009, the Ravens recovered from a three-game skid to make the playoffs with a 9-7 record. And, last season, the Ravens lost three consecutive times in December and won the Super Bowl in February.

How do the Ravens respond to this losing streak? Harbaugh wants the Ravens to concentrate on themselves, not the other teams on the schedule.

"To me, the biggest thing is to focus on our job," Harbaugh said. "The best players are the best players because they play the best. They do that by dominating their job. If you want to be a really good player, just dominate your job. Just focus on that. If we all do that, you get a little bit better all way across the board and then we have a chance to get over the hump."

Right now, only four teams in the AFC have a worse record than the Ravens: Buffalo (3-6), Houston (2-6), Pittsburgh (2-6) and Jacksonville (0-8). But the Ravens haven't conceded the division yet.

The Ravens are in third place but they trail the Bengals (6-3) by two games. Baltimore plays Cincinnati twice in the final eight games of the season, including Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"There's half a season left to play," Harbaugh said. "There's a lot of games out there for us to win. We need to go stack some wins. It's all about the next game. Cincinnati is leading the division, so this is an opportunity for us."

Here are some other notes from Harbaugh's press conference:

  • Left guard Kelechi Osemele will be placed on injured reserve. He is expected to have a three-to-four month recovery from back surgery, which would allow him to be ready for the team's offseason workout program.

  • Cornerback Asa Jackson is eligible to play after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. The Ravens may need extra depth at cornerback with Jimmy Smith nursing a groin injury. "Hopefully, he's in that kind of shape where he can slide right in there and help us," Harbaugh said. "We'll see if he can help us this week. If he can, with our situation at corner, that could be a plus for us."
CLEVELAND -- There were no surprises on the Baltimore Ravens' inactive list at the Cleveland Browns.

Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele (back) and wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) were the only injured scratches. Osemele had been ruled out Friday and is likely done for the season.

It's the first time Osemele has missed a game after starting the first 27 of his career. Stokley has been sidelined with a groin injury since Week 3.

Here are some notes ...

OL Jah Reid: It's second time the backup has been active this season, and the first since Week 3.

DL Terrence Cody: It's first time he's suited up since missing past four games with knee injury.

S Omar Brown: He's active after spending all season on the practice squad.

RB Bernard Scott: The former Cincinnati Bengals back is inactive after being sidelined Monday.

Here is the Ravens' complete inactive list: G Kelechi Osemele, WR Brandon Stokley, DL DeAngelo Tyson, LB John Simon, RB Bernard Scott, S Brynden Trawick and C Ryan Jensen.

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