AFC North: Kelechi Osemele

The Baltimore Ravens have had a first-time Pro Bowl player in each of the nine past seasons. It started with linebacker Bart Scott in 2006 and continued with rookie C.J. Mosley this season.

So, who will make their first Pro Bowl from the Ravens next season? Let's take a look at the top five candidates:


1. CB Jimmy Smith: He had a great chance to reach the Pro Bowl this season until he suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 8. Smith's size and speed put him among the top cornerbacks in the league. But he needs to become more of a playmaker to gain more attention. He only has three interceptions in 24 starts since 2013.

2. P Sam Koch: You can make a strong argument that Koch should've made the Pro Bowl this season. He was the only punter to rank in the top three in both gross and net punting average. His net punting average (43.3) led the NFL in 2014 and ranked fourth best in league history. It seems like Koch is just on the cusp after winning the fan voting and being a first-team alternate this past season.

3. OG Kelechi Osemele: He proved he was completely recovered from a back injury that sidelined him in 2013 and established himself as the one of the dominating run blockers in the league. Osemele is a sound pass protector, and he made one of the most critical blocks in the playoff win in Pittsburgh when he pushed James Harrison to the ground and freed up Joe Flacco to make a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Osemele's play can get overshadowed by Marshal Yanda, who is one of the NFL's best linemen.

4. FB Kyle Juszczyk: He didn't hit the production many expected this season, but that could change in 2015. New offensive coordinator Marc Trestman likes throwing to running backs (Chicago's Matt Forte had more than 100 catches in Trestman's offense), which could boost Juszczyk's 19 receptions in 2014. He was a first-team alternate this season, and it probably won't take too much to crack the Pro Bowl at one of the NFL's thinnest positions.

5. QB Joe Flacco: It would've happened this season if Flacco didn't turn down a Pro Bowl invitation to be there for the birth of his third child. Flacco achieved career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27) in 2014. If that progression continues under Trestman, Flacco has a good shot at getting another chance to play in the all-star event. Before you list the reasons why this won't happen, remember Andy Dalton has made two Pro Bowl teams in the past four seasons.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- All it took was a promotion, a trade, some recovery time and a new offensive coordinator.

That's how the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line went from being the team's biggest weakness in 2013 to a major strength a year later. No other group improved more on the Ravens this season, and it's possible no group improved more throughout the entire league.

According to the Pro Football Focus rankings, the Ravens' offensive line jumped 20 spots to No. 3 in the NFL this season. Only the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles ranked higher than the Ravens.

So, how did the Ravens drastically improve in such a short time? They chose to let disappointing first-round pick Michael Oher leave in free agency and promoted Rick Wagner to his spot at right tackle. They traded for Jeremy Zuttah to replace struggling center Gino Gradkowski. They had guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele rebound from injuries and dominate up front. And they thrived in their first season with Gary Kubiak's stretch zone-blocking schemes.

The best news for the Ravens is they return their top seven offensive linemen for next season.

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
AP Photo/Steve NesiusA vastly improved offensive line kept the pressure off Joe Flacco -- he was sacked a career-low 19 times.
“The future is really great for our offensive line," coach John Harbaugh said. "When we first came in here in 2008, we said, ‘You start in the trenches.’ A team is built from the trenches out, and we were pretty strong in the trenches this year. That’s the foundation of our team."

The Ravens' line was key in helping Justin Forsett go from a journeyman running back to the No. 5 rusher in the league. The Ravens averaged 3.1 yards before contact, which was third-best in the NFL. That shows how much push the Ravens' blockers got off the line and how big the running lanes were.

The Ravens' pass protection played a big role in quarterback Joe Flacco having a career year. He was sacked a career-low 19 times -- an amazing number considering Flacco had never been sacked fewer than 31 times in his previous six seasons.

"Once you start playing at a certain level and your coaches develop an expectation, you have to be able to maintain that and be consistent," guard Kelechi Osemele said. "I feel like that was not only for me, but as far as the guys playing to my right and to my left, I think we all expect each other to play at a high level and do what you need to do to be healthy week to week. We just fight for each other. If one of us is having a bad game and we’re not playing as well as we should be playing, I feel like we have the type of men that aren’t afraid to hold each other accountable, and that’s what you need to be successful.”

There is room for improvement for the Ravens' line. Left tackle Eugene Monroe missed five games because of injuries, and he didn't live up to the Ravens' five-year, $37.5 million investment in him. Zuttah was an upgrade over Gradkowski, but he had trouble at the point of attack, especially in that playoff game at Pittsburgh.

The Ravens excelled this past season because of Wagner quietly becoming a stabilizing force on the right side and Yanda and Osemele pushing defenders around on the interior of the line. The Ravens also relied on a couple of rookies, tackle James Hurst and guard John Urschel, to fill in for injured starters.

The continuity in the offensive line is a strength going into next season. If Wagner (foot) can recover in time to start the season, the Ravens would have the same starting offensive line in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2003-04.

"It’s pretty evident. I think if we maintain the same guys in the room, the sky is the limit," Monroe said. "You can watch the film -- we’ve been the most physical line in the league, hands down, and that’s only going to get better."
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- On the day the Baltimore Ravens announced that tight end Owen Daniels is out for Sunday's game, they essentially revealed that the starting left side of their offensive line will return.

Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele are both considered probable for the first-place battle at Cincinnati. They haven't been on the field together for the past four weeks.

Monroe and Osemele, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, had full participation in every practice this week.

Defensive end Chris Canty, who is out for Sunday's game, has been cleared "to start training heavily," coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a matter of how fast he can get back in shape." Canty will miss his fourth straight game.

As for the Cincinnati Bengals, wide receiver A.J. Green is doubtful with a toe injury. The rest of the injury report:

Out: TE Owen Daniels (knee, did not practice Friday), DE Chris Canty (wrist, did not practice Friday).

Probable: OT Eugene Monroe (knee, full participation), G Kelechi Osemele (knee, full participation).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The starting left side of the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line -- tackle Eugene Monroe and guard Kelechi Osemele -- fully participated in practice for a second straight day, another indication that they'll play in Sunday's game at Cincinnati.

Monroe and Osemele have started side by side since Week 3, and the Ravens have gone with rookies James Hurst and John Urschel in their absence.

"It's very important to get them back," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "They've had a good week. But we'll continue to get James and John ready to play. I think offensively right now, you guys can see it's almost like everybody gets a chance to contribute. So, I think we stay the course right there and hopefully Eugene and K.O. are ready for a full day's work."

Ravens injury report

Did not participate: DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (knee), LB Daryl Smith (not injury related), WR Steve Smith (not injury related).

Full participation: OT Eugene Monroe (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (knee).

Ravens vs. Bengals preview

October, 23, 2014

When the season ends, this Sunday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals could be viewed as the turning point for both teams, as well as the AFC North race.

If the Ravens win, it will be the kind of feather-in-their-cap victory that can allow them to not only put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the division, but prove they can win on the road in an always difficult place to play. If the Bengals win and start rattling off a string of subsequent victories, this game could be viewed as the linchpin moment to their season. It would be the week their string of disappointment ended, and the victories returned.

So this isn't any ordinary midseason showdown. This is a high-stakes Week 8 game that could have many playoff implications riding on it.

ESPN's Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley and Bengals reporter Coley Harvey are here to help you get ready for Sunday in this week's preview:

Coley Harvey: How are the Ravens viewing this game, Jamison? What type of message could they send the rest of the division if they jump out to a 6-2 start with a win in Cincy?

Jamison Hensley: In many ways, this is a statement game for the Ravens. They've been dominant in recent weeks, winning by an average margin of 27 points in their past three victories. But they've roughed up teams in the weak NFC South. The Ravens will officially declare themselves the team to beat in the AFC North if they can knock off the defending division champions on their home field. There is also the payback factor for the Ravens. Quarterback Joe Flacco has already talked about the team having something to prove against the Bengals. Not only did the Ravens lose to the Bengals in the season opener, but they have repeatedly struggled in Paul Brown Stadium. Flacco has a career 2-4 mark in Cincinnati, and the Ravens haven't won there since 2011. So, a victory would erase some bad memories for the Ravens as well as deliver another crushing blow to a reeling division rival.

Coley, the Bengals haven't won a game in a month, but the season hasn't reached the halfway point yet. Is it too dramatic to classify this as a "must win" for Cincinnati?

Harvey: Not at all, Jamison. I'd argue this is a must-win game. You mentioned it yourself: right now, the Bengals are reeling. After having so much success the past three regular seasons -- not to mention the success they had winning the first three games this season -- they're having trouble comprehending what the past three weeks means about their team. They have two losses to two really good teams (New England and Indianapolis), but earned that tie in a game against one of those NFC South foes you mentioned earlier (Carolina). To redefine themselves, the Bengals "must" earn a win. Also, there's the division race at stake. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap was quick to point that out as motivation following the 27-0 blowout at Indianapolis on Sunday. The Bengals want to be in first place again. Also, they want to extend their 12-game streak of being undefeated at home.

Flacco was under a lot of duress in this year's first meeting between these teams, particularly in the final minutes. What type of pressure is on the Ravens' offensive line to protect better in this game, particularly on the left edge, where Eugene Monroe might end up missing more time?

Hensley: The big question for the Ravens is whether the left side of their offensive line returns. Monroe, the left tackle, and left guard Kelechi Osemele, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, haven't been on the field together since Week 3. That being said, one of the biggest improvements this season has been their pass protection. Since getting sacked three times by the Bengals, Flacco has been sacked only five times in the past six games. That's a major turnaround from last season, when Flacco was sacked a career-worst 48 times. Under offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Flacco has gotten rid of the ball quicker and the receivers have done a good job of getting better separation. Still, it all starts with the offensive line, and the Ravens have had some breakdowns with rookies James Hurst and John Urschel filling in on the left side. They need Osemele and Monroe when facing a Bengals defense that has 14 sacks in the teams' past five meetings.

On the other side of the ball, the Ravens' pass rush is hitting its stride right now. The Ravens have recorded 10 sacks and 24 quarterback hits over the past two games. Can the Bengals slow down the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil? And how has Andy Dalton handled pressure this season?

Harvey: Dalton actually has handled pressure, at least in the form of blitzes, fairly well this season, so I'll say yes, the Bengals can slow down Dumervil and Suggs. Dalton's best career numbers versus the blitz have come this season in the form of his career-high 62.5 QBR when teams send additional rushers from the upper levels. While he has only three touchdown passes against the blitz, including the pivotal go-ahead, 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in the fourth quarter of the season opener at Baltimore, he most notably has just one interception. That pickoff happened after his arm was hit by a blitzing linebacker as he threw, causing the deep pass to flutter right into a defensive back's hands. In last week's game against the Colts, Dalton handled the blitz OK, but he had Colts linemen in his face all afternoon. With his receivers struggling to get separation, he was unable to set up quick enough passes. For the first time, he looked awful against standard pressure.

Jamison, if you had to put your finger on one reason as to why the Ravens have been able to play so well since losing the opener, what would you pick?

Hensley: It's the Ravens' ability to get off to fast starts. In their past five wins, they have outscored teams 96-17 in the first half. In their two losses, they've been outscored 21-3 before halftime. It was a sluggish start that caused the Ravens to drop that season opener against Cincinnati. The Ravens trailed 15-0 after two quarters and were shut out for the first 42 minutes, 40 seconds. When the Ravens trail early, they tend to get out of their balanced attack and throw the ball more than they would like. When the Ravens get a lead, this is a team that can protect it because of a strong running game and the stingiest defense in the NFL. It's certainly a proven formula. The Ravens are 49-10 when scoring first in John Harbaugh's seven years as head coach.

Another area where the Ravens have improved is their run game. The Bengals have gone the opposite direction, going from the fifth best run defense to No. 30. Will the Bengals be able to slow down the ground game Sunday?

Harvey: That's a question you, me, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and thousands of Bengals fans would like to know the answer to. It's hard to say there's been any one reason as to why the Bengals have struggled defending the run lately. Early in the season, they were gashed by occasional long carries from quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Jake Locker, but those had minimal impact on the outcome of those games. A week after the Bengals' bye, though, Patriots running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen rushed for 203 combined yards to pace a 220-yard rushing attack. The next week, it was quarterback Cam Newton who picked up 107 yards, mostly off the read-option. This past week, the Colts' Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson, of all running backs, made the Bengals pay with a 177-yard total performance. Cincinnati's biggest issues of late have involved knowing rush-lane assignments, having an inordinate amount of missed tackles (29 the past three games, per Pro Football Focus) and being without linebacker Vontaze Burfict consistently. He's finished only one game this season.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are expected to start two rookies on the left side of their offensive line for the second straight game when they play the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele, both of whom are dealing with knee injuries, are listed as doubtful on the Ravens' injury report after not practicing Friday. That likely means undrafted rookie tackle James Hurst and rookie fifth-round guard John Urschel will start Sunday.

One starter who won't be playing is defensive end Chris Canty, who has been declared out with an infection in his wrist. DeAngelo Tyson will start his third straight game in place of Canty.

Rookie second-round pick Timmy Jernigan (knee) is probable after missing the past four games.

Injury report

Out: DE Chris Canty (wrist, did not participate Friday), DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle, did not participate Friday).

Doubtful: OT Eugene Monroe (knee, did not participate Friday), G Kelechi Osemele (knee, did not participate Friday).

Probable: LB Daryl Smith (not injury related, full participation Friday), TE Owen Daniels (not injury related, full participation Friday), WR Marlon Brown (pelvis, full participation Friday), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee, full participation Friday), WR Kamar Aiken (concussion, full participation Friday).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Starting left tackle Eugene Monroe returned to practice Thursday, a day after left guard Kelechi Osemele came back for the Baltimore Ravens. But those two starters still might not be available for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Monroe practiced for the first time since having a procedure on his knee, which has caused him to miss the past three games. Osmele was sidelined last Sunday with a knee injury.

"(Monroe) and KO, we're trying to get them back on the field," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said. "Obviously, KO is a little further along than he is right now. We've got to get those guys back healthy."

In the big picture, it's more important for the Ravens to have Monroe and Osemele back for next Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Not only could that game be for first place in the AFC North, but the Ravens can't afford to get swept by the Bengals because of tiebreaker purposes.

If Monroe and Osemele are sidelined Sunday, the Ravens would go with two rookies on the left side for a second straight week. Undrafted rookie left tackle James Hurst and rookie fifth-round guard John Urschel each only allowed one quarterback hurry in last Sunday's win in Tampa, and helped the Ravens rush for 169 yards.

Asked if he ever had two rookies start on the left side like that, Kubiak said, "I've never been around that. That was something else. But boy, you have to be proud of them. They've worked really hard. I think the guys around them played hard. Usually when you have a young guy step in, it's about everybody else playing a little bit better. So, you got to give the whole group credit the way they've stepped up."

The Ravens face a Falcons defense that ranks 28th against the run and 29th against the pass.


DID NOT PRACTICE: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Christo Bilukidi (ankle), TE Owen Daniels (not injury related) and LB Daryl Smith (not injury related).

LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Eugene Monroe (knee), WR Kamar Aiken (concussion), G Kelechi Osemele (knee).

FULL PARTICIPATION: WR Marlon Brown (pelvis), DT Timmy Jernigan (knee).

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
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. 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.

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 (
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.