Baltimore Ravens: Kelechi Osemele

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.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' only lineup change coming out of the bye is replacing injured offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele with A.Q. Shipley.

On paper, it looks like a downgrade. Osemele is a second-round pick from a year ago, and Shipley is on his third team since being a seventh-round pick in 2009.

It doesn't look good for the Ravens on the eye test, either. Osemele is a powerful 6-foot-5, 330 pounds. Shipley resembles a bouncer at a bar at 6-1, 305 pounds.

Still, it's hard to overlook what coach John Harbaugh said Friday when announcing Osemele was likely done for the season.

"I'm excited to see how [the offensive linemen] play going forward," he said. "We'll actually be better there with a healthier player."

Harbaugh isn't putting a positive spin on this development. You could see he actually believes this. Osemele is clearly the best option when he wants to be out there. But you got the sense that he wasn't mentally committed to playing anymore.

Heading into the bye, Osemele told reporters, "They feel like I'm the best chance to win games at my position. So, I'm going to deal with it."

This sounded like a player being told to play, not one wanting to play. There are no such questions with Shipley, a blue-collar journeyman. He was pressed into the starting lineup for Osemele four weeks ago in Miami, where the Ravens had their best rushing game (133 yards) of the season.

"He’s definitely proven we can win with him and he can play," right guard Marshal Yanda said.

The Ravens are going with Shipley for now, but there's no guarantee he'll remain the starter. Harbaugh mentioned Jah Reid "will be in the mix." There's been questions whether Reid, a third-round pick in 2011, has the toughness to be a starter in the NFL.

There's going to be a transition period with Shipley, whose natural position is center. He has never started a game at guard in the NFL. His teammates are going to help him as much as possible.

"You have to communicate a little more with the cadence and the calls when we’re running the checks," Yanda said. "You don’t want him to be mentally thinking about the play too much instead of just coming off the ball."

It's been quite a change for the Ravens' offensive line. For the first five games this season, the left side of Baltimore's offensive line was Osemele and tackle Bryant McKinnie. Now, the Ravens are going forward with Shipley and tackle Eugene Monroe.

"That's the thing -- you want your guys at 100 percent," Harbaugh said. "A.Q. has played very well when he's been in there. He's a football player."

Whether this change is for the better remains to be seen.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens left guard Kelechi Osemele has been ruled out for Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns and is likely done for the season, coach John Harbaugh said after Friday's practice.
Osemele
A.Q. Shipley told reporters that he will be starting Sunday at Cleveland. It will mark the first start at guard for the second-year lineman.

Osemele has been dealing with a back injury for the past two seasons and acknowledged last week that he would need surgery after the season. His status changed this week when he couldn't practice the past two days.

Harbaugh said the chances of Osemele playing the rest of the season "are probably pretty slim."

"The back was just getting a little worse and a little worse as we went," Harbaugh said. "We went back in and looked at it, and there are some things that may need to get taken care of."

Shipley
Osemele was limited in practice Wednesday but sat out Thursday and Friday. Shipley said he took most of the reps Thursday and was told he would start Friday.

It was four weeks ago when Shipley was pushed into the starting lineup after Osemele abruptly left with back spasms in the opening series. Since then, Shipley has received reps at left guard in case Osemele went down again.

"I’m ready. I know the position," said Shipley, who acknowledged center is his natural position. "It’s a little different (than center) and a little easier in terms of the mental aspect. It’s just a little more space to deal with now."

Durability had been a strength for Osemele. He had started 27 straight games, including playoffs, since he was selected in the second round by the Ravens last year.

"I’ve been on three different teams and he’s one of the toughest guys I’ve been around," Shipley said. "To be able to push through it, we all know how hard back injuries are. The fact that he’s been fighting, he’s a heck of a player."

Osemele becomes the 11th starter from the Ravens' Super Bowl team to either retire, sign elsewhere in free agency, get cut, get traded or go down with a serious injury. He joins linebacker Ray Lewis (retired), safety Ed Reed (signed with Houston), wide receiver Anquan Boldin (traded to San Francisco), left tackle Bryant McKinnie (traded to Miami), center Matt Birk (retired), tight end Dennis Pitta (hip injury), nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu (not re-signed), linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (signed with Miami), cornerback Cary Williams (signed with Philadelphia) and safety Bernard Pollard (cut).
For the second straight day, the Baltimore Ravens didn't have a starting offensive lineman for practice.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele (back and knee) sat out Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday. He has dealt with this back injury throughout the season, and acknowledged he'll need surgery in the offseason.

Right tackle Michael Oher (ankle), who missed Wednesday's workout, returned to have a full workout Thursday. Besides Osemele, the only other Ravens player who didn't have a full practice was wide receiver Brandon Stokley (groin), who was limited.

Here's the Ravens' complete injury report:

Did not practice: G Kelechi Osemele (back and knee).

Limited participation: WR Brandon Stokley (groin).

Full participation: LB Josh Bynes (finger and thigh), NT Terrence Cody (knee), C Ryan Jensen (foot), OT Michael Oher (ankle), RB Bernard Pierce (hamstring).
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens could address depth at running back during their bye week.

While starting running back Ray Rice says he has fully recovered from a hip injury, the same cannot be said about backup Bernard Pierce. He is dealing with a hamstring injury and didn't practice Wednesday, the last workout before the players receive four days off.

The Ravens didn't have Pierce toward the end of Sunday's game in Pittsburgh, which is why fullback Vonta Leach spelled Rice at times. Free agent Beanie Wells had a tryout with the Ravens on Tuesday, but the team isn't expected to sign him. Former Cincinnati Bengals running back Bernard Scott worked out for the Ravens last week.

The Ravens have a roster spot open after trading offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie to the Miami Dolphins.

"We're still working ourselves through that," coach John Harbaugh said. "It could be a practice-squad promotion. It could be somebody off a practice-squad roster or somebody who's available right now as a free agent."

Pierce has shown some flashes during his two seasons with the Ravens, but he tends to get banged-up. The Ravens are averaging 2.8 yards per rush, which is last in the NFL.

Here are some other injury updates:
  • Inside linebacker Josh Bynes, who missed his first game with a finger infection, said he expects to return for the Nov. 3 game at the Cleveland Browns. "I don't if 'expected' is the right word," Harbaugh said. "I guess I probably feel that way, but I don't want to speak, because you never know with an infection. But there's a good chance that he would be [ready]."
  • Left guard Kelechi Osemele confirmed he will have surgery on his back this offseason. He didn't practice Wednesday and said the back acts up on him "off and on" throughout the year. "They feel like I'm the best chance to win games at my position. So, I'm going to deal with it," Osemele said. "How much affected? The back is a big thing. It's connected to your legs and everything from that point down. It's affected my power. I'm an offensive lineman. I need to have strong legs. Obviously, it's affecting me."
One possible reason why the Baltimore Ravens offensive line has struggled is because the starters may not be at full strength.

Right guard Marshal Yanda had shoulder surgery in the offseason, and right tackle Michael Oher sprained his ankle in the season opener. The latest news is left guard Kelechi Osemele is fighting through a back injury that will require surgery after the season.

“I’m not 100 percent, and I won’t be until surgery after the season, until they fix the disk,” Osemele told Sports Illustrated. “But I manage it, and treat it every day to treat the symptoms. With this issue degrading, it’s going to take time to heal. And it’s not going to heal during the season; this is a full-contact sport. But I can’t make excuses, I’ve just got to continue to get better.”

Osemele left the Oct. 6 game in Miami after the opening series because of back spasms. He's played the last two games and he wasn't listed on the injury report last week.

Coach John Harbaugh wouldn't comment on the specifics of what Osemele said.

“He’s a tough guy; he fights through a lot of different things,” Harbaugh said, via the team's official website. “A lot of guys have a lot of things. Probably most players in the league have something along those lines that way. So, he fights through it.

Here's the rest of your Wake-up caw ...
  • The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston wonders if it's time to get backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the game. "Maybe he can make some things happen. Maybe he can make a big play," Preston wrote. "I'd put him in a Wildcat formation just like the Steelers did running back Le'Veon Bell. It isn't a slap at starting quarterback Joe Flacco, but the Ravens need some kind of spark. The Steelers never ran the Wildcat either, but they caught the Ravens off guard Sunday." It would be a hard sell to tell owner Steve Bisciotti that the Ravens' quarterback, whom he just gave a $120 million contract, is going to either come off the field or line up at wide receiver.
  • Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, who was traded to the Dolphins on Monday, posted a message on Twitter before departing on a flight to Florida: "I appreciate my time in Baltimore & winning a ring along the way, now time to move on to another."
  • The players will work Tuesday and Wednesday before getting four days off for the bye, which is required by the collective bargaining agreement. Harbaugh did not guaranteed the coaches would get four days off. “I’m not really commenting on the schedule for the coaches, because I really don’t know yet,” Harbaugh said, via Comcast SportsNet. “We’re just going to have to see. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
  • The 2012 Ravens have endured three straight narrow defeats and expect to do some soul-searching during the bye. It's reminiscent of the Ravens from four years ago, according to The Press Box.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the team will take a "wait and see" approach when it comes to the starting left tackle position.

What reporters saw Wednesday was recently acquired Eugene Monroe working with the first-team offense in the early portion of practice, Comcast SportsNet reported. And what everyone heard was Monroe declaring himself ready to play.

So, it looks like Monroe is taking over for struggling Bryant McKinnie when it comes to protecting Joe Flacco's blind side.

"I think I’m ready to go," Monroe said. "I get this work starting in practice this week, get in there with the guys, build a relationship with the guys on the line, and be ready. It’s been a grind. First one in the building, last one out."

Here is the rest of your Wake-up caw ...
  • Inside linebacker Jameel McClain has been medically cleared to play football, multiple league sources told The Baltimore Sun. McClain, who is on the NFL's physically-unable-to-perform list after suffering a spinal cord contusion last season, is eligible to begin practicing next week. "It's always positive news, I've been saying it since the beginning that if I don't believe, then who will?" McClain said. "We're taking another step in the direction. When the time comes, we'll see. I didn't get anything back yet, but it's going to be good information." With Josh Bynes having an up-and-down season, the return of McClain would upgrade the inside linebacker spot.
  • Left guard Kelechi Osemele said the back spasms, which caused him to miss all but one drive Sunday, are an "one and off issue." It looks like he'll have a better chance of playing Sunday since he is on his home turf -- and mattress. “One of the major things is that the bed I sleep in has to be really firm, and it was a really soft bed,” Osemele said, via the team's website. "That’s another thing that kind of throws my back out of whack."
  • Flacco was adamant Wednesday that he likes the progress that the Ravens have made this season. "Even if it doesn't show up consistently on Sundays that we've gotten better each week, we are and we're going to get healthier," Flacco said, via The Baltimore Sun. "I think a lot of things are going to come together at one time. We're really working to get better and better and better, and eventually it's going to show."
  • The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck believes Flacco has grown into a leadership role with his toughness. "That toughness showed up early when he played through that horrible thigh bruise early in his pro career, and it has shown up throughout this season while he takes a weekly pounding behind the Ravens’ struggling O-line," Schmuck wrote. "But the thing you have to love the most is the way he shrugs it all off, which is just more proof that he’s a solid guy who -- despite his New Jersey roots -- personifies Baltimore football in much the same way Johnny Unitas did."
Like every weekday morning, you need your Ravens wake-up caw ...
  • Defensive lineman Art Jones was cleared earlier this week to return to practice after a two-week absence. In his first comments since coming back, Jones revealed his illness was a racing heartbeat that would not settle down following the preseason game on Aug. 22. "It was definitely stressful for a little bit," Jones said, via Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. "If my time for playing football was over, I had a good run at it. But my work isn’t done yet." Jones has endured personal hardships growing up, from the death of his older sister to a fire in the family home. It was a good sight to see his big smile back in the locker room.
  • The Ravens are still working on developing wide receivers, The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston wrote. "We've made our mistakes in scouting in all positions throughout the years, not just receiver," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' assistant general manager. "I think receiver is a challenging position to evaluate, but I think we can do better. We have excellent coaches here, but I would say the fault probably lies more in scouting. We just haven't always picked the right guy." None of the 20 wide receivers drafted by the Ravens has eclipsed 70 catches in a season or 1,000 yards for the team.
  • Arthur Brown's missed block led to a blocked punt in the preseason opener. Playing on the punt team, as well as blocking, is a learning process for the rookie linebacker, who never played special teams at Kansas State. “There’s a lot that I don’t know about special teams and there’s a lot of technique that I’m learning at this point in time,” Brown told the team's official website. “I’m still not where I want to be at this point.”
  • The Ravens have a lot of respect for the Browns' defensive front and linebackers. “Their front seven is a strength of their team," Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele told the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "Their front seven is one of the best that we’re going to see. They’re definitely getting up there with the Pittsburghs of the world and definitely playing well as a unit.” One of the top matchups is Browns lineman Desmond Bryant against the left side of the Ravens' line (guard Marshal Yanda and tackle Bryant McKinnie).
  • The Browns blitzed on 20 of 43 of the Dolphins' pass plays in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus (via The Baltimore Sun). Against Denver, quarterback Joe Flacco completed fewer than half of his passes against the blitz but threw two touchdowns when the Broncos rushed five or more defenders.
For most of the offseason, the top storylines for the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line have been about the preseason battle at center and Marshal Yanda's recovery from shoulder surgery. But the biggest development in the preseason has been the poor run blocking by the Ravens' starting offensive line.

Five linemen who have started for the Ravens this preseason have received negative run grades from Pro Football Focus: left guard Kelechi Osemele; centers Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley; right guard Jah Reid; and right tackle Michael Oher. It's the primary reason running back Ray Rice has averaged 2.9 yards per carry in three preseason games. At times, it's been difficult for Rice to reach the line of scrimmage without getting hit.

The lineman who has struggled the most is Osemele, whose minus-6.8 run block grade is the lowest for all guards this preseason. The next lowest-rated guard is the San Francisco 49ers' Al Netter, and he was cut three days ago.

Osemele is the Ravens' most promising young offensive lineman. He's smart, athletic and versatile. Last season, Osemele became the first rookie to start a full season on the Ravens' offensive line, starting all 16 regular-season games at right tackle before moving to left guard in the postseason. Pro Football Focus gave Osemele a positive run blocking grade last season, but he ranked 30th among tackles in that category.

Excluding Yanda, who played one quarter this preseason, the only starting offensive lineman for the Ravens who received a positive run grade this preseason is left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who ranked fourth among tackles.

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