NFL Nation: Anthony Allen

Observation deck: Ravens-Rams

August, 29, 2013
Running back Bobby Rainey made the strongest case for one of the final roster spots in the Baltimore Ravens' 24-21 loss at St. Louis in Thursday's preseason finale.

Rainey showed great determination in two first-half touchdowns, which could give him the edge over Anthony Allen and Delone Carter for the third tailback spot. In a busy night for the undrafted player out of Western Kentucky, he finished with 13 carries for 39 yards, one punt return for 16 yards, two kickoff returns for 25 yards and one special-teams tackle.

Those numbers didn't accurately reflect Rainey's toughness or the countless tackles he broke. On the first touchdown, he was stopped by the pile at the goal line but got the ball across on a second effort. On his second score, Rainey was bottled up at the 5-yard line and bounced to his left to reach the end zone.

Last season, Rainey spent the first six weeks on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster. He was inactive for three games before going on injured reserve with a knee injury.

His scores were magnified when Allen and Carter failed to punch the ball in the end zone with carries inside the 10-yard line; Allen made it worse by fumbling at the 1. Allen and Carter combined for 3 yards on 13 carries. This will be a tough roster decision because Allen does so much on special teams, especially as the lead blocker on kickoffs.

Here are my other thoughts on the final preseason game for the Ravens, who finished 2-2:
  • The Ravens' top two draft picks were impressive. Safety Matt Elam, the first-round pick, made four first-quarter tackles and punched the ball out of Tavon Austin's grasp for a forced fumble. Linebacker Arthur Brown, the second-round pick, hit Kellen Clemens so hard that he made the Rams' backup quarterback's nose bleed and made a nice open-field tackle. The rookies both won't start right away, but these performances provide glimpses of the future.
  • There was a Tandon Doss sighting. For the first time this preseason, Doss did what the Ravens had envisioned, catching passes over the middle and beating defenders straight down the field out of the slot. He had five catches for 75 yards. But Marlon Brown didn't give up any ground in the wide receiver battle. The undrafted rookie scored on a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. I will provide more thoughts on the wide receiver situation on Friday.
  • Omar Brown made the roster last year because he made big plays in the preseason. He came up big Thursday night as he looks to become the team's fourth safety. Brown forced a fumble over the middle of the field in the first quarter and nearly picked off a pass in the third quarter. The Ravens' top three safety spots are set with Elam, Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo.
  • The center battle appears to be over. Gino Gradkowski didn't play in the finale, which suggests that the Ravens didn't need to see any more from him. A.Q. Shipley started, but he hasn't done enough in the preseason to push Gradkowski for the job.
  • Joe Flacco didn't play, and Tyrod Taylor received the night off after suffering a head injury in the last preseason game. Third-stringer Caleb Hanie got to play the entire game, and it wasn't pretty. He was 20-of-39 for 272 yards, and he didn't receive much support. Hanie was pressured repeatedly and was charged with a fumble after Reggie Stephens (who also had a critical false start late in the fourth quarter) delivered a shotgun snap wide right. Hanie's final pass was intercepted in the final minute of the game.

Scary moment for Browns' Josh Cribbs

September, 27, 2012
BALTIMORE -- Browns receiver-returner Josh Cribbs had a scary moment in the first quarter of Thursday night's game against the Ravens.

Cribbs lay motionless on the ground for a few minutes after having his helmet dislodged by a shoulder-to-helmet hit from Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. After getting hit and fumbling, Cribbs fell backward and the back of his head bounced off the artificial surface. He also took a cleat to the face from running back Anthony Allen in the aftermath.

Cribbs eventually got up on his own power and walked off the field. He took a concussion test and told the trainers that he was fine before heading to the locker room. The Browns announced that Cribbs would not return to the game with a head injury.

Cribbs' fumble gave the Ravens the ball at the Cleveland 40-yard line. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco then threw an interception in the end zone.

Observation deck: Ravens-Falcons

August, 9, 2012

The Ravens' reserves finished strong to help Baltimore to a 31-17 win at Atlanta. Here are my thoughts on a sluggish start to the preseason for the Ravens' starters:
  • Tight end Ed Dickson left the game with a shoulder sprain after making a 9-yard touchdown catch. He will undergo tests Friday. If Dickson's injury is serious, the Ravens have a major problem at tight end. Dennis Pitta, Dickson's backup, is out for the preseason after breaking his hand in training camp.
  • Backup defensive end Ryan McBean (leg) and rookie cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring) left with injuries. Linebacker Ray Lewis was a healthy scratch, and rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw didn't play after recently coming back from a shoulder injury.
  • The Ravens played a lot of soft coverage and paid the price in allowing 155 yards to Matt Ryan on two drives, both of which resulted in touchdowns and a 14-0 lead. Cary Williams gave up four receptions, and Lardarius Webb allowed a 36-yard pass to Julio Jones.
  • Torrey Smith is showing better hands than what he had as a rookie and he is getting out of breaks quicker. There's a strong chemistry between Joe Flacco and Smith, who had three catches for 43 yards.
  • The Ravens were unhappy with the sluggish start on offense, which went three-and-out on the first three drives. That's why Flacco was in there in the second quarter. After nine plays on the first three drives, Flacco put together an 11-play series that ended with a touchdown pass to Dickson. It was a perfect, strong-armed pass that was placed away from the defender in the end zone. Flacco finished 9-of-12 for 88 yards.
  • Baltimore's punt coverage team, which ranked 24th last season and gave up two touchdowns, is still a concern. The Ravens gave up a 45-yard return in the first quarter after Albert McClellan and Emanuel Cook missed tackles.
  • Bryant McKinnie, who reported late to training camp, didn't make the start. The Ravens went with Michael Oher at left tackle and rookie Kelechi Osemele at right tackle. McKinnie later replaced Oher at left tackle.
  • In the battle for the backup running back job, Anthony Allen didn't take advantage of Bernard Pierce's being out with a hamstring injury. Allen was limited to 9 yards on five carries, dropped a potential first-down pass and gave up a sack.
  • Omar Brown, an undrafted rookie out of Marshall, made a good first impression. He had an interception and recovered two fumbles.

Baltimore running back Ricky Williams plans to retire, according to ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

When I first heard this, my initial reaction was: Will he stay retired?

Williams stunned the NFL with an early retirement in 2004. But he was back in July 2005.

He talked retirement before the 2009 season, saying he wanted to play two more seasons before calling it quits. But he played with Baltimore in 2011.

Williams, 34, even spoke about his intentions about playing next season for the Ravens after the AFC championship game loss at New England.

“My body feels good and I know I’m going to train hard and so I’m excited about next year,” Williams said last month, via the team's website. “I’ve grown a lot, kind of falling into a new role and a new city and a new organization, and I’ve gotten better. And like everyone else, I feel like I have something to build on for next year.”

So, what changed?

After the news broke about his retirement today, Williams addressed it in a cryptic Twitter message: "Thank you all, but this ain't it. I'm gonna do something really special. 'Be you and change the world.'"

If Williams does follow through with his retirement, it will be a big loss for the Ravens even though Williams isn't the same powerful running back from a few years ago.

What the Ravens lose isn't the stats that Williams produced last year. He rushed for a career-low 444 yards and scored two touchdowns.

What the Ravens lose is a reliable insurance policy for running back Ray Rice. If Rice went down for any significant amount of time, Baltimore didn't have to worry about handing the ball to Williams, one of 26 players in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yards.

To be honest, Williams was underused in his first season with the Ravens. He averaged less than seven carries per game and caught 13 passes, but it was hard to get him onto the field because it meant taking Rice off of it.

The Ravens signed Williams last year to a two-year contract to replace Willis McGahee, so it appears that their preference is to have an experienced backup. Baltimore's third-string running back Anthony Allen, a seventh-round pick last year, looked like he would need another year before becoming the team's primary backup.

This means the Ravens will be searching for a second-tier running back in free agency.