Facing depth concerns on offensive line, Ravens bring back Jeremy Zuttah

OWINGS MILLS, MD — Since the beginning of training camp, three Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman got lost for the season either due to injury (Alex Lewis, Nico Siragusa) or retirement (John Urschel). On Friday, the team made up for some of those losses by signing free agent center Jeremy Zuttah.

The deal, according to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport, spans over two years for $6 million.

Zuttah, 31, played the last three seasons with the Ravens, starting at center when healthy. Following a disappointing season, the Ravens traded Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers in March for a sixth-round pick. That draft pick got used on Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. On Aug. 9, two days before their first preseason game, the 49ers released Zuttah. He reportedly drew interest from both the Ravens and Colts. Ultimately, the Ravens won the bid and helped an offensive line that faces serious depth concerns.

Zuttah made his first Pro Bowl in nine seasons in 2016, but that transpired after several offensive lineman elected not to play in the game. 2016 was not a solid season for Zuttah. He committed multiple holding penalties in critical spots against the Raiders and Cowboys last season. He also allowed three sacks.

The Ravens traded Zuttah before the draft, and waited until the fourth round to address the offensive line. Baltimore feels good about 2013 sixth-round pick Ryan Jensen to take over the starting job at center. If the coaching staff sticks to that plan, Zuttah will either back up Jensen or play left guard. The coaches could also elect for Zuttah and Jensen to play their natural positions; Jensen at left guard and Zuttah at center.

This move needed to occur. 2016 first round pick Ronnie Stanley missed practice this week with an undisclosed injury. Marshal Yanda has yet to play in a preseason game after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. Austin Howard got some playing time on Thursday night against the Dolphins, but he still needs time to get acclimated with the offense after getting signed two weeks ago.

In the second preseason game against the Dolphins, the Ravens’ starting offensive line featured three undrafted players – James Hurst, Matt Skura and Jarrod Pughsley. Starting running backs Terrance West and Danny Woodhead combined for zero yards from scrimmage on seven carries. Not good.

Hearing Zuttah’s name may cause some Ravens fans to sigh, but his addition brings an upgrade to what the team currently possesses along the offensive line. Head Coach John Harbaugh provided no timetable for Stanley’s return to practice. The coaching staff is bringing Yanda along slowly. Not to mention that quarterback Joe Flacco has yet to practice in training camp due to a back injury. No one knows when Flacco will return.

The Ravens need to protect their franchise quarterback now more than ever. Losing three offensive lineman in training camp so far makes for a scary situation. Zuttah may not provide a long-term answer, but he owns 117 career starts. Zuttah knows the Ravens’ offense. The addition of senior offensive assistant Greg Roman brings a learning curve for Zuttah, but the regular season does not start for another three weeks.

The Ravens cannot afford any more injuries on the offensive line. However, if more injuries occur, the depth at the position upgraded with the addition of Zuttah.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun 

Offense improves as Ravens beat Dolphins 31-7

MIAMI — The Ravens continued to impress in their second preseason game of 2017, traveling down to Miami and defeating the Dolphins 31-7.

The game started almost exactly like the Ravens first preseason matchup against the Redskins. The defense stood their ground and appeared to pick up where they left off against Washington. Meanwhile, Ryan Mallett and the offense needed some time to get into a rhythm before putting points on the board.

Most eyes were on newly-acquired Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler at the start of Thursday’s game, but his night ended after just a few drives. At times Cutler looked like the experienced quarterback that Miami signed him to be, hitting receivers in the numbers and picking up a couple first downs.

If it had not been for a handful of offensive penalties, Cutler could have led the Dolphins on some longer drives. He finished with just 24 yards on three completions. Matt Moore and David Fales took over at quarterback after Cutler’s exit.

The Dolphins offense found success after the Ravens starters got pulled in the second quarter. Senorise Perry capped off a seven play, 56-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown run to put Miami up 7-0. These would end up being the only points for Miami as the Ravens scored 31 unanswered points.

The Ravens offense took a little longer to find the end zone than the Dolphins. Justin Tucker and the special teams unit led the way in the second quarter and had a hand in every scoring play. It all started with a 52-yard field goal to put the Ravens on the board. On the ensuing kickoff, Tucker, of all people, scooped up a fumble by Dolphins returner, Drew Morgan. The fumble recovery would lead to another field goal but the special teams unit was not done yet.

On the next Miami possession, the Ravens defense forced a three-and-out. The punt return team saw an opportunity to go for a block and they got it when Chris Matthews got past his blocker and dove for the ball. Matthews, who is trying to make the team as a receiver, came through with possibly the biggest play of the game.

The block set the offense up deep inside Miami territory for the second straight possession. This time the Ravens found the end zone. After failing to punch it in on the ground, Mallett dropped back and looked to his right for an open receiver. The play appeared to break down, but Mallett avoided defenders and find a wide open Larry Donnell to put Baltimore up 13-7.

As the game progressed, Ryan Mallett and Josh Woodrum threw the ball to a variety of receivers. Among the 18 players to record a reception were Ben Watson and Maxx Williams. The two tight ends made their preseason debut as they continue to rebound from injuries suffered last year. Williams was exceptional in his brief moments on the field. The third year tight end broke two tackles on his way to a long third down conversion and then found himself out of breath after a 40-yard reception in the third quarter.

After Mallett’s exit, Woodrum entered the game and continued to build on his quality performance against Washington. The third string quarterback picked up 110 yards on eight completions and even scored up a pair of rushing touchdowns. The first came on a 14-yard scramble while the second was a designed quarterback sneak. Woodrum followed the first with a successful two-point conversion as well.

Other standout performances came from Javorius Allen in the run game and Jaylen Hill on defense. Allen racked up 40 yards on 10 carries to lead the Ravens run game, while Hill continued to impress defending the pass. Hill is another undrafted rookie looking to make the team and last week he came up with a big interception. This week he posted a couple of tackles and some quality pass deflections to help his resume as the preseason progresses.

The Ravens may have picked up another big win but it did not come without some mistakes. Penalties and fumbles stand out as some of the bigger issues to correct going forward. Unlike the first preseason game, the Ravens did not play a clean game as they picked up 11 penalties totaling 81 yards.

On offense, the Ravens coughed up the ball three times. Fortunately, they were able to retain possession on all of those fumbles, but if you lose just one of them in the regular season, it can be the difference between a win and a loss.

The Ravens will cross their fingers and hope for no injuries following tonight’s win as they prepare for their next matchup. Fans can expect to see the starters get some extended playing time when the Ravens host the Buffalo Bills next Saturday.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Podcast: Purple Painted Roundtable Episode 3

Welcome to episode 3 of Purple-Painted Roundtable, a Baltimore Ravens podcast brought to you by Ebony Bird and Fansided.

On this episode, Chris Schisler, Joe Schiller and Jake McDonnell break down the Ravens’ 23-3 win over the Redskins in the preseason opener. What players impressed? Which players need to improve?

Unfortunately, following the Redskins game, the Ravens lost both Alex Lewis and Tim white for the season due to injuries. How significant are these injuries? How do the guard and receiver positions shape up without Lewis and White? The guys discuss.

The episode continues with a thorough analysis of both the running back and receiver positions. In this segment, Chris, Joe, and Jake give their lists of which backs and wideouts make the 53-man roster.

Finally, the Ebony Bird gang take a look at the second preseason game against the Dolphins. What are the top storylines heading into the game? What should Ravens fans keep an eye on? Listen and find out.

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Podcast: Baltimore Ravens Staff Writer Ryan Mink

Welcome to the latest edition of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast! On Today’s episode, Baltimore Ravens staff writer Ryan Mink joins Jake McDonnell to talk about the Ravens.

Following Baltimore’s 23-3 preseason-opening win against the Redskins, what impressed Mink? Are key offensive players like Joe Flacco and Breshad Perriman close to returning to practice?

One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Ravens is the offensive line. With James Hurst in line for a starting job, hear Mink passionately defend Hurst, who has been heavily scrutinized during his time with the Ravens. Mink also gives his take on if the Ravens will make another move on the offensive line before the regular season.

On Thursday, the Ravens face the Miami Dolphins in their second preseason game. Mink will be there, and tells us what to expect on Thursday.

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on either Soundcloud or iTunes. Rate us 5 stars on iTunes and leave us a review. Thanks for listening!

Alex Lewis and Tim White to miss 2017 season with injuries

The Ravens kicked off their season last night with a 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins but the game did not come without an injury tax.

The offensive line took yet another hit when Alex Lewis aggravated a lingering shoulder injury. There was no word on the injury last night but the Ravens are reporting today that the lineman’s shoulder is not responding well to treatment

Ravens beat writer, Jeff Zrebiec says that Lewis suffered a torn labrum and has been dealing with it throughout camp. The injury has reached a point where Lewis cannot play through it and he will require season ending surgery.

Undrafted rookie Tim White is also expected to miss the entire 2017 season after injuring his thumb during Thursdays game. It’s unclear when White suffered the injury but it appears to be serious as he will require surgery.

Fans started to take notice of White during the teams first open practice in late July and he even got a shoutout from Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace during their interview with NFL Network. The 23-year-old receiver only had one reception in Thursdays game but he made it a big one. White caught a 33 yard touchdown pass from Josh Woodrum at the end of the third quarter to put the Ravens up 20-3.

The Ravens also provided an update on Joe Flacco’s back injury. The 10 year veteran will not play in any preseason games but is expected to return to the practice field soon. The team also made sure to mention that Flacco will be ready to go for the season opener on September 10.

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Defense shines as Ravens defeat Redskins 23-3 in preseason opener

BALTIMORE — On Thursday night, the Baltimore Ravens opened the 2017 preseason with a 23-3 win over the Washington Redskins thanks to some impressive play on defense.

With most of the offense either injured or resting, all eyes were on the defense and they did not disappoint. The Ravens defense started the game with three straight three-and-outs, completely stifling Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and the rest of the Redskins offense. By the end of the first quarter, the Redskins only gained 27 total yards of offense.

The Ravens offensive unit did not fair much better in the early goings. Ryan Mallett struggled to find his open receivers and the offensive line wasn't opening many gaps for the run game. If it were not for a timely Redskins penalty, the Ravens would not have scored their first touchdown of the night.

Mallet finished the first quarter with an abysmal stat line. The backup quarterback went 1/4 on pass attempts and owned a negative passing yard total until the 11-minute mark in the second quarter. Things didn't get much better for Mallett as the half progressed. The quarterback finished his night with nine completions for 58 yards.

Despite Mallett's performance, the Ravens took advantage of some key mistakes by the Redskins. Baltimore held a 13-0 lead at the half. Following Terrance West's two-yard touchdown run, Justin Tucker nailed two field goals, including one from 59 yards, to round out the first half scoring.

Dustin Vaughan and Josh Woodrum took over the Ravens quarterback duties in the second half. Both QB's received a limited amount of pass attempts, but Woodrum was still able to make an impact. Following an excellent punt return by Kennan Reynolds, Woodrum connected with rookie receiver Tim white for a 33-yard touchdown to put the Ravens up 20-3. He finished his night with just four pass attempts but completed all of them for 85 yards.

The offensive game plan was definitely more run heavy in the second half. Four running backs got the chance to carry the ball. Two of them performed well. West averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored the first touchdown of the game. Taquan Mizzell racked up 51 yards on 15 carries.

Some of the biggest individual performances of the night came from the defense. Rookie corner back Jaylen Hill made a big impression with a couple strong open field tackles and an interception at the end of the first half. Brent Urban had a solid game, picking up four tackles and one of the Ravens three sacks.

The Ravens get back to work in the coming days as they prepare for their next preseason game down in Miami. Before they make the trip, fans will have a chance to see the Ravens in action at the teams' third open practice this Saturday morning. That practice begins at 10 am at M&T Bank Stadium, and you can bring your dogs!

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

Podcast: Purple Painted Roundtable Episode 2

Welcome to the second episode of Purple-Painted Roundtable, a Baltimore Ravens podcast brought to you by Ebony Bird and Fansided. This episode airs on the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast Network.

On this episode, site experts Chris Schisler and Joe Schiller, and contributor Jake McDonnell, are back to go over the top stories surrounding the Ravens. At the time of recording this episode, 24 hours separate the Ravens from their first preseason game against the Washington Redskins. What are the top storylines going into the game? What should fans expect on Thursday? Who are some players to watch?

Of course, not all of the news concerns the game. It is no secret that the Ravens endured a rough start to training camp, particularly with injuries. Yesterday, head coach John Harbaugh lashed out at a reporter for asking about Marlon Humphrey, who has missed a string of practices with an undisclosed injury. Hear the guys’ response to this, and their thoughts on if Harbaugh’s answer was appropriate.

Twitter handles:

@Ebony_Bird

Chris: @footballman58

Joe: @joeschillerr

Jake: @JMcDonnell95

Check out articles from all three of these guys on Ebony Bird.

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