Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

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Injuries taking toll in Raiders backfield

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders will be without their top two running backs for Sunday's game in Baltimore after Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson missed a third consecutive day of practice.

Both players suffered high ankle sprains in last week's loss to Tampa Bay and have been wearing walking boots since then.

Coach Dennis Allen had been hopeful of getting at least one of the two back in time to play the Ravens. Now the Raiders will have to lean on a seldom-used third-string running back and a converted fullback to get the running game going.

``(Neither) of them made enough progress this week that they were able to be up,'' Allen said Friday. ``We'll probably be going through the same thing next week and we'll see where we're at.''

This marks the 14th game in five seasons McFadden has missed because of injuries. The fourth overall pick in 2008, he has yet to play a full 16-game schedule since entering the NFL.

McFadden was injured early in the first quarter against the Buccaneers when his left ankle bent awkwardly following a short gain. He remained in the game and continued to play before leaving for good with about nine minutes left in the first half.

Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who has played primarily on special teams this season, and fullback Marcel Reece have been splitting reps in practice with Oakland's first team offense while McFadden and Goodson are sidelined. The team has also discussed the possibility of activating former Stanford running back Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.

``Of course I'm very excited,'' Jones said. ``You've gotta be patient in this league. I've been waiting for my opportunity and it's here, so I'm going to try to make the most of it.''

Jones, who sat out the final six games of 2011 with a hamstring injury, has only one carry for two yards this year. He began the season as the Raiders kickoff returner but fumbled in his first play of the opener against San Diego.

Since then, Jones has seen very little playing time in the backfield but has emerged as Oakland's leading tackler on special teams.

Now that he's back on offense, the speedy Jones will pair with Reece in an attempt to spark a running game that ranks 31st in the NFL.

``I'm very aware that I'm not Darren McFadden,'' Jones said. ``The coaches, they do a good job of putting me in positions and giving me plays for what I can bring to the table. I'm not trying to be Darren McFadden or anyone else.''

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) will also miss the game. Desmond Bryant, who was pulled from last week's loss to Tampa Bay because of an irregular heartbeat, will start in Seymour's place.

Cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot) has also been declared out while right tackle Khalif Barnes is questionable with a groin injury.

Notes: Stewart, an undrafted free agent who scored nine touchdowns during his senior season at Stanford in 2011, will accompany the team on the trip to Baltimore but a decision on his status probably won't be made until game time. ... Allen said he expects to activate cornerback Ron Bartell from the temporary injured reserve list before Sunday's game. Bartell, who has been out with a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1, will start if he's added to the 53-man roster. ... While the rest of his teammates were preparing for the short bus trip to the Oakland airport, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey went out to the practice field to catch passes from a Juggs machine. After leading the team in receptions a year ago, the former first-round pick has just 19 catches this season.

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Ozzie Newsome, Ronnie Stanley deny Laremy Tunsil was Ravens' choice before video

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Ozzie Newsome, Ronnie Stanley deny Laremy Tunsil was Ravens' choice before video

OWINGS MILLS -- Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome denied the Ravens were going to pick left tackle Laremy Tunsil over Ronnie Stanley, until the gas mask video of Tunsil appeared on social media prior to the draft.

“No,” Newsome said Saturday night, when asked point blank if Tunsil would have been the Ravens’ choice, absent the video. “There’s a lot of speculation.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Ravens were going to pick Tunsil at No. 6, but picked Stanley instead after the video became public. Tunsil plummeted to No. 13 where the Dolphins took him, costing Tunsil millions of dollars.

Stanley took exception to Schefter’s report, refuting it on Twitter Saturday.

Believe who you want. But the careers of Stanley and Tunsil will now be compared even more, with both the Ravens and Dolphins hoping their rookie left tackle has the better NFL career.

After finishing 5-11 in 2015, and having already dealt with the domestic violence elevator video of former running back Ray Rice in 2014, can you blame the Ravens for passing on Tunsil? The controversy would have hovered over the Ravens and Tunsil -- baggage the Ravens don’t need, and can’t afford.

The Ravens did not shun Tunsil to reach for somebody who had no business being drafted No. 6. Some scouts had Stanley rated over Tunsil even before the video.

“He (Stanley) was right at the top row, with the top row of players,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

Newsome has admitted the Ravens tried to trade up to No. 4 to get defensive back Jalen Ramsey. But the Cowboys stayed put at No. 4 and took running back Ezekiel Elliott. After Ramsey went No. 5 to the Jaguars, the Ravens took Stanley at No. 6.

The fact Newsome was willing to disclose how badly he wanted Ramsey was revealing. Newsome is not worried about protecting Stanley’s feelings. There is already pressure on Stanley, and if he can’t handle that, he is going to struggle anyway.

Remember, Tunsil wasn’t the only top player the Ravens passed on at No. 6. Any of the next five players drafted would have addressed one of the Ravens’ primary needs - defensive end DeForest Buckner (No. 7, left tackle Jack Conklin (No. 8), outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (No. 9), and cornerbacks Eli Apple (No. 10) and Vernon Hargreaves (No. 11).

Stanley’s job is to prove Newsome made the right choice. But Tunsil’s video? That was one video too many for the Ravens.

Ravens draft grade: Solid, not sensational

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Ravens draft grade: Solid, not sensational

After a draft that featured a whopping 11 players, the Ravens should be better, and they are. We’re all guessing at this point, but I’d give them a B grade for this draft. Here are five takeaways Ravens’ which should explain why I like their draft, but can’t love it at this point:

1. The Ravens attacked their need for pass rushers

Unless the Ravens missed in the second-round (OLB Kamalei Correa), the third-round (DE Bronson Kaufusi), and the fifth-round (DE Matt Judon), their pass rush will improve. With those three, along with Elvis Dumervil and Za’Darius Smith, the Ravens can get after quarterbacks even if Terrell Suggs is not the same after his second Achilles injury.

2. Not taking a cornerback sooner could haunt the Ravens

They need corner help, but did not get any until drafting Tavon Young of Temple (fourth-round) and Maurice Canady (sixth round). If those two are slow to develop, the Ravens could find themselves scrambling to find cornerback help in August, especially if there is an injury or two at that position.

3. More playmakers should make the Ravens more explosive

The pass rushers on defense should create more turnovers.  And keep an eye on running back Kenneth Dixon (fourth round) and wide receiver Chris Moore (fourth round). Dixon is shifty, and he has good hands. Moore is a deep threat with superb ball skills. Both have the potential to be Sunday playmakers, not only in 2016, but beyond.

4. Taking either pass rusher Noah Spence or inside linebacker Miles Jack would have given this draft more star potential

After Laremy Tunsil’s gas mask video surfaced, I agreed with the Ravens’ decision to take left tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 6. But the Ravens may regret passing on both Spence and Jack in the second round. After wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed all of last season with a knee injury, it’s hard to blame the Ravens steering clear of Jack due to his knee issues. But without Jack, the Ravens still need help at inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. As for Spence, maybe the Ravens’ background check told them it was too risky to take him, after he left Ohio St. for Eastern Kentucky due to drug issues (ecstasy). But Spence went No. 39 to the Buccaneers, and if he becomes a double-digit sack artist immediately, that will be tough for Ravens fans to watch.

5. Keenan Reynolds could be much more than just a popular sixth-round pick

Ravens’ officials had tears in their eyes talking about the reaction of former Navy star Reynolds, after he received the Ravens’ phone call. It’s a feel-good story, but it could be much more. Reynolds has all the traits to be a dynamic punt returner – toughness, vision, open-field quickness, and sound judgment. Reynolds usually makes the most of an opportunity. Don’t be surprised if he does it again.

Ravens take chance on Navy QB Reynolds after position change

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Ravens take chance on Navy QB Reynolds after position change

After his memorable career at Navy, Keenan Reynolds fulfilled another dream Saturday when the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round (No. 182 overall).

Reynolds has been told by Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome that he will compete for a roster spot as a wide receiver – punt returner, after playing quarterback at Navy. When he received the phone call from Newsome, Reynolds described it has one of the most emotional moments of his life. 

“Relief, excitement,” Reynolds said during a conference call. “I was upset (watching the draft). I know I can play with these guys. To see my name, to see my phone ring…It’s a dream come true. All I ever wanted to do was play on Sundays.”

It remains to be seen if Reynolds’ Navy obligations will interfere with his dream of an NFL career. Reynolds said he had already talked with some Navy officials, and hoped a resolution could be reached.

“I think being in the DMV area is going to help my cause, but again that’s a call that’s up to the Navy,” Reynolds said. “It’s up to the secretary of the Navy and the Navy. But right now I’m just trying to bask in what the now is, and I’m just blessed to be picked up, and I’m ready to get started.”

Asked when he would get an answer from the Navy, Reynolds said, “It will be soon. It will probably happen within the next few days. 

Reynolds believes he can make a quick transition to wide receiver. 

“I’ve been running routes like crazy, trying to get quicker in and out of my routes, I’ve been catching punts – everything that they want me to do. To get to work with Steve Smith Sr. and learn from him, try to get better from him? It’s going to be an awesome ride.”

CSN analyst Brian Mitchell, a former returner with the Redskins, has been working with Reynolds on his punt return technique. 

“He kind of gave me some extra drills,” Reynolds said. “He brings an innovative style, also perspective from somebody who has returned punts. I’m just extremely excited.”