Ravens defense copes with rash of injuries

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Ravens defense copes with rash of injuries

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The once-esteemed defense of the Baltimore Ravens is almost unrecognizable these days.

Many of the unit's most established players - including Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb - have sustained serious injuries. Suggs missed first six games of the season on the sideline with a torn right Achillies tendon, returned for a half-dozen games and then sat out last week with a torn right biceps. Lewis has been sidelined since Oct. 14 with a torn right triceps, and Webb is out for the year with a torn ACL.

As a result, the Baltimore defense has been uncharacteristically porous this season, especially in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens are ranked 24th in total defense, which means their nine-year run of top-10 finishes is almost certainly over. Baltimore finished in the top 5 in run defense over the previous six years, but now its ranked 25th among 32 teams.

Although head coach John Harbaugh fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday, the Ravens' current two-game losing streak could be attributed heavily to the defense. Two weeks ago, third-string quarterback Charlie Batch moved Pittsburgh the length of the field in the waning seconds to set up a game-winning field goal. Last Sunday, the Redskins got the tying touchdown and 2-point conversion with 29 seconds left in a 31-28 win.

``We've just got to finish,'' Harbaugh said.

Injuries are mostly to blame. Washington rookie Kirk Cousins victimized reserve cornerback Chris Johnson on the last-minute touchdown pass, and third-string linebacker Josh Bynes was on the field for the conversion play because Suggs, Lewis, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe were unavailable.

Lewis and Suggs have not yet been on the field at the same time on game day, and it's quite possible the Ravens (9-4) will again be without both Pro Bowl stars when they host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (10-3) on Sunday.

``Every team deals with injuries, and just it's a next-man-up mentality,'' Manning said. ``Ray Lewis is a guy we all know is hard to replace, but Baltimore always has young talent and guys ready to step in. They're aggressive on defense no matter who's in there.''

Perhaps, but the Ravens are clearly better with Suggs and Lewis in the lineup. Both practiced Wednesday, but Harbaugh said a decision on their status for Sunday would be made later in the week.

Harbaugh ruled out McClain, who has neck and back injuries. The injuries on defense run so deep that the Ravens activated cornerback Omar Brown from the practice squad on Wednesday to place Asa Jackson, who was suspended four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

Asked if he's ever been a part of a defense that had so many injuries, safety Ed Reed shook his head before the question was completed.

``This is by far one of those years,'' Reed said. ``I think when coach first got here, second year, we had a lot of injuries. But not like this.''

In addition to Suggs, Lewis, McClain, Ellerbe, Webb and McClain, the Ravens have also been forced to operate at times without tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Jimmy Smith and end Pernell McPhee.

``It's been tough,'' Harbaugh said. ``It's been probably as many injuries as we've ever had on defense here during the last five years. We've got confidence in whoever we put out there. We are starting to get a little healthier, so it will be good to get some of those guys back.''

Ellerbe, who has missed two straight games with a sprained ankle, hopes to be available Sunday. This much he does know: Watching from the sideline is no fun.

``That's a terrible feeling, to see your guys out there fighting and trying to win the game and you can't help them,'' Ellerbe said, no doubt echoing the sentiment of many of his injured teammates. ``You know you're an asset to the team but you can't go out there and help. It's just something that's hard to deal with.''

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Five things to know about Ravens third-round pick Kaufusi

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Five things to know about Ravens third-round pick Kaufusi

OWINGS MILLS - Herre are five  things to know about Ravens third-round pick, BYU defensive end – rush linebacker Bronson Kaufusi. 

1. Kaufusi had 20 sacks, 11 tackles for losses this year. 

2. Kaufusi is already 24 years old. A native of Prova, Utah he went on a two-year church mission to New Zealand. 

“I don’t feel like my age is an issue, and it hasn’t seemed to be an issue for the NFL teams I’ve talked to,” Kaufusi told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Whoever can make plays is going to play, and get the job done. To me, it doesn’t matter how old you are. This is serious stuff. The best players are going to play. It is not a big concern for me.”

3.  Kaufusi’s father, Steve Kaufusi, played for the Eagles (1988-90). 

4.  His car is a 1990 Ford Explorer. Might be time to upgrade. 

5. Kaufusi led the nation with four blocked kicks. Expect the Ravens to use his 6-foot-6 height on special teams. He played soccer and basketball growing up with helped his footwork.

RELATED: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, STEER CLEAR OF JACK, SPENCE

Gilman's Cyrus Jones drafted by Patriots

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Gilman's Cyrus Jones drafted by Patriots

Baltimore native and former Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones was selected by the New England Patriots in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday. A Gilman graduate, Jones was the Patriots first pick in the draft, at No. 60 overall.

At 5-10 and 197 pounds, Jones is ideally suited as a slot corner who could be challenged when matched up against taller receivers on the outside. But he has solid fundamentals and his proven ability as a return specialist adds to his value.

Jones finished this past season with 37 tackles and two interceptions for the Crimson Tide and 108 tackles, seven interceptions and 25 passes defensed over three seasons as a defensive back.

RELATED: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, STEER CLEAR OF JACK, SPENCE

Jones, who began his collegiate career as a receiver before moving to cornerback as a sophomore, led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision this past year and set an Alabama single-season record with four punt return touchdowns.

“Returning is a specialized thing,” Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said earlier this month when discussing Jones. “A lot of guys can’t do it, especially punts. It’s very hard to catch punts. So the guys that can do it and are good at it, I mean, that’s additional value for sure.”

The Ravens were interested in Jones, and he impressed them at their local pro day, but now the Baltimore native is headed to New England of all places. 

MORE RAVENS: RAVENS TAKE PASS RUSHER CORREA WITH SECOND-ROUND PICK

Ravens trade down twice, steer clear of Jack, Spence

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Ravens trade down twice, steer clear of Jack, Spence

The Ravens passed on drafting linebacker Myles Jack and outside linebacker Noah Spence on Friday, trading back twice early in the second round with two of the top remaining defensive players still available to them.

Steering clear of Jack and Spence leaves the Ravens open to second-guessing, but it’s clear the Ravens had issues with both of them. Jack is dealing with a knee injury and Spence has been dogged by off-field concerns.

Jack was considered a top-10 talent and was frequently linked to the Ravens in the first round in many mock drafts. But concerns over Jack’s knee – which he exacerbated when he said before the draft that he might ultimately need microfracture surgery – sent Jack tumbling all the way out of the first round. Many teams were concerned with the condition of Jack’s knee, but passing on a player considered to be one of the top defensive talents in the draft when healthy is definitely a gamble.

RELATED: RAVENS TAKE PASS RUSHER CORREA WITH SECOND-ROUND PICK

The Ravens dealt their No. 36 pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who promptly selected Jack, the versatile linebacker from UCLA. The Ravens, who moved to the No. 38 spot, picked up a fifth-round pick in the deal.

Then before their pick at No. 38, the Ravens traded down again, dealing that pick to the Dolphins for the No. 42 pick and a fourth-round pick.

Spence was selected at No. 39 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Jaguars, who selected defensive back Jalen Ramsey one pick before the Ravens in the first round, wind up with both Ramsey and Jack, who two weeks ago were both considered top-10 players.

As for Spence, who made a predraft visit to the Ravens, he was dismissed from Ohio State after failed drug tests and ended his career at Eastern Kentucky, where he had 11 ½ sacks last season.

Both Jack and Spence seemed to fit the mold of what the Ravens were looking for, but it’s obvious that the Ravens also had enough reservation to look elsewhere.

MORE RAVENS: RAVENS TRADE DOWN TWICE, MOVE FROM NO. 36, TO NO. 38, TO NO. 42