Training camp injuries test Ravens’ depth on offensive line

The offensive line was a point of strength for the Baltimore Ravens during the 2014 season. The line gave up just 19 sacks all season long, which meant that quarterback Joe Flacco usually had plenty of time to find open receivers. However, that strength is being tested heading into the 2015 season.

The Ravens have been plagued by injuries to their offensive line during the preseason. They were without six linemen heading into their second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. During that game alone, three more linemen were injured, including left tackle Eugene Monroe, who will be protecting Flacco’s blind side. Injuries are also testing the depth of their secondary and receivers. Rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman has not practiced since suffering a knee injury during the first day of training camp. Tight end Dennis Pitta continues to recover from a hip injury. Lardarius Webb has also been in and out of practice with a hamstring injury. Strong safety Matt Elam will be out for the season after suffering a torn bicep on August 1 and undergoing surgery. The coaches had high hopes for Elam to have a bounce-back season after struggling in his first two years in the league,. Elam is not the only player who suffered such an injury. Just a week after Elam’s injury, defensive end Brent Urban tore his biceps, and is also likely to miss the entire season after undergoing surgery to repair the muscle.

While the Ravens’ 2014 season was clouded by the scandal surrounding Ray Rice’s now-infamous fight with his wife that was caught on camera inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, they were hoping for a quieter off-season. They have gotten that to a certain extent, but this off-season has not been free of controversy.

As training camp was getting underway, emails were uncovered that allege communication between the Ravens and Colts during the week between the Ravens’ loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round and the Colts’ loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game about the Patriots’ alleged use of under inflated footballs. The emails reportedly show that a phone call was made from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg to Colts head coach (and former Ravens defensive coordinator) Chuck Pagano about footballs. The team also released the content of a text message from kicking consultant Randy Brown in which he told Pagano to make sure that the officials use a proper rota- tion of the kicking balls. Rosburg says Pagano called him to ask about a substitution play he saw the Patriots try to use against the Ravens while reviewing game video to prepare for the AFC Championship Game. Ravens Head coach John Harbaugh completely denied that any communication with the Colts was about underinflated game balls.

The Ravens’ starters on offense and defense played well in their first preseason game at home against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 13, but the second-team defense gave the lead away in the second half. Third string quarterback Bryn Renner, a rookie from the University of North Carolina, threw an interception that led to a Saints touchdown, giving New Orleans a 27-23 lead late in the fourth quarter. On Baltimore’s next possession, Renner drove the offense down the field during the two-minute drill, and then scored on a two-yard bootleg run on which he faked to the left before rolling right and finding nothing but open turf between himself and the end zone. As good as the starters were against the Saints, they were just as bad in their second preseason game at Philadelphia on Aug. 22. Flacco threw two interceptions, which led to two Eagles touchdowns. The Ravens first team defense gave up points on all three possessions it played, and their special teams gave up a punt return touchdown as the Eagles won, 40- 17. Renner was one of the few bright spots for Baltimore, completing 15 of 21 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens were flagged for 17 penalties for 139 yards, including nine accepted penalties in the first half. The game followed a week of joint practices with the Eagles in Pennsylvania.

The Ravens will open their regular season at Denver on Sept. 13 and play at Oakland on Sept. 20. Their home opener will be on Sept. 27 against Cincinnati, and will be the first of three straight divisional games, including a Thursday night game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 1. 10 days later, the Ravens will welcome Cleveland into M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore will play two straight games against the NFC West, starting on Oct. 18 at San Francisco, followed by their first of two appearances on “Monday Night Football” at Arizona on Oct.

26. San Diego will come to Baltimore on Nov. 1. The Ravens’ bye week will be Week Nine. The home stand continues the two weeks following the bye, with games against Jacksonville on Nov. 15 and St. Louis on Nov. 22. Baltimore will travel to Cleveland for “Monday Night Football” on Nov. 30. December will see the Ravens travel to Miami for a third straight season on Dec. 6. The Seattle Seahawks will travel across the country to play the Ravens on “Sunday Night Football” on Dec. 13. The Ravens will host Kansas City on Dec. 20. They will wrap up their home schedule against the Steelers on Dec. 27 before concluding their regular season at Cincinnati on Jan. 3.

In other Ravens news, wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. announced early in training camp that this season, his 15th in the NFL, will be his last. Last season, in his first year with the Ravens, Smith caught 79 passes for 1,065 yards and six touchdown.

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