Late For Work 8/4: Reinforcements on the Way? Ravens Close to Signing Offensive Lineman

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Reinforcements on the Way? Ravens Close to Signing Offensive Lineman

A thin and banged-up offensive line could be getting reinforcement soon.

Veteran offensive tackle Austin Howard is in town for a free-agent visit with the Ravens, according to The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. The visit is “close” to turning into a signing, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

This would mark a return to Baltimore for Howard, 30, who was on the Ravens practice squad in 2011. The New York Jets were able to steal him off the squad by signing him to their 53-man roster that year.

Howard never looked back, becoming the starting right tackle for the Jets and then for the Oakland Raiders’ highly respected offensive line. He started all 16 games from 2012-14. The Raiders signed him to a five-year deal reportedly worth $30 million before the 2014 season. Injuries limited him to starting 13 and 11 games in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The veteran was released by the Raiders last week.

“If the Ravens are able to land Austin Howard, he would immediately become the first-team right tackle, and seemingly put an end to the right tackle competition,” wrote Baltimore Beatdown’s Matthew Cohen.

That might be a little too strong of a statement. But I understand the sentiment.

Obviously, you don’t sign a player who has played in 76 games, starting 72, over a seven-year career, and ask him to sit and watch. That said, Head Coach John Harbaugh loves competition for all positions, and James Hurst would still be in the conversation.

“Howard is also versatile enough to play guard,” wrote Zrebiec.

While the 6-foot-7, 330-pounder is at the practice facility, Ravens doctors will likely check out Howard’s shoulder. He reportedly had surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in January. He played through those injuries last season (as well as an ankle injury), which likely contributed to his 54th offensive tackle rating (tied with King Dunlap) last year by Pro Football Focus. He was 21st in 2015.

If the Ravens are indeed close to finalizing a deal, as Schefter reported, that likely means they are comfortable with his health.

Zrebiec wrote in another article Thursday that he believes the offensive line is the Ravens’ biggest need. That includes signing a backup quarterback like Colin Kaepernick.

“I’d hate to take Joe Flacco’s durability for granted, but if the Ravens can’t protect the quarterback or run the football, I don’t think it will matter much who is under center,” Zrebiec wrote. “Their offense will struggle regardless. That’s why the front office’s focus, at this time, should be on the offensive line, and it appears to be.”

If healthy, Howard would represent a strong addition to a line that’s lost several players since last season. Rick Wagner, the Ravens’ starting right tackle for the last three years, signed with the Detroit Lions. Jeremy Zuttah, who has also started the last three years, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers.

John Urschel, who was competing to replace Zuttah as the starting center, retired just a few hours before the start of training camp. Rookie fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa tore three ligaments in his knee earlier this week and will miss the entire season.

Howard also reportedly visited with the Houston Texans Thursday. “Howard has plenty of interest,” wrote ProFootballTalk.com’s Darin Gantt.

When Will Breshad Perriman Return to the Field?

Wide receiver Breshad Perriman missed his second consecutive practice Thursday after tweaking his hamstring in Tuesday’s session.

Harbaugh said he’s “learned the hard way” to not put a timetable on injuries, unless they are season ending. It’s never an exact science. He did say Perriman’s hamstring isn’t expected to be serious and he’s participating in the team’s walk-throughs.

Given Perriman’s injury history, fans are nervous about his availability this season. That doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy, but Zrebiec doesn’t expect him back in the next couple of days either.

“He was having a good camp,” Harbaugh said. “I’m excited about him. Things happen for a reason, and maybe this is a blessing in disguise. We’ll continue to work on all the things he needs to work on, in terms of his body, catching, things like that. He’ll get the mental work in the AACT practices. I would say he’s had a ‘plus’ camp, and hopefully, it’ll lead to a really good season.”

*Is Boldin Still in Ravens’ Picture? Boldin and Bills ‘Stall’ *

Former Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin met with the Buffalo Bills in July, but a deal was not immediately struck, and things still appear to be in limbo.

“It’s kind of at a stall is probably the best way I can put it,” Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said on “Howard and Jeremy” on WGR 550.

“Anquan is at a time in his life where I think family is very important. That’s what I’ve drawn from this. His family is down in Florida. I’m not sure where he’s at with that. He’s got to be all in and that’s where we left it. If he’s not, we’ll let him make that decision when he’s ready.”

The way Beane phrased it, Boldin may be contemplating either retirement or at least another team closer to home. Or maybe he just isn’t interested in participating in a grueling training camp. Either way, the news has Ravens fans once again asking whether he’d return to Baltimore.

Matt Judon’s Goal = at Least One Sack Per Game

One of the goals the Ravens had this offseaon was to find ways to improve upon the team’s 31 sacks in 2016, the third lowest in franchise history.

They added two young pass rushers in the draft with Tyus Bowser (Houston) in the second round and Tim Williams (Alabama) in the third. Both are off to an excellent start in training camp, especially Williams, who looks like he’ll prove to be a mid-round steal.

The other way to improve in the sack department is by seeing younger players develop, including second-year outside linebacker Matt Judon. The small-school Grand Valley State product has been running with the first-team defense on the other side of Terrell Suggs, and he has big, big goals this season.

During an appearance on Glenn Clark Radio, Judon said he wants to record at least one sack per game this season. That’s a feat that Press Box’s Chase Pyke says has only happened once before when Elvis Dumervil notched 17 in 2014.

"This season I'm focused on being … the best Matthew Judon I can be," he said. "And every week, week in, week out, just go make a play, go do something spectacular to help my team win."

Buck Allen Quietly Having a Strong Camp

With Kenneth Dixon’s season-ending knee injury, this constitutes more-than-positive news:

“The running game remains a work in progress and the patchwork offensive line probably hasn’t helped matters much early in camp,” wrote Zrebiec. “But it has been really evident how much the team has prioritized fixing its run game. It seems to me — and I haven’t charted it or anything — that so many more of the offensive plays in practice are runs than in past years.

“Buck Allen is quietly having a really nice camp. He’s running much harder and more decisively than he was last year and he’s getting a ton of reps. I’m sure there’s been one or two, but at the moment, I can’t recall Danny Woodhead dropping a single pass yet in camp and there have been a ton of them thrown in his direction.”

Quick Hits

  • Thursday’s Ravens injury report from Jamison Hensley: “TE Larry Donnell (hand, fingers) left practice early and didn't return. ‘I haven't gotten the final word on that yet, so we'll see,’ Head Coach John Harbaugh said. C Ryan Jensen (ankle) and CB Marlon Humphrey missed their first practices of training camp.” Hensley said there were nine others who didn't practice due to injury: QB Joe Flacco, WR Breshad Perriman (hamstring), CB Sheldon Price (undisclosed), WR Kenny Bell (hamstring), C Brandon Kublanow (undisclosed), RB Kenneth Dixon (season-ending knee), TE Crockett Gillmore (season-ending knee), CB Tavon Young (season-ending knee) and OL Nico Siragusa (season-ending knee). [ESPN] 
  • “Ravens quarterback Ryan Mallett had his best practice of training camp. He found the open receiver and was decisive with the ball,” wrote Hensley. “Mallett seemed comfortable and consistently hit players on the hands.” [ESPN]
  • Competition for the Ravens' primary kick and punt returners is up for grabs. “Griff Whalen has spent time with five different NFL teams since 2012. So witnessing nine different players returning kicks during a recent practice at the Ravens’ training facility was not shocking,” wrote Edward Lee. “But it did confirm that the team’s search for a primary return specialist is wide open. … On Thursday, C.J. Board, Chris Moore, Bobby Rainey, Keenan Reynolds, Lardarius Webb, Whalen, Danny Woodhead, and rookies Taquan Mizzell and Tim White returned kickoffs.” [The Baltimore Sun]
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