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News & Notes: Lamar Jackson Sits Out Thursday's Practice

QB Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson was not practicing Thursday during the portion open to the media, after returning to practice on a limited basis Wednesday.

Jackson's status for Sunday's important game against the Los Angeles Rams remains in question and he has not played since injuring his ankle Dec. 12.

Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, who has played well in three games this season replacing Jackson, was activated Thursday from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and can play Sunday if Jackson cannot.

Before Thursday's practice, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman talked about the importance of getting practice reps this week for whichever quarterback started Sunday's game. Huntley did not practice Wednesday, and Jackson's absence Thursday would mean reps

for Huntley and Josh Johnson, who was forced into action late last week.

"You obviously want to get your starter the reps," Roman said. "But when there's a chance that multiple guys could play, then you have to start to consider, 'Should we give this guy some reps? Can this guy handle all those reps? Are we better off kind of putting him on a pitch count and spreading them out?' So, I think there are definitely some options there.

"I think you have to take everything into account and factor it in. But generally speaking, the starter is the guy that's going to get all the reps. The backup now has to really learn by osmosis, by paying attention, [by] double-dipping on the film and really visualizing things."

Jackson's return to the field Wednesday was encouraging, but he did not appear to be 100%, and whether he plays Sunday depends on his progress during the week. Roman said a number of factors would be considered.

"I think it really comes down to is he ready to play?," Roman said. "I'm sure in his mind he's ready to play, but I think as coaches, it's our responsibility that he's in good enough health the way we need him to play, A, and, B, be able to play and make sure he's able to protect himself adequately. So, I think that's definitely a process that goes on day-to-day.

"That's kind of an oft-used soliloquy, if I'm using the right word. But day-to-day is kind of how you have to see it."

Rams Defense Has Changed Since Being Dominated in 2019 By Ravens

During the Ravens' franchise-best 14-2 season in 2019, their 45-6 win over the Rams on "Monday Night Football" may have been their most dominant performance. Jackson threw five touchdown passes and the Ravens scored touchdowns on their first six possessions.

Rams All-Pro defensive stars Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey undoubtedly remember that game and would like some payback. The Rams have upgraded their defense since that matchup with key additions like edge rushers Von Miller and Leonard Floyd. Donald (12.0 sacks) and Floyd (9.0) are game-wreckers and Miller is a former Super Bowl MVP, while Ramsey is the NFL's best cornerback who has the freedom to roam in Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris' system. The Rams (11-4) have won four straight and Roman is highly impressed.

"Extremely explosive up front," Roman said. "It starts with Aaron Donald. They're moving him around quite a bit. This guy is darn near unblockable. When you really look at Von Miller and Floyd on the edge, it's a real toxic combination for offenses.

"Obviously, a lot of the players that were there then (2019) are there now. It's a completely different scheme. When you watch them right now, they're pretty synced up on defense."

It's anticipated that Ramsey may match up against Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews, who has been on a torrid stretch with three straight 100-yard games. But Ramsey could line up almost anywhere at any time, a challenge the Ravens must deal with.

"They're really moving him around, getting his physical presence involved in the run game and some of the inside passing game," Roman said. "The quarterback has to be aware of where he is at all times, because he's really playing at a high level. If you're going to go block him, you're not blocking a corner. You're blocking a safety or a linebacker when you're trying to block him. So, I think everybody is on alert."

Sony Michel Is Hot For Rams, Cam Akers Could Return

The Rams' high-powered passing attack gets plenty of buzz, but running back Sony Michel is on a torrid stretch averaging 105.8 yards over his last four games, including 131 yards last weekend against the Minnesota Vikings. Meanwhile, explosive running back Cam Akers has made a "miraculous recovery" from a torn Achilles five months ago, according to quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Akers could make his season debut Sunday in Baltimore.

"In my mind, a miraculous recovery," Stafford said via USA Today. "I know he's anxious to get out there. Have no idea when we're going to get him back, or if (we are). Let the medical staff and coaches and G.M.s and all that kind of stuff figure that out."

The Ravens know they'll see Michel, and stopping him will be a top priority.

"He's been running the ball really effective, really for the last month," Martindale said. "He moves piles forward when he hits the piles and it's going to be a great challenge for us."

Devin Duvernay's Potential Absence Presents Challenge for Returners

Pro Bowl returner Devin Duvernay (ankle) did not play last weekend and his status is uncertain for Sunday. That means James Proche II and Tylan Wallace could share the return duties as they did in Cincinnati, but it's a learning process for both young players.

The Bengals never punted, but both Proche and Wallace returned two kickoffs, with Wallace averaging 19.5 yards per return and Proche averaging just 11.0 yards. Proche muffed one return, putting the Ravens in poor field position starting at the 10-yard line. The Ravens drove 90 yards for a touchdown, which had to make Proche feel better, but Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton wants to see improvement on Sunday.

"We thought from a kickoff return standpoint, it was probably not our best outing," Horton said. "There was one that was muffed and hit the ground. We had two new returners back there. We go back to work.

"Tylan never returned kicks (in college). We're always trying to see who could return for us in case something does happen. We felt like we had two guys with James and Tylan that really gave us a great opportunity to create plays. We're just going to continue to give as many guys as possible opportunities. First things first is making sure that we catch the football."

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