“I’m finally healthy,” Long said. “This is the healthiest and best I’ve felt in probably about five, six years. My knee’s back. I’ve just been working out, feeling good and ready for the opportunity when it comes along.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft will have to prove that he can stay out of the trainers room to make the Ravens’ final roster. If he does so, Long will provide veteran insurance behind first-round draft pick Ronnie Stanley on Joe Flacco’s blindside.
The former Bears legend never quite regained his spark in Charm City, having fumbled five times and averaging just 7.2 yards per punt return and 24.5 yards per kick return in 2016. Hester failed to record a single return touchdown in 12 games with the Ravens.
With three games to go, the Ravens will look to other options in the return game to spur a late postseason charge. Potential replacements on punt and kick returns include Michael Campanaro, Mike Wallace and cheap jerseys and Lardarius Webb.
According to NFL Media research, the Steelers can clinch the AFC North with a win on Sunday. The Ravens, though, can also theoretically “control their destiny” with a win. Should Baltimore win on Sunday and defeat the Bengals in the season finale, they will win the division and waltz into the playoffs. In that scenario, the Steelers could still sneak in as a wild-card team but would need some help from the Miami Dolphins, who finish their season with difficult games against the Bills and Patriots.
But more than just scenarios, this game features some of the best veteran talent remaining in football. In the past, I’ve talked about the end of the Peyton Manning era sneaking up on me and I’m determined to enjoy another round of Terrell Suggs v. Ben Roethlisberger. Having Smith, Elvis Dumervil, Eric Weddle and James Harrison in the fold is an incredible treat. There won’t be a game this weekend, or perhaps all season long, with better coaching and preparation on both sides of the ball.
The Ravens have been planning to upgrade the backfield since parting ways with Ray Rice in 2014. They were hoping Todd Gurley would fall to them in the 2015 draft, per ESPN.com. Multiple reports suggested Ezekiel Elliott would have landed in Baltimore had Dallas not snatched him up with the fourth pick last year.
Might general manager Ozzie Newsome be tempted to pull the trigger if one of LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook or Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is still on the board when the Ravens select at No. 16 overall in April?
While both Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon have logged their share of positive game tape, Mornhinweg has leaned on the pass just as Trestman did — something he acknowledged this week in assessing Baltimore’s loss to New England.
“I came out of the game and we had a plan early, and then, geez, it went the other way, and we’re playing catch up,” Mornhinweg said. “That’s my responsibility — unable to utilize the running game as much as I thought we would going into that game. That’s my responsibility. Certainly, knowing the outcome, I would have done that a little differently.”
Re-signing the running back has been alluded to since Forsett was released. The 30-year-old running back was set to make $3 million in 2016. According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, Forsett inked a two-year deal worth $6 million — nearly identical to what was left on his previous deal. Rapoport adds if Forsett eclipses 2015’s rush yards, he’ll receive a $100,000 incentive.
By cutting Forsett, the Ravens were able to carry defensive lineman Carl Davis and safety Matt Elam on their initial 53-man roster. Both Davis and Elam were then put on injured reserve Monday, making them eligible for the one “designated to return” label in the middle of the season (if a player is placed on IR prior to being on the 53-man roster he becomes ineligible for the return designation).