Baltimore Ravens

Notebook: Ravens hoping for Ray Rice's return, increased yardage

The Ravens' dormant running game has been stuck in neutral all season.

A lackluster rushing offense might get a boost this week, though, since star running back Ray Rice is regarded as having a solid chance of returning from a strained left hip flexor that sidelined him for a 30-9 win over the Houston Texans.


Rice was seen dancing, jumping around and jogging normally in the bench area Sunday.

Harbaugh placed starting defensive end Chris Canty, who was out Sunday with a strained groin, in the same category as Rice.


"We have a chance to get Ray back," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He was close this week, to a degree. With those muscle things you never know for sure, but they were in the ballpark this week, and we think that will put them really in the ballpark coming up."

The potential return of Rice, and a return to his Pro Bowl form, can't come soon enough.

Despite the presence of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, Ravens are averaging only 2.6 yards per rush and 77.3 rushing yards per game. They rank 25th in the NFL in rushing offense, 31st in average per carry.

"Our run game is not where it needs to be," Harbaugh said. "We're going to work on that, we have been working on it. We need to make that important, we're going to stick with it. We're going to be able to run the ball here.  It's part of our DNA, and it's part of who we are as a football team.

"We have the people to do it. We've got some big, strong, tough offensive linemen, and we have really good backs. Our fullback is the best blocking fullback in the league. The run game is something that has to happen for us."

Through three games, the Ravens have rushed for just 232 yards and three touchdowns.

Backup Bernard Pierce got his first career start against the Texans, but only gained 65 yards on 24 carries. He's the Ravens' leading rusher with 144 yards, but is averaging 2.8 yards per carry.

Rice has rushed for at least 1,000 yards the past four seasons, but has rushed for only 72 yards on 25 carries for a 2.9 average this season.


The Ravens are on pace to rush for 1,236 yards collectively for the season.

"That number is not going to be the number," Harbaugh said of a 2.6 average per carry. "That's going to come up dramatically before the season is over and sooner. We've played some very good fronts, I don't want to minimize the fact that we've had to block some good people. One guy here, one miss there, one bad target in another place, each time that's what holds you back."

The Ravens ran the football effectively in the postseason, rushing for 134.8 yards per contest in four playoff games as they won Super Bowl XLVII.

They could gain some traction against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Bills rank 31st in rushing defense, surrendering 155 rushing yards per game and allowed New York Jets runner Bilal Powell to gain 149 yards against them in a loss last weekend.

Harbaugh acknowledged that defenses are crowding the line of scrimmages by deploying their safeties closer for run support, expressing confidence that the coaching staff has ascertained what ails the running game.

"We do feel like we understand it," he said. There's no doubt in my mind that it can be corrected. We're not getting the production from the run game that we should, but we also feel like we're on our way to getting that done. We just have to do it; you just have to go out there and get it done.


"It's not just a matter of just one-on-one knocking somebody off the ball. That's not the way it works. It's way more complicated than that upfront."

Texans Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt had nine tackles, three for losses and a sack Sunday as inside linebacker Brian Cushing had eight tackles.

"Their really good players made some plays on us," Harbaugh said. "You saw J.J. made a couple of plays where he beat some cut-off blocks.

"There were times where we feel like we had numbers to a side, went to a light side and a guy would make somebody miss and make a great play. Their linebackers really came downhill really well and did a good job of stuffing the hole."

Miles claimed, Trawick cut

The Ravens were awarded former Cincinnati Bengals safety Jeromy Miles off waivers and released rookie Brynden Trawick, according to league sources.


Miles is a fourth-year player from the University of Massachusetts.

Miles played in the opening game for the Bengals before being waived, re-signed and then waived again.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder has 49 career tackles after entering the NFL in 2010 as an undrafted free agent.

Trawick accidentally injured Pro Bowl kick returner Jacoby Jones in the first game against the Denver Broncos, colliding with him while he was executing a fair catch. The injury caused Jones to sprain his right medial collateral ligament and he'll be sidelined for the next four to six weeks.

The Ravens may bring Trawick back for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Fast start


Since trading wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason following a contract dispute, Torrey Smith has emerged as the Ravens' top wide receiver.

And Smith has performed well in his expanded role.

With 16 receptions for 269 yards, he is averaging 16.8 yards per reception. Through three games, he's averaging 5.3 catches and 89.6 yards per game. That puts him on pace to finish the season with 85 receptions for 1,434 yards.

Smith caught five passes for 92 yards Sunday. The performance came one year after Smith's younger brother died in a motorcycle accident in Virginia.

"Who can say enough about Torrey Smith," Harbaugh said. "A year ago this week was something we all lived through. That was on all of our minds as well. For Torrey to dedicate that to his brother and his family, to play the way he did, was very special."

Smith averaged 18.4 yards per catch Sunday, including a game-high and season-long 48-yard reception.


That catch down the left sideline in the third quarter set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Pierce.

"I should have stayed inbounds and scored," Smith said. "That's just playing football."

Injury update

Tests confirmed a sprained left knee for backup nose tackle Terrence Cody, who's likely to miss this game.

Running back Shaun Draughn and no roster move is regarded as imminent. Draughn downplayed the severity of the injury.

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"Injury-wise we got through the game pretty well," Harbaugh said. "Terrence Cody has a sprained knee. I think it would be a stretch to expect him back this week. More likely it will be after this week coming back."


Bills banged-up

The Bills sustained several injuries in a loss to the New York Jets, placing starting defensive end Alex Carrington on injured reserve Monday with a torn quadriceps.

Running back C.J. Spiller (quadriceps) predicted to Buffalo reporters that he'll play Sunday with coach Doug Marrone saying defensive end Mario Williams' ankle injury is relatively minor as well as defensive lineman Marcell Dareus (ankle) and wide receiver Stevie Johnson (hamstring). The severity of cornerback Leodis McKelvin's hamstring injury is unclear.

End zone

Middle linebacker Daryl Smith had a big day Sunday, returning an interception for a touchdown Sunday and leading the Ravens with 10 tackles. Plus, his wife gave birth to a baby girl early Monday morning. "Probably nobody knew about that, that's how quiet he is," said Harbaugh, who celebrated his 51st birthday Monday. "And she  does share a birthday with yours truly. It was a glorious day for the Smith family." ... Marcus Spears started in place of Canty and finished with three tackles, two for losses. Spears also started the season-opener against the Denver Broncos when Arthur Jones was out with an irregular heartbeat. "You make a couple of standout plays and people think it's a great game, but it's never as bad or as good as people think," Spears said. "I try to keep that mentality and do my job."