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Three Ravens are Pro Bowl candidates tonight; other news, notes and opinions

Three Ravens are Pro Bowl candidates tonight; other news, notes and opinions
Ravens' Marshal Yanda, right, greets teammate Timmy Jernigan with helmut bump during warm up begore game against the Chiefs at M & T BanK Stadium. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

The official Pro Bowl team will be announced tonight on NFL Network and it seems to be a formality that the Ravens will have their fewest players selected since 2005, when left tackle Jonathan Ogden was their lone representative.

Since then, the Ravens have had at least four players make the Pro Bowl team every year for the past nine seasons. However, as I mentioned last week, I see only three prime candidates this year.

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Offensive guard Marshal Yanda, who has made the team four years in a row, is the closest thing to a lock. Nose tackle Brandon Williams and punter Sam Koch all deserve Pro Bowl recognition as well, but it's always tough for first-timers to crack the roster.

Black and yellow at M&T

It was interesting to hear Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledge the potential for a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers fans to infiltrate M&T Bank Stadium for Sunday's game.

Steelers fans come out in droves wherever the team plays, but Sunday has the potential to get especially ugly for the Ravens organization.

With the Steelers having an opportunity to make the postseason and the Ravens playing out the string, along with it being two days after Christmas and likely cold, it would be easy to see how a lot of tickets would end up in Steelers fans hands. And as WBAL's Pete Gilbert pointed out Sunday, the University of Pittsburgh plays Navy in the Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Dec. 28, the day after the Ravens-Steelers tilt.

You could see why Steel City residents might make the relatively short trip to Baltimore and spend a couple of days.

Brown a mystery

I'm sure the Ravens have a legitimate reason for not putting wide receiver Marlon Brown (back) on injured reserve by now, but it's been a little mystifying to me.

Brown has missed four straight games and hasn't practiced in a month. Meanwhile, in the past two weeks, the Ravens have waived running back-kick returner Raheem Mostert and offensive guard Kaleb Johnson, two young players who Harbaugh said the organization liked and wanted to keep. The Cleveland Browns claimed both of them.

I'm not saying that Mostert and Johnson are future stars and the Ravens are going to rue the day they lost them. But still, the Ravens often talk about building as deep of a roster as possible. Mostert and Johnson seemed to be guys worth bringing back and getting a longer look at during the various summer minicamps and the preseason.

And they easily could have kept both by putting Brown and tight end Crockett Gillmore (back) on injured reserve. Gillmore finally went on IR on Monday.

No news on Smith Sr.

There's nothing that has changed with Steve Smith Sr.'s situation despite a weekend report that might have indicated otherwise.

It's no secret that many people, including several of his teammates and coaches, believe he's going to return next year rather than retire. Harbaugh said as much publicly, as did a couple of Smith's teammates.

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The momentum was building for his return before his season-ending Achilles tendon tear. After the injury, some felt even more strongly that he'd back, believing there was no way an ultra-competitive and proud player like Smith was going to allow the last moment of an accomplished playing career to be him getting carried off the field, unable to put any weight on his right leg.

But none of that matters anymore. What matters is what Smith is thinking and saying in a couple of months when he's further along in his rehab. What matters is how quickly Smith recovers and how his body is feeling in the months ahead.

It's a good sign that the organization is optimistic about the wide receiver's potential return, but Smith's status isn't going to be known for a little while.

Disappointing evaluation

I wrote in this space three or four weeks ago about how this is an important time to evaluate not just the young players, but pending free agents. I specifically mentioned Chris Givens, who was getting the opportunity to start with so many wide receivers out.

Well, it's been a disappointing stretch for Givens, who has one catch or fewer in three of the past four games. Over the past two games, Jimmy Clausen has targeted Givens 10 times and completed just one pass.

I'm not putting all the blame on Givens. After getting traded to Baltimore in early October, he's had to learn an entirely new offense and he's played with three quarterbacks in 10 games. The Ravens' down-field passing game, which is Givens' strength, has been broken for two years now. But Givens hasn't made a compelling argument to be brought back, either.

He's specifically struggled to get separation on intermediate routes. Whether Smith comes back or not, the Ravens are going to have a ton of returning receivers. Kamar Aiken has established himself as a starting receiver in the NFL. Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Darren Waller should have roles if they are healthy. Jeremy Butler, Daniel Brown, Chris Matthews and Kaelin Clay are all worthy of longer looks. And the Ravens have to add at least one receiver, if not in free agency, then early in the draft.

It's going to be tough for Givens to find his place in that group.

Allen impresses, Jernigan doesn't

Rookie running back Buck Allen owning his fumbling issues and not whining about his benching might not mean a whole lot to fans, but you can bet that several of his veteran teammates took notice and the rest of the Ravens locker room appreciated it.

Allen stood in front of his locker and answered every question Sunday, the type of accountability that you don't often see from rookies. While some Ravens veterans have clearly tired of talking about the mounting losses and injuries and mistakes, Allen's maturity and professionalism will earn him respect going forward.

You would have liked for second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to show a similar amount of accountability following his out-of-bounds hit on quarterback Alex Smith that gave the Kansas City Chiefs a first down and led to a touchdown.

Jernigan basically said that he'd do the same thing again if the opportunity presents itself.

Perhaps he has watched the play on film and would say something different now. But any way you look at it, that type of hit on a quarterback will get flagged every time. And Jernigan, who has already gotten three 15-yard penalties this year, should know better.

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