J. Hurst, Humphrey could play vs. Chiefs

De­fense faces chal­lenge neu­tral­iz­ing K.C. tight end Kelce; Yanda hon­ored

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - By Childs Walker and Jonas Shaf­fer

Ravens cor­ner­back Mar­lon Humphrey re­turned to prac­tice Fri­day and is ex­pected to play Sun­day against the Kansas City Chiefs, coach John Har­baugh said.

Humphrey missed prac­tice Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day be­cause of a groin in­jury, a sig­nif­i­cant con­cern as the Ravens pre­pared to play one of the NFL’s most po­tent pass­ing of­fenses. But he ran onto the prac­tice field with­out ap­par­ent dis­com­fort Fri­day. On the team’s in­jury re­port, he was listed as a lim­ited par­tic­i­pant and is con­sid­ered ques­tion­able to play.

“He looked like he was mov­ing well,” Har­baugh said.

He of­fered a sim­i­larly en­cour­ag­ing re­port on tackle-guard James Hurst, who hasn’t played in a game since Week 6 be­cause of a back in­jury. Hurst re­turned to prac­tice last week and was a full par­tic­i­pant Fri­day for the first time since be­ing side­lined. He also was listed as ques­tion­able.

“He did well,” Har­baugh said. “I think he looks good and has a real, le­git chance to go and play. I’d be sur­prised if he wasn’t ready, bar­ring a set­back.”

Hurst’s re­turn would be well timed, as left guard Alex Lewis is ques­tion­able to play af­ter miss­ing prac­tice all week with a shoul­der in­jury. Rookie Or­lando Brown Jr. has played well at Hurst’s old right tackle spot. But the ver­sa­tile vet­eran can slot in at ei­ther guard or tackle, part of the rea­son the Ravens re-signed him to a four-year deal in the off­sea­son.

Safety Tony Jef­fer­son (an­kle), who missed the Ravens’ win Sun­day over the At­lanta Fal­cons, is doubt­ful af­ter sit­ting out prac­tice this week. Along with quar­ter­back Joe Flacco (right hip), de­fen­sive back­linebacker An­thony Levine Sr. (an­kle), out­side line­backer Tim Wil­liams (an­kle) and cor­ner­back Tavon Young (groin) are ques­tion­able to play.

For the Chiefs, start­ing wide re­ceiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is doubt­ful. For­mer Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry (heel), who hasn't played yet this sea­son, is ques­tion­able.

Chal­lenge from Kelce: The one weak spot in the Ravens’ gen­er­ally out­stand­ing pass de­fense has been cov­er­age of tight ends, where they rank 25th in the league in ef­fi­ciency, ac­cord­ing to the an­a­lyt­ics web site Foot­bal­lOut­siders.com.

That could be a prob­lem this Sun­day when they’ll face ar­guably the most dan­ger­ous tight end in the league in Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.

Kelce is the fa­vorite tar­get of quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes and has caught 79 passes for 1,082 yards and nine touch­downs in 12 games. He’s the rare tight end who de­mands to be cov­ered like a No. 1 wide re­ceiver.

“He’s very fluid, unique, ath­letic in his route-run­ning,” Ravens safety Eric Wed­dle said. “That’s what sep­a­rates the great ones from the good ones, is just the flu­id­ity of the routes, not be­ing so ro­botic —‘get to10 yards, stop, turn.’ [He] puts some sauce into it. And it makes you think, ‘All right, what is he do­ing? Is this the route he’s go­ing to do?’ I love the way he plays — a play­maker. He’s ob­vi­ously a tough chal­lenge for us, but we have guys that can cover.”

Might the Ravens re­act by shad­ow­ing Kelce with one of their fast, phys­i­cal cor­ner­backs, Humphrey or Jimmy Smith?

“I didn’t think about that,” Smith said with a sly grin. “I don’t know, maybe our coaches might think of some­thing like that. That would be some­thing for them to look at.”

Ravens de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Don “Wink” Martin­dale said the an­swer does not lie with any one de­fender.

“I don’t think that you stop him,” he said of Kelce. “I think you just try to elim­i­nate the big plays — not elim­i­nate but limit the big plays that he makes, be­cause he’s play­ing at such a high level right now. I think you have to keep things chang­ing. You have to keep things rolling on both he and [Tyreek] Hill at re­ceiver, and also with [quar­ter­back Pa­trick] Ma­homes in the cov­er­age. I think you just have to keep re­volv­ing your cov­er­ages around it and how you play it, and just try to give them dif­fer­ent looks all the time. If they know what you’re in, they will slaugh­ter you.”

Ex­tra points: Guard Mar­shal Yanda was hon­ored Fri­day as the team’s re­cip­i­ent of the Ed Block Courage Award, which is pre­sented to the player who demon­strates courage on and off the field. Yanda, who was rec­og­nized af­ter a vote by team­mates, has fought back from a sea­son-end­ing an­kle in­jury and off­sea­son shoul­der surgery to play at an elite level along the Ravens' line. “As I ma­tured as a player, I wanted to be one of those guys that you could look up to, you could ask ques­tions to, you can lean on, your older vet­eran guys, the core lead­ers of our team,” he said. ... Safety Eric Wed­dle was named one of eight fi­nal­ists for the NFL's Art Rooney Sports­man­ship Award. Wash­ing­ton Red­skins tight end Ver­non Davis (Mary­land) is a fi­nal­ist for the sec­ond straight year. The win­ner will be de­ter­mined by a vote of cur­rent NFL play­ers.

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens of­fen­sive line­man James Hurst, who hasn’t played since Week 6 be­cause of a back in­jury, is listed as ques­tion­able to re­turn to the lineup Sun­day in Kansas City.

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