J. Hurst, Humphrey could play vs. Chiefs
Defense faces challenge neutralizing K.C. tight end Kelce; Yanda honored
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.
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.