BALTIMORE – Star running back Ray Rice had a breakthrough season last year, making his first Pro Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens’ all-purpose threat rushed for a career-high 1,339 yards and seven touchdowns, also catching 78 passes for 702 yards.
Does Rice envision a 2,000-yard rushing season in his future like Tennessee Titans star running back Chris Johnson manufactured last season?
"Yeah, he put it out there," Rice said. "I’m a guy that I feel like I do more than run the ball, 2,000 rushing yards, I’ve done that in college. I’m not saying that can’t happen. What I’m saying is that I think my value is more than just running the ball.
"I always want to win first. I say anything over 2,000 all-purpose yards will put me where I want to be. I don’t want to be just a guy that flew under the radar. If I fall short and we’re winning games, then that’s great. I just want to be a guy who helps the team win."
McGAHEE WAS TOLD HE WASN’T GOING TO PLAY: Former Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee was aware that he wasn’t going to play during the Ravens’ 24-10 win over the New York Giants, but it wasn’t because the organization was protecting him for a rumored trade.
McGahee, who has been the subject of unconfirmed trade speculation about cornerbacks like the Denver Broncos’ Andre Goodman, was informed before the game by running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery that the team was going to use other backs.
Team officials said that the lack of playing time isn’t a precursor to the trade and was done so other backs could be evaluated.
"Coach told me what was going on, so I knew what was happening," McGahee said. "I wasn’t worried about it. I’m good."
The Ravens did the same thing with Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice during the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
"We just don’t need to play those guys every single week," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Willis has gotten reps. He may or may not get some reps next week. I don’t think we need to see what Willis McGahee can do. He’s touched the ball during the preseason. He does in practice. He’s a veteran back, and we don’t need a lot of reps from him.”
CLAYTON SUFFERS MILD CONCUSSION: Wide receiver Mark Clayton suffered a mild concussion when he got decked by New York Giants free safety Antrel Rolle
Rolle was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver, leading with his helmet.
"I feel better now," Clayton said. "He got a good shot. I had to breathe for a little bit, that’s all. That’s football. Don’t fine him."
Clayton, who caught one pass for 20 yards, said he was going to get X-rays.
"I feel good, but my neck is sore," he said. "Other than that, I’m fine. I’m okay."
SHORT NIGHT FOR LEWIS: All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis left the game in the second quarter and applied ice to his right knee, but didn’t appear to be hurt and no injury was announced.
Lewis was laughing and joking with teammates while walking around the sidelines.
CODY, WILLIAMS DEACTIVATED: The Ravens deactivated rookie nose guard Terrence "Mount" Cody due to swelling in his left knee.
Cody has been dealing with a cartilage issue this week and had said he was going to try to play.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Demetrius Williams (sprained right ankle) was scratched along with offensive tackles Jared Gaither (thoracic disc problem) and Oniel Cousins (concussion).
Tony Moll started for the second week in a row at right tackle.
The Ravens also deactivated wide receiver Eron Riley (lower back), center-guard David Hale (bruised tailbone), guard Daniel Sanders (shoulder), cornerback K.J. Gerard (hamstring), safety Marcus Paschal (right quadriceps) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee).
Webb and Gerard went through warmup drills.
The following players remain on the physically unable to perform list: safety Ed Reed (hip), running back Matt Lawrence (knee) and linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps).
Meanwhile, the Giants scratched the following players: wide receiver Ramses Barden, quarterback Jim Sorgi, safety Michael Johnson, cornerback Terrell Thomas, running back D.J. Ware, cornerback Aaron Ross, tight end Travis Beckum, linebacker Chase Blackburn, center Shaun O’Hara, guard Kevin Booth, wide receiver Sinorice Moss, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive lineman Chris Canty.
CHASING A SPOT: At 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, wide receiver Justin Harper has the requisite size and speed.
However, he has yet to establish himself on a consistent basis.
Although his hands have improved markedly over the past two years, the former seventh-round draft pick from Virginia Tech remains on the roster bubble.
"I’m a physical guy, a guy that’s getting better every day," Harper said. "I think I’ve been labeled as one of those guys that they want to see progress from, and the opportunity is there for me.
"I’ve had way less drops this year. I’ve had much better hands. You learn from them. I try to stay on the Jugs machine before and after practice to get my hands right."
UPSIDE OR EXPERIENCE?: The Ravens will have some tough calls when it comes time to trim the roster down to 53 players, especially when they choose between veteran defensive linemen Brandon McKinney, Kelly Talavou, Lamar Divens and rookie defensive tackle Arthur Jones.
Jones is an athletic fifth-round draft pick from Syracuse who was initially projected as a potential second-round target, but plummeted due to injuries.
Down the road, he may be a better player than the older linemen. Right now, he’s still learning the game.
"I’m a competitor and I’m trying to make some plays," Jones said. "It’s real competitive, but you can’t worry about that. You try to give it all you got."
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has taken note of Talavou’s steady progress.
"No question, Kelly Talavou really, really started coming on in the offseason," Mattison said. "And he’s an example of how valuable offseasons are. We just kept watching him, and he kept getting better and better. You’re saying, ‘Boy, I hope that carries over.’
"Sure enough when he goes in the game, he’s doing the same thing. Kelly has become a very, very important part to us right now the way he’s playing. We’re very pleased with him."
Mattison acknowledged that there will be some difficult choices when it comes time to cutting down the roster.
The development of Paul Kruger, last year’s second-round draft pick, as a defensive end after playing outside linebacker last season, is another noteworthy development.
"Paul Kruger’s right in that mix, too," Mattison said. "Here’s a guy that played outside linebacker. All these guys have made great strides because they bought in. They’re trying to get better in their technique.
"Paul Kruger, he gets blocks sometimes that he’s never seen in his entire life. The next time, he learns it and he plays it better. The upside on those guys, they’ve done a very good job for us."
LEARNING THE DEFENSE: Cornerback Travis Fisher had a rough game starting against the Washington Redskins, getting beat for a 45-yard bomb by wide receiver Anthony Armstrong.
The journeyman defensive back seems to have been leapfrogged by Cary Williams.
"I’m starting to get used to it and I’m understanding everything," Fisher said. "Things are starting to come around from camp and I’m starting to be able to play fast. I feel like I’ve learned and know a lot."
EXPERIMENT: The NFL experimented with an eighth official on the field during the game, a deep judge positioned in the defensive backfield opposite the back judge.
He’s primarily responsible for watching eligible receivers.
The deep judge could also help out the other officials by reducing the number of players they’re responsible for watching on a given play, including the umpire that’s now positioned in the offensive backfield.
The presence of the deep judge is strictly a preseason experiment and won’t be used during the regular season. It’s intended to provide the NFL competition committee with video and feedback for further evaluation.
QUICK HITS: Rookie offensive tackle Ramon Harewood takes precautions with his knees, wrapping them before every practice. He injured the soft tissue in one knee during a minicamp, but says he’s healthy now. "They’re straight," he said. "I just do it to keep safe." …The Giants feature a strong front seven headlined by Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. "They’ve definitely got some talented guys over there," offensive guard Ben Grubbs said. "It’s going to be a test. We’re willing to take on that challenge." …Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has simple goals when it comes to preseason games: "You play the game and try to get better and we don’t want nobody to get hurt. We need to prepare to play a real game. We’re trying to progress. All we do is try to sustain and get ready for Monday night."