Ravens Notebook

Brandon Marshall is one of the most imposing wide receivers in the game. He's a physical specimen whose 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame represents the prototype for the big, strong, fast downfield targets that NFL teams covet. The Baltimore Ravens, though, have a strong track record against the Miami Dolphins' star.

They locked Marshall down last season when he was with the Denver Broncos, holding him to four receptions for 24 yards in a 30-7 rout.

Now, they're looking to duplicate that feat Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

While the Ravens' secondary was ultra-vulnerable in a 37-34 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills before the bye when they allowed four touchdown passes, they aren't intimidated by Marshall. "I see a typical, big-time wide receiver that has great, great speed and great size," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "He shows the ability to go for the football. He's not one of those guys that's going to be timid. "He's got to rank right up there with all the top, elite wide receivers that we play against. The thing he has that some of the other ones don't is the God-given size. He still can run with it, and he's got great strength."

Traded to the Dolphins after last season, Marshall has caught 47 passes for 588 yards this season.

He's on pace to catch 107 passes this season, which would set a new franchise record. And Marshall is extremely difficult to tackle after the catch. "He runs the entire route tree out there," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He runs quick passes and does everything downfield. He's a very good route-runner for a big man. When he runs the underneath stuff, it's always a catch-and-run idea."

However, he has only one touchdown catch and has been held under 65 receiving yards in three of the past four games. Because of Marshall's size, hands and ability to run after the catch, the Ravens have a lot of respect for Marshall. "Different receivers pose different challenges," said cornerback Chris Carr, who's giving up six inches and 50 pounds to Marshall. "We've faced taller guys like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. He's one of those guys who's going to catch the ball if you don't have tight coverage. "He's going to catch it even if you do. He's going to catch it even if you do. He can go up and get the ball. He's a very good receiver." The Ravens don't plan to double-team Marshall. To do so, they feel would be overlooking wide receiver Davone Bess, who has caught 39 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Not to mention Brian Hartline, who has 25 catches for 287 yards and a score.

"I don't think you have to double him because if you double him, they've got another guy by the name of Bess who's pretty darn good," Mattison said. "I don't think you go into that ball game and say, ‘We're going to double him on every play.' I know we do have to be proactive toward their top receivers during passing situations." Carr expects the Dolphins to come out throwing after the Ravens' struggles against Lee Evans, who caught three touchdowns on Fabian Washington.

"They're going to run the ball and have certain patterns they want to run," Carr said. "They're confident with the guys they have. After our last game, I'm sure they're confident they can have success against us. If they have success early, they'll come back to it. It's just our job to be ready for whatever they throw at us." Marshall told South Florida reporters Thursday that he's looking forward to this matchup. "The Ravens are legendary," Marshall said. "Well Ray Lewis may be. When you talk about football players that's what their defense is made up of. Sometimes you can't coach some of the things that they do. "It's not going to be a pretty game. We, both football teams are tough physical and I think this is going to be a defining moment on what type of team we're going to be for the rest of this season.

HOUSHMANDZADEH DISSATISFIED: Disappointed with his role as the Ravens' third receiver, former Pro Bowl wide receiver T.J. Houshamandzadeh grew accustomed to being a featured downfield target with his previous NFL employers. With the Ravens, though, Houshmandzadeh has been relegated to a complementary role where he's not the first option on passing plays.

Consequently, he ranks sixth on the team in receptions with nine catches for 128 yards and one touchdown.

Wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason are the established starters, and tight end Todd Heap is heavily involved as well as running back Ray Rice out of the backfield.

"I think it's an adjustment for me," Houshmandzadeh said. "Todd, Anquan, Mason, they're getting what I assume they would normally get. It's an adjustment for me. It's like I'm the newest one here.

"I didn't think it would be like this, but it is. As long as you win, but you always want more. You just practice hard and hopefully things will continue the way it is with us winning and you can get more involved. That's all you can do."

Barring an injury to Boldin (38 receptions, 518 yards, five touchdowns) or Mason (26 receptions, 357 yards, one score) Houshmandzadeh is unlikely to have his duties expand. The biggest impact Houshmandzadeh has made was catching the game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He didn't catch a pass against the Buffalo Bills. He didn't catch a pass against his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals, despite being targeted several times.

Since catching three passes for 49 yards against the Steelers in the fourth game of the season, Houshmandzadeh generated a total of just four receptions for 48 yards in the past three games. When asked if he's happy playing in Baltimore, Houshmandzadeh replied with a question to a reporter. "This is how I equate it: What is your job title?" Houshmandzadeh said. "You like coming up here doing this? If they told you that you couldn't do that and somebody else was going to do it, would you be happy with that?

"Exactly, so that's how I feel. It's not a big deal because I knew what I was getting into, not to this extent. There's nothing I can do. I work hard in practice. As long as we keep winning, it is what it is."

Rice (24 catches, 139 yards) and fullback Le'Ron McClain (11 catches, 91 yards) each have more receptions than Houshmandzadeh. With the return this week of wide receiver Donte' Stallworth from a broken foot, it's possible that his presence as a deep threat could cut into Houshmandzadeh's playing time. Houshmandzadeh said he looks forward to Stallworth joining the offense, though.

"He brings a guy that has had success and that's real athletic," Houshmandzadeh said ."I'm sure he'll be excited. He hasn't played football in a while. That for him will be exciting and it's good to see a guy that had football taken away from him finally get a chance to play again."

ON THE FAST TRACK: Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth is on the fast track, reporting steady progress in his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Foxworth said he's confident he'll be able to take part in offseason minicamps, saying he has set a goal of being physically able to practice by early February. "I definitely think that's attainable," Foxworth said. "The goal that I've set is a more steep goal that that, but it doesn't really matter. Obviously I won't be able to play before the season, but I'd like to be able to.

"I'd like to be in condition to be ready by the Super Bowl. Obviously I won't be in the game, but I'd like to be able to feel good and cut and change directions. I think it's attainable given the progress I've made so far."

Foxworth injured his knee in late July during a non-contact walkthrough, one day before the Ravens' opening full-squad practice of training camp.

No longer on crutches after undergoing surgery Aug. 10 with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews repairing his knee, Foxworth is already able to run and lift weights. "I've been running, changing directions," Foxworth said. "I squatted 315 [pounds] yesterday. I'm feeling pretty good right now." Foxworth said he doesn't discuss his injury much with cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, who tore their ACLs late last season and have returned this season.

"They have more important things to worry about," Foxworth said. "When we talk, we talk football most of the time. Only thing I talked to Fabian about was I was telling him how good I feel, and he was saying, 'Take it easy, because sometimes, it's an illusion.'"

Disappointed about being out for the season, Foxworth said keeps himself available to offer advice to younger players and his house is always open for film sessions as it was in the past.

"You're never really with the group unless you're on the field," Foxworth said. "No matter what, I don't really feel like I'm a part of it, but when guys, young guys especially, come over and want to watch film together, that's available whenever. "We do it sometimes, and we haven't had a big group or anything, but I'm sure at some point, we'll start doing the group meetings at my house again."

INJURY UPDATES: Rookie tight end Dennis Pitta returned to practice after being held out Wednesday with a mild concussion that he suffered Monday.

Pitta was limited Thursday. He said he doesn't have any lingering concussion symptoms like headaches or sensitivity to light or loud noises.

"I feel a lot better," Pitta said. "It's just a precautionary thing at this point. I butted heads with someone. Sometimes, that happens in this sport. I've never had a concussion before. "We're just playing it safe and making sure it's alright. I don't have any issues. I feel pretty good." The Ravens removed safety Ed Reed (ankle), Heap (back) and Mason (ankle from the injury report. Free safety Tom Zbikowski (bruised right heel) didn't practice for the second day in a row. Stallworth, who's coming off a broken left foot, participated fully again. Meanwhile, Dolphins strong safety Yeremiah Bell (toe) was limited again. Linebacker Channing Crowder (thumb) participated fully.

IMPRESSED: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron doled out some heavy praise for offensive tackle Marshal Yanda, a converted offensive guard. Yanda hasn't started at tackle on a regular basis since his rookie season, but the former Iowa standout has improved each week this season.

"Marshal has been tremendous," Cameron said. "There aren't many guys that can bounce out to right tackle and the play at the level that he's playing. Obviously, a lot of football left, but he's just another one of the good football players we have here."

Yanda grew up on an Iowa pig farm and plays the game with a gritty, aggressive style.

"Marshal was really good in college," Cameron said. "I wasn't here his rookie year, but he played as a rookie. He's been a good football player for a long time. He's like a lot of these guys. They come in the league, they get a feel for the league, they get a little bigger, they get a little stronger. "And they start to understand the personnel matchups they have each week. Marshal is just continuing to grow as a professional. He's about as dependable of guy as you'll ever come across."

TALKATIVE: Crowder referred to Mason as "the old guy," during an interview with South Florida reporters while discussing the Ravens' wide receivers. Mason, 36, is the oldest player on the Ravens' roster. "They have amazing receivers on the outside," Crowder said. "We know Boldin, Houshmandzadeh and old, what the hell's the other guy's name?" A reporter mentioned Mason to jog Crowder's memory. "There you go, Mason, the old guy," Crowder said. "He's still good as hell, though."

QUICK HITS: Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg always plays his cards close to the vest, declining to reveal who's returning kicks. The Ravens are expected to utilize Carr as the primary punt returner with Zbikowski expected to be ruled out.

The Ravens could also use Stallworth and Lardarius Webb.

"We have a number of guys back there who are practicing," Rosburg said. "You've probably heard this answer before, but we'll see who shows up on Sunday."

The Ravens could wind up using rookie wide receiver David Reed on kickoff returns as well as cornerback Josh Wilson.

Reed was a productive returner in college at the University of Utah, and the fifth-round draft pick says he's ready to contribute.

"Definitely, I can't wait," Reed said. "I just want to get that ball in my hand and show the team I can make plays and be explosive with the ball.

"I'm a north-south runner. I don't do a lot of juking I'm going to hit it. You're going to see me hit it for sure. Just watch out." …

The Dolphins don't run the Wildcat much these days as their offense has evolved into a balanced attack headlined by quarterback Chad Henne and a strong running back tandem of Ronnie Brown (374 yards) and Ricky Williams (335 yards).

Even though the Dolphins don't use the formation nearly as much as they used to Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said the Ravens are preparing for the Wildcat.

"They started it, so why wouldn't you see it?" Lewis said. "I think you've seen it in every game that they've played in. You just have to stay in your gaps. Just play disciplined. Nobody try to do something that they shouldn't be doing.

"If you do, you never know if a pass is going to come out of it or if Ronnie Brown is throwing the ball out of it and things like that. So, you have to be conscious of what's going on. Just hit your gaps and keep the ball funneled inside, and that's pretty much one way to kind of slow it down."

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