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Late For Work 10/15: Finding Most Productive WR Combinations

Posted Oct 15, 2013

Ravens’ greatest ally is mediocre AFC North. Ihedigbo falling, J. Smith rising. Whoa! Birk is shrinking!


Finding Most Productive WR Combinations

Packers @ Ravens WR/TE Stats
Position Name Total Snaps Overall Grade Targets Catches Yards Yards After Catch TDs
LWR Torrey Smith 67 -0.9 3 1 12 6 0
LWR Deonte Thompson 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
RWR Marlon Brown 48 -0.3 7 3 71 61 0
RWR Jacoby Jones 20 1.3 2 2 42 12 1
SLWR Tandon Doss 43 0.9 6 4 99 25 0
TE-L Billy Bajema 13 -0.9 1 1 0 0 0
TE-L Ed Dickson 24 -2.1 0 0 0 0 0
TE-R Dallas Clark 42 -1.7 6 4 81 50 1

Courtesy of Pro Football Focus

The Ravens receiving corps got as healthy, and as crowded, as it’s ever been this season.

With Jacoby Jones (knee) and Marlon Brown (thigh) returning to the lineup Sunday, the Ravens had five active healthy receivers for the first time this season. Brandon Stokley (thigh) was game-time scratch.

Now that the team has a full arsenal of targets for quarterback Joe Flacco, it will be up to Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell to figure out what rotation will work best for the unit.

Sunday’s matchup against the Green Bay Packers gave a glimpse into how the Ravens can rotate their receivers, but the full picture isn’t complete because they eased Jones back into the lineup.

The Ravens No. 2 receiver played in just 20 of 70 offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He made the most out of his time, however. Flacco targeted Jones twice, catching both passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

With Jones taking so few snaps, Tandon Doss and Marlon Brown got a ton of action seeing 43 and 48 snaps, respectively. Both were productive, churning out a combined 170 receiving yards. Deonte Thompson seemed to be the odd man out, getting on the field for just one play.

What could things look like going forward?

Whatever the rotation becomes, the receivers on the field will need to step up so that less attention can be paid to Torrey Smith by opponents. His fellow wide-outs will need to produce in big ways in one-on-one coverage as Smith commands the focus of so many defenders. Smith led all Ravens wide receivers with 63 snaps Sunday, but caught only one pass for 12 yards.

The rotation is far from settled,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Matt Vensel. "But we could see Jones and Brown split time in the two-wide sets and Doss and Brown could split snaps in the slot in the three-wide sets. We even saw the Ravens use four receivers on a couple of plays, something they only had done once in the first five games of the season.

“Now that everyone is healthy, the Ravens need to find the most productive combinations.”

Ravens’ Greatest Ally Is Mediocre AFC North

The Ravens have their issues six weeks into the season – the greatest of which is their run game – but the good news is that all AFC North teams also have problems they are trying to overcome.

You may be pulling your hair out in frustration, but the Ravens remain one game out of first place with three straight division games coming. The standings in the division could look very different by the end of this very important three-game stretch.

And there is one thing the Ravens have on their side as they embark on the journey.

“The mediocrity of the AFC North might prove the Ravens' greatest ally,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker.

“Cincinnati, the consensus preseason pick, squeaked out an overtime win in Buffalo on Sunday. But at 4-2, the Bengals have hardly overwhelmed anyone. Like the Ravens, they have an inconsistent offense to go with one of the better defenses in the league.”

Then there’s the Cleveland Browns (3-3), who went on a three-game winning streak. But the Ravens have already beat them once and they are without quarterback Brian Hoyer, who helped spark their winning ways.

Then there are the Steelers who are 1-4 and “look the weakest they have in decades,” according to Walker.

The Ravens want to smash the Steelers’ hopes after they got their first win of the season last week against the New York Jets. If the Ravens lose Sunday, it will give the Steelers ample room to get back into the division race.

“The Ravens of two or three years ago would have run away from this group,” wrote Walker. “But as this year's team sorts through various troubles, there is no vintage rival to run away from it. If the Ravens manage road wins against the Steelers and Browns before coming home to face the Bengals on November 10, they'll be in fine shape headed for the stretch run.

“If they can't win at least two of their next three against a diminished division, they don't deserve to go to the playoffs anyway.”

Ihedigbo Coming Back Down to Earth, J. Smith Rising

After the first quarter of the season, James Ihedigbo made it to the top of the PFF safety rankings, much to the surprise of the website’s graders.

But two games into the second quarter of the season, and Ihedigbo has fallen down the rankings with -3.6 and -2.6 grades against the Dolphins and Packers, respectively, and is “coming back down to earth.”

“He doubled his season total with four missed tackles, three of which came after receptions,” wrote PFF’s Stevel Palazzolo. “He whiffed on WR Randall Cobb after a slant route with 5:06 to go in the first quarter, and he was among three Ravens who were unable to take WR Jarrett Boykin to the ground on his 43-yard reception at the 8:29 mark of the third quarter. Throw in a bad angle on WR Jordy Nelson’s 34-yard post pattern with 1:17 to go in the first half and it was not Ihedigbo’s best effort.”

On the other hand, after a slow start, cornerback Jimmy Smith seems to be on the rise, at least in Vensel’s eyes.

“He had a strong game against the Buffalo Bills, and after struggling a little last week, he bounced back against the Packers. … [O]utside of one poor missed tackle, he blanketed receivers on the right side of the field and picked off Rodgers once. Smith has been more physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, bumping them then trailing them closely down the field. Smith is by no means a shutdown corner, but he has definitely improved.”

PFF shows that Smith has been up and down this season (see season grades below), but hopefully Sunday was the start of more consistency.

Whoa! Matt Birk Is Shrinking!

For those of you wishing Matt Birk would come out of retirement to help the Ravens offensive line, you may second-guess that thought after viewing the picture below.

The retired Ravens center is shrinking!

He tweeted a picture of himself at a breast cancer run this weekend. He’s lost a loooot of weight.

Quick Hits

  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was pressured on 14 of his 37 drop-backs against the Ravens, going 5 for 10 for 39 yards and interception, and a QB Rating of 20.4. [Pro Football Talk]
  • Penalties are a problem for the Ravens offense. The unit was flagged six times for 40 yards against the Packers, including four false starts. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • “It's legitimate to question the attitude of the [offensive] linemen by how they've gotten pushed back, especially when the line got stonewalled again and again around the goal line Sunday against the Packers,” wrote Jamison Hensley. “You also have to question their mentality after back-to-back false start penalties on the offensive line during one third-quarter drive.” [ESPN]
  • Randall Cobb suffered a fractured fibula and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks of action. The injury came on a low hit from safety Matt Elam, which has sparked some controversy. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
  • @PMGleason: Eight of the last 10 Baltimore-Pittsburgh games have been decided by 3 points, with each team earning 5 wins. #SteelersWeek #Ravens [Twitter]
  • @gdowning14: "There have been 12 plays since 1999 when a team has picked up fourth-and-21 or more; Flacco has two of them." [Twitter]
  • @jeffzrebiecsun: Harbaugh no regrets on two key decisions Sunday: "Generally speaking, we're going to be aggressive." [Twitter]
  • @Ravens:  Harbs said LT Bryant McKinnie was a healthy scratch and that he's had his knee drained several times this season. [Twitter]
  • @RavensInsider:  John Harbaugh on Brandon Stokley's health says it was a game-time decision, 'probably not 100 percent.' [Twitter]
  • Oh. My. Goodness. Looove it! Several Ravens players were at Lardarius Webb’s costume birthday party last night. … @TorreySmithWR:  brandonw_66 [Brandon Williams] best costume [Instagram]

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