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Ravens Positional Breakdown At The Bye

Posted Oct 27, 2013

What’s gone right and what’s gone wrong at each position?


As the rest of the NFL plays, it’s time to look within.

What has gone right and wrong at each position this season for the Ravens?

Here’s a look through the first seven games:

Quarterback

Right: Joe Flacco has had to deal with a lot of changes around him. He lost two of his most reliable targets in Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta. Jacoby Jones went down with a knee injury in Week 1. The revolving door of receivers, including a lot of youth, has been handled well by Flacco. The unit has gelled and it showed in Pittsburgh, where Flacco completed over 70 percent of his passes.
Wrong: Flacco turned the ball over too often in a couple games. He had two interceptions in Week 1 in Denver, then five that largely led to a loss in Buffalo. In the other five games, he’s thrown just one pick. Flacco has yet to get the deep passing game on track and underthrew Jones on a potential touchdown pass in Pittsburgh.

Running Back

Right: Ray Rice is shaking off a hip flexor injury and looked to have his burst back in Pittsburgh, where he ran 15 times for 45 yards.
Wrong: The Ravens are last in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt (2.8). Rice and backup Bernard Pierce are both averaging a career-low 2.8. Both players say injuries have limited them through the first half of the season.

Tight End

Right: Both Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson have started to heat up lately. Clark hauled in a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown pass in each of the last two games. He snagged four balls for 81 yards against Green Bay. Dickson has caught a pair of passes in three of the past four games. Dennis Pitta is closer to a return, reportedly possibly in mid- to late-November, and has had no setbacks.
Wrong: Dickson was viewed as a breakout candidate before the season and that hasn’t yet come true. He has seven catches on the season and struggled with drops in the first three weeks. He hasn’t been as big a piece of the passing game.

Offensive Line

Right: The line is coming off its best performance of the season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). After making some scheme changes, left tackle Eugene Monroe, left guard Kelechi Osemele and right guard Marshal Yanda had particularly strong games. They gave up just one sack to the Steelers and the run game looked better than in previous contests. Monroe has been an upgrade from Bryant McKinnie.
Wrong: The Ravens have given up 20 sacks on the season, tied for the ninth-most in the league. It also shares the blame in the struggles of the run game as a whole. Osemele is battling a back injury that he plans to play through. First-time starting center Gino Gradkowski has had issues identifying some complex defensive blitzes, consistent with other young centers adjusting to the game, and is learning how to better make the calls.

Wide Receiver

Right: Torrey Smith leads the NFL with 629 receiving yards. He’s turned into a complete receiver and lived up to the expectations of stepping in as the No. 1 receiver. Rookie Marlon Brown has progressed well and shows strength and playmaking ability. He has 21 catches for 243 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns. Tandon Doss has begun to emerge in his third year and Jacoby Jones has been reliable and stretched defenses in his two games since returning from a knee injury.
Wrong: The unit hasn’t come down with plays in the deep passing game. Smith and Brown each dropped potential long touchdown passes earlier this season. The unit has also battled health issues as Brandon Stokley, Brown, Jones and Deonte Thompson have all missed games.

Defensive Line

Right: In some games (Denver, Cleveland, Houston and Miami), the front line has been dominant in holding rushers down. The unit has a good amount of depth and talent. Defensive end Arthur Jones has three sacks and defensive end Chris Canty has a pair. Haloti Ngata took over the Miami game early on.
Wrong: The Packers and Steelers each registered 140 rushing yards the past two weeks. Both times the run defense was a large reason for the Ravens’ loss. Opponents had long, time-draining drives.

Linebackers

Right: Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have been as good or better than advertised. Suggs has a team-leading eight sacks and looks to be back in Defensive Player of the Year form. Dumervil has 5.5 sacks on the other side and has shown a very strong bull rush. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith has been a tackling machine with a team-high 62 already. He also has a team-high eight pass deflections and two interceptions. Inside linebacker Jameel McClain’s return from a spinal cord injury is big for the unit.
Wrong: Some of the troubles in the run game also shift to the linebackers, who did not grade well against the Steelers in particular, according to PFF.

Cornerback

Right: Jimmy Smith has begun to realize his first-round pick potential. He has allowed just seven receptions over the past four games, according to PFF. Smith also intercepted Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Lardarius Webb has shined at points since returning from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
Wrong: Teams have been picking on Webb more, and he allowed a long touchdown to Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson. In his second year with the Ravens, Corey Graham has had some inconsistency, beginning in Week 1 against Denver’s Wes Welker. Graham had a missed tackle in Pittsburgh that contributed to their game-winning field goal.

Safety

Right: James Ihedigbo has adjusted very well to being the new starting strong safety. He’s got the highest PFF grade of any member of the secondary -- by a large margin. Head Coach John Harbaugh called him the “glue” of the secondary. Rookie first-round pick Matt Elam has been solid in his first few games as a starter.
Wrong: Veteran free-agent addition Michael Huff had tackling issues in Week 1 and was replaced by Elam as a starter. The secondary hasn’t been notching turnovers. Neither Ihedigbo nor Elam have intercepted a pass. Elam pounced on a fumble in Pittsburgh.

Special Teams

Right: Kicker Justin Tucker rebounded from two early misses in Week 2 to nail all 13 attempts since. He went 4-for-4, including a 50-yarder, in Miami. The Ravens got a punt return for a touchdown in Week 3 against Houston and currently lead the league in average yards per punt return (16.5) so far this season. Jones has brought a spark to the kickoff return unit.
Wrong: The unit had a rough game in Pittsburgh, failing to execute a surprise onside kick and allowing a long return that set up the Steelers’ game-winning field goal. Penalties have been an issue for the young group. Punter Sam Koch has had a handful of shanks and two blocked punts. Harbaugh said the team will be looking for players who like to play special teams, suggesting changes could be made.

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