Eisenberg: Ravens Issue Or Non-Issue?


OK, it's time for another episode of the popular show, "Issue or Non-Issue," in which the most talked-about Ravens topics are broached and judgement rendered as to whether they're important or just hot air. We've got a lot of ground to cover so let's get to it. 

Topic: Breshad Perriman's injury.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: The Ravens don't have another wide receiver with his game-breaking speed, and they're still hoping this year's first-round draft pick becomes a deep threat and productive No. 2 wideout in 2015. It could easily happen, as there's plenty of time for him to recover and get going, but Perriman has missed enough time since injuring his knee in the first practice of training camp that you can't help wondering how much the situation will impact his ability to produce immediately.

Topic: Team-wide injuries.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-issue.

Why: Sure, it's a setback that Matt Elam and Brent Urban probably are lost for the season and a handful of other Ravens are dealing with physical issues costing them practice time, but every NFL team deals with similar problems. Unfortunately, it's what happens in pro football. Players get hurt. Your depth gets tested. It graduates to an issue when a marquee player goes down, or several star players, or injuries pile up at one position, as happened with the Ravens at cornerback in 2014. So far, none of that is happening.

Topic: Matt Schaub's play.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-issue.

Why: This is classic August chatter, debating the merits of a guy who will not play in 2015, barring injury. Joe Flacco has never missed a meaningful snap in seven seasons with the Ravens, so the caliber of his backup is a non-issue by default. (There are teams worried about how their starting quarterbacks are playing. That's an issue.) Yes, the Ravens did go with a more expensive insurance policy when they signed Schaub, and he struggled enough in early training camp practices that you had to wonder about his confidence level. But when the lights went on in the preseason opener last week, he threw a touchdown pass on his first series and played fine. Remember, he's the backup. If Flacco had to miss a few games for the first time, Schaub could run the offense and make some plays. That's all you should expect.

Topic: Short yardage offense.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: After marching down the field impressively on its first possession in the preseason opener, the Ravens' starting offense almost stalled at the New Orleans 1-yardline. The Saints blunted a third-down run and almost stopped Lorenzo Taliaferro's fourth-down try before he finally bulled across the goal line. It was not an unfamiliar sight. The Ravens have had their struggles in recent years in short-yardage situations, regardless of who is calling the plays, toting the ball or blocking. It doesn't make sense because they're adept at the running game and one of the league's more physical teams, but until they show it's no longer an issue, it remains on the list.

Topic: Run defense without Haloti Ngata.

Issue or Non-Issue: Non-issue.

Why: Although Ngata was an immovable object in the middle of the defensive interior for almost a decade before being traded in March, the Ravens have some of their best young talent ready to step in and help carry on the defense's run-stopping tradition. Brandon Williams is a star in the making, a dominating, physical presence. Timmy Jernigan has excelled in training camp when healthy. Rookie Carl Davis impressed in the preseason opener and looks plug-and-play ready. It's almost as if GM Ozzie Newsome knew the day was coming when Ngata wouldn't be around and spent several years preparing for it. Well, that day is here and the Ravens are prepared.

Topic: Kick and punt returner vacancies.

Issue or Non-Issue: Issue.

Why: With Jacoby Jones handling both jobs, the Ravens led the NFL in kickoff return average in 2014, ranked second the year before, and also ranked second in punt return average in 2013. That's a strong return game. I don't second-guess them for making Jones a salary cap casualty after last season; he wasn't a home run hitter in 2014, exhibited questionable judgment at times, and with the volume of kickoff returns down due to rule changes, was paid too much. There are plenty of candidates in the mix to replace him, but the goal is not to experience much, if any, falloff, and no obvious successors have emerged. When you say "stay tuned," you've got an issue.

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