Ravens Have Several Roster Decisions Ahead
Remember the strange string of events with Justin Forsett at the beginning of the season?
He was cut from the initial 53-man roster and brought back a few days later. For a while, nobody could figure out why. Well, General Manager Ozzie Newsome's fancy maneuvering back then was intended to give him more roster flexibility this very week.
Cutting Forsett for that brief period of time, along with waiting to sign returner Devin Hester, allowed Newsome to wait to place safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Carl Davis on injured reserve AFTER the final roster was set. Under new league rules, that made them both eligible for the coveted designated to return spot.
The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec pointed out that Elam and Davis are eligible to resume practicing this week, but can't play in a game until after Week 8, if the Ravens choose to activate one.
Zrebiec thinks the designation should go to Elam.
"By all accounts, Elam has progressed nicely in his rehab from summer knee surgery. With the team's problems in the secondary and on special teams, Elam makes much more sense than Davis to return to the active roster," wrote Zrebiec.
"The Ravens are healthy and stout along the defensive line, so much so that rookie Willie Henry has been inactive for all six games. Davis would have a tough time cracking the team's current defensive line rotation."
The other option is to hold off and keep the return designation open for a starter who could still land on injured reserve this season. That move seems like a waste to Zrebiec, however.
"As for putting another guy such as Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil on injured reserve and bringing them back later this season, it really doesn't make sense," Zrebiec wrote. "They'd be ineligible to return to game action until late December. That's not enough time to justify using your one IR-return spot on that player."
Another player expected to return to practice today is running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, who has been on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury since training camp. The Ravens have three weeks to decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster.
Right now, it doesn't appear there's a spot for Taliaferro with Terrance West, Javorius Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon on the 53-man roster. But in the NFL, things can change in a blink of an eye.
"Running back isn't a pressing need now, but it could become one if there's an injury over the next couple of weeks," Zrebiec wrote. "Taliaferro also is a potential solution to the team's short-yardage woes."
By the way, since we're talking about the Ravens running backs, I thought readers might be interested in a Forsett update. He was quiet in his debut with the Detroit Lions last week, rushing five times for 5 yards. Nobody expected him to go off after just a few days with a new team.
Maybe There's A QB Controversy In New York, After All
After a day to think about it, New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles is walking back his statement that Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue as the team's starting quarterback.
Bowles told reporters after his team's loss to the Arizona Cardinals Monday night that bringing in quarterback Geno Smith during the fourth quarter was like a relief pitcher in baseball, and Fitzpatrick would be back under center against the Ravens.
Well, that may not be the case anymore.
"After the game that's always going to be status quo because I'm never going to tell the media anything before I meet with my coaches and my GM and the rest of the staff," Bowles told media Tuesday, per ProFootballTalk.com. "So, everything is status quo until we have our meeting on Monday evening. But [Smith] did show some promise when he was in there. He understood the game plan. He did good for the drive he was in there."
So, will Geno start when Baltimore comes to town?
"We're going to talk about more than that, but there is a possibility every week that there will be some changes made player-wise," Bowles said. "[W]hen I discuss it with the staff, when they know, then everybody else will know. If I decide to make a move, they'll know tomorrow."
Essentially, the Ravens will have to prep for two starting quarterbacks. Neither has been impressive in their shots to start.
Fitzpatrick leads the league this season with 11 interceptions. Smith lost the starting job after two seasons in 2013-14. The team had a 12-20 record over that span.
Plus, whoever is starting won't have one of their key targets to throw to.
If Ravens Can't Beat Jets, Can They Beat Any Remaining Opponent?
Running back Terrance West tweeted an optimistic message yesterday that is 100 percent true.
In fact, if the Ravens can end their three-game losing skid by beating the 1-5 Jets, there's a strong possibility they will be tied atop the AFC North by Sunday.
That's because the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are currently one game ahead of Baltimore in the division, have an extremely steep hill to climb when they host the New England Patriots Sunday without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Maybe Baltimore couldn't ask for a better opponent to try turn around its season with a banged-up roster. Every NFL team is tough, but the Jets have only won one game and have serious concerns at quarterback. The rest of the schedule is mostly stacked against teams with winning records.
"If they can't close out Geno Smith/Ryan Fitzpatrick/Fireman Ed, they can't close out any opponent," wrote the Bleacher Report's Chris Simms.
Ravens Rush Defense Ranked No. 1 In NFL
Baltimore is hard at work trying to fix what's allowed the big plays through the air in two of the last three weeks, but one thing the defense has going for itself is its cement wall defensive line.
After allowing just 38 rushing yards against the New York Giants Monday, the Ravens are officially the league's top-ranked unit by giving up a paltry 69.7 yards per game.
"The Ravens have finished the season with the NFL's top-ranked rushing defense just once in franchise history," wrote Zrebiec. "The 2000 Super Bowl champion team allowed 60.6 rushing yards per game."
Ravens Continue Slide Down Power Rankings
Just two weeks ago, the Ravens had an average ranking of about 12.
Now? After two more losses, the average spot for Baltimore among national NFL team rankings is 18.7.
Bleacher Report: No. 16 (moved down four spots)
"Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can install Terrance West run plays and deep play-action shots. He can't install a kill drive in this group. The Ravens are the kings of illegal formation penalties, and each one seems to erase a game-changing play."
Yahoo! Sports: No. 17 (no movement)
"Justin Tucker got a nice four-year extension after getting the franchise tag this offseason, and he has been worth every penny. Tucker has hit all 15 of his field-goal attempts this season, including all eight attempts from 40 yards or more. With Stephen Gostkowski in a rare slump, Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL."
ESPN: No. 18 (moved down four spots)
"Remember when Joe Flacco's deep ball ability carried the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2012? Yeah, that's not happening right now. Flacco has completed only 25.9 percent of his passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield this season, ranking 29th in the NFL."
NFL.com: No. 19 (moved down one spot)
"The Ravens are the first team in NFL history to have their first six games in consecutive seasons be decided by six points or less. … The offense was a little better under new OC Marty Mornhinweg."
USA Today: No. 19 (moved down seven spots)
"We can only wonder how deposed OC Marc Trestman would have fared with three chances to punch the ball in from the 1-yard line Sunday."
ProFootballTalk.com: No. 19 (moved down six spots)
"They're performing well despite plenty of injuries, but the injuries are doing just enough to keep them from winning."
Fox Sports: No. 19 (moved down five spots)
"After winning three consecutive games to start the season, the Ravens have dropped three straight. Why? Because they've actually played a handful of decent teams not named the Jaguars or Browns. The offense, even after firing their offensive coordinator, is stagnant and lackluster, which isn't typical of the Ravens."
CBS Sports: No. 23 (moved down seven spots)
"Three consecutive losses have them at .500. They've had a ton of injuries."
- Punter Sam Koch was the highest-graded player at his position during Week 6. "Koch kicked five times against the Giants, with those attempts returned for a total of 11 yards— two of them being fair caught," wrote Sam Monson. "Three of the five started the Giants inside their own 20-yard line." [Pro Football Focus]