8 Bye Week Thoughts
As the Ravens take a few days of rest over the weekend, let's take a look at eight bye week thoughts from analysts around the web:
1) What Would Steve Bisciotti And Ozzie Newsome Say Right Now?
Neither Owner Steve Bisciotti nor General Manager Ozzie Newsome make it a regular practice to address the media during the season.
But with the team suffering through its first four-game losing streak in nine years, media members are dying to know what the franchise leaders would say right now.
"I'd be fascinated to know what Steve Bisciotti is thinking as the Ravens take the weekend off," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Does he see more failure from the coaching staff or the effects of an undermanned roster as the primary reason for Baltimore's struggles?"
Or would he pin it on something else?
It doesn't have to be narrowed down to Jones' two options, but he's not alone in his analysis of the coaches or roster. Some of the criticisms from last season remain, including finding a consistent playmaker on offense, an improved pass rush and a stabilizing corner opposite Jimmy Smith.
"It's admirable that Ozzie Newsome stays out of the spotlight when the Ravens are thriving, but is it fair that John Harbaugh faces all of the heat from media when there are so many questions about this roster?" asked Jones. "As it stands, we won't hear from the general manager until January."
2) Best And Worst Organizational Decisions This year
It's important to give credit where it's due, even in the middle of a losing streak.
On offense, perhaps the biggest breath of fresh air comes from wide receiver Mike Wallace's play. He leads the team with 490 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and has brought back the deep threat to Baltimore's offense.
Signing him this offseason was the "best organizational decision this offseason," says The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
"The Ravens' signing of Wallace following his release by the Minnesota Vikings didn't generate a ton of positive attention outside Baltimore," wrote Zrebiec. "But thus far, Wallace has been the Ravens' most consistent offensive player. Answering critics who suggested he didn't have much left, Wallace has 35 catches — four fewer than he had all of last season."
On the flip side, Zrebiec says the "worst organizational decision" was Newsome not filling the biggest offseason needs.
"The team has sorely missed left guard Kelechi Osemele, who departed in free agency," he wrote. "The re-signing of Shareece Wright hasn't provided the stability at cornerback the Ravens need. The Ravens again appear to be short on edge rushers, with aging veterans [Terrell] Suggs and [Elvis] Dumervil dealing with injuries."
3) Derrick Mason: John Harbaugh Has Not Lost Locker Room
Quarterback Joe Flacco outlined Monday's unique two-and-a-half-hour love/hate team meeting, where the Ravens reviewed every single offensive and defensive snap from the 24-16 loss to the New York Jets. It sounded like it was honest, intense and some players may have taken the feedback personally.
But there were no signs of a fractured locker room. And if anyone doesn't want to listen to the feedback from a Super Bowl-winning head coach, former Ravens receiver Derrick Mason says they shouldn't be in the locker room at all.
"As far as John [Harbaugh] losing the locker room, I don't think that's the case," the 15-year NFL receiver told Glenn Clark Radio, per The Press Box. "He has, as we call, enough skins on the wall, enough cache that these younger guys need to listen. He's won a Super Bowl; he's been very successful as a head coach, so if you're not listening to him, then you need not be in that locker room anyway."
4) Kendrick Lewis Another Example Of A Safety Not Working Out
The Ravens placed Kendrick Lewis on injured reserve last Saturday, marking the end of his season. Zrebiec thinks it will also mark the end of his Ravens career, despite having one more year on his contract.
If that's the case, Lewis will be the next in a long line of safeties that haven't worked out since future Hall of Famer Ed Reed departed. The Ravens have experimented with Michael Huff, James Ihedigbo, Will Hill, Darian Stewart (who didn't play in Baltimore as well as he is now in Denver), Terrence Brooks and Matt Elam.
"[Lewis'] situation is emblematic of the struggles the organization has had at the safety position since the Super Bowl season in 2012," wrote Zrebiec.
Elam will get another opportunity to show he can play because the Ravens are in the process bringing him back from injured reserve (knee). They have three weeks to decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster. It will be tough for Elam to show he can play on defense, however, as Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb are entrenched as the starters.
"Things have apparently gotten desperate enough where I'm getting several tweets a day questioning when Elam will be eligible to come off injured reserve," Zrebiec wrote. "That's not a shot at Elam, who has had some bad injury luck the past two seasons. However, we're talking about a player who hasn't played in a regular-season game in nearly two years, who was benched in 2014 and who fans have been calling for the organization to cut for a couple of years now. Maybe his pending return will help, but it's still pretty telling that it's now being widely-anticipated by many."
5) Lardarius Webb Living Up To Contract?
One more thought on the safety position …
There were thoughts over the offseason that Lardarius Webb's contract was too high, especially since he was converting to safety. Webb's $9.5 million cap hit this year ranks at No. 12 among NFL cornerbacks, but is No. 4 among safeties, according to Spotrac.com.
Webb's play so far this season ranks No. 60 among all NFL safeties, according to Pro Football Focus.
"The Ravens were excited to move Lardarius Webb to safety, but he's appeared slow to react and hasn't taken good angles as a tackler," wrote Jones. "The decision to carry his $9.5 million cap figure — second highest on the team — looks no less questionable now than it did in February."
6) Bright Young Stars: Tavon Young, Alex Lewis
The Ravens may have found some bright young stars in the fourth round of the draft this year in offensive lineman Alex Lewis and cornerback Tavon Young. The fact that the two youngsters have stood out despite playing out of position is a big credit.
"They've both taken their lumps in recent games, but Tavon Young and Alex Lewis have done a commendable job living up to the hype surrounding the fourth-round haul in this year's draft," wrote Jones. "Despite both being forced to play out of position, they look like legitimate NFL players."
Zrebiec says Young is deserving of the "top rookie" award so far this season.
"Young has surpassed expectations and shown a penchant for being around the ball," Zrebiec wrote. "He has two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a two-point return of a blocked extra point that spearheaded the Ravens' comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns."
7) Don't Expect Any Trades Because Ravens Don't Look Like Super Bowl Contender
I've addressed a few trade questions and ideas out there this week, including with former Ravens and current 49ers receiver Torrey Smith, tackles rumored to be on the market and even receiver Kamar Aiken.
None of those are likely, and neither are any others, says Zrebiec.
Sure, Newsome has probably had some conversations with other GMs around the league, but pre-deadline deals are rare and the Ravens are especially low on salary-cap cash.
The Ravens could always move around money if they felt a trade would be especially beneficial, but Zrebiec doesn't see that happening this year.
"They also are always reticent to trade draft picks, and I don't blame them in this case," he wrote. "If this team looked like one that was one or two players away from being a Super Bowl contender, I could see them trying to fill a significant need.
"But it's not, and currently this team looks far closer to one that faces significant changes this offseason rather than one which will make a Super Bowl run. I'd be hesitant to trade any future assets."
8) What Happened To AFC North? Injuries And QB Play
The AFC North has touted two Super Bowl titles, five AFC championship games and 17 playoff berths over the past eight seasons.
Now, through seven weeks of the season, its 7-15 record (.318) against teams outside its division is the worst in the NFL, according to ESPN.
The website asked its four beat writers covering the Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns what has happened to the proud division. They say two big factors are injuries and quarterback play.
"For the Steelers, Ravens and Browns, injuries played a part," wrote Katherine Terrell. "How many quarterbacks have the Browns gone through? The Bengals have missed red zone targets Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Reggie Nelson (free agency). Losing offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to the Browns also seems to have been a big blow, as the Bengals have become one of the worst scoring offenses in the league."
Added Jamison Hensley: "What stands out is quarterback play. The Steelers are 0-2 in games in which Ben Roethlisberger has been injured. The Ravens are struggling with Joe Flacco, who has flopped in the final two minutes the past four weeks. The Browns are working on their sixth quarterback. The only exception has been the Bengals, who've received good play from Andy Dalton. But he's still quarterbacking an offense averaging only 20 points per game."