Finally, Ravens Catch Big Break With Injury News That Doesn't Hurt
To be clear, nobody is celebrating the back injury to Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who is expected to miss the next two to six weeks. You never wish an injury on anyone. A man's health supersedes a game.
At the same time, you can't deny the collective sigh of relief in Baltimore when injury news broke and it FINALLY wasn't about the Ravens. With a league-leading 16 players on injured reserve and a franchise quarterback who has been dealing with back issues of his own, another injury would've been a tough blow.
"The Ravens catch a major break here, going from a quarterback that has dominated them recently to a passer who hasn't won a game in over three years," writes ESPN. "Instead of trying to beat Carr for the first time, Baltimore will try to defeat Manuel, an underachiever who hasn't beaten a team since Sept. 14, 2014."
Ok, ok. Saving the season is a bit of an overstatement. That tweet is probably more indicative of how down people were after Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh and the new hope of winning a game across the country.
The Ravens have never beaten Carr, an NFL Most Valuable Player finalist last year and two-time Pro Bowler. In two games against Baltimore in 2015-16, Carr went 55-of-81 for 550 yards, seven touchdowns, one interception, one sack and a 110.6 quarterback rating.
Just because Carr is out doesn't mean the Ravens will automatically win in Oakland. While Manuel is a backup quarterback, he did knock off the Ravens in 2013 as a member of the Buffalo Bills. He was a rookie making his fourth career start at the time.
"Manuel didn't exactly beat the Ravens, however," says ESPN. "It was Joe Flacco's five interceptions that did in Baltimore that day in Buffalo. Manuel was ragged throughout, completing 10 of 22 passes for  yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"Manuel filling in for Carr is just the start of how the schedule is lining up favorably for Baltimore. After playing against the Raiders backup quarterback, the Ravens will go against Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (Baltimore is 10-0 against rookie quarterbacks at home under Harbaugh) and avoid chasing down rookie running back Dalvin Cook (season-ending ACL tear)."
John Harbaugh Talks Fixing Collins' Fumbles and Frustrating Hill Injury
For those of you hoping to see more of running back Alex Collins despite his two fumbles in 25 carries for the Ravens, Head Coach John Harbaugh seemed to indicate he'll continue to get chances.
"The problem is not new for Collins, who fumbled 17 times and lost nine in three seasons at the University of Arkansas," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Edward Lee. Collins also lost two fumbles on 31 carries with the Seattle Seahawks last year.
While Harbaugh stressed, again, that turning the ball over is unacceptable, he thinks the Ravens can help Collins cut down on his fumbles.
"We're working on the way he carries the ball a little bit technique-wise. He's got one or two things that are an issue that we're trying to fix. I do think in his case, it can be corrected. I think he's very conscious of it," Harbaugh said Monday.
"I feel the same way about all of our guys. I don't think we have any 'fumblers.' Once you feel a guy's a fumbler, you're pretty much done with him. But none of our guys, I feel that way about them. I think all of those guys are conscientious. We just need to focus a little more on holding onto the football the right way."
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have been awaiting the return of standout undrafted rookie cornerback Jaylen Hill for more than a month. Hill injured his hamstring on Aug. 31, but the Ravens gave him a coveted spot on the 53-man roster because they thought he'd be back by now.
"[H]e sure should be [on the field]," Harbaugh said. "I won't sit here and say I'm not frustrated in all honesty. It's one of those ones that we expected him to be back by now, but it's just slow-healing, I guess. I ask the same question every week, 'Where's he at?' He's just not there quite yet, but maybe he will be when we go out to practice on Wednesday."
Hill stood out in the preseason with two interceptions and five passes defensed. He always seemed to be in the right spot at the right time and showed unusual instincts for any rookie, let alone one that went undrafted.
"This is not what the organization anticipated when it kept Hill on the 53-man active roster, and a passing defense that ranks in the middle of the pack at 17th in yards allowed per game could certainly use some depth," Lee wrote.
Flacco Getting Hit Too Often
On 118 dropbacks this season, Flacco has been hit 18 times, according to ESPN.
That's one hit every 6.5 attempts, and that doesn't include the times Flacco gets pressured but doesn't actually get hit. According to Pro Football Focus, he's under pressure on 33 percent of his dropbacks.
Suffice it to say, the Ravens would like to reverse the trend after Flacco took his share of hits against Pittsburgh.
"We have to work on that," Harbaugh said Monday. "When you keep your quarterback clean, the quarterback is going to be a lot better. Joe's tough. Joe just wants to get the ball out in an accurate way and he wants to be able to read things out. When you consistently keep the quarterback clean, I think it builds a certain rhythm to the offense."
While the offensive line needs to find a way to keep Flacco upright, Harbaugh also echoed in the video below what Flacco said Sunday night – improvement on offense starts with the quarterback.
Where Is Rejuvenated Pass Rush?
While Flacco took a beating Sunday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed a clean pocket from which he could go through his progressions and survey his targets.
While Baltimore did hit Roethlisberger seven times, he was only sacked once on a cornerback blitz from Lardarius Webb.
"Remember that rejuvenated pass rush? It was nowhere to be seen [Sunday]," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker. "Given how optimistic the Ravens were about their young pass rushers coming into the season, they had to be disappointed with that production. Rookie linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser hardly did anything to mark the box score, and second-year starter Matthew Judon also failed to lay a hand on Roethlisberger.
"Perhaps most startling was the degree to which the Steelers neutralized Terrell Suggs. Not only did they keep him out of the backfield, they ran to his side with impunity."