Why It's Smart For Ravens Not To Declare Terrance West The Starter YetRunning back Terrance West absolutely backed up his claim that he would perform better with a full load of carries, as opposed to trying to get hot while splitting them.
With 21 attempts Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, West finished with a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown. His 5.4 yards per carry was a Ravens' season high for any running back. Once West heated up in the third quarter, the offense as a whole began to click.
Despite West kick-starting the ground attack, Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't declare the third-year back as the starter.
"I'm not going to say that. I'm not going to get into all that," Harbaugh said Monday. "I think that's all great to write about. It's nothing for us to waste any energy on. We'll put the guys out that are playing well."
Well, you could point to at least two factors: 1) Oakland has the NFL's second-worst run defense and 2) Kenneth Dixon is returning.
"The Ravens' wait-and-see approach probably stems from the fact that West averaged 5.4 yards per carry against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL," wrote ESPN. "He also fumbled once – which can get a running back benched under Harbaugh – but it was recovered by the Ravens.
"Baltimore also keeps itself in a position to go with the hot hand. Rookie fourth-round pick Kenneth Dixon is close to coming back from a sprained knee. He was the team's best running back in training camp and in the preseason."
West will need to stack several games before possibly being declared the official featured back. He'll have a chance to go off again in Week 5, as the Washington Redskins are almost as bad at defending the run as the Raiders. Washington (allowing 133 rushing yards per game) ranks one spot ahead of Oakland (134.5) as the third-worst rush defense.
But it's unclear if West will get a full load for a second consecutive game as Dixon is expected to return. Dixon was upgraded to a full-practice participant last Friday and is trending toward playing Sunday. The rookie will likely be eased into action, but should get some carries that will take away from West.
Having all four backs healthy – West, Dixon, Javorius Allen and Justin Forsett – leads to both activation and roster questions. The Ravens have only activated two running backs in each game this year, and if that's the case again, the assumption is West and Dixon will get the nod. If they activate three, there's an argument to keep Forsett as the veteran, but Allen is the only back to contribute on special teams (seven snaps last week).
Beyond that, media members are starting to speculate whether Forsett has a future in Baltimore. The team cut him in September, albeit for a few days to help with some fancy roster maneuvering. Now, he seems to have lost the starting role.
When asked if Forsett has a roster spot going forward, Harbaugh initially said "Of course." But then he added, "We will just have to see. All those personnel things are all to be determined. You can't say anything about where anything is going to go, because you just don't know. None of us have the ability to see in the future, so we will see how it plays out."
The way things are trending doesn't look good for Forsett, who has handled the situation with class, says Harbaugh.
"[I]f West is productive, healthy and avoids fumbling, there is little reason to think the Ravens will go back to Forsett as the starter," wrote CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown. "That leaves Forsett not only as the Ravens' oldest back, but perhaps the least secure."
"Should the Ravens need a roster spot due to injuries at another spot, that would seem to make Forsett vulnerable since the Ravens aren't likely to cut bait on Dixon at this early point in his career," added ProFootballTalk.com's Josh Alper.
Harbaugh Opened Presser By Sending Well Wishes To Joseph Bauer
The Ravens head coach opened his regular Monday 4 p.m. press conference by sending well wishes to Joseph Bauer and his family after Bauer was assaulted during the Raiders-Ravens matchup at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday.
The 55-year-old season ticket holder reportedly struck his head and is in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma.
Harbaugh said the entire Ravens family has Bauer in its thoughts and prayers, and added that it is "unacceptable" for such an occurrence at a Baltimore football game. He promised on behalf of Owner Steve Bisciotti that the team will do whatever it takes, security-wise, to ensure that games are a family event.
Watch Harbaugh's comments below:
Sunday Could Get Busy With Ravens Day Game & Orioles Night Game
If the Baltimore Orioles win tonight's wild-card matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays, we could be in store for a very busy Sunday in downtown Baltimore.
Major League Baseball announced that an Orioles victory would mean the team will host Game 3 of the divisional series Sunday at 7:38 p.m. That would be directly on the heels of the Ravens' 1 p.m. tilt against the beltway rival Washington Redskins.
"Having the game at night makes sense because it would give authorities time to clear the shared parking lots and roads before the Orioles play," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Ron Fritz. "But before we worry about the potential traffic nightmare, the Orioles have to take care of business Tuesday night in Toronto."
While the schedule would be tight, it at least avoids a similar conflict to what we saw at the start of the 2013 season when the Ravens were forced to start on the road in Denver despite being the defending Super Bowl champions.
The two Baltimore teams have experience playing on the same day. As Fritz pointed out, the Ravens played a home preseason game at noon on Sept. 3, 1999, while the Orioles played later that night at 7 p.m.
Steve Smith Sr. Is A 'Freak'
He just is.
How else do you explain a 37-year-old receiver coming off Achilles surgery stiff-arming a tackler and then outrunning the Raiders defense for a 52-yard touchdown?
Quarterback Joe Flacco affectionately pokes fun at Smith's smaller right calf muscle as it atrophied after surgery. We can't wait to see what Smith can do when he has two regular-sized calves.
Joe Flacco Must Be Happy To Hear Ronnie Stanley Can Return After Getting Worst PFF Grade
Every Tuesday, Pro Football Focus releases its 10-highest and 10-lowest graded players from each position during that week's NFL action.
Flacco received the lowest grade (negative-5.1) of any NFL quarterback after his Week 4 outing against the Raiders. On the surface, Flacco's stats were pretty good, throwing for 298 yards, a rushing and passing touchdown and a 61.5 completion rate.
"However, these numbers don't quite tell the whole story; Flacco struggled with turnover-worthy plays, as he threw an interception [on the two-point conversion] and another would-be pick that the defense dropped," wrote Michael Mountford. "He also fumbled, even with plenty of time to secure the ball. Before this week, Flacco had been performing well, especially considering that he was coming off of an ACL tear."
Why such a difference from his previous performances this season? One reason was the pressure.
Flacco had an overall 83.7 quarterback rating last week, but per PFF, that dropped to 49.7 while under pressure. Flacco was under pressure for 39 percent of his dropbacks, the seventh most of any quarterback in the league last week.
That's why Flacco may have been the happiest person in Baltimore to hear Harbaugh say that left Ronnie Stanley "could probably play this week" after missing the Raiders game with a foot injury. Rookie left guard Alex Lewis is also expected to return.
Maxx Williams's Season In Jeopardy?
Second-year tight end Maxx Williams has a lingering knee cartilage issue that popped up again Sunday afternoon and prevented him from finishing the game.
Harbaugh said it's unclear at this point what the best course of action is. Williams could play through the injury, but the head coach isn't sure whether that's the right move.
"Williams' injury could open the door for tight end Darren Waller's return to the 53-man roster," wrote Brown. "Waller has served his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He is eligible to be activated up until Oct. 10 before his roster exemption expires."