Zombie Ravens Don't Know How To Stay Dead
One gets the vibe that some other NFL teams are packing it in. For example, the Chicago Bears are already building for next season after trading some key veteran pieces to stock up for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Not the Ravens. They just won't die.
Actually, that's not accurate. It seemed they were already dead. The more accurate description comes from Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier.
"The Ravens aren't dead men walking. They're the walking dead," he wrote. "These Ravens don't know when to stay dead."
The Ravens were staring an 0-4 record in the eye when they were down 20-7 in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers game. Somehow, some* *way, they came up with a season-saving win on the road, in their arch rival's house and without their top offensive playmakers.
"Nothing stops these Baltimore Ravens. Beat them, injure them, shove them to the bottom of the standings, drag them into a hostile environment and mount a big lead, and they just keep trudging forward like nothing fazes them," wrote Tanier.
"Horror filmmaker and Pittsburgh native George Romero was in attendance at Heinz Field on Thursday night, so it was only appropriate the zombie Ravens would rise from their graves and turn [the game] into Night of the Living Dead Ravens comeback."
The Ravens don't just use the "next man up" mantra to keep plugging away. They use the "next, next, next, next man up" philosophy, says Tanier.
Michael Campanaro = next man up
Kamar Aiken = next, next man up
Za'Darius Smith = next, next, next man up
Rookies Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Darren Waller were the next, nex- … I think you get the idea. At this point, with newly-acquired receiver Chris Givens expected to get plenty of playing time Sunday, who even knows how many "nexts" that is?
But it doesn't seem to matter. The Ravens just keep reloading, and quarterback Joe Flacco sees nameless, numberless, faceless receivers when they run their routes.
"Superstars retire, free agents leave, but Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome keep restocking the shelves with mid-round draft picks and slow-developing backups," wrote Tanier. "When a Steve Smith goes down, an Aiken, Campanaro or Waller steps in to do just enough to take his place.
"The Ravens have been one of the league's best teams at preparing contingency plans for years."
There were questions about whether the Ravens might follow Chicago's lead and start selling pieces to get ready for next season. Smith Sr.'s name came up. The thought process is that if the season isn't salvageable, the Ravens might as well get something out of a person that is going to retire and won't play next year.
But in the spirit of this horror flick analogy, Smith is one of the best zombies on the Ravens roster. Smith, Harbaugh, Newsome and Flacco won't give up on the playoffs that easily.
"Even if the team is 0-15, Harbaugh will still be fighting and he will want Steve Smith fighting right by his side," a member of the organization told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen last week.
No, the Ravens are far from finished. It wouldn't be surprising if they found themselves back at .500 in two weeks after tilts against the Cleveland Browns (1-3) and San Francisco 49ers (1-3). Then they have a nice little home stand with three of the next four games at M&T Bank Stadium.
"The Ravens are hardly dead and buried at 1-3," wrote Tanier. "AFC rivals cannot assume that, like the foolish teenagers in a horror movie, they can let their guard down against a team that started the season 0-3 and has looked lifeless and limp at times.
"[M]any of them are ready to just continue hobbling forward no matter what the NFL throws at them. … Next man up, next opponent up. Zombies don't have feelings. They just keep moving forward."
Flacco A Franchise QB, But Doesn't Have Superpowers
Plenty of people have noted Flacco's contract this week.
They point to the $120 million figure and say it's time for Flacco to earn it by carrying his offense with as many as five starters missing from the lineup Sunday (Smith, Campanaro, Crockett Gillmore, Breshad Perriman, Eugene Monroe).
"The buzz all week will center on how Flacco has to elevate everyone around him. That's what franchise quarterbacks do. That's what leaders do," wrote Hensley. "This is true, to a degree. The Ravens gave him a $120.6 million contract, but they didn't give him superpowers."
You'll hear people say that top quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger raise their offenses. But Hensley points out the type of superstar weapons those quarterbacks have on their side.
Brady has Rob Gronkowski, Manning has Demaryius Thomas, and when Roethlisberger is healthy again, he'll have Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Shoot, look at Andy Dalton with A.J. Green, and Matt Ryan with Julio Jones.
"What does Joe Flacco have? The Baltimore Ravens' junior varsity offense," wrote Hensley.
With his only healthy receivers being Aiken (NFL journeyman), Marlon Brown (former undrafted rookie), Darren Waller (rookie sixth-round pick) and Givens (two Ravens practices under his belt), Hensley calls the situation Flacco's "greatest predicament of his career."
"Dealing with challenges isn't anything new for Flacco," he added. "There's been a revolving door at offensive coordinator, and he's never had the luxury of throwing to a No. 1 receiver who was in his prime. When fans and media debate whether Flacco is elite, it's often overlooked that his supporting cast is far from stellar."
Another Presidential Candidate Says Flacco Is Elite
If Flacco is able to pull out a win with his hobbled receivers corps, it will go a long way in proving two presidential candidates right.
After Republican candidate Donald Trump said he believes Flacco is an elite quarterback, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley jumped in on the debate and supported his hometown quarterback.
Look at that. Republicans and Democrats can agree on something, and it's Flacco who is bringing them together.
Working Around-The-Clock To Get Givens Comfortable
The Ravens liked Givens enough that they actually started targeting him before the back injuries to Smith and Campanaro. They even spoke to Campanaro about his former Wake Forest teammate to get a character scouting report two weeks ago, and they reached out to the Rams.
With the injuries at receiver, combined with how much they like Givens and his speed, Harbaugh was clear: the newly-acquired receiver is going to play this Sunday.
How much? That depends on how quickly he can pick up the offense.
That's why the team is doing everything it can to get Givens engulfed in the playbook and comfortable with Flacco.
"They're working around-the-clock to get Givens comfortable in the offense so he can make an impact in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec.
Even after Wednesday's practice there was a crowd of people working with Givens as he ran extra routes with Flacco. Staying behind with them were Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman, Quarterbacks Coach Marty Mornhinweg, Wide Receiver Coach Bobby Engram, Senior Offensive Assistant Craig Ver Steeg and Offensive Quality Control Coach Andy Bischoff.
Forsett Not Worried About Turning 30
There's a trend in the NFL when it comes to running backs.
They usually have a big drop in production when they turn 30 years old. And guess who turns 30 next week?
That would be Ravens starting running back Justin Forsett. What do you think about old running backs slowing down, Justin?
"I say that's false," he told ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio. "Just give me an opportunity and I'm going to prove otherwise."
Forsett has a leg up on other running backs his age. He didn't become a full-time starter until last season, so he has more tread on his tires. And if last week's game is any indication with 150 rushing yards against a stout Pittsburgh defensive line, Forsett could just be getting started this season.
Check out Forsett's full interview below: