Just As Ravens Tight Ends Trio Heats Up, This Happens …
You'd be hard-pressed to find a Ravens news/blog outlet that did NOT write about how well the trio of tight ends played last week against Jacksonville.
They were the "silver lining" in the loss, said Fox Sports. They were some of the few that "came to play," added Russell Street Report. The group is the offense's "best bet" going forward, declared The Baltimore Sun.
The trio of second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore and rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle combined for 11 catches and 117 yards, while Gillmore and Williams each caught touchdown passes.
All three are listed on Pro Football Focus' top 12 tight ends so far this season. That's no joke. The only other team to have multiple tight ends on the list was the San Diego Chargers, but they only had two. The three Ravens also graded well in both pass catching and pass blocking.
"The Ravens used multiple-tight-end sets more than it has all season Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars," wrote The Sun's Jon Meoli. "With so much turnover at wide receiver and little evidence they can run the ball the way they did in 2014, using the blossoming tight end group as a foundation might be one of the few ways the offense can progress in the second half of this season."
But just as the group started to heat up at the same time, this was seen in the Ravens locker room yesterday …
Boyle didn't practice at all yesterday, and according to the injury report, he is suffering from a foot injury. Media members were wondering why the Ravens signed former Minnesota Vikings starting tight end Chase Ford off their practice squad Tuesday.
It's all starting to make sense now.
If Boyle can't play this week against the St. Louis Rams, either Ford will need to pick up the offense quickly, or the Ravens will have to revert back to more single- and two-tight-end sets.
Quarterback Joe Flacco found success last week with two tight ends on the field. That happened on 18 of the team's 67 offensive snaps, and Flacco completed 7 of 11 passes for 81 yards and a 10-yard touchdown to Gillmore, according to Meoli's number crunching.
Flacco was "even better," says Meoli, when all three tight ends were on the field together. It only happened on nine plays, but Flacco was 5-for-5 for 70 yards and a 21-yard touchdown to Williams.
It took until Week 10 to get all three Ravens tight ends really churning at the same time, partly because the two rookies needed time to develop, and also because of minor injuries here and there. Gillmore missed two games with a calf strain, and just after he returned, Williams missed a game with a leg injury.
Now, it's Boyle who has suffered a setback. Only time will tell how serious it is.
"Given what they've all shown when playing together, the only thing that could stop them is their health," wrote Meoli.
Here's What It Would Cost To Franchise Tucker
One of the top priorities of the offseason will be for the Ravens front office to figure out how to keep kicker Justin Tucker in Baltimore.
The second-most accurate kicker in history is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome simply won't let Tucker walk away into another team's (grateful) arms, and the ideal scenario is for the two sides to settle on a long-term deal. The wide consensus is that Baltimore will need to make Tucker the richest kicker in the league, but there's another option to keep him around for at least the 2016 season.
The Ravens could use the franchise tag on Tucker if an agreement isn't reached.
CBSSports.com Joel Corry projects the franchise tag for kickers to be $4.534 million in 2016. That's nearly a 10-percent increase over 2015.
Corry named several franchise candidates for this offseason, and Tucker was at the top of the list in Baltimore.
"Designating left guard Kelechi Osemele as a franchise player is unrealistic," wrote Corry. "Tucker is the second most accurate kicker in NFL history, with an 88.5 percent field goal conversion rate. Because of this feat, he will be justified in seeking to become the league's highest-paid kicker ahead of the New England Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski, whose contract averages $4.3 million per year."
Special Teams Unit Special Under Rosburg
While we're talking about Tucker and special teams, it's worth mentioning just how "special" the unit has performed this season.
Remember when the team chanted, "JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!" in the post-game locker room after the win over the San Diego Chargers?
That's because Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg led the unit to a spectacular outing, and he's done so all season long. Just take a look at the special teams rankings by Ravens PR guru Patrick Gleason.
The Chances Of The Ravens Losing Out?
Prior to Sunday's loss to Jacksonville, number-crunching websites dissected the odds of the Ravens making the playoffs after a 2-6 start. Now that Baltimore is 2-7, the p-word has been banned from the practice facility.
Now, the script has flipped, and ESPN's Football Power Index looked at the odds of the Ravens losing out in the final seven games. Projections suggest there's a chance.
Baltimore is favored to win only two more games, against the Rams and Cleveland Browns. But even those two projections don't exude confidence. There's a 65-percent chance against the Rams and 35-percent chance against the Browns.
"If the Ravens have proved anything this season, it's that you can't rule anything out for a team that has lost to Oakland, Cleveland and Jacksonville, the perennial cellar-dwellers of the NFL," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"It wouldn't be unprecedented if the Ravens don't win again this season. Over the past four seasons, three teams – the 2011 Rams, 2013 Texans and 2014 Titans – lost their last seven games after starting 2-7."
Ravens Concerned About 'Dirty Hits' From Rams?
The Rams have developed a bit of reputation for "dirty hits" after criticism this month for knocking Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater unconscious with a blow to the head.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer called out Rams Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, saying the hit on Bridgewater was a "cheap shot" and William's defenses "are all like that." NBC analyst Rodney Harrison said such shots are typical of Jeff Fisher-led teams.
Harbaugh was asked by the media yesterday whether he's talked to his players about watching out for dirty hits this weekend.
"We address everything," Harbaugh said. "We address everything we can think of to address. We'll just leave it at that."
Hensley thought that was an "interesting" response.
"John Harbaugh didn't attack the St. Louis Rams' reputation like Mike Zimmer or Rodney Harrison, but he didn't defend them either," wrote Hensley.