Late For Work 5/30: Ravens' Most Indispensable Player?

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Ravens' Most Indispensable Player?

Who is the Ravens' most indispensable player?

The conventional thought would be the highest-paid man, the guy under center, Joe Flacco.

But not according to NFL.com. In the website's list of the most indispensable offensive players, wide receiver Torrey Smith was the only Raven to make the list – as an honorable mention.

Statistically, Smith isn't the biggest contributor to the Ravens offense. He caught 49 passes for 855 yards and eight touchdowns last season. That's the fourth-most receptions, second-most yards and highest number of receiving scores on the team.

But he's probably more on the list for what doesn't show up in the stat book.

Smith's speed plays a major part in opening up the field and taking the top off opposing defenses, allowing tight end Dennis Pitta, running back Ray Rice and others to work the short and middle of the field. He's the big-play threat Baltimore's offense lacked for years.

Now, Smith is in an even more essential position with the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Smith stands in line to be the team's No. 1 wideout and likely take on an even bigger role. Imagine the wide receiver corps without him.

But you know who ain't buying all this? Smith himself.

Smith was asked by the NFL AM crew to name the face of the Ravens offense.

"I think it goes from the top with our quarterback Joe Flacco," Smith said. "We're going to definitely go as he goes. I feel like he's one of the best of the league, and he proved it in the playoffs. We rode his arm."

The always modest Smith said he's still battling just to be on the field.

"I don't know why people even list it like I'm locked in as a starter," he said. "Every day someone is coming to take your spot. The moment you feel you've arrived is the same moment you'll be knocked off.  I'm out there trying to prove myself every day."

Suggs Has Achilles Advice For Crabtree

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles last week, possibly ending his season in Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

If he's going to make a comeback, one man has set the bar. It's Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had a lengthy conversation with CBS Sports' Clark Judge on what it takes to get back and some advice for Crabtree.

Physicians thought Suggs, who tore his Achilles* *last April, would miss the season. Suggs predicted November. They were both wrong. He came back on Oct. 21 to face Houston.

Suggs told Judge that he was still lacking when he returned.

"I was still effective against the run because you can play the run with your legs and your arms," said Suggs, the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year, "but as far as pass rushing, you need a tremendous amount of explosion, and I didn't have that right off the bat for a large portion of the season."

Suggs talked about the "excruciating pain" of the injury and its recovery, the difficulty of waiting and the mental challenge to keep pushing when the body isn't responding.

But he thinks the recovery will be more difficult for Crabtree because he's a receiver.

"They have to do more running and cutting, and explosion is a big part of their game," Suggs said.

"I can't tell you for sure what [Crabtree] should expect when he comes back because it's different for players at different positions. For me, my explosion didn't really get there until the end of the season. So, my guess is that he wouldn't be Michael Crabtree right off the bat. But through work and continually strengthening his Achilles it eventually will come back, and he'll be able to be the Michael Crabtree of old."

Panthers' Kuechly Can Follow In Lewis' Footsteps

With the retirement of Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, the NFL has lost two shining examples at middle linebacker.

So who's next up?

Look to second-year Carolina Panther Luke Kuechly.

Kuechly, the ninth-overall pick last year, won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He had four more tackles than Lewis did in his rookie season, 1.5 fewer sacks and one more interception.

"While it would be somewhat simplistic to label someone 'the next Urlacher/Lewis,' I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a close look at one of the bright young stars at the position, someone under the age of 25 who has a chance to become one of the best of his era," wrote NFL.com Senior Analyst Gil Brandt.

Brandt believes Kuechly measures up with his competitiveness, instincts, production, ability to shed blockers, speed and athleticism.

One thing not listed there is leadership, however. And that's one area that Lewis particularly made a huge impact on his teammates.

Quick Hits

  • The Ravens ran the ball against loaded boxes (when there are more defenders than offensive players), 12 percent of the time on first down last year. That's middle of the pack. But they averaged 5.3 yards per carry in those attempts, the third-best mark in the NFL. [ESPN.com]
  • Anquan Boldin is making a good first impression with his new team in San Francisco during OTAs, and could be a big target in its offense. [Pro Football Talk]
  • NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah: The @Ravens were 1st team to win SB with a negative sack differential (37 sacks, 38 sacks allowed) since @Patriots in 2001 (41, 46) [Twitter]
  • Will the addition of coach Steve Spagnuolo help* *the Ravens spell more sacks in 2013? "Whenever Head Coach John Harbaugh wants to have a meeting of the minds with his staff, he will have plenty of brainpower at his disposal," writes Clifton Brown. [CSNBaltimore.com]
  • The Joe Linta controversy has become such a big story because of a quiet offseason for the Ravens. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • The relentless analysis of Flacco is just beginning now that he's led his team to a Super Bowl and landed a big contract. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Smith bowled for BARCS (Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter) last night at the AMF Timonium Lanes. The ticketed event raised funds for the new BARCS Medical Care Fund.
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