Why Did Ravens Trade For A Cornerback?
In a somewhat surprising move, the Ravens announced Monday that they traded a 2016 seventh-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins for cornerback Will Davis.
"If you watched the Ravens give up 37 points to the Raiders on Sunday, you don't have to ask," wrote CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown.
Media members speculate the answer is two-fold: 1) depth and 2) send a message.
Baltimore's defense allowed 351 yards and three touchdowns to second-year Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, and Head Coach John Harbaugh came down hard on the unit in his Monday afternoon presser. Harbaugh called out the defense's missed tackles, missed assignments and even its effort.
Davis, a 2013 third-round pick, hasn't played a snap in the Dolphins' first two games and is 10 months removed from ACL surgery. In 15 career games, Davis has 25 tackles, three passes defensed and no interceptions. Many have noted it's not a booming resume, but just the presence of Davis can help.
"Even if Davis doesn't help immediately, the trade sends a message to the Ravens cornerbacks that Sunday's performance is unacceptable," wrote Brown. "Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, and Kyle Arrington all had bad moments Sunday, after playing very well Week 1 against the Broncos."
While Davis hasn't notched a pick in the regular season, here's an impressive interception during the 2013 preseason (hat tip Russell Street Report).
There is also a practical concern that Davis can help address. The Ravens need depth as Rashaan Melvin has been sidelined with a thigh injury, and raw rookie Tray Walker may need more time to develop. When Webb was on the sideline for a brief period Sunday, the Ravens had to convert safety Terrence Brooks to nickel corner.
"The Baltimore Ravens improved their depth [with Davis]," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
The trade brings Davis and his previous Dolphins deal to Baltimore. That means he is under contract for both 2015 and 2016 at base salaries of $522,794 and $682,500, according to Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland.
"Expect Smith, Webb, and Arrington to continue as the Ravens' top three corners, with Rashaan Melvin and Davis also on the depth chart," Brown wrote. "However, Davis has an opportunity to see playing time due to injury, or if he performs well during practices. Trading for Davis indicates the Ravens liked the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder coming out of college at Utah St."
Three Straight AFC North Games May Be Just What Ravens Need
After starting 0-2, things won't get any easier with three consecutive AFC North games, two of which are at home.
While some in a very frustrated fan base are ready to jump off the cliff, media are urging them to back away from the edge until Columbus Day. That's when the Ravens will see an end to their brutal five of seven road game schedule to start the season.
"The Ravens are winless, but nobody needs to panic just yet," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Alexander Pyles. "If they're 0-4 after playing the Steelers Oct. 1 on Thursday Night Football, then we can talk."
While the slate of three consecutive division games will be a major challenge – Cincinnati is undefeated, the Steelers are the Steelers, and the Browns always make it hard on the Ravens – it also presents the perfect opportunity to right the ship.
"The next three games will be tough … but three straight against the AFC North might be exactly what the team needs right now," wrote Pyles.
That's because a couple of division wins would put the Ravens right back in the mix.
"Two of those games are at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens are a much better team. Yes, the Bengals (2-0) and Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) are off to impressive starts," Pyles added. "But records don't matter in division games.
"These games were going to be tough whether the Ravens were 2-0 or 0-2."
Now if only the Ravens can learn to finish games before their division slate …
Flacco, Defense Failing To Finish In Fourth Quarter
A funny occurrence happened while I was perusing the Internet yesterday.
I saw a headline on ESPN yesterday that called out quarterback Joe Flacco for not finishing in the fourth quarter.
And a few minutes later, I saw a headline on CSNMidAtlantic.com that criticized the defense for letting the team down in the final minutes.
Both media outlets have a point. If either could've found a way to finish, the Ravens could easily be 2-0 instead of 0-2 right now. But they didn't, and the hope is they can change the bad habit before it's too late.
Hensley noted that Flacco has had a chance to lead comeback victories in the Ravens' last three games, including the divisional playoff game in New England last January.
"In all three instances, Flacco has failed to do so," Hensley wrote, adding Flacco was intercepted on his final pass in all three contests.
"It's difficult to be overly critical of Flacco in the last three losses. He threw four touchdowns in the AFC divisional playoff game against the Patriots. His potential winning touchdown pass to Steve Smith in this year's season opener was tipped and went through his receiver's hands. And he produced his third-most passing yards (384) in Oakland. Still, Flacco hasn't played his best in the clutch recently."
But it's not like the defense has protected the leads Flacco and the offense have given it, either. Going back to last season, the Ravens have lost their last four decided by six points or less and, "the fourth-quarter defense in all of those losses was suspect," wrote Brown.
"Watching the Ravens give up killer drives late in games has become a familiar sight."
Looking For Silver Lining In Losses?
If you're looking for something to feel good about in the Ravens' first two losses, The Sun's Childs Walker says it's the point differential.
"Yes, the Ravens are in a bad way," Walker wrote. "On the other hand, they did lose two road games by a combined total of 10 points. Sprinkle those loses randomly in the middle of a good team's season, and they wouldn't stick out as anything unusual."
Walker also thinks the Ravens will "probably" miss the playoffs, but does offer some hope.
"If you're thinking glass half full, maybe the Week 1 defense and the Week 2 offense fuse into a devastating whole on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. At least the elements of something better are present," he wrote.
Pro Football Focus Grades
Analytical website Pro Football Focus published their Ravens-Raiders grades, and as expected, running back Justin Forsett and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. led the way on offense.
The secondary had a poor day overall, but PFF suggests that Webb and safety Will Hill were not part of the problem. The two led the defense with the best grades of the day. It was safety Kendrick Lewis and cornerback Kyle Arrington that didn't fare so well.
The grades also reflected a lacking pass rush, which sacked Carr only once.
"The Ravens were unable to get much pressure on Raiders QB Derek Carr," wrote PFF's Kiernan Hogan. "OLB Courtney Upshaw (negative-3.3) finished with just one hurry in his first game replacing Terrell Suggs in the starting lineup, and OLB Za'Darius Smith (negative-0.2) had one hurry over 25 pass rushes. OLB Elvis Dumervil (negative-0.6) led the team with four total pressures, but still earned a negative pass-rushing grade."
It was both Dumervil's and Upshaw's first Ravens game in their recently expanded roles since Terrell Suggs went down with an Achilles injury. Both played 62 snaps, which was Dumervil's highest total in his three seasons with the Ravens and the most for Upshaw since 2012 when Suggs was also sidelined.
You can see all the grades in the table below.