Should Ravens Make Changes With These Three Veterans?
The Ravens have a perfect record, but their play hasn't been perfect.
The rushing attack is the NFL's 26th-ranked unit in yards per game and 30th in yards per rush. And there has been some inconsistent play at the cornerback position.
"If you listen to the fans, the Ravens need to replace the Justin Forsett-Terrance West duo with a West-Buck Allen combination until Kenneth Dixon is ready to return," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "They need to bench Jeremy Zuttah in favor of John Urschel or Ryan Jensen. And they need to sit Shareece Wright for Will Davis.
"None of the suggestions are totally off base."
Forsett's 43 snaps Sunday in Jacksonville were far more than West's 17, but the carry total was more evenly distributed at seven and 10, respectively. Forsett is the more experienced and trusted pass blocker and also catches more balls out of the backfield. He hasn't been as productive carrying the ball, however.
"Forsett has a hard time making the first man miss and breaking tackles," wrote Zrebiec.
If you ask Pro Football Focus (PFF), West is deserving of more playing time after out-grading Forsett in the Jaguars matchup.
"Terrance West made a strong claim to see more playing time in this game," wrote PFF's Gordon McGuinness. "Out-grading Justin Forsett, who finished the game with a grade of just 51.5, West averaged 2.0 yards after contact compared with just 0.7 from Forsett. The team will expect an impact from rookie Kenneth Dixon when he returns to the lineup healthy, but for today, West looked like a more-than-capable starter."
And what about giving Allen a try? He has been a healthy scratch the first three weeks.
"[Allen] didn't run well in preseason. Had fumbling issues last year. Not trusted in pass protection. Forsett, as a vet, gets longer leash," Zrebiec tweeted.
Even if the Ravens keep the status quo for another week or two, they will have a decision to make when Dixon returns. The rookie was seen by reporters last Friday sprinting on the fields with a knee brace after practice. It was viewed as a positive sign in his progression from a knee sprain sustained during the preseason.
The run woes can't all be blamed on the running backs, as the offensive line must get push and open up holes too. Center Jeremy Zuttah (minus-2.7) and rookie left guard Alex Lewis (minus-3.1) have two of the three lowest cumulative grades on the offense from PFF this season.
It's expected for a rookie to go through growing pains, especially while starting next to another rookie (Ronnie Stanley). Lewis did improve in Sunday's game before leaving with a concussion. But it's more puzzling why a nine-year veteran such as Zuttah doesn't seem to be playing up to his standards. He is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury from last year.
Then there's Wright, who was the defensive MVP in Week 1 after flying all over the field and notching a team-high 11 tackles. But he had down games the last two weeks, giving up 15 catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns, according to PFF.
"Zuttah has struggled mightily, and Wright has been picked on the past two weeks after a strong debut," wrote Zrebiec.
While the three veterans are not playing as well as they and the Ravens would like, should fans expect any changes?
"Those changes would be easy to make if the Ravens were 0-1 or 1-2," wrote Zrebiec. "It, however, is a little more difficult to pull the plug on well-respected veterans when the team is undefeated. Again, winning ugly shouldn't be an excuse for accepting the status quo and I don't think the Ravens are doing that. But winning certainly gives some players a little longer leash."
Top Offensive And Defensive Grades From Sunday's Win
In addition to West grading well in Jacksonville, three offensive linemen, quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Steve Smith Sr. rounded out PFF’s top-6 graded offensive players.
Top offensive grades:
WR Steve Smith, 81.5
QB Joe Flacco, 78.4
RT Rick Wagner, 75.7
RB Terrance West, 73.2
LG Alex Lewis, 72.0
RG Marshal Yanda, 71.7
"This was a game where Joe Flacco played much better in the first half than he did in the second, until what wound up being the game-winning drive, but it was also a game where we saw Flacco do a solid job taking advantage of what the Jaguars were giving him, rather than trying to force the issue downfield," wrote McGuinness. "He attempted four passes traveling 20 yards or more downfield, with none resulting in a reception, but completed 83.3 percent of the passes he attempted traveling between 0 and 19 yards downfield."
On the defensive side of the ball, it will be no surprise who were the top graded players.
Top defensive grades:
S Eric Weddle, 85.1
DE Timmy Jernigan, 84.6
LB C.J. Mosley, 84.3
NT Brandon Williams, 81.3
LB Terrell Suggs, 80.2
"Many expected last season to be a breakout season for defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, but based on the past two games, that prediction just might have been a year early," wrote McGuinness. "Jernigan was active as a pass rusher, registering a sack and two hurries on 32 pass-rushing attempts. That wasn't all he did, though, with the former Florida State star also batting two passes, including one that was intercepted by cornerback Tavon Young."
Alex Lewis In NFL's Concussion Protocol
We could see a change on the offensive line if Lewis doesn't pass the NFL's concussion protocol this week. The rookie did not finish Sunday's game, and Ryan Jensen took over the left guard position in the fourth quarter.
"I thought he (Jensen) played well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "He always gives you a spark,* *man. He's physical. That's one of the things that we feel really good about. We've got some depth in our interior offensive line."
Jensen could get the start this week if Lewis isn't ready to go, but the Ravens could also activate Urschel for the first time this year and start him. Last year, Jensen started six games at left guard while Urschel started seven games at center.
Debate Over Whether Jalen Ramsey Should Respect His Elders
The NFL world is still buzzing after the war of words between Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Smith Sr.
While Ramsey is receiving praise for standing up for himself, there is a debate brewing over whether the rookie should show more respect to his "elders" like Smith, who has been in the league for 16 years.
Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman discuss that very issue in the video below. Based on Mosley's tweet, I'd say he sides with Stephen A.
Interesting Fascination With Kamalei Correa
Second-round pick Kamalei Correa got his first defensive action of the year Sunday, and nearly intercepted Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on one of his six snaps.
Harbaugh said that he's going to get the rookie on the JUGS machine to help improve his hands to better ensure he catches potential picks that come his way. Had Correa secured the ball, he could have returned it for a touchdown.
"He was in position," Harbaugh said. "He played more plays. He played well. It was good to see him out there. Kind of get his first chance as a defensive player. Played well last week on special teams and played well again this week on special teams. So I think he's starting to feel his oats a little bit and hopefully be the player we know he's going to be sooner rather than later."
There is a loud contingent of fans on social media that seem fascinated with Correa not getting more playing time, and Zrebiec doesn't quite understand it.
Zrebiec pointed out that not having to thrust a rookie into the spotlight can be a good sign that a team has good depth and can give him time to develop. For example, 2009 second-round outside linebacker Paul Kruger was inactive for the first half of his rookie year. He didn't really break out until 2012, the final year of his rookie contract, during the Ravens' Super Bowl run.