Is It Time for Le'Veon Bell to Join 53-Man Roster?
Are we getting closer to seeing two-time former All-Pro Le'Veon Bell being elevated to the 53-man roster?
Head Coach John Harbaugh said a couple weeks ago that there was a chance Bell could play in the Ravens' Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but that didn't happen. The week prior, Harbaugh indicated that Bell, who did not participate in a training camp, was in great shape but needed to get into football shape.
Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi said the time has come for Bell to play.
"Count me among you who think that Bell should get a shot," Lombardi wrote. "It's not like Latavius Murray, Ty'Son Williams or Devonta Freeman are setting the world on fire. None of them seems to be very efficient in pass pro and none are as accomplished as pass catchers like Bell. It's time to, as they say, 'fish or cut bait,' particularly given the signing of Nate McCrary to the practice squad."
Ebony Bird's Remy Cabache questioned whether there is room in the Ravens' backfield for Bell.
"Bell was always celebrated for his ability as a pass-catcher and earned praise for being talented enough to be the second or third receiver on many other teams," Cabache wrote. "As the Ravens don't have a clear-cut receiver from the backfield, this could be Bell's way in. However, that would mean cutting Freeman, most likely. While I see that as unlikely, keeping Bell for this long, despite the Murray and Freeman signings, does suggest the Ravens see something in Bell — be that his talent or a specific role."
The Ravens coaches and front office know best what kind of shape Bell is in at this point. He joined Baltimore's practice squad three weeks ago after not being with a team all offseason.
Judging by a GIF Bell tweeted on Sunday morning, it appears he's anxious to get back on the field in a regular season game.
Should Ravens Attempt to Trade for Marlon Mack?
As if the Ravens don't have enough running backs, the Indianapolis Colts and running back Marlon Mack reportedly have mutually agreed to seek a trade, and the Ravens have been mentioned as a team that might be a good fit.
"The Colts re-signed Mack to a one-year, $2 million contract in March, but now will look to move him, and at a position that incurs more than its share of injuries, there should be no shortage of suitors," NFL.com's Chase Goodbread wrote. "Teams that already have lost starting running backs include the Los Angeles Rams (Cam Akers) and Baltimore Ravens (J.K. Dobbins)."
Mack, 25, rushed for a career-high 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games in 2019 after running for 908 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games in 2018.
Mack suffered a season-ending torn Achilles last year in Week 1, and second-round pick Jonathan Taylor took over as the starter. This season, Mack fell to third on the depth chart behind Taylor and Nyheim Hines and has just five carries.
Colts Wire's Kevin Hickey named the Ravens as one of five potential trade partners.
"Mack probably wouldn't take over from [Ty'Son] Williams, but he would be an upgrade over [Devonta] Freeman and probably [Latavius] Murray as well," Hickey wrote. "Regardless, he'd be a solid addition to their rotation."
Hickey said the Colts likely wouldn't net more than a Day 3 pick for Mack.
General Manager Eric DeCosta never stops trying to improve the roster and has made in-season trades in the past. However, the Ravens have a crowded running back room.
With Dobbins and Gus Edwards suffering season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season, the Ravens have turned to Williams, who played well in the preseason after spending last season on the practice squad, and signed veterans Murray (31), Freeman (29) and Bell (29).
Williams (27 carries for 164 yards and a touchdown) and Murray (26-92-2) have shared the majority of the carries. Freeman has five carries for 37 yards. Bell has remained on the practice squad.
Meanwhile, Nate McCrary returned to the Ravens' practice squad yesterday after the team claimed him off waivers. McCrary had a strong preseason for the Ravens but didn't make the 53-man roster, and the Denver Broncos subsequently claimed him.
Ravens Are Allowing Alarming Number of Yards After Catch
It's no secret that the Ravens have had tackling issues this season. Harbaugh acknowledged it on Monday, saying, "Fundamentally, we have a lot of work to do."
A look into the numbers by The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer illustrated just how poor the tackling has been.
"Through three weeks, the Ravens have allowed 182.3 yards after the catch, or YAC, per game. The Denver Broncos, who host the Ravens on Sunday, have allowed 162.3 passing yards per game overall," Shaffer wrote. "It is far from an apples-to-apples comparison; the Ravens opened the season against the still-unbeaten Las Vegas Raiders before facing the high-powered Kansas City Chiefs, while Denver has faced two rookie quarterbacks and the New York Giants.
"Still, the early-season trends are troubling, on both macro and micro levels. According to Pro Football Reference, Houston allowed an NFL-worst 142.6 YAC last season — a mark still nearly 40 yards better than these Ravens. No team over the past three years has allowed more YAC per reception in a season than the 2019 Jacksonville Jaguars (6.4) — a mark still nearly a half-yard better than these Ravens (6.8)."
The Ravens had 12 missed tackles against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, which was three more than they missed against the Chiefs.
"The Lions had no answers for the Ravens' third-down blitzes in the first half Sunday, but their offensive fortunes changed when they went to a quick game and started getting their backs and receivers the ball and taking advantage of Baltimore's tackling issues," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "You can bet other teams took notice and the Ravens will continue to see more of that approach until they start getting off blocks and tackling better."
Despite Win, Ravens Fall in Multiple Power Rankings
The heavily favored Ravens needed a record-breaking, 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker to escape with a 19-17 win over the winless Lions, and the near upset caused the Ravens to drop in four of the six power rankings we looked at.
The Ravens fell from No. 9 to No. 13 in CBS Sports' rankings.
"They are 2-1, but when you have to beat the Lions on a 66-yard field goal at the buzzer, it's telling," CBS Sports' Pete Prisco wrote. "They haven't played a full game yet on both sides of the ball."
Bleacher Report dropped the Ravens three spots to No. 8.
"Does anyone really know what type of team the Ravens are? They lost in overtime to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 and then squeaked by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2," Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski wrote. "The officials gifted Baltimore a victory Sunday against the Detroit Lions, though Justin Tucker leveled up and entered a different stratosphere with his 66-yard bomb. The Ravens are beset by injuries. They seem to struggle yet stay in every game. Lamar Jackson changes the equation. As long as he's on the field, the Ravens have a chance."
Despite moving the Ravens down one spot to No. 6, Sports Illustrated still views them as a team with upside potential.
"It's fair to question whether the Ravens are, outside of Jackson's rare combination of gifts, dynamic enough on offense to win the Super Bowl," Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop wrote. "But getting first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman back soon should help with that. For now, I see Baltimore as a team both tied to its amazing quarterback and on the rise, bumpy win last Sunday notwithstanding."
|Source||Ranking||Last Week's Ranking||Comments|
|NFL.com||No. 5||No. 3||“Justin Tucker was already on a Hall of Fame track before Sunday in Detroit. He might have cemented his place in Canton with an NFL record-setting 66-yard field goal to beat the Lions and touch off a huge celebration at a suddenly silent Ford Field.”|
|Bleacher Report||No. 8||No. 5||“Tucker's NFL-record 66-yard field goal as time expired was the play of the week. Maybe the play of the year. But the fact that Tucker needed to blast through that moonshot to beat a winless Lions team is more than a little disconcerting for a franchise with Super Bowl aspirations.”|
|ESPN||No. 7||No. 9||“Lamar Jackson has been uncharacteristically sloppy at times, committing five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) in the first three games. But Jackson has more than redeemed himself with how he has carried the short-handed Ravens this season.”|
|Sports Illustrated||No. 6||No. 5||“It’s fair to question whether the Ravens are, outside of Jackson’s rare combination of gifts, dynamic enough on offense to win the Super Bowl. But getting first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman back soon should help with that.”|
|CBS Sports||No. 13||No. 9||“They are 2-1, but when you have to beat the Lions on a 66-yard field goal at the buzzer, it's telling. They haven't played a full game yet on both sides of the ball.”|
|USA Today||No. 6||No. 7||“They're leading the league in rushing despite being decimated at running back ... and that passing attack is showing significant signs of life, too.”|
- Odafe Oweh is Pro Football Focus' top-graded rookie edge rusher (out of 22) through three weeks of the season.