Mailbag: Who Needs to Step Up After Injuries?

Left: CB Khalil Dorsey; Right: G/C Patrick Mekari

Mink: The Ravens' injuries and COVID situation is the biggest immediate concern. Let's run through it.

Orlando Brown Jr. is flipping over to left tackle for Ronnie Stanley and Fluker is stepping in at right tackle. I'm not overly concerned about this. First, let's make it clear that Stanley is absolutely one of the best in the game at his position. But Brown was a Pro Bowler last year too. And let's not forget that he really is a left tackle who became a right tackle in the NFL because of Stanley. Left tackle is what he's always been groomed to be and I think he'll be just fine there, especially in the run game. Fluker is a bigger question mark because he hadn't played right tackle since 2014. But every time he's stepped in there this season, he's done well. And once again, I think run blocking is his strong suit. These changes could lead to the Ravens leaning more heavily on their rushing game.

At right guard, Patrick Mekhari is expected to replace Tyre Phillips for at least the next three weeks, as Phillips (ankle) is now on injured reserve. Mekhari proved himself last season stepping in for center Matt Skura and I think he can do the same at right guard. Phillips won the starting job, but I don't think he won it by a mile.

I think the players that have to step up the most in the immediate are a couple of former undrafted cornerbacks – Terrell Bonds and Khalil Dorsey. The Ravens have stockpiled cornerbacks in recent years to make sure they never get too thin, but with Tavon Young (knee), Iman Marshall (knee), Anthony Averett (shoulder) and now Marlon Humphrey (COVID) all out, the Ravens are thin in numbers. As of right now, the Ravens only have three cornerbacks on the 53-man roster: Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith and Dorsey. Bonds and Dorsey really impressed the Ravens during training camp. They're gritty, but they're inexperienced and they will be tested. Bonds was tested by the Steelers and mostly held up well but was also flagged once for defensive pass interference.

Downing: There's no question the Ravens need to improve the passing attack. The Ravens are averaging 179.9 passing yards per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL. To improve those numbers, there are a couple things that could come into play. First, the Ravens need to take some more deep shots, particularly to speedster Marquise Brown. He hasn't put up the kind of production yet that many people expected after watching his tremendous training camp this summer. Brown has 27 catches for 379 yards and two touchdowns this year, and quarterback Lamar Jackson hasn't been able to hit on the deep shots in his direction. Part of that is simply opportunity, and the Ravens could attempt some more big plays in Brown's direction the second half of the season.

The Ravens also need targets other than Brown and tight end Mark Andrews to elevate their play. We saw that on Sunday as Miles Boykin hauled in a nice touchdown catch and Willie Snead had his best game of the season with five catches for 106 receiving yards. That was encouraging for both players. The Ravens also still have the wild card in veteran receiver Dez Bryant. He's currently on the practice squad, as the coaches assess whether he could move to the active roster to help the offense. If Bryant shows he still has gas left in the tank, then he could be an intriguing way to bolster the passing game the second half of the season.

Downing: This is an interesting question. We all know that Jackson is hyper competitive and will do everything he can to help the team win. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and is always accountable after a loss. He said after Sunday's game that the Ravens lost because of the four turnovers, which he put on himself. The expectations for Jackson are so high – both internally and externally – and it does seem at times like he is putting a little too much on himself. He wants so badly to help the team win that it seems like he is pressing during games. The competitive edge is part of what makes Jackson great, but sometimes it seems like he just needs to play a little more freely. I do think this could change in a hurry, and if the Ravens start to have more success on offense, then there will be a snowball effect like we saw last year. Once that happens, Jackson and the offense will be rolling again.

Mink: I am very excited about J.K. Dobbins. He was a great prospect coming into the league and he has shown exactly why in his limited opportunities with excellent balance, explosion and more. But these calls for him to be the lead back after his first career 100-yard game are a bit premature. Mark Ingram II was a Pro Bowler for a reason last year and he's a huge part of the Ravens' rushing attack. I expect that once he's healthy, the Ravens will return to a fairly even spread of the carries between their three running backs. I would like to see the ball in Dobbins' hands more, even if that's as a receiver.

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