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Mailbag: What's the Level of Concern With the Wide Receivers?

WR Odell Beckham Jr.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Mink: I'm not at all concerned about the Ravens' wide receivers. They had a rough game. No ifs, and, or buts about it. The drops seemed to be contagious Sunday in Pittsburgh. But let's not forget that the Ravens' wide receiver corps was one of just two units in the NFL that didn't have a single drop over the first four weeks. I think this was a one-game issue, not a sign of an underlying or extended problem. The Ravens have to make sure they don't let this get in their heads, and I don't think they will. They're a bunch of confident guys in their abilities.

Zay Flowers has been excellent this season and I still feel like his "breakout" 100+ yards game is right around the corner, along with his first NFL touchdown. Nelson Agholor had the one long drop, but he was having a superb game before that and I'm not the least bit worried about his mental state. He's an extremely mature guy.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman didn't have big games in their returns from injury, and Bateman had the one frustrating touchdown drop, but as long as they can stay healthy, their talent will show through.

Mink: I'll take this one too. This whole narrative has spun ridiculously out of control thanks to Rex Ryan's rant on ESPN, which was more about finding a sexy talking point and source of blame than a real explanation for Sunday's drops.

Yes, the Ravens sometimes warm up using rugby balls. The thought is that it helps train the receivers to open up their hands and fingers wide enough to accept the smaller football. Now, part of the problem with the Ravens' drops Sunday was that their hands were too far apart. But blaming that on the rugby balls is ridiculous considering they've been using them for the past couple (maybe three?) years and we hadn't seen a drops epidemic like we witnessed in Pittsburgh before.

The Ravens use JUGS machines far more often than they use rugby balls. This is a non-issue.

Downing: It always seems like the pendulum is swinging for one side to the other. In recent years, we've answered plenty of questions about why the Ravens are too reliant on the run game and aren't giving Jackson the opportunity to show his ability as a passer. Now we're getting questions about a lack of commitment to the ground game. Like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

First, let's start with Gus Edwards. I'm a big fan of Gus the Bus, and as he told us in his recent appearance on the Lounge Podcast, he wants the ball in his hands for a heavy workload each game. He can handle 20+ touches in certain games if the Ravens need that from him, but there are benefits to spreading the wealth in this offense. Justice Hill has also looked good this year and brought some flash to the offense. Hill averaged 4.6 yards per carry in Sunday's game against Pittsburgh and displayed his elusiveness on some of those runs. He's shown that he's deserving of touches this season. Of course, his fumble is a mistake that simply can't happen, and he'll be focused on avoiding that kind of miscue in future games. The NFL is a long season and the Ravens want to ensure this backfield is at its best for the long haul. They already lost J.K. Dobbins for the season in the opener, and spreading around the ball is a good approach at this point of the season.

Now, in terms of the broader commitment to the run game, I'm not buying the notion that the Ravens are too dependent on the pass. Baltimore ranks fourth in the NFL with 164 rushing attempts this season. Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken has shown a desire to be balanced in his play-calling approach, and we've seen that through the first five games. I had no issue with the run-pass balance in Sunday's game in Pittsburgh. As Mink covered above, the problem was with the execution on the part of the receivers, not a run-pass imbalance.

Downing: The Ravens should have kicked a field goal at the end of the first half rather than going for it on 4th-and-2 with about 20 seconds remaining. Head Coach John Harbaugh explained after the game that the play call was actually to not snap the ball and to just run down the clock. However, center Tyler Linderbaum thought the Steelers jumped into the neutral zone he snapped the ball thinking the Ravens would have a free play. The miscalculation likely the cost the Ravens three points – it would have been a 40-yard field goal, which is pretty automatic for Justin Tucker – and left the Ravens kicking themselves for the end-of-half operation in that moment. I generally like Harbaugh's aggressiveness on fourth-down situations, but this was a different scenario. Harbaugh and the Ravens are well aware that Tucker is the best kicker in the game, so they're going to lean on him in plenty of big moments down the stretch of this season.

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