The Baltimore Ravens currently have the second best record in the AFC at (5-2). Based on some of the reactions around the town make it feel as if they were (2-5). The Ravens have had to overcome adversity early on in the season and haven’t looked overly impressive, but they have still found a way to win five of their seven games. Up to this point, here are my grades for the Ravens by position group.
At home, he’s an A. On the road, a D. There is no way of explaining it. Quarterback Joe Flacco either looks like an “elite” quarterback at times and other times, he fades into the background. This has been the pattern for Flacco throughout his career and if he wants to be paid like the self-proclaimed “best quarterback in the league,” he will HAVE to perform better on the road. While the lack of an identity and consistent offensive output isn’t completely attributed to his play, last week at Houston showed just how bad he is on the road. Feels the pressure too early. Lacks poise. Doesn’t step into all of his throws. Floats the ball. Until Flacco can find a way to establish a consistent rhythm, both on the road and at home, he will never move above this grade.
Running Backs: A
Even though Ray Rice’s touches are down, his offensive production isn’t suffering a lot. Rice has touched the ball 135 times and has produced 769 yards of total offense. Rice is averaging a stout 4.9 yards-per-carry. He has five rushing touchdowns this season. Rice has been limited at times due to the change in the offensive philosophy this season with the inclusion of the no-huddle offense. The Ravens will have to find a way to include him more in the offense in the second half of the season because right now, they are lost as a football team. Are they a running team? Are they a passing team? With a top three running back in Rice, there is no reason he shouldn’t be the focal point of your offense each and every game. Also, Bernard Pierce has been an impressive spell to Rice this season, duplicating the style of back that Ricky Williams was for the squad last season. Pierce is a little more explosive than Williams and hits the hole hard and fast with his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. With the shiftiness of Rice and the north-south running style of Pierce, the Ravens have quite the 1-2 if they wish to take advantage of it.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends: C+
This group hasn’t been all that bad, but lack the consistency to get a higher grade. Anquan Boldin turned out three solid games before the Houston game. Torrey Smith has been the most explosive receiver of the group and leads the team in touchdown catches with four. However, he hasn’t been able to gain consistent separation, especially from press-coverage. Jacoby Jones has been a surprise to say the least early on in the season. He was never a huge hands guy in the past and seeing him contribute as a slot receiver has been promising, although he isn’t lighting it up like the rest of the receivers. Tandon Doss has seen a somewhat increased role in the offense and when the ball has been thrown his way, he’s caught it (which is always a plus). As far as tight ends go, Dennis Pitta’s role in this offense has been up or down depending on the week. He appears to have the most consistent hands out of anyone in the group and Flacco looks to him on a lot of short routes to snag in passes, but not much on the intermediate end. Ed Dickson has had his role reduced to a catch or two a game, if that. This isn’t the same offense last year that looked to utilize both tight ends, who had over 90 catches combined last season. The problem with this group is lack of separation off the line-of-scrimmage. They also haven’t been as successful in the seams as they have been in the past. While this group is more athletic, not much has changed in regards to the explosiveness of the passing attack.
Offensive Line: C-
This group has yet to find a consistent starting five and has had good and bad games. Although Michael Oher held DeMarcus Ware to one sack two weeks ago, last week’s performance showed why he isn’t a starting left tackle in the league. The Ravens have yet to find a consistent left guard and might look to right tackle Kelechi Osemele to fill the void of Ben Grubbs- who took his talents to New Orleans. Ramon Harewood and Bobbie Williams just haven’t been the answer at that spot. Matt Birk has been decent for an aging center, but he is definitely winding down. Marshal Yanda has been solid this season as well, but has been a victim of more penalties than he is normally accustomed to. This group just isn’t protecting Flacco enough and sufficiently. He’s been sacked 18 times through seven games. The Ravens might have to make adjustments with this group in order to keep the quarterback healthy. Jah Reid hasn’t been doing enough to be active for games on Sundays, so it appears that Bryant McKinnie may come back into the lineup. For the Ravens to address this problem, not necessarily fix it, they should put McKinnie at left tackle, Oher at right tackle and Osemele at left guard. Not guaranteeing it will work, but it might boost the offense in terms of the pass-protection game.