After a quarter of the 2012 season, the Ravens are 3-1. The three victories have come against the Bengals, Patriots, and Browns with the only loss coming against the Eagles in week two. The road ahead has some difficult stretches which includes the Steelers in week 11, the Chargers in week 12, and the Steelers again in week 13.
Here are my grades for the Ravens through the first quarter of the season:
Joe Flacco – A.
Statistics: 63.5 completion percentage, 1,269 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT, 95.8 QB rating.
Joe Flacco looks much different this season. He is more decisive and has a great supporting cast of receivers, tight ends, and running backs. For the first time in Flacco’s NFL career, he has a receiving core that is complete and showcases his arm talent. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are speedy wide outs that have the potential to take the top off a defense. Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin work underneath and act as Flacco’s security blankets but can also make big time plays when needed. Finally, Ray Rice can come out of the backfield and even run routes in the slot to give Flacco an extra target.
Flacco is very comfortable in the new no-huddle offense. If Flacco can keep playing at a high level, the Ravens might find themselves in the Super Bowl.
Offensive Line: B
When considering all the changes the offensive line has gone through, they have been fantastic this season. Ramon Harewood is by far the biggest surprise and has been one of the Ravens best offensive lineman through the first quater of the season. He is a talented run blocker and is good in pass protection. The line has given up 9 sacks which puts them on pase for 36. This would be tied for the second highest in Flacco’s career. Even though the line has struggled at times, keep in mind that they are going through a lot of changes and by the end of the season, this line will continue to improve and could be one of the best in the league.
Running backs: B+
Ray Rice Statistics: 64 carries, 317 yards, 3 TD
Bernard Pierce Statistics: 17 carries, 88 yards, 0 TD
Both the Ravens running backs are averaging at least five yards per carry. Obviously, Rice is the better of the two players but Pierce has provided a good second option and is a very powerful runner. Rice is averaging just under 80 yards rushing per game but has done a lot for the Ravens in the play-action passing game. Rice is very valuable to this offense and Cam Cameron is using him very effectively.
This receiving core is the most complete that I can remember. Smith and Jones are down field threats but the Ravens also have a myriad of underneath threats that provide good match ups against linebackers and safeties. At times, the receivers have struggled to get separation but for the most part, they have been fantastic. Tandon Doss is a name to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. The third year receiver out of Indiana has recently received a lot of praise from John Harbaugh. Harbaugh said Doss will be a threat all season after his 39 yard catch against the Browns. Doss offers a lot of upside but has to compete with Jacoby Jones who is ahead of Doss on the depth chart.
Defensive Line: C+
The Ravens have struggled to create a pass rush throughout the season. Haloti Ngata is playing at an all-pro level but Pernell McPhee has not been the force many thought he would be this season. Luckily, the season is still young so expect McPhee to play at a higher level. Although they have struggled at times to generate pass rush, they have been great at stopping the run. They held LeSean McCoy, one of the league’s elite running backs to 81 yards on 25 attempts and have looked been good in the other games with the exception of the Bengals.
The loss of Terrell Suggs has been devastating. Younger players like Paul Kruger, Courtney UpShaw, and Albert McClellan havent been able to get the job done and win one-on-one match ups. Combined, the three players have only amassed two sacks. UpShaw has received much more playing time lately and has played much better than he did in the preseason. Terrell Suggs is expected to return around week seven. Suggs wont be himself for the first few games but the Ravens really need him late in the season when they play the Steelers twice in three weeks. If Suggs returns by week seven, which is his target return date, he might be one hundred percent healthy by the playoffs, should the Ravens make the playoffs.
Defensive backs: C
The Ravens have struggled mightily against the pass this season. They have given up an average of 295 yards in each game and most recently gave up 320 passing yards to rookie Brandon Weeden in Baltimore. Overall, the weak spot for the secondary has been Carry Williams. With the exception of the pick-six last week, Williams has struggled. Teams have been avoiding Lardarius Webb who is one of the better cornerbacks in the league and Jimmy Smith has played well at times. I would like to see the Ravens play more press coverage to take advantage of the size Smith and Williams possess.
Special Teams: A
The special teams unit has greatly improved from last season. Corey Graham, Chykie Brown, Deonte Thompson, and Justin Tucker have all played at a high level. Tucker is the biggest story because he won the kicking job from Billy Cundiff and has only missed one kick.
Overall, I am very optimistic about the Ravens. They have a favorable matchup this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and then have the Dallas Cowboys who looked dreadful against the Bears on Monday Night Football. If Flacco continues to play at a high level and Terrell Suggs can return and play well, the Ravens will have a high playoff seed.