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Ravens-Packers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 18 November 2017 by Luke Jones

Sunday presents an important opportunity for the Ravens as they make their first trip to Lambeau Field since 2009.

Many have labeled it a “must-win” game for a 4-5 team coming off its bye, but a simple look at the underwhelming AFC wild-card picture makes that notion hold less weight from a mathematical standpoint. Of course, the Ravens could certainly use a road win from a psychological standpoint as they try to get on a roll to both secure their first trip to the playoffs since 2014 and show they have the potential to morph into some semblance of a threat in January.

Baltimore couldn’t ask for a much better situation on the side of the Green Bay Packers, who continue to be without six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers and are now missing their top two running backs due to injuries. Versatile safety Morgan Burnett will also miss Sunday’s game for the Packers defense.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens try to get back to the .500 mark by securing their first ever win in Green Bay. The Packers have a 4-1 advantage in the all-time regular-season series and have won all three meetings in their home stadium.

Below are five predictions for Sunday:

1. Danny Woodhead will lead the Ravens in catches while Jeremy Maclin will be tops in receiving yards. The return of the diminutive Woodhead is a major headline, but part of me wonders if his presence could be somewhat counterproductive for a passing game needing to push it down the field more consistently. Meanwhile, Maclin is coming off his best game of the year and will have a favorable matchup against slot corner Damarious Randall. These two veterans will be key as a Ravens offense without Ronnie Stanley faces a defense ranking ninth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed.

2. Packers edge rushers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews will combine for two sacks and a forced fumble. The offensive line has been a house of cards that’s held up OK when the starting five are healthy, but it’s frequently fallen apart when less than 100 percent. That will hold true again with Stanley likely to miss Sunday’s game with a concussion. This group can’t afford to be without its best player, and James Hurst being Stanley’s likely replacement means a backup left tackle and backup left guard will be protecting Joe Flacco’s blindside. That’s a frightening proposition, especially on the road.

3. Tony Jefferson will grab his first interception as a Raven. Several defensive players were very complimentary of Packers backup Brett Hundley, but no one is buying the notion of him being the second coming of Rodgers. The third-year quarterback has shown some modest improvement, but he figures to continue relying on short passes, which should give Jefferson opportunities when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The Ravens defense leads the NFL in interceptions and will grab one for the fourth consecutive game to assist an offense struggling to move the football.

4. Randall Cobb will have 75 total yards and a touchdown to lead the Green Bay offense. It’s been a quiet year for the slot receiver, but the absences of running backs Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery will force Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to get creative with Cobb, who can line up virtually anywhere in a formation. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens defense accounts for him as Maurice Canady took away most of Lardarius Webb’s snaps at the nickel against Tennessee. With Baltimore’s outside corners being so strong this year, Cobb will be featured in the middle of the field.

5. The offense will once again hold the Ravens back in a 16-13 loss to the Packers. Green Bay has cracked the 20-point mark just once since Rodgers broke his collarbone in mid-October, and the Baltimore defense will do plenty to make life difficult for an inexperienced quarterback. However, the loss of Stanley is a major blow for an offense that hasn’t been productive enough even with the 2016 first-round pick in the lineup. Don’t believe the sentiment that the Ravens are “finished” if they drop to 4-6 since four of their last six games come at home against less-than-imposing teams, but a loss will surely reinforce major doubts about this team’s ability to stack wins and gain momentum for the stretch run.

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Woodhead activated, set to make return against Green Bay

Posted on 18 November 2017 by Luke Jones

After an impressive but all-too-brief Ravens debut in the 2017 opener, running back Danny Woodhead has been activated from injured reserve and is set to play against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Signed to a three-year, $8.8 million contract in March to give quarterback Joe Flacco a boost in the short passing game, Woodhead re-injured his left hamstring on the first offensive drive of the season in Cincinnati on Sept. 10. He was placed on IR a few days later, but his three catches for 33 yards on only six snaps offered a glimpse of what the Ravens envision him adding to the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing game.

Since entering the NFL in 2009, Woodhead is one of four players — Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and Darren Sproles being the others — to produce at least 15 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns.

“He just gives us a shot in the arm. He gives us some juice, some energy,” said safety Eric Weddle, who teamed with Woodhead for three seasons in San Diego. “He’s a guy that creates matchups, not only in the running game, but also in the passing game. It gives Joe another weapon when things may not be open. He can just always check it down or see the matchup.

“The thing with ‘Woody’ is there are not many linebackers or safeties in this league that can cover him. When you know you have that matchup, you get him the ball and let him work.”

Having averaged 9.4 yards per catch in a nine-year career that included stints with the New York Jets, New England, and the Chargers, Woodhead has been a difference-maker as a receiver out of the backfield, but injuries have taken their toll in recent years. The 32-year-old has missed 35 games over the last four seasons, a reason why the Ravens used extra caution in bringing him back from a hamstring injury first sustained during the preseason.

Third-year running back Buck Allen has primarily filled in for Woodhead in passing situations and currently leads the team with 39 receptions, but his 4.8 yards per catch average ranks last among 149 qualified players, according to ESPN. Woodhead is also considered to be an asset in pass protection, a skill that shouldn’t be overlooked as the offensive line is expected to be without starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley on Sunday.

Woodhead is the second Baltimore player to be activated from IR this season, joining cornerback Maurice Canady. The Ravens are not allowed to bring back any other players from IR for the remainder of the 2017 season.

To make room for Woodhead on the 53-man roster, the Ravens waived tight end Gavin Escobar, who was signed in late October and did not record a catch in two games.

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Stanley listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game in Green Bay

Posted on 17 November 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For the first time all season, the Ravens haven’t ruled out a single player on their final injury report of the week, but that wasn’t grounds for a celebratory feeling Friday.

Despite practicing all week on a limited basis, left tackle Ronnie Stanley was designated as doubtful to play in Sunday’s game at Green Bay. Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed Stanley sustained a concussion near the end of the Week 9 loss to Tennessee, but the 2016 first-round pick being on the practice field all week had been interpreted as a positive sign for his status.

Should Stanley miss his first game of the season — he missed four games as a rookie with a foot injury — Baltimore would presumably move James Hurst out to left tackle with either veteran Luke Bowanko or rookie Jermaine Eluemunor filling in at the left guard spot. It would be Hurst’s first start at left tackle since Oct. 2, 2016 against Oakland.

Stanley’s absence would give the Ravens their fourth different starting offensive line combination of the season, but that doesn’t include several other in-game adjustments due to injuries.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles) headlines a list of six players officially designated as questionable to play against the Packers. Smith was the only Baltimore player to miss practices this week for an injury-related reason, but he was a limited participant on Friday and hasn’t missed a game all season despite dealing with Achilles tendinitis since early in the season.

Running back Danny Woodhead’s status remains in question, but he completed another week of practice and appears to have a solid chance to be activated from injured reserve. Since Woodhead is not currently on the 53-man roster, the Ravens haven’t been required to include him on the injury report.

He hasn’t played in a game since re-injuring his left hamstring on the first drive of the season opener on Sept. 10. Woodhead would become the second and final Ravens player to be permitted to return from IR this season after second-year cornerback Maurice Canady was activated earlier this month.

“He went through most of everything we did. I thought he looked pretty good,” said Harbaugh of Woodhead. “It’s just going to come down to the doctors and trainers making their decision. We have until Saturday [at 4 p.m.] to make that part of the decision, then really, we have until an hour and a half before the game to really determined whether he will be out there.

“We’re ready if he goes, and we’re ready if he doesn’t go.”

Tight end Nick Boyle (toe), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (shoulder), running back Terrance West (calf), and rookie outside linebacker Tim Williams (hamstring) were all listed as questionable after being full participants in practices all week. Campanaro missed the final two games before the bye while West and Williams have missed four consecutive contests apiece.

Meanwhile, the Packers officially ruled out starting running back Ty Montgomery (ribs) and starting safety Morgan Burnett (groin), two significant losses for Sunday. Rookie running back Jamaal Williams is expected to start against the Ravens with Montgomery and fellow rookie Aaron Jones (knee) currently sidelined.

Williams rushed for 67 yards on 20 carries in last week’s 23-16 win over Chicago.

“This kid from Brigham Young — he’s the real deal,” Harbaugh said. “He runs hard, he has [good] feet. I think he closed the game out for them last week in four-minute [offense], which is very impressive. We’re treating him like he’s Jim Taylor as far as we’re concerned.

“We have to be ready to stop the run. This is a good running team. These guys run the ball very well.”

According to Weather.com, the Sunday forecast in Green Bay calls for partly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching 32 degrees with winds 10 to 15 miles per hour.

Below is the final injury report of the week:

BALTIMORE
DOUBTFUL: OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles), RB Terrance West (calf), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

GREEN BAY
OUT: OT Bryan Bulaga (knee), S Morgan Burnett (groin), RB Aaron Jones (knee), RB Ty Montgomery (ribs)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Ahmad Brooks (back), DT Quinton Dial (chest), CB Kevin King (shoulder), G Lucas Patrick (back)

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Woodhead working way toward return, Stanley limited with concussion

Posted on 15 November 2017 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As anticipated during their bye week, the Ravens released their cleanest injury report in a long time Wednesday as they continue preparations for the Week 11 trip to Green Bay.

Much attention this week centers around a player not even listed on the report as running back Danny Woodhead remains on injured reserve while continuing to practice. It’s unclear whether the 32-year-old will be activated to play against the Packers, but the Ravens are itching to have the shifty back on the field for the first time since he re-injured his left hamstring on the first drive of the season on Sept. 10.

“I think you got a little taste of Danny the first week and what he can do,” said quarterback Joe Flacco, referencing his three catches on that opening drive in Cincinnati. “He’s also a guy that knows what he’s doing in [pass] protection and can give you a lot of things, obviously. We all know he’s a good athlete. He catches the ball out of backfield well and does a lot of those things.

“I know he’s out here working to get himself healthy and get himself going, so we’ll see.”

Signed to a three-year, $8.8 million contract at the start of free agency in March, Woodhead was expected to be a vital part of the short passing game that’s been high in volume but low in productivity this season. The ninth-year veteran has averaged 9.4 yards per reception in his career and has twice caught more than 75 passes in a season.

The Ravens have understandably been cautious with Woodhead, who originally injured the hamstring during the preseason and has now missed a whopping 35 games over his last four seasons with various injuries. A decision on his status must be made by next week when his 21-day window to practice expires.

Woodhead would need to be activated by 4 p.m. Saturday to be able to play this week. On Wednesday, he offered no clues on whether that would happen.

“I don’t know the odds. I stay in my lane, and I work hard,” Woodhead said. “Whenever an opportunity comes for me, then that’s the opportunity that comes.”

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was surprisingly listed as a limited participant with a concussion. The 2016 first-round pick missed snaps in each of the last two games with a right shoulder issue, but it’s unknown if he suffered a concussion in the Week 9 loss at Tennessee or whether it possibly occurred during Wednesday’s padded practice.

For what it’s worth, Stanley was not on the field for the Ravens’ final offensive play against the Titans two weeks ago.

Tight end Nick Boyle was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice after missing the final game before the bye with a toe injury. Running back Terrance West (calf) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (shoulder) also participated fully and appear primed to return after extended absences.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles tendinitis) was the only player on the 53-man roster not to practice, but that wasn’t surprising since the veteran defensive back has routinely missed Wednesday practices since early October.

Meanwhile, the Packers held out running back Ty Montgomery, who continues to deal with sore ribs and is a question mark to play. Fellow running back Aaron Jones is expected to miss at least a few weeks with a knee injury suffered in last Sunday’s win over Chicago, leaving rookie Jamaal Williams as the favorite to start on Sunday.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Jimmy Smith (Achilles)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Ronnie Stanley (concussion)
FULL PARTICIPATION: TE Nick Boyle (toe), WR Michael Campanaro (shoulder), S Chuck Clark (thigh), RB Terrance West (calf), LB Tim Williams (thigh)

GREEN BAY
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: OT Bryan Bulaga (knee), S Morgan Burnett (groin), RB Aaron Jones (knee), RB Ty Montgomery (ribs)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: LB Ahmad Brooks (back), CB Kevin King (shoulder), G Justin McCray (ankle), LB Nick Perry (foot)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DT Quinton Dial (chest), QB Brett Hundley (hamstring), LB Joe Thomas (ankle)

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Cobb deal puts Torrey Smith in prime position on open market

Posted on 08 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Saturday was a productive night for free-agent wide receiver Torrey Smith and brought the latest signal supporting his expected departure from the Ravens.

With the news of star wideout Randall Cobb agreeing to a four-year, $40 million contract to remain with the Green Bay Packers, Smith will only see the demand for his services rise around the league with a top free-agent receiver now off the board.  The 26-year-old Smith and Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin are considered the top talents who will officially hit the market on 4 p.m. Tuesday for the start of free agency.

With Baltimore currently holding just $4.639 million in salary cap space, Smith is expected to find a home elsewhere with the San Francisco 49ers reportedly leading the race for the speedy receiver’s services. According to CBS Sports, the 2011 first-round pick turned down a five-year, $35 million contract prior to the 2014 season, a move that now looks wise despite a disappointing campaign in which he caught just 49 passes for 767 yards.

Despite both sides repeatedly expressing hope that they’d continue their relationship, the Ravens’ brass seemed to go out of its way to prepare fans for Smith’s departure late last month with owner Steve Bisciotti even taking a shot at the lucrative $60 million contract the Miami Dolphins gave wide receiver Mike Wallace two offseasons ago.

“Let’s be frank: Do you hope that Torrey doesn’t break the bank out in the open market so that we can get him for our number? That’s a hard thing to say,” Bisciotti said. “I care about the kid. I want him to maximize his earnings. At the same time, the more successful he is at doing that, the less success we have in retaining him. I don’t like to stand up here and say I’m rooting against the guy, but we’ve got to find a number.”

And that number is expected to be too rich with Cobb now off the market and a number of teams looking for an impact wide receiver in free agency.

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Ravens wearing all-black uniforms on Thanksgiving night

Posted on 26 November 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Adding to the excitement of a crucial meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving, the Ravens will wear their all-black uniforms for the nationally-televised game on Thursday night.

This marks the second straight season in which the Ravens will wear their alternate jerseys against the Steelers after they fell 23-20 to Pittsburgh on Dec. 2, 2012 while donning black jerseys with white pants. The Ravens wore their black jerseys with white pants in their Week 6 loss to the Green Bay Packers earlier this season.

Baltimore last wore black jerseys with black pants in a dominating win over the New York Giants to clinch their second straight AFC North title on Dec. 23, 2012.

After introducing the all-black look in 2004, the Ravens have gone 10-5 all-time when they wear black jerseys and are 7-2 under coach John Harbaugh. Baltimore is 6-3 when wearing black jerseys and black pants and hasn’t dropped a game in that uniform combination since the 2007 season.

The NFL allows teams to wear an alternate or throwback uniform for a maximum of two regular-season games every season.

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Ravens defense slow to stop the run in recent weeks

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After revamping their front seven in an offseason filled with changes on both sides of the ball, the Ravens expected their run defense to be one of their biggest strengths in 2013.

With veterans such as Chris Canty, Daryl Smith, and Marcus Spears joining a nucleus that already included Pro Bowl mainstays Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens were all but assured to improve substantially from a year ago when they fielded the league’s 20th-ranked run defense and gave up 122.8 yards per game on the ground. All appeared to be going to plan early in the season as Baltimore entered its Week 4 meeting with the Buffalo Bills ranked fourth against the run.

Instead, an unexpected loss to the Bills on Sept. 29 started a disturbing trend as the Ravens have now allowed 140 or more yards on the ground in three of their last four games. That stretch continued in humbling fashion this past Sunday as the Steelers’ running game — ranked 31st out of 32 teams entering Week 7 — bullied the Ravens to the tune of 141 yards on 29 carries in a 19-16 defeat to their AFC North rivals.

“They did some new things that we haven’t seen from them,” Suggs said. “Not just this year, but ever. Pittsburgh has never come out and run the Wildcat on us. They’ve never come out with extra linemen. You just have to be able to adjust on the fly. They were able to get some runs off of that early on.”

Entering their bye week with the NFL’s 16th-ranked rush defense at 104.3 yards given up per game, the Ravens have been slow to adjust to the opponents’ running game on more than one occasion this year. In preparing for the Bills, the Ravens spent extensive time focusing on the read-option attack that had been used by quarterback EJ Manuel before Buffalo used more of a conventional approach in gaining 203 yards on 55 carries with 116 coming in the first half. Instructed to use patience in letting the play come to them when facing the read option, the Ravens were instead on their heels as Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller had huge days on the ground for the Bills.

By the time defensive coordinator Dean Pees made the necessary adjustments at halftime, the Ravens were already behind on a day in which quarterback Joe Flacco threw a career-worst five interceptions and the Bills were able to use a conservative ground approach in the second half.

Against the Steelers, the Ravens couldn’t have been expecting such a run-heavy approach, but Pittsburgh used gadget plays as well as a steady diet of rookie Le’Veon Bell to exploit the aggressive tendencies of the front seven. It wasn’t a matter of being unable to shed blocks but a failure to play individual assignments and to read blocks longer in protecting cutbacks, according to Pees.

Other times, the defensive line was simply controlled at the line of scrimmage by a Pittsburgh line that included three backup starters due to injuries.

“The first run of the game, we got the guy stuffed in the hole, and then we just kind of jump off a block a little too quick,” Pees said. “We’re a little too impatient, and [Le’Veon] Bell is a patient runner, and he ended up cutting it all the way back on us right into a blitz. And everything was good until we just jumped off the block, and then he found the crease. That happened to us about three or four times during the course of the game that we got off blocks actually too quick.”

The 141 rushing yards surrendered against Pittsburgh followed the 140 given up the previous week in a home loss to the Green Bay Packers, who sport the league’s sixth-ranked rushing attack. Unlike the Steelers who were able to consistently grind out yards to extend drives, the Packers collected a sizable portion of their production on just a few runs when rookie Eddie Lacy ran for 47 yards on the first two plays of the game and then collected another 17-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Aside from the Steelers’ final march to kick the game-winning field goal on Sunday, no drive was more painful than the 13-play, 70-yard sequence that resulted in a 28-yard field goal and took over eight minutes off the clock in the third quarter. The Steelers gained 41 yards on the ground during that possession alone as their running game was a major factor in controlling the clock and limiting Baltimore to just seven possessions over the entire game.

“[The Pittsburgh game] wasn’t as much big plays as just as kind of bleeding us,” Pees said. “Six, seven, eight yards, which really created a second problem, and that’s third down, which we’ve been very good at. But I’ve said it before: It’s hard to be good on third down when it’s third-and-one and third-and-two.”

The defense has been far from the Ravens’ biggest problem in a disappointing 3-4 start, but Sunday marked the second straight week in which failing to stop the run was a major contributor in the opponent’s ability to put together a long drive in the second half. Against the Packers, the Ravens surrendered 36 rushing yards on a 72-yard fourth-quarter drive that lasted 7:35 and gave Green Bay a nine-point lead with just over four minutes to go. The Ravens would quickly score a touchdown to pull within two but would not get the ball back as the Packers then ran out the clock.

With an offense that’s largely struggled to simply move the ball consistently let alone score touchdowns instead of field goals, limiting its total number of possessions is a recipe for failure more often than not. And a run defense failing to meet high expectations is another reason why the Ravens have lost three of four to fall below the .500 mark for the first time this late in a season in the John Harbaugh era.

No matter what the reason in a given week, the leaky run defense is just one of several issues plaguing the Ravens as they approach the midway point of the season.

“The yardage is the same, which is not good, which we’ve got to get corrected,” Pees said. “If we’re going to be a good defense, we can’t let anybody run the ball on us.”

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 Ravens – Week 6

Posted on 15 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Below are our Tuesday Top 7 Ravens players in the 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. We’ll track our rankings throughout the 2013 season using the following point system:

No. 1 – 7 points
No. 2 – 6 points
No. 3 – 5 points
No. 4 – 4 points
No. 5 – 3 points
No. 6 – 2 points
No. 7 – 1 point

You can hear Jones’ full explanation HERE and Forrester’s HERE.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 …

7) Terrell Suggs
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6) Arthur Jones
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5) Joe Flacco
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4) Jimmy Smith
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3) Tandon Doss
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2) Dallas Clark
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1) Elvis Dumervil
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Drew Forrester’s Top 7 …

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>>>

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No signs of life from Ravens’ stagnant running game in loss to Packers

Posted on 13 October 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — The post-game comments have become as predictable as the offensive woes every week as the Ravens fell 19-17 to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

The same buzzwords and clichés have been echoed in describing an offensive line and running game that have been miserable through the first six weeks of the season. After showing signs of life in running for 100 yards in the second half against Miami last week, the Ravens are back to the drawing board again after being held to 47 yards on 22 carries against the Packers to fall to 3-3 on the season.

This week, there was no Bryant McKinnie to pick on as the newly-acquired Eugene Monroe took his place as the starting left tackle, but the results weren’t any better. The combination of young center Gino Gradkowski and the implementation of run-game coordinator Juan Castillo’s zone blocking schemes have received the bulk of the criticism, but the end result can’t be overstated or oversimplified in blaming only two individuals, either.

The entire Baltimore offensive line has been bad. Really bad.

“The thing that we’re not going to do is overreact,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You don’t go in there and make any kind of major adjustments when you know you’re doing things well, and you’ve got the people to do it. We’re a work in progress, no doubt about it.”

That line of explanation was acceptable over the first few weeks of the seasons when the Ravens faced some talented front sevens and were adjusting to new personnel, but in order to be a work in progress, there actually has to be some progress being made. And as the Ravens approach the midway point, the same problems continue to plague an offense that has been shut out in the first quarter four times in six games this season.

Though many might describe the decision to trade for Monroe in the middle of the season an example of overreacting, perhaps it’s time for Harbaugh to shake things up even more. There are simply too many holdovers from an offensive line that played terrifically in the Ravens’ march to Super Bowl XLVII nine months ago to accept being this bad. That’s why the fingers pointed in the direction of Castillo and Gradkowski are understandable.

Baltimore entered Week 6 gaining just 2.8 yards per carry and averaged 2.1 against the Packers as neither Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice nor backup Bernard Pierce could find consistent room to run. The offensive line was once again dominated physically and more miscommunication allowed unblocked defenders to blow up plays in the backfield on several occasions.

“What you saw out there is not what we put out in practice,” said Rice, who was held to 34 yards on 14 carries. “We practiced so hard. I guess I’d use the words ‘a little frustrated.’ You can’t take our hard work away. We work so hard.”

But that hard work isn’t paying off as the absence of a productive running game is making life too difficult for quarterback Joe Flacco, who played commendably in throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns in defeat. Critics will mock Flacco’s pedestrian numbers this season in the aftermath of the 28-year-old receiving a $120.6 million contract, but he isn’t good enough and doesn’t have the sufficient weapons to thrive without any semblance of a running game.

No Dennis Pitta, no Anquan Boldin, and no running game? You might as well ask Flacco to play without three of his four limbs, and that’s not even considering the pass protection that’s been better than the run blocking but still too inconsistent this season.

The Ravens were 2-for-14 on third down against the Packers on Sunday and only four of those opportunities required less than nine yards to convert. In the first quarter, the Ravens gained nine yards on nine plays on first and second down, leaving Flacco and the passing game with an uphill climb over and over.

“It’s tough when you don’t have any success on first and second down,” Flacco said. “You’re putting yourself in third-down situations and the only way you score touchdowns or kick a field goal is you convert four third downs to get there — and you get 12 yards at a time. Twelve yards, 12 yards, 12 yards. In order to sustain drives, you need to get first downs on first and second down, and you need to get a couple chunks in there, and we’re not doing that.”

The frustration is clear, because even with the personnel changes made from last year, there is still too much talent present to be this poor offensively, especially when it comes to the running game.

The Ravens simply can’t expect to overcome the slow starts by the offense on a weekly basis to win many games. The defense allowed a 64-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson late in the third quarter and wilted in the final 15 minutes as Green Bay put together a field-goal drive lasting more than seven minutes, but the overall effort of giving up 19 points to one of the best offenses in the NFL should have been enough to win.

The offense isn’t doing it’s part and it starts up front. As Flacco described it after the game, the 17 points scored in the second half were “too little, too late.”

“We’ve just not getting it done as well as we want to in the first half,” Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda said. “We come in at halftime and it’s like, ‘We’ve got to get going. We’ve got to do this.’ And it’s been like that almost every game this year. We want to start faster and help the defense out. I think they played tremendous today. Versus Aaron Rodgers, they did awesome. We all want to get it right. Everybody’s frustrated.”

There are no easy solutions as it’s clear Harbaugh and his coaching staff haven’t found them through the first six weeks of the season, but they must take a look at Castillo’s schemes and Gradkowski’s performance, specifically when it comes to making the proper calls at the line. And perhaps it’s time to reassess how offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell starts games since that’s when the Ravens have been particularly bad offensively.

Instead of hoping to establish the running game early, maybe the Ravens need to come out throwing to set up the run as the game progresses. At the very least, it would put the ball in Flacco’s hands to give him more control in preventing the third-and-long situations he’s pointed to as being a major problem.

It’s becoming apparent that giving the ball to Rice won’t automatically fix the Ravens’ problems despite what many had you believe after last week’s game.

“I always feel like we can mix it up a little bit more on first and second down just to get everybody going,” Flacco said. “It’s tough to say when we’re just not running the ball up to the ability that we think we should run it. If we were running the ball better, we wouldn’t be saying it. We wouldn’t be talking about it.”

But we are.

And it continues to be the biggest problem plaguing the Ravens this season.

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Flacco: “You can’t expect to play that badly for that long and win”

Posted on 13 October 2013 by WNSTV

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