Know Your Enemy: Baltimore Ravens

I haven’t done one of these in a couple weeks. Luckily Riley from over at the EbonyBird was on top of things this week and made it happen. Each week, I contact the editor of the Fansided team blog for the Seahawk’s opponent and ask a few questions about that team. Here is their response:

1. Joe Flacco has been wildly inconsistent this year. Why do you think has been the cause for his uneven performance? and are Baltimore fans starting to think that he’s not the long term answer for the Ravens?

Although Flacco seems to be the center piece for the team’s inconsistency, the whole offense is really the culprit. There’s been games where the receivers have been absent (Jaguars) and other games where the o-line didn’t mesh (Titans). Flacco hasn’t played perfect in all these games but he needs help from his supporting cast in order to be effective.

I’m asked this question a lot and I think the answer is pretty simple. Flacco is definitely the long term answer for the Ravens. I say this for a few of reasons. (1) He’s still young and will continue to progress, (2) He’s a lot better than any other options the Ravens have, and (3) The Ravens don’t have time to develop another young quarterback. It’s no secret that the dominant defense will start to deteriorate over the next few years and if the Ravens want to win a Super Bowl, the time is now. Flacco is a great quarterback and would probably fall into 75% percentile of NFL quarterbacks. Even if the Ravens did want to go into another direction, who’s out there on the market? Going through the trouble is not worth it, especially when they’ve got something special already.

2. The Baltimore running game has struggled to move the ball for much of the season. Has this been Ray Rice, the line, or the scheme that’s caused the problems? 

One thing’s for sure, it’s definitely not Ray Rice. The best offensive player on the Ravens is an incredibly hard runner an often turns 2 yard runs into 20 yard runs. Rice has simply not been getting the ball as much. After defenses started to key in on him, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron limited his carries. While he is still making his presence felt through the air, the Ravens want to give him the ball more. If the passing game is on though, his carries will be limited.

Once LG Ben Grubbs got injured in week two, things started to take a turn for the worse as the running game struggled. He came back last week and you could easily notice the difference. He’s one of the best guards in the league and a valuable asset at the position. I think the Ravens will try to get back to the ground this week.

3. Other than Anquan Boldin, there doesn’t appear to be much going on in terms of the Raven’s receivers. Who else is there that might step up and give Flacco some help in the passing game?

Well, you may see him step up this week. Lee Evans was a big acquisition for the Ravens this offseason but his ankle injury has caused him to miss the last 7 games. He returned to practice this week and hopes to return to action against the Seahawks. Because of his absence, Torrey Smith has been forced into the number two position. Smith caught the game winning touchdown against the Steelers last week and has put forth a solid performance this season despite inconsistency. With Lee Evans returning, some of the pressure should be taken off of Smith’s back.

The two young tight ends for the Ravens, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, have been outstanding this season. Pitta converted five third downs last week and Dickson has made some athletic catches down field. They’ve been a safety valve for Flacco and performed above expectations.

4. 8 games into the season, grade the rookie class for the Ravens. How are the kids doing so far this season

I’d give them a B-. Their first round pick, CB Jimmy Smith, was injured in the opening kickoff of the season and didn’t see action until a couple of weeks ago. Because of the outstanding play of the corners, he hasn’t seen the field at all except on special teams. It’s disappointing because he was expected to do big things but with the way the corners are playing now, I’m not complaining.

Torrey Smith has done the most thus far for the Ravens’ rookies. His first three NFL receptions came in one quarter and they all went for TDs. He also caught a pass against the Cardinals that set the Ravens up for the game winning field goal. He’s had a lot of drops but makes the catch when it counts like last week against the Steelers.

The rest of the Ravens rookies have been primarily backups but 5th round pick Pernell McPhee has been a great third down pass rusher for the Ravens. He’s had a couple of sacks this season and has been a pleasant surprise.

5. What is the biggest weakness of this year’s Ravens team, and is there a fix in sight?

Consistency. I’ve heard it way too much but it’s true. The Ravens are one of the best teams in the NFL when they’re on their game, but the worst when they’re not. John Harbaugh has said that they’re working hard to fix it but it’s yet to be seen. Winning this week will do a lot to help their cause as it will be their third win in a row.

6. The Ravens are going to be clear favorites in this game, but this is the NFL so anything can happen. How do the Seahawks win this game?

Getting pressure on Joe Flacco and capitalizing on turnovers. When Flacco is pressured, he starts to make mistakes. If the Seahawks’ D can get him out of his rhythm and cause some turnovers, they’ll have a good chance of winning. But getting turnovers and doing nothing with them won’t help much. Going against the number two ranked defense is no easy task and the Seahawks will have to use good field position and put up some points.

If you’re interested, you can check out my answers to his questions as well.

 

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