Ravens have notable concerns heading into Carolina

Street Talk Ravens have notable concerns heading into Carolina

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There have been reports that the Ravens are likely in the market for an offensive tackle, just as they were a year ago at this time before they eventually pulled the trigger on Willie Anderson. Anderson was a perfect fit for what the team needed – a right tackle. This time, the team needs what they had from backup Adam Terry – a swing tackle capable of playing on both sides of the line.


 

There are some candidates on the open market who could fill that role, including former Packer Mark Tauscher and ex-Bengal Levi Jones.


 

But one has to wonder whether the team already has the right player on the roster. Second-year tackle Joe Reitz has performed well as a left tackle and a right tackle during training camp. The converted tight end is an athletic player with a long wingspan. The concern for Reitz is that he is undersized, but he has handled the bull rush better than anticipated.


 

One thing is for sure, Reitz is a more natural fit on the blindside than Oniel Cousins. Cousins has been atrocious as a pass blocker during the preseason. The one time right guard has been a fish out of water on that side of the line.


 

It would behoove the coaches to give Reitz a shot on the left side for the final two preseason games. Whether Reitz is solid or not, the front office will look into bringing in a veteran, at least for insurance. And they should.


 

However, at this point, the Cousins experiment has been a failure and Reitz deserves a shot…


 

Another position that merits some attention is at tight end. The team may have lost backup L.J. Smith for the remainder of the preseason. Smith, predictably, pulled his hamstring against the New York Jets on Monday night. This is the same hamstring injury that plagued him throughout the first week of training camp, among other nagging injuries.


 

Smith is a walking cold tube and there is no telling how long he will go without tweaking something else.


 

The other problem is that rookie Davon Drew, who showed some promise during OTAs, has also struggled to stay healthy. Even when he has been healthy, Drew hasn’t shown much in the passing game. He didn’t get a sniff of the field on Monday night.


 

Edgar Jones has worked hard throughout the offseason and should make the team. He brings value to all three phases of the game. However, there is still a question as to how much Jones can contribute as a tight end. After all, this is a position he is still adapting to. Jones looks better as a receiver than a blocker at this point, and the coaches have used him in the screen game. He cannot be counted on as the No.2 tight end.


 

Ironically, Todd Heap has been the most healthy and consistent player for the team. This is a great sign but the team needs to have solid insurance behind him…


 

With the loss of Terry, there is a question as to who will serve as the sixth linemen who could line up as a tight end. When the line shifted to an unbalanced look, the motioning tackle could line up alongside Terry or leave Terry free on an island. Terry provided support in pass protection and added power to the ground game.


 

Look for Marshal Yanda to have the chance to fill the same role. Yanda has made an incredible recovery from tearing three knee ligaments a year ago. Before the injury, Yanda was perhaps the best run blocker on the line, as he provided power as an in-line blocker at the right guard position.

As an extra lineman, Yanda will add a lot to the team’s short-yardage and power rushing packages. The question is whether Yanda could handle pass-blocking duties when he is on an island. One thing is for certain, Yanda will play with sound technique and he will battle. If he is placed in the right blocking situations, he will help offset the loss of Terry…


 

Ray Rice has been one of the hottest topics of the offseason. Fantasy football aficionados have raved about Rice’s potential to gobble up yardage as the Ravens’ featured back. The excitement for Rice is understandable, but in order for Rice to stay on the field he has to continue to develop as a blocker – an aspect of the game that is not measured by fantasy stats but will undoubtedly affect his fantasy value.


 

As a blocker at Rutgers, Rice struggled with his technique and recognition in blitz pick-up situations. Rice has improved in both areas.


 

There have been a number of times in camp when Rice has recognized the outside blitzer and was in position to get a hat on that defender. Against the Jets, it was Rice’s critical block of a blitzing corner that allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to find Derrick Mason on a 43-yard completion.


 

There have also been times when Rice has missed his assignments. However, when he is in position he stays low and times his hit well. Moreover, the added weight that Rice has put on will help him take on bigger defensive backs and linebackers.


 

For Rice to be an every-down back he has to pick-up the blitz or Willis McGahee — who has proven himself as an adept pass blocker — will steal his snaps.
 
Photo by Sabina Moran.

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Dev Panchwagh

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the Scouts.com network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week.  More from Dev Panchwagh

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