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RAVENS REPORT CARD: Ravens 26 Dolphins 23

Street Talk RAVENS REPORT CARD: Ravens 26 Dolphins 23

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It wasn’t pretty, but is it ever?

I think one thing that Ravens’ faithful need to start to accept is that under John Harbaugh we’re likely never going to see the 30-0 blow outs that seem to be happening every week around the league.

Is it frustrating? Sure.

However, as long as the Ravens come out with the “W,” does it really matter?  For some reason, the Ravens generally are able to beat the teams that they’re supposed to beat, but it does not come without a mid-game panic attack from all fans of the black-n-purple.

What is it about the John Harbaugh-led Ravens that makes them play down to lesser opponents, especially on the road?  I feel like the Ravens are still working out a lot of the kinks on the offensive side of the ball, but the Dolphins were really not very good and for the umpteenth week in a row the Ravens basically just played one half of football.  I guess we’ll never really know and as long as the Ravens win more than they lose, I guess it does not really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Offensive Grades: 

Overall, I thought the offense did a lot better than they have in the past few weeks.  They still struggled to find a consistent running attack, but unlike last week against Buffalo, they didn’t give up on it and were able to keep Miami’s defense on their heels for much of the game.  An interesting aspect was that the offensive line seemed to be a bit better once AQ Shipley subbed in for Kelechi Osemele (Osemele went out with back pain in the 1st half).  It begs the question, “is Osemele regressing?” I surely hope not because the Ravens cannot afford another 2nd round bust.

Offensive Line: 120 yards rushing at 3.15 yards per carry.  2 sacks and 843,299 hurries.  GRADE: F.

Hyperbole aside, the offensive line continues to be a weak point of the team.  A lot of fans want to point the finger at Gino Gradkowski, but from my perspective Gino actually had his best game as a starter yesterday.  Yes, he did get blown back off the line of scrimmage a few times, but the Dolphins have a pretty darn good defensive line with Randy Starks and Paul Soliali.  I saw Gino get to the second level on a number of running plays and I saw him stand his assignment up at the line of scrimmage on passing plays.

Marshall Yanda had an up and down day, but he struggled as well.

As odd as it is to say, Michael Oher may have been the best lineman yesterday.

Considering the Ravens haven’t averaged more than 3 yards per carry all season, yesterday was a little victory in the running department.  Hopefully this is a sign that things will be getting better.  I am also hopeful that Eugene Monroe stepping into the starting left tackle role will increase the continuity and ability of the offensive line.

Bryant McKinnie may as well have not even been on the field yesterday.  I was completely afraid that once the Ravens traded for Monroe, McKinnie would care even less about playing and unfortunately it seemed as if I was correct.  I can recall several different plays where McKinnie was standing around watching his blocking assignment make plays in the backfield by tackling Bernard Pierce or Rice.  I also watched as McKinnie seemingly morphed into Oniel Cousins and allowed rookie defender, Dion Jordan, to come around and hit Flacco’s hand as he was releasing a ball.  This was the play that led to Reshad Jones intercepting the errant throw and returning it for a touchdown to tie the game up late in the 4th quarter.

It is a good thing that McKinnie will be taking a back seat to Monroe from now on.

Joe Flacco, 19/32, 269 yards, 1 INT.  GRADE: B+.

To those fans who want to look at this performance and put the blame on Flacco…well…maybe football isn’t for you.  Football is the ultimate team sport and it is one of the only sports where each position is dependant on other positions, even when they’re not on the field together.

What I mean is that if the offensive line leaks like a sieve, then the quarterback won’t have adequate time to throw the ball, which means the receivers will have to look for passes early or try to adjust to errant throws, which means that defenses don’t have to worry as much about the pass and can stack the box and completely stuff the run thereby making the offense have to pass more even though the passing attack is inefficient.

Whew…what a mouthful.

Considering that Flacco was getting hit every other offensive snap, I thought he played as well as can be expected.  The interception was not his fault.  As I mentioned above, a defender got their hand on the ball as Flacco was releasing it.  My one complaint about Flacco is that when he isn’t comfortable (how could he be?!) he has a tendency to throw off of his back foot and that leads to a lot of passes sailing over receiver’s heads.  The play where Tandon Doss was wide open down the right sideline and Flacco sailed a pass about 10 yards over Doss comes to mind.  Had Flacco set up and thrown with both feet firmly planted on the ground, that may have been a touchdown or, at the very least, a huge gain.

Torrey Smith, 6 receptions for 121 yards.  GRADE: A+.  

Earlier in the season I made a statement that I was unsure if Torrey Smith would ever be able to turn into a true #1 receiver.  Well folks, I have never been more pleased to be wrong.  Torrey is making all of the tough grabs you want out of a #1 receiver and he is making catches in stride and picking up huge gains after the catch.  His touchdown receptions are down, but that is because he is being asked to do a lot more than just be the guy who blows the top off of defenses.

If anyone thinks that Torrey isn’t the best offensive player on this team right now, consider this:  He is on pace for 1,780 yards receiving.  At that pace, Torrey would have been second among all receivers in 2012 only behind Calvin Johnson’s record setting season of 1,964 yards.

Right now Torrey is leading all receivers with 556 yards.  The only player who has more receiving yards is tight end Jimmy Graham of New Orleans.  Michael Jackson set the single season franchise record for the Ravens in 1996 with 1201 yards.  Torrey is on pace to completely decimate that record.

Ray Rice, 27 touches, 74 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost.

GRADE: C.  I actually started a discussion on the Russell Street Report forums titled “Ray Rice – Slowing Down?  Or Still Injured?”  In that forum topic there are fans that believe that Rice is still hampered from a hip injury suffered during the Cleveland Browns game in Week 2.  Then there are fans that believe that the wear and tear of being an NFL running back is starting to take its toll on Rice’s ability.

There are a lot of great points from both sides of the fence, but as for me, I’m just not sure.  The reason why I am on the fence with this topic is because the offensive line has just been so bad that it is hard to tell if Rice has regressed a little.  However, I will say that there were a number of runs yesterday where it looked like he just fell down or tripped himself with no one around.  I wonder if he is compensating for the injury and as a result just doesn’t have the balance that he once had.

Either way, neither injury nor regression should be a reason for him to fumble and what was once an issue solely in the playoffs has now become an issue during the regular season.  Regression/injury aside, Rice has to do a better job of protecting the football.

Defensive Grades:

The defense continued to perform admirably against a fairly decent Miami offense.  Ryan Tannehill still threw for over 300 yards, but 140 of those yards came on just three passes.  Tannehill had trouble finding open receivers for much of the game and only completed about 50% of his attempted passes (granted several Miami receivers dropping passes had a hand in that inconsistent performance).

This defense has all of the makings to not just be one of the best defenses in the NFL this year, but THE best defense in the NFL.  As the offense struggles to find their identity, the defense is keeping them in games and as a fan you can’t ask for much more than that.

Terrell Suggs, 5 tackles, 3 sacks.  GRADE: A+.

Folks, I don’t normally throw this around much, but Suggs is making a legitimate case for the Hall of Fame.  After five games he has seven sacks, and is on pace for 22.5 sacks over a full season.  If he reaches that, he would tie the single-season NFL record held by Michael Strahan.  Suggs currently has 91.5 career sacks, which is 39th all-time and 7th among all active defensive players.  With five more sacks he will surpass Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.  With nine more sacks he will surpass Hall of Famer Andre Tippett.  The guy is incredible and at 30 years old with 10 years in the NFL, he is having the best season of his career.

James Ihedigbo, 3 tackles.  GRADE: D.

Ihedigbo (aka “Dig”) may have had his worst game of the season yesterday.  Dig is an ideal in-the-box safety, or what is also referred to as a “Joker” safety, because he tackles well and he is physical.  However, he does have some limitations as a coverage safety and we saw how he can be exposed.  Two of Miami’s big passing plays came on Dig’s side where he had over-the-top responsibility and he just misjudged the trajectory of the ball and the speed of the receiver.  I’m not too worried about Dig as a starter though.  He’ll learn from these misreads and rebound.

Coaching Grades:

As I discuss in the opening paragraph, I’m not sure why it is that the Harbaugh-led Ravens seem to play down to their competition.  It seems like every year the Ravens are cutting it close against a team that they should be throttling.  Last year it was Charlie Batch and the Steelers and the anemic Kansas City Chiefs.  In 2011 it was losing to the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Also since John Harbaugh took the reigns in 2008, the Ravens have not traveled well.  I’m glad to say that yesterday’s game plan worked and the Ravens won, but eventually I’d like to think that the Ravens would be able to hand a loss to a lesser opponent without fans pulling their hair out at halftime.

John Harbaugh, GRADE: A.

I’m glad that Harbs came out and displayed how dissatisfied he was with the team’s performance against Buffalo.  I’m also happy to see that he acknowledged that asking Flacco to throw the ball six hundred times in one half is not a good offensive strategy and they need to be more balanced.

As bad as the running game is, the offense needs to be balanced and in my opinion that is the main reason why the Ravens won yesterday.  I’m also giving Harbs an A because he really does care about the fan base and after the game he corralled the entire team over to their section to acknowledge and thank the Baltimore faithful that traveled to the game and cheered them on.  It was a great gesture and one of the reasons why I really admire John Harbaugh as a coach and a member of the Baltimore community.  Not many other coaches would have done that.

Jim Caldwell, GRADE: C.

3rd and 22, deep in your own territory with the lead and the defense playing stout football…yet you call a slow-developing vertical pass that leads to an interception returned for a touchdown.  Come on man!  I’m glad that Caldwell stuck to the run a bit more than last week against Buffalo, but what I just do not get is the same pattern of “run, run, pass”.

It is almost like clockwork.

If Caldwell would open the game plan up a little and maybe mix the play calling up a bit then the offense might not look as stagnant as it often does in the first half.   Flacco is a rhythm quarterback.  He needs to get into a groove before he starts hitting on all of his passes.  Additionally, with the OL playing the way it is I don’t understand why more short, possession routes are not being called.

Dean Pees, GRADE: A.

I thought yesterday’s defensive game plan was brilliant.  The clear weakness on Miami’s team was their offensive tackles and Pees let the hounds loose.  Suggs had three sacks, Elvis Dumervil had a sack, Pernell McPhee had a sack and even Courtney Upshaw had a sack.  This isn’t even accounting for the number of hurries and pressures on Ryan Tannehill.

The strength of this team, though, continues to be the run defense.  Miami’s running backs combined for 16 yards on nine carries, an average of 1.77 yards per carry.  Pees and the defense did an outstanding job making Miami’s offense 1-dimensional and while the score doesn’t suggest it, Miami’s offense had a tough time getting anything going.

My final thought is this:  I am excited to see what Eugene Monroe brings to the table as the left tackle moving forward.  I was super excited when I heard that the Ravens traded for him because not only is he already a well established player, he is only 26 years old.

I am hopeful that the Ravens can figure out a way to keep him for more than just this season because having a solid left tackle entering their prime is something that many teams who pick late in the draft just do not have the opportunity to do unless they land a gem late.

I think Tandon Doss has made great strides and the offense is only going to get better as Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones get healthy.  Hopefully they both play this weekend against Green Bay.

Finally, keep an eye out for rookie lineman Ryan Jensen.  There is a reason why they did not IR him and are still keeping him on the active roster.  I would not be surprised if he challenged for the starting center position or even left guard position when he is able to practice again.

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Paul Lukoskie

About Paul Lukoskie

Paul (aka WickedSolo) has been an avid football fan since he was a little kid. As former player himself (through college only...turning pro and having million dollar contracts and fame just sounded too overwhelming...or he's just a 5'11" 200lb guy who was only good enough to play D-3 ball...but who's counting...) he has a ton of experience in the locker room, on the field, and in the film room during the off-season and the regular season. While serving in the US Navy on active duty he had the opportunity to check out the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and caught the attention of a few Ravens' scouts (not too hard to spot the only guy in Mobile wearing camo fatigues with a purple Ed Reed jersey) and they were kind enough to point out some of the things they look for when scouting players. From that point on, Paul was hooked on the draft and everything leading up to it. He regularly contributes draft-based analytical pieces on the RSR forum and is constantly providing Ravens fans with collegiate players to check out. Paul is a Charm City native through and through and after being Honorably discharged from the Navy lives with his wife Ashly and son Jack. Jack is less than a year old, but is in the process of training to play for the Ravens in 2033. More from Paul Lukoskie

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