Defensive Line Receives Failing Grade

Report Card Defensive Line Receives Failing Grade

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According to media reports and players’ social media posts, the Ravens had a good, productive week of practice at San Jose State. They seemed to be in an encouraged and motivated state of mind.

Unfortunately, those good vibes didn’t translate into a win.

Here’s how the Ravens played in their 37-33 loss to the Raiders.

Report Card: Ravens at Raiders

Quarterback: A-

Throughout the game, despite hot and hazy conditions, Joe Flacco showed cool pocket presence. He played much better than last week, even though, while not equally talented as the Broncos’ pass rush, the Raiders’ pass rush made him work for everything. Flacco showed conviction on throws to every level, which is exactly what you want to see.

He floated some passes, too. But I didn’t think those were a result of a lack of confidence. I thought the trajectory of those throws was either by design or necessity, due to an impending sack.

Posting a completion percentage of over 70 percent, throwing for over 350 yards and multiple touchdowns, and earning a quarterback rating of over 100 on the road is not something every NFL quarterback can do.

Running backs: B

Initially I had this unit graded lower, but I realized the play-calling heavily favored passing plays (45-25), so these players’ opportunities were limited.

I liked what I saw out of Lorenzo Taliaferro in his first game of 2015. He ran with nice physicality and vision, and punched the ball in from seven yards out when the Ravens needed a touchdown.

Justin Forsett played an important role in the near-win as well. He gained 4.5 yards per carry, stuck his nose in the face of some A-gap pass rushes, and gained crucial first downs on perimeter running plays on which he was nearly tackled in the backfield.

Wide receivers/Tight ends: A

On Baltimore’s first play from scrimmage, Flacco fired a ball out to Kamar Aiken on the perimeter for six yards. Unfortunately Aiken showed poor mechanics after the catch, exposing the ball to cornerback Travis Carrie, who jarred it loose for teammate Curtis Lofton to recover. That was a play that set the Ravens behind from the get-go.

However Aiken, to his credit, responded late in the game. He finished with five receptions for 89 yards, and averaged nearly 21 yards per reception after the fumble, helping the Ravens get back the points his fumble had cost them.

What can you say about Steve Smith, Sr.? Ten catches, 150 yards, and a near game-winning touchdown (again). He obviously deserves retirement and to go out on his own terms, but it’s going to be sad to not see him play next year. What a signing he has been.

Crockett Gillmore showed he is a legitimate “TE1” as fantasy football players say. He caught five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the way in which he scored that was so impressive. Oakland players would gang tackle and swing their arms at Gillmore in an attempt to bring him down and rip the ball loose, but the Amarillo, TX native wasn’t having it. He and Smith, Sr. are going to be awfully tough to defend, especially now that they’re, shall we say, less than pleased with Baltimore’s start to the season.

Offensive line: B-

Unlike last week, more than any offensive unit, the offense line did a complete 180. They didn’t allow a single sack against the Raiders, giving Flacco plenty of time to find Gillmore and Smith, Sr. early. Going against the likes of Aldon Smith, Justin Tuck, and Khalil Mack and not only not allowing a sack but imposing your will for most of the game is something Juan Castillo and his players should be proud of.

You would’ve liked to see them establish the run a bit more. If the Raiders had to repeatedly defend Buck Allen (one carry, five yards) in addition to Forsett and Taliaferro, the game may have ended in Baltimore’s favor.

Defensive line: F

For the first time in a long time, I can’t look back on a game and remember one big play a defensive lineman made. The most memorable play from a player at this position was Timmy Jernigan‘s unthinkable roughing the passes penalty that absolutely sparked Oakland’s game-winning drive.

Timmy Jernigan with a very stupid roughing the passer penalty vs. Raiders

Lawrence Guy made four tackles. After that, all other defensive linemen made a total of one tackle (Brandon Williams).

Aiken, Darren Waller, and punter Sam Koch all had one tackle yesterday.

The defensive line as as a whole was completely neutralized and caused their defensive backs to cover Oakland’s receivers longer than they should have. They were stuck on blocks all day and allowed the Raiders to gain 5.1 yards per carry. This group did hardly anything to move Derek Carr off of his spot and make it difficult for him to complete passes.

I couldn’t believe the extreme lack of a pass rush the Ravens failed to put forth on Sunday.

Linebackers: C-

Understandably, there was going to be a drop off in production at first without the presence of Terrell Suggs. Even so, the production from Baltimore’s linebackers was lacking throughout the entire game. They really didn’t make any “splash” plays, which is very uncharacteristic of this group.

The worst news of all was that C.J. Mosley sustained a knee injury. Hopefully it’s not serious.

Defensive Backs: C-

The touchdown Jimmy Smith gave up to Amari Cooper was borderline embarrassing. It was just the sixth play of the game, and Smith was beaten badly. He never had a shot against Cooper.

On Michael Crabtree‘s 29-yard touchdown, the communication in the back end was lacking. The Ravens needed a stop then, and they didn’t get it. I know there was insufficient pressure on Carr all day, but still, more plays need to be made on the back end.

Will Hill III made a big-time interception with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, deep in Raiders territory. It helped the Ravens take the lead (just their second of the day). Unfortunately though, Hill was called for holding on the very next drive, even though it looked like he made an outstanding read and break on the ball. That was followed by a Carr touchdown to an absolutely wide open Seth Roberts, which won the game for Oakland.

Special Teams: A+

While the offense and defense took turns having horrible days in successive weeks, the special teams unit has been exemplary. Justin Tucker was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, and has now made 27 of his last 29 field goal attempts, including 13 in a row (playoffs included).

Sam Koch averaged 46.0 yards per punt, which is outstanding. Equally as impressive is the fact that all afternoon, the Raiders only managed five return yards (on two punts). Koch currently ranks 2nd in the NFL in net punting average (47.1 yards per punt).

Jerry Rosburg has certainly done an outstanding job so far. The Ravens special teams unit is clicking on all cylinders.

Team: B-

Homework:

  • Don’t make excuses
  • Figure out what personnel and scheme produces the best pass rush and move forward with that in full force
  • Go 1-0 this week

Player of the game: Crockett Gillmore

Stat of the game: For the first time since Week 1 of the 2013 season, the Ravens allowed two players to gain over 100 yards receiving and one touchdown each. That ends a streak of 34 games.

Next exam: Sunday, September 27, versus the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0)

 

Gifs courtesy of Gordon Dixon

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Mike Fast

About Mike Fast

Mike was born and raised in Baltimore. But after a year at York College of Pennsylvania, transferred to Towson University. At York he hosted various radio shows and wrote for The Spartan (the school's newspaper). In 2005, he spoke on a panel at the 2005 IBS conference in Manhattan regarding college game day presentation. At Towson, Mike was a public address announcer for multiple sports and majored in Mass Communication, with a focus in sports broadcasting. From 2012-13, he's covered Ravens training camp, and since 2012, he's been the social media coordinator for Johns Hopkins during their home men's lacrosse games. Mike got live a life-long dream when he attended Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and witness the Ravens become world champions! If you choose to do so, follow Mike Fast on twitter: @MikeFastNFL More from Mike Fast

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