Did anyone expect Jimmy Smith to play this well after his awful performance in Denver? I, for one, did not. And for good reason; he made the same mistakes he has made his entire career. Lack of instincts, poor tackling, and overall sloppy technique have plagued his first two years in the NFL. Against the Browns, however, Smith took a stand.
Officially, Smith had three passes defensed, but anyone who keyed on Smith knows he did much more than that. The Ravens consistently left him on an island, asking him to disrupt timing routes by redirecting receivers inside using outside leverage. While Greg Little isn’t exactly Calvin Johnson, Smith completely shut him out of the game. Smith made an impact all game, directly and indirectly. That is the player the Ravens thought they were getting in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Flacco’s stats were average. And if I didn’t watch the game, I would say he had an average game. But, he didn’t. Despite a poor running game, inconsistent pass protection, and inexperienced receivers, Flacco was poised and on-target. Something one would expect from a 120 million dollar man.
The Ravens had thirteen passing first downs and were 50% on third downs, due largely to Flacco’s brilliance. While the Ravens only produced fourteen points, Justin Tucker missed two field goals and both Marlon Brown and Torrey Smith dropped long touchdown passes. If the Ravens offensive weapons ever get it together, this could be a dangerous bunch.
The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year was in rare form against the Browns and their All-World Left Tackle, Joe Thomas. Despite Brandon Weeden’s willingness to stay in the pocket in the face of pressure, Suggs made it borderline life-threatening for him to do that. And it obviously wasn’t just the one sack. It was the constant pressure and hits that go unnoticed in the general box score.
Against the run, Suggs was his usual dominant self, stacking and shedding, forcing Trent Richardson inside regularly. As a result, Daryl Smith and Josh Bynes had the ability to split gaps and attack the ball carrier. If this is a sign to come, then Ravens fans should expect another fantastic year from Suggs.
While I was hard on Osemele this offseason, I did not expect him to regress as much as he has. Against the Broncos, Osemele was actually pretty effective when “blocking down” on defensive linemen, but was completely ineffective in every other aspect of the guard position. Unfortunately, Osemele played even worse against the Browns.
For most of the game, Osemele struggled to sustain second level blocks against D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson. Consequentially, Rice and Pierce had a difficult time finding any running room beyond two or three yards. Hopefully the talented second-year player gets it together; this struggling offense needs it.
I had high hopes for Ed Dickson this season. Everyone did. It was finally his chance to be a primary target in the middle of the field for a great quarterback. Clearly, Dickson didn’t get the message. And it isn’t his terrible blocking or drops, either. That is expected from Dickson at this point. The reason Dickson has been such a disappointment so far is simple: he has absolutely zero chemistry with Flacco.
After three years, one would think Dickson would have some sort of rapport with his quarterback. He doesn’t, and that was on full display against the Browns. While Flacco was clearly looking to find Dickson early in his progressions, the former third round pick was nowhere to be seen. This compounded with his issues blocking, Dickson was easily one of the worst Ravens Sunday.
Maybe Dickson can turn it around. Maybe he can somehow develop the chemistry with Flacco that has eluded him for three years. But until then, he remains a major liability in this offense.
I know its cruel to beat a man while he’s down, but Rice played uncharacteristically bad before his injury. Yes, not many holes were opened, but Rice should be able to manufacture yards on his own based upon the amount of money he is making. Even on plays where Rice had an opening, he simply didn’t deliver.
In the passing game, Rice has not been his usual self. On a crucial third down, Rice slipped when he was the clear first progression, forcing an errant pass from Flacco. While this downward trend is going to be stonewalled by Rice’s recovery, this could become an issue later on in the season when the Ravens rely more on the running game.