Just five days ago, the Ravens were left with only three healthy wide receivers for their game against the Miami Dolphins. When they put out their inactive list about 90 minutes before Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, they figure to have significantly tougher decisions to make.
Knowing the alternative, coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell aren't going to complain about that reality.
"It's going to be a good problem to have considering what we've been going through," Caldwell said. "We're glad to get them back — the more the merrier."
For the first time all season, the Ravens will seemingly enter a game with their full complement of wide receivers. Torrey Smith, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson were the only three active receivers versus Miami, but Marlon Brown (hamstring), Jacoby Jones (knee) and Brandon Stokley (groin) have increased activity in practice and all three appear to have a decent chance to play Sunday.
However, it's unlikely that the Ravens will dress six wide-outs, all of whom have played prominent rules at one point or another over the first five games.
"We just have to figure out as the week goes on what suits the style of play that we're going to have for this weekend," Caldwell said. "We'll take a look, and guys will go through their paces and get a sense of who's going to do what and make our decision from there."
Special teams will obviously factor in the decision. Doss and Thompson have both given the Ravens a boost on punt and kickoff returns in Jones' absence, averaging 16.7 and 28.7 yards respectively. Jones, who hasn't played since spraining his knee in Week 1, was a Pro Bowl returner last year but the Ravens have been noncommittal to this point on whether he'll immediately return to those roles.
"He's practicing everything," said Jerry Rosburg, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator. "When he's cleared for practice and he's healthy enough to play games, he'll be full-time and playing. Now, how that fits in with the rest of the roster remains to be seen. … Now, that our depth at receiver is coming back, and we have some depth now at returner — both with Tandon and with Deonte — we'll play the game, and whoever is the returner at that particular time will be the returner. But it gives us an opportunity to play others, certainly."
Upshaw, the Ravens' rock
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have gotten most of the praise for the Ravens' rejuvenated pass rush, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees wants to make sure that Courtney Upshaw is not going unnoticed.
The second-year strong-side linebacker has just 10 tackles in five games and he recorded his first sack against the Dolphins but Pees said Upshaw "does a lot of little things behind the scenes," like picking offensive linemen to free up his teammates to sack the quarterback.
"Football makes sense to him," Pees said. "I just can't say enough good things about him. I think this guy is kind of unheralded in some ways because some other guys overshadow him — and that's OK because those guys deserve it, too — but Courtney Upshaw does a lot for our defense. … He is such an intelligent football player. You ask him to do it and he understands why you want him to do it."
Dumervil agreed with Pees' assessment, calling Upshaw "our rock.
"When we film watch, he does the dirty work," he said. "He knocks the tight ends around, he sets the edges for us and that's important. Whenever you want to be a good run defense, you have to be able to set the edge and allow the runners to stay within the confines of the defense. He's one of the best in the league who does it."
To make room for Bajema, the Ravens cut running back Shaun Draughn. He was active for three games, returning two punts for 53 yards and getting four carries for two yards. … Injured tight end Dennis Pitta (hip dislocation) caught passes from Joe Flacco early in today's practice, prompting Flacco to ask, "Are you back yet?" … Pees called the M&T Bank crowd "the best I've ever been around in all the years I've coached."
Baltimore Sun reporters Aaron Wilson and Matt Vensel contributed to this articleCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun