The local uproar surrounding Anquan Boldin’s performance against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was both predictable and understandable. However, I’m not sure the attention is in the right place. The Ravens clearly used the money that they saved by trading Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers ($6 million) to rebuild their defense, which was a necessity. Elvis Dumervil certainly would not be in Baltimore if Boldin stayed, and Daryl Smith and Chris Canty may not be either. But where it looks like they clearly erred was putting so much faith in the organization's younger wide receivers. While maintaining that the trade of Boldin for a sixth-round pick was strictly a salary cap move, Ravens’ officials made it clear that they liked what they still had in the organization at the position. There was no indication that the Ravens were even in on any free-agent receivers. That’s what doesn’t look good at the moment. David Reed was traded when it became obvious that he wouldn’t make the team. Tandon Doss was released but has since been re-signed. LaQuan Williams was let go, as was Tommy Streeter. Deonte Thompson hasn’t practiced since hurting his foot in the first preseason game. Not one of those guys has emerged and stepped up into a bigger role. And when you combine that with the injury to Dennis Pitta, that’s what has left the Ravens’ passing attack vulnerable. They say that the most important skill for any organization is to properly evaluate its own players. That’s been one of the Ravens’ biggest strengths, but obviously they envisioned the young receivers behind Torrey Smith performing better than they have.
And one more thought on Boldin, I can’t say for sure whether the veteran wide receiver would have been willing to sign an extension with the team that would have significantly lowered his salary cap number for the 2013 season in exchange for a longer commitment. I assume he would have, though that’s probably a moot point. The Ravens were adamant about not restructuring deals and unnecessarily putting money on future payrolls with the knowledge that the cap numbers for players like Joe Flacco, Lardarius Webb and Ray Rice were going to rise significantly the next couple of years.
Boldin was hardly the only member of the Super Bowl XLVII champions to depart this offseason and make a big impact for his new team in Week 1. Against the Washington Redskins last night, Cary Williams, who has had a rough go of it so far with Philadelphia, became the first Eagles cornerback since Lito Sheppard in 2005 to have a sack and an interception in the same game. Cleveland Browns linebacker Paul Kruger, who the Ravens will see Sunday, had four tackles and a sack versus the Miami Dolphins, while Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe had six tackles in that game. Tennessee Titans safety Bernard Pollard had six tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I’ve been asked several times about why the Ravens have yet to put rookie center Ryan Jensen, the sixth-round pick who broke his foot during one of the first practices of training camp, on injured reserve even when they’ve needed some roster maneuverability. The answer, according to coach John Harbaugh, is simple: The Ravens think Jensen is not too far from returning and they believe he potentially could help them at some point this season. I’m not sure what his return would mean for backup center A.Q. Shipley, but Jensen can play guard as well, and with the Ravens a little thin with offensive line depth, they obviously don’t want to rule Jensen out for the season unless it’s an absolute necessity.
Speaking of offensive line play, the website Pro Football Focus rates each player’s performance following games and left guard Kelechi Osemele received an overall grade of -3.3, which tied with tight end Ed Dickson for the lowest grade amongst all Ravens’ offensive players. Osemele allowed two quarterback hits and three hurries in the loss to the Denver Broncos and struggled to open up holes with the run as well. Make of it what you will, but I thought this was worth mentioning because Osemele also graded out poorly in the preseason ahead of what some predicted could be a Pro Bowl campaign for the second-year guard.
The re-signing of Doss makes sense for a couple of reasons beyond the simple fact that the Ravens needed a wide receiver with Jacoby Jones sidelined. One, they needed a guy that already knows the offense, which Doss does. With Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark still learning the offense, bringing in another guy who needs time to get to know the playbook would be too much. And two, Doss can return punts. The Ravens would prefer not putting Webb in jeopardy less than a month removed from knee surgery, so Doss makes sense in that role until Jones returns.