By Jeff Zrebiec
The Baltimore Sun
8:13 AM EDT, September 19, 2012
Nothing has really changed since the start of training camp in regards to the Ravens’ negotiations on a long-term contract extension with quarterback Joe Flacco. But I certainly don’t buy this whole school of thought that when Flacco plays well, like in Week One, his price skyrockets, and when he plays poorly, like in the second half of Week Two, his value drops. After four-plus seasons now, the Ravens know what they have in Flacco and vice versa. That’s not going to change after a couple of really good games or a bad one. That’s not to say that a Pro Bowl season couldn’t make Flacco a little more money at year’s end. However, that will be the challenge for Flacco -- finding consistency and putting together that type of year. But a couple of great games and a couple of bad ones isn’t going to change how the Ravens feel about Flacco.
Three positive observations from Sunday’s game:
1. Linebacker Albert McClellan played a really strong game. He obviously hasn’t provided much of a pass rush, but he held up well against the run Sunday, making six tackles, including two for losses, and recovering a fumble. Assuming rookie Courtney Upshaw continues to make progress, I think a combination of McClellan on running downs and Paul Kruger on passing ones could be pretty solid.
2. Cornerback Lardarius Webb has become such a good all-around player. I understand that’s not exactly breaking news, but I’m not sure people appreciate what a good tackler he is and the other things that he does besides covering one of the top opposing wide receivers.
3. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I thought rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele played a little better than he was given credit for Sunday. Jason Babin and Trent Cole, the Eagles’ two pass-rushing defensive ends, made some plays, but that has to be expected when Flacco dropped back over 40 times. I thought Osemele and left tackle Michael Oher held their own.
Three negative observations from Sunday’s game:
1. Webb and McClellan were mostly exempt from this, but the Ravens’ tackling was uncharacteristically poor. Defensive backs Jimmy Smith and Ed Reed struggled a little in that area.
2. I’d say this has been covered substantially but I am still sort of scratching my head to figure out how you have one of the best and highest-paid running backs in the game (Ray Rice), one of the best and highest-paid fullbacks in the game (Vonta Leach) and one of the best and highest-paid right guards in the game (Marshal Yanda) and you don’t run at least once in those six third or fourth-and-short situations.
3. Flacco was obviously off in the second half, but of his 20 incompletions, I can’t remember too many where he missed open guys. There were a couple, but the point is that it shouldn’t be lost in the offense’s struggles that the wide receivers were getting little to no separation. I think that was one of the biggest problems. I also think that Flacco was affected by the hit that he took to the rib cage early in the second half though he’d never admit it.
Second-year wide receiver Torrey Smith has made a couple of big plays over the first two weeks, but I’d like to see Flacco try to get him a little more involved early Sunday night and not just on the deep ball. Smith has been targeted eight times in two games, compared to 24 times for tight end Dennis Pitta, 15 for Rice and nine for Anquan Boldin. It’s just two weeks and I think we all learned our lesson last year about rushing to judgment on Smith, who was shut out for the first games in his rookie season. But the Ravens really could use him to get going and maybe getting the ball in his hands early Sunday would do the trick. Smith had three catches for 82 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots in January.
The first loss of the 2012 campaign brought the same complaints that accompanied pretty much every loss last year: Cam Cameron’s play calling, Flacco’s consistency, the disappearance of the pass rush. However, one of last year’s gripes has been silenced for now and for good reason. The Ravens’ special teams, which were much maligned last year, have been really good so far. Rookie Justin Tucker has converted all six of his field-goal attempts, five of them from longer than 40 yards. Punter Sam Koch has been his reliable self. Rookie Deonte Thompson has injected some speed and energy into the return game and the coverage units have been really solid. Team officials acknowledged that the team had to improve in that area and so far, so good.
We could know more about Bernard Pollard later today when the locker room is open to the media and we’re allowed to watch the early part of practice, but I wouldn’t expect to see or hear anything definitive from the hard-hitting safety until later this week. Pollard is dealing with a rib injury that makes the most routine tasks, like bending down, into an exercise in pain tolerance. He’s a tough dude, but I would think best-case scenario is he is elevated to limited participant in practice by the end of the week and he’s a game-time decision. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is famous for his antics with the injury report, so I’m sure John Harbaugh and the Ravens could play that game too if they want.
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