Tuesday Ravens ten pack on Steve Smith, Jimmy Smith, and the offensive line
By By Jon Meoli
The Baltimore Sun|
Sep 23, 2014 | 12:32 PM
Welcome to the ever-evolving Ravens 10 Pack, where I'll go medium depth on 10 Ravens topics that came from the previous Sunday's game. Sure, Monday is the main analysis day, but if I can get an extra day to make this marginally better than it would be a day earlier, why not? Read ahead for notes on all of the Smiths, the Ravens' strong guards, and the tight end situation.
1. This is Steve Smith week here in Baltimore, with his former team the Carolina Panthers coming to town. Why not highlight just how integral he's become in the Ravens offense? His five-catch, 103-yard performance once again paced the Ravens, and he's tops on the team with 290 yards and a touchdown on 18 catches. It's how he's racking up those yards that are impressive, though. He's made 11 players miss tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, over twice as many as the next wide receiver, and has 130 yards after the catch, fourth-most in the league.
2. General Manager Ozzie Newsome left fans wondering at three positions in the offseason — right tackle, cornerback, and running back. Through three games, right tackle Rick Wagner has been solid, if not good. The running back triumvirate of Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, and Lorenzo Taliaferro will cobble together a representative rushing attack behind an improved offensive line. But with Lardarius Webb injured and Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown the only two other cornerbacks on the roster, the team has floundered at the position. Jackson and Brown have taken turns on the outside opposite Jimmy Smith, and teams have picked the Ravens' zone apart on that side. Webb didn't look healthy at all Sunday, and he'll need to be going forward for this group not to submarine the Ravens' season.
3. Jimmy Smith was the only passable defensive back on the field Sunday. Through three games, Pro Football Focus' stats say he's been targeted 13 times for nine catches and 40 yards, with 19 of those yards coming after the catch. Teams are certainly willing to throw at him on occasion, but they aren't having much success. Jimmy Smith will likely be tasked with rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, and Smith is at his best against bigger receivers like him. If Jimmy Smith, who was limping after the game in Cleveland, is healthy, it could be another step toward him being recognized among the league's best shutdown corners.
4. Sunday's Ravens-Browns game featured the top four rated guards in PFF's ratings through four games. Left guard Kelechi Osemele and right guard Marshal Yanda are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, with 8.2 and 7.2 ratings through three games. John Grego and Joel Bitonio of Cleveland are right behind them. That pair, along with center Jeremy Zuttah in the middle, have opened up the Ravens' interior running game and created a pocket for quarterback Joe Flacco to sling the ball around.
5. The run-happy Browns, plus the Ravens' worrisome depth issues at defensive line, put second-year defensive tackle Brandon Williams in the spotlight. Williams was used primarily in run situations earlier in the year, which kept him off the field against Pittsburgh, but played 50 snaps against Cleveland and made three total tackles, but that's not the full measure of his worth. According to PFF, Williams was responsible for stops on 11.6 percent of his run snaps so far this season, among players who have played 50 percent of his team's defensive snaps. How's that for qualifiers? Either way, Williams will be in the spotlight even more with rookie tackle Timmy Jernigan out with a knee injury, and will be responsible for stopping Carolina's decent rushing attack.
6. Perhaps because they drop back in coverage so much, but also perhaps they're a bit vulnerable in coverage, inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley are thrown at a ton. Smith has been targeted a league-high 18 times in coverage, most among inside linebackers according to PFF, and allowed 11 catches for 102 yards. Mosley is tied for second with 16 targets, and has allowed 11 catches for 107 yards. It seems a symptom of the Ravens' coverage schemes that there's space over the middle, and even the league's best linebackers (Carolina's Luke Kuechly, San Francisco's Patrick Willis, and New England's Jerod Mayo) are frequently targeted. But the Ravens' pass coverage issues just makes their linebackers' roles more prevalent.
7. The Ravens wide receivers have dropped 12 passes through three games, according to PFF's stats, and he's lost 109 yards on those passes. As our Aaron Wilson wrote last week, the Gary Kubiak offense has never really needed a second wide receiver, but when all options not named Steve Smith are putting the ball on the ground, it's not going to help anyone distinguish himself.
8. Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore will be bandied about as an in-house replacement for injured tight end Dennis Pitta, but he has much more value at this point in his career as a blocking tight end than a pass-catcher. Gillmore has been used on mostly in run situations so far, and has a lot of work to do in the passing game before he can be a viable option there. Gillmore is working hard and appears to be tight end Owen Daniels' shadow around the complex, so he could get there, but he's not a ready-made stand-in for Pitta.
9. This offense has a lot of mouths to feed, so to speak, but it never looks better than when it's lining up and running with authority for several plays in a row. Drives like that are almost always successful, and then the team gets away from it by trying some ill-conceived pass plays and the following drive never gets started. Especially with three running backs they're comfortable with going forward, this has to become a run-first team to keep the offense in rhythm and keep the defense off the field.
10. Left tackle Eugene Monroe appeared to be very limited by his knee injury on Sunday, and the team has serious issues if he's out. Undrafted rookie James Hurst has been the active tackle deputy this season, but didn't show well in game action. He's presumably getting first-team work in practice while Monroe rests his knee, but Hurst's inclusion in the starting lineup could mean you see a lot of Gillmore on his side to help out in the blocking game.