Baltimore Ravens

Ravens news, notes and opinions on Alshon Jeffery, Eugene Monroe and more

Winless thus far and dealing with far lower expectations than the Ravens, the Chicago Bears showed this week that they are willing to deal, sending pass rusher Jared Allen to the Carolina Panthers and linebacker Jon Bostic to the New England Patriots. They got draft picks in return.

The deals spurred the predictable questions about who else the Bears might be willing to move, and of course, Ravens fans are salivating over the possibility of adding 6-foot-3 wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.


I don't have any inside information on whether the Bears are willing to trade Jeffery or what they'd be looking for in return in terms of draft picks.

Jeffery, of course, would be a huge help to an offense that lacks a proven big and physical receiver. Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman obviously knows him well from his past two seasons with the Bears. But it's too early to get overly excited about the possibilities.


If Jeffery is available, there will be many teams interested. He's also a free agent after the season. If the Ravens don't start reeling off a few wins in the very near future and greatly improve their playoff outlook, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for them to add a rental receiver.

Jeffery has also been dealing with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss consecutive games, so it's not clear how much immediate help he can provide if he's not healthy.

Revisiting Crabtree

After the first wave of free agency died down and the Ravens had lost Torrey Smith and not replaced him with another veteran receiver, I was constantly being asked about their interest level in Michael Crabtree, who was readily available. I dismissed the idea emphatically, citing Crabtree's mediocre 2014 season and questions about his health and reputation.

Well, it sure looks now that he would have been a solid, low-cost addition. Crabtree isn't setting the world on fire with the Oakland Raiders, but he's been pretty solid, catching 18 balls for 184 yards and a touchdown.

He's not the big and fast wide receiver that the Ravens lack, but he's a reliable target, and an affordable one, too. The Raiders signed him to a one-year, $3 million deal.

The Ravens obviously didn't feel like they could afford to re-sign Smith (five years, $40 million), or add other top free-agent wide receivers such as Jeremy Maclin (five years, $55 million) and Andre Johnson (three years, $21 million). Crabtree, however, would have fit at least half of general manager Ozzie Newsome's right player/right price mantra. Whether he would have been the right player, we'll never know. But he's off to a decent start in Oakland.

Smith starts slow


Smith, by the way, was held without a catch on two targets in the San Francisco 49ers' blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week.

Through three games, he has seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Seventy-five of those yards and the lone score come on one play against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Regardless of what Smith does for San Francisco, his absence is still being felt by the Ravens' offense. Just think of how many times over the first three games that Joe Flacco has rolled out and looked deep downfield before deciding to dump the ball off to fullback Kyle Juszczyk or settle for something underneath.

In the past, he was putting that ball up to Smith, hoping for a big catch, or at least a pass interference call that often came. Not this year. With Breshad Perriman out and Smith elsewhere, the Ravens have had to be more measured in taking shots down the field.

Taylor, Stewart surprise  

Of all the players that the Ravens lost this offseason, who would have thought that the two making the biggest impacts for their new teams would be quarterback Tyrod Taylor and safety Darian Stewart?


As the Buffalo Bills starter, Taylor has accounted for eight touchdowns either through the air or on the ground. Stewart, who is starting for the Denver Broncos, has 13 tackles and a game-saving interception against the Ravens.

Monroe's durability

When the Ravens acquired Eugene Monroe from the Jacksonville Jaguars early in the 2013 season, they were confident that they were getting a solid and durable performer who would stabilize the left tackle position.

One thing that they couldn't have predicted was the injury issues that would occur once Monroe signed a long-term deal with them before the 2014 season.

In parts of five seasons with the Jaguars, Monroe played in 65 of 68 possible games. In parts of three seasons with the Ravens, he's played in just 23 of a possible 33 games, and Trestman made it sound like Monroe is unlikely to play Thursday against the Steelers.

Monroe dealt with knee and ankle issues last year and then this season, he suffered a concussion on the Ravens' first drive against the Broncos. Monroe did return to practice on a limited basis this week. It's been a tough run for a player who had been extremely durable early in his career.


On Hurst's struggles

Second-year tackle James Hurst has replaced Monroe and has been widely criticized for his performance. His struggles have prompted some to question why the Ravens don't use left guard Kelechi Osemele and Rick Wagner as the two tackles and then move guard John Urschel into the starting lineup.

Look, it's not that easy. Osemele hasn't played right tackle since the 2012 Super Bowl season. He's much more comfortable at guard. Wagner hasn't played left tackle since he was at the University of Wisconsin, and the third-year player is having issues of his own at right tackle.

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You make that switch, moving Wagner from right to left tackle, Osemele from left guard to right tackle, and Urschel from a reserve to the starting left guard, you run the risk of weakening yourself at three positions along the offensive line.

That's why I still think just plugging in Hurst for Monroe at left tackle is their best option. There's no question Hurst needs to play better, but so does Wagner and Osemele and everybody else along the line.

Flacco hasn't been sacked in consecutive games, so that has to count for something.


Slow to recover

My guess is it's not a coincidence that two of the team's biggest disappointments so far – Wagner and cornerback Jimmy Smith – had significant foot surgeries late last season and weren't able to have their normal preparation for the season.