To my NFL media brethren, the day after the full slate of NFL games has become known as Overreaction Monday. And so it was Monday, a day after the Ravens opened the season with a 13-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills, I read or received these comments (my reaction to them follows)...
"Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman needs to go": The Ravens' offense was tough to watch at times Sunday. It seemed Trestman got away from the run for stretches and the Ravens didn't take many shots down the field. Everything just seemed to lack a flow. However, some of these issues had to be expected.
The Ravens barely had their starting offensive on the field this summer. Several key players are coming off significant surgeries and are still getting healthy. That can't be an excuse for too long. I've said all along that this is a huge season for Trestman, and he needs to get this offense playing more consistently. However, with two rookie starting offensive linemen, a quarterback coming off a knee injury and a group of evolving targets, the offense needs time to jell.
"The Ravens aren't going to be able to count on Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith Sr. to make impact": Again, Smith and Suggs haven't played a lot of football, and both are coming off Achilles injuries. You had to expect some drop-off in explosiveness. The Ravens upgraded their receiving corps and drafted two outside linebackers, so Smith and Suggs wouldn't have to carry the majority of the load at their positions. But they are two smart and proud players, so they should flash at big moments, as Suggs did with the late sack of Tyrod Taylor.
"The Ravens need to replace Jeremy Zuttah": The veteran center played one of his worst games as a Raven on Sunday. The Ravens also have John Urschel, who they like as a center, available and waiting. This is something worth keeping an eye on, but I can't see them pulling the plug on a well-respected veteran like Zuttah after one or two games. He does need to play much better for the Ravens to run the ball successfully.
"Second-round pick Kamalei Correa is a disappointment": It's ridiculous to say this now. Yes, Correa didn't play a single defensive snap. Yes, Correa's play dipped significantly right around the start of preseason games. But he's a rookie who was moved around quite a bit early in training camp. Correa will need to earn snaps in practice. Perhaps settling in and playing almost exclusively on the outside will allow him to do that.
Game balls: In other matters, if I'm giving out three game balls after Sunday's victory, they are going to cornerback Shareece Wright, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and tight end Dennis Pitta. Wright, who struggled in the preseason, set the tone for a dominating effort from the defense by flying around the field. Pees devised a masterful defensive game plan and had Taylor confused all day. Wide receiver Mike Wallace is probably the most deserving player on offense, but Pitta should get the nod just because of how much hard work and guts his comeback required.
A backup in title only: Count me among those who believe the Ravens would have been better off facing Robert Griffin III than veteran Josh McCown. By now, you've surely heard about McCown's career numbers against the Ravens, but it goes beyond that. The Ravens had weeks to prepare for a mobile quarterback with Taylor and the Bills on the schedule in Week 1. They would have been teed up to handle Griffin, whose season is now in jeopardy because of a fracture in his left shoulder. McCown, a pocket passer who makes good decisions, provides a different look. All that being said, if the Ravens envision having a significantly better defense and making the playoffs, they should be able to handle a McCown-led offense.
Kicking it deep: Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged this offseason when the rule moving touchbacks to the 25-yard line was passed that it would be tough to just willingly give up the 25-yard line. "That's really not in the spirit of competition," he said at the NFL owners meetings in March. That's why it was a little surprising Sunday to see Justin Tucker booting the ball into the back of the end zone rather than doing high pop-up kicks that land inside the five or just inside the goal line.
Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that the team's approach to kickoffs will be a week-to-week decision. I'm sure a lot will go into it. If the other team has a good return man, that will obviously factor in. Tucker's ability to execute those kicks will play a role. And another thing to consider is just how many key players the Ravens have on their kick coverage teams; guys like Kyle Juszczyk, Albert McClellan, Zachary Orr, Anthony Levine and Kamar Aiken play important roles on offense and defense. A lot of injuries occur on kick coverage, so some NFL coaches might think it's not worth the risk to save five yards.
Allen active in the future?: In case you missed it yesterday, Harbaugh said the decision to deactive running back Buck Allen was a result of the team's gameplan. The Ravens knew they were going to be using a lot of three wide receiver and multi tight end sets against the Bills, and they thought it was more important to have a fifth wide receiver in Chris Moore than a third running back. Sounds like that will be a week-to-week decision.