My three game balls in the Week 2 victory over the Cleveland Browns go to:
1. Associate head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg: It wasn't just the blocked extra-point attempt that Tavon Young returned for two points and many Ravens credited for triggering the comeback. From Devin Hester's returns to Justin Tucker's three field goals to solid coverage, the play of Ravens special teams never faltered even as both the offense and defense did; 2. C.J. Mosley: He had a disappointing sophomore season, a quiet training camp and preseason, and he was nearly invisible in making only two tackles in Week 1. However, Mosley was all over the field against the Browns with six tackles, including two for loss, a quarterback hit, a pass defended and the game-securing interception. Timmy Jernigan would be a worthy pick for a defensive game ball as well; 3. Dennis Pitta: The veteran tight end was a one-man show at times with nine catches for 102 yards. Pitta got the offense going with his 30-yard reception late in the second quarter that led to the Ravens' first touchdown. He also had several other key third-down catches.
Williams not involved
The Ravens still haven't been able to get No.3 tight end Maxx Williams, a second-round pick last year, involved in the offense. Williams not only doesn't have a catch through two weeks, but he hasn't been targeted.
And starting in Week 5, Williams' role could be compromised further when converted tight end Darren Waller is finished serving his four-game suspension to start the year. There's no guarantee that Waller will immediately assume a game-day role but the Ravens are extremely high on him. Not only is Waller a really good special teams player, but he brings a speed dimension that the Ravens don't currently have at the tight end position.
Rice and Allen in play?
The rash of running back injuries Sunday spurred two questions: 1. Will former Raven Ray Rice finally get a chance to get back in the NFL?; and 2. Could the Ravens find a taker for second-year back Buck Allen who has been inactive for the first two games?
ESPN reported about 10 days ago that momentum was building for Rice's return to the league and that was before teams like the Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers lost key ball carriers to injuries this past weekend.
As for Allen, very few teams trade for running backs because they're not hard to find. Allen might have some value. He's young and had 867 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. I can't imagine the Ravens would get a lot in return, but if they feel like they don't have the luxury of carrying four healthy backs when Kenneth Dixon returns, that could prompt them to try and do something with Allen. If he hasn't gotten a role with the run game struggling and Dixon out, it's hard to foresee him having one when Dixon returns.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh acknowledged Monday that if his offense doesn't prove to him that it can consistently pick up the first down in fourth-and-short situations, he'll start deciding to kick more field goals rather than going for it. The Ravens so far are 0-and-2 on fourth-and-short. Harbaugh has always been an aggressive coach and I get the mentality of showing faith in your offensive line and backs, and wanting to set the tone.
However, the Ravens have struggled in short-yardage situations for the past couple of years. Their running game just isn't reliable right now. In Tucker, they have arguably the best kicker in the NFL. And their defense appears to be improved. The Ravens' analytics department would surely disagree, but those factors all support taking the points more often than not. Until the running game is fixed or the Ravens have a little rhythm and precision in their short-passing game, that's how I would lean.
Simon getting it done with Texans
It's pretty rare to see the Ravens give up prematurely on a young player they drafted and have him become a key contributor elsewhere. However, that certainly appears to have happened with outside linebacker John Simon, who has become a starter and pass-rushing threat with the Houston Texans.
The Ravens took the former Ohio State linebacker in the fourth round in 2013. He played seven total games and had four tackles in his rookie season for the Ravens, but he was cut as part of the final roster cuts before the 2014 season. At the time, there were questions about whether Simon had enough quickness, explosiveness and athleticism to get to the quarterback and make plays in space.
Simon, though, has found a nice role with the Texans. He had five sacks last season while starting eight games, and he already has 2½ sacks this year through two contests. Perhaps, reuniting with Mike Vrabel, one of his coaches at Ohio State and now a member of the Texans coaching staff, was exactly what Simon needed. The Ravens feel good about their young pass rushers, so I can't imagine they are lamenting the Simon decision too much. It, however, is rare when a young player the Ravens drafted blossoms elsewhere.
I regularly get a lot of questions about pending roster moves: Who will go when Waller comes off the suspended list? Is Allen a goner when Dixon is ready to play? What player will be inactive when Elvis Dumervil is in the lineup, perhaps as early as this Sunday?
The reality is the team can't even answer a few of those questions now. The Ravens have been extremely lucky so far, but injuries happen every week. These decisions usually take care of themselves. If they don't, should the Ravens continue to remain remarkably healthy at this time of year, then obviously some tough calls will have to made and some guys the Ravens don't want to lose will likely be on the move.
The one area where the team seemingly has some flexibility is at cornerback. They essentially have eight cornerbacks right now with Anthony Levine being used a lot in the slot. Will Davis and Jerraud Powers have been inactive for the first two weeks, Sheldon Price has played one defensive snap and Maurice Canady is playing only on special teams. At some point, the Ravens might have to jettison a cornerback to create a roster spot elsewhere.