Ravens Fans Are Thankful For….
That right there. Definitely that. You can never take that away. Some franchises are still chasing their first rings.
The season for giving thanks is upon us and the Ravens, believe it or not, have given the fans plenty to be thankful for. Like the fact that they aren’t the Browns! I’m kidding…not really kidding. It’s been a tumultuous year of ups and downs, and the way we are trained to examine and scrutinize everything under a micro scope, we sometimes forget to take a step back and look at the big picture.
Discuss you thoughts on these topics on our message board.
Starting with the overall make up of the team, we can be thankful that the Ravens are in first place. They control their own destiny on the road to clinch the division title with six games to play. 7-9, 8-8, 9-7, no one expected a Super Bowl contender out of this team at the beginning of the year. But anything can happen in January.
We can be thankful that we have an owner in Steve Bisciotti doesn’t settle for mediocre. He won’t say .500 is good enough. He has no problem making sacrifices for the betterment of the team, such as letting go of Marc Trestman when he seemingly lost his connection to the players. Letting go of Cam Cameron when the team was 9-4 because the problems were creeping up at the wrong time. He surrounds himself with football people. You have to respect that.
Let’s give thanks to Ozzie Newsome. Lately he has been catching heat for mediocre drafts. But no one talks about the other parts of his job, like signing free agents Mike Wallace and Eric Weddle, who I’ll touch on in a bit. While I’m in the camp of not grading a draft until three years out, when players are into their contract years on their rookie deals, others like to say they already they have swung and missed in 2016. They don’t have “playmakers”. The jury is still out on some of these guys. But how many teams have three guys in their starting lineup that they just drafted and feel confident in starting? Kenneth Dixon and Matt Judon are both on the cusp of being a fourth and fifth names on that list. (Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, Tavon Young). So be thankful for the years of service Ozzie Newsome has provided, and the success he’s continued to have. If you don’t like it, name five teams who have drafted better in the last five years, not including quarterbacks. Good Luck.
No matter how bad things might get, be thankful the Ravens currently still own the Steelers.
On offense, lets just forget X’s and O’s for a minute and be thankful that Joe Flacco, Dennis Pitta, and Steve Smith recovered nicely from their severe injuries. It just defies logic what Smith is able to do at his age, just becoming the 14th player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes. Doctors are probably in awe of Pitta taking some of the hits he has and remaining unbroken for a third time. When you think about it, he is risking high probability of serious re-injury just to be able to provide for his family. People are set in their ways about the polarizing Joe Flacco, but think about how much worse it could be. Again. We’re not the Browns!
I’m also thankful that what looked like Flacco’s leg being snaped in half a couple weeks back was just the knee brace breaking when he slid after scrambling out of the pocket. It’s not often that 70,000+ fans “gasp” at same time and it turns out to be okay.
Sure we want to see an emphasis placed on the run game. But let’s be thankful we have capable backs to count on like Terrance West. He’s been showing a lot more maturity this time around, and is making waves for the right reasons. Kenneth Dixon looks like a star in the making now that he has that early season knee injury behind him. Between West and Dixon they combine for a shade under 4.0 YPC and 6.0 YPR. Getting production at a value price from your running backs is huge for addressing other needs.
How about Mike Wallace. Where would this passing game be without him. He is the team leader in receiving yards (735) and receiving TDs (4), is one catch shy of Dennis Pitta for the lead in that category as well.
We come to find out that first round draft pick, starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley has Jonathan Ogden as a mentor. Who better that J.O. to help the rookie overcome the hurdles the NFL will throw at him?
All this talk about playmakers of late, not having a Julio Jones, or a Rob Gronkowski. Don’t forget about Marshal Yanda who proves yet again he is an absolute beast. The undisputed best at his position. Rumors swirled about moving to injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Instead he slides over from right guard to left guard where it doesn’t hurt as much and just dominates as usual. I think people underestimate how hard that can be to just change sides like that and still dominate. Versatile, smart, powerful, Yanda is worth every penny and more.
On the other side of the ball, it starts for me with the arrival of Eric Weddle. The defense was in a bad situation last year. Many big plays allowed with defenders left point the finger at each other. Weddle has commanded the defense, improved communication, and took the leadership role the second he walked in the door. One of the reasons the Ravens defense is one of the top units in the league is solely Eric Weddle’s presence on the field as an extension of the coaching staff. Something the Ravens haven’t had since Ray Lewis.
Every elite defense needs a shutdown cornerback and Jimmy Smith quietly provides that. He doesn’t get the headlines like Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis get. But he’s every bit as worthy of being in the conversation with the top corners currently in the league. It took a little while for Smith to reach this level of his game, but thankfully he got there, hopefully injuries are minimal.
I for one am thankful that some teams take 5’9″ cornerbacks off their draft board based on size without looking at the tape. Because of that, the Ravens were able to steal him in the fourth round and he’s been a starter opposite Jimmy Smith for a few weeks now. He plays bigger than 5’9” in tenacity and air he gets on his leaps. He’s still raw as a rookie and covering Dez Bryant at times last week was a good measuring stick for him. But I’m excited to see Young continue to develop for a few more years under team control. Maybe he’ll be a key piece that in 2019 I can refer to this draft class as one of Ozzie Newsome’s finest.
Great to see C.J. Mosley is back on the upswing. Teams testing his weakness as a coverage linebacker have paid for it with a couple turnovers early on in the year. Whatever hampered him in 2015 looks to be a thing of the past.
Zach Orr is quietly leading the team in tackles. Again, people will criticize Ozzie Newsome for some recent drafts, but fail to mention the undrafted guys who make an impact.
I’m thankful that Terrell Suggs plays through pain. A torn bicep is some kind of pain I don’t want to experience. As big as his is it must be killing him. Pain toleration, playing with one arm and still beating All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas for a sack two weeks ago. Just incredible on a Steve Smith kind of level. Suffered a second Achilles injury last year, returns this season and tears the bicep, which he’s also torn before. It’s going to take a lot to keep Sizzle off the field on Sundays.
The staple for a large part of Ravens history has always be the rush defense. The front seven was always fearsome. If you gained 100 yards as a team it was considered a moral victory. The front line of Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams, and Lawrence Guy, make life easy for the linebackers behind them to flow to the ball carrier unabated. Not to mention Michael Pierce who subs in and turns a lot of heads with his play. Just another undrafted guy with potential to be a gem. Three guys on their rookie deals that might be part of the most dominant three-man front in the NFL.
Last week the Dallas Cowboys won the game. But the Ravens front seven answered the call of stopping the leading runner in the league and a offensive line of four maybe five pro-bowlers. Ezekiel Elliott coming into the game rushed for over five yards per carry. The Ravens held him to 3.9 on 25 totes. The lowest average since week 1 when in his first game in the league, Elliott managed just 51 yards on 20 carries (2.6 YPC). The Ravens kept Elliott out of the end zone after he scored multiple times in the previous two games.
On special teams, where would we be without Justin Tucker. Just look at the historic kicking problems last week. Some of that was weather related, but two of the record 12 extra points missed last week were in a dome. Ravens could be sitting with a 2-7 record without Tucker right now who has made some late game, long, clutch kicks. He is 23 of 23 on the year on field goals. The only kicker in the league who is 100%. Go figure, only Adam Vinatieri, 43, has more 50+ yard makes than Tucker with 5-5 to Tucker’s 4-4. Justin Tucker has only missed a kick from inside 40 yards one time in his career spanning now five seasons. Counting field goals and extra points inside 40 yards, he is 238-239. The same amount of extra points missed league wide last week equals the amount of 50+ yard field goals Tucker has missed in his career.
Tucker has to credit Sam Koch and Morgan Cox for being on point and allowing Tucker to do what he does. When was the last time there was a botched snap, a Dan Marino/Ray Finkle hold, or just a complete blooper made by these guys which happens on special teams pretty much weekly to someone in the league? Other than the fake field goal attempt in the Redskins game which I won’t pin on Tucker one bit, I can’t remember.
That is what Ravens fans can be thankful for. Before we get back to our microscopes and over analysis, have a happy Thanksgiving all. May your feasts be plentiful, your family be tolerable, and may Scott Tolzien shock the world and send Pittsburgh home crying in their cranberry sauce.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]