Ravens Roundtable: Week 5
Every week, the Ravens analysts here at Baltimore Sports and Life will have a Q&A roundtable discussion on the week that was, and preview the weeks upcoming match-up. BSL Analysts include, Nadeem Kurieshy, Mark Bullock, Mike Randall, and Matt Jergensen. Joining the crew this week from Russell Street Report is Joseph Wedra.
Discuss you thoughts on these questions on our message board.
1. What a game by Steve Smith. He did a lot of talking which rarely works in your favor, but he backed it up. He’s exceeded our expectations up to this point. Can he keep it up for 12 more weeks (hopefully more)?
Mike Randall – My expectations for a 35 year old WR were about 60 catches, 800 yards, 6 TDs. Currently he is on pace for 100 catches, 1,716 yards, 12 TDs. Those are some very lofty numbers for any receiver. I think there is some room for regression, but he will still exceed our expectations. Injuries shouldn’t be a worry as he has missed one game in the last three years (knock on wood).
Matt Jergensen – It’s certainly possible. He remains the Ravens most targeted receiver in the first four weeks and he has delivered big numbers in that capacity. There is always a concern that at 35 that his body will be unable to hold up over the course of the season and it only takes one injury to derail any player.
Joe Wedra – If Smith stays healthy, I think he does keep it up for the remainder of the season. That comes from simply his personality, to be honest. He’s a baller on the field and a leader off of it. Joe Flacco clearly looks for him (much like Anquan Boldin). He’ll be a threat to watch – making the loss of Dennis Pitta sting just a bit less.
Mark Bullock – Let’s hope so! I said a few weeks ago that this type of offense runs through the X receiver, which is what Smith is playing. As long as he stays healthy and shows the fight he’s had throughout his career, there’s no reason for his success to drop off. Eventually, Baltimore will start taking and hitting some deep shots on play-action to Torrey Smith, which would take some pressure in coverage off Steve.
Nadeem Kureishy – Steve Smith’s number are amazing for a Baltimore WR. So far this year – 429 yards (#3 in league), 17.2 Yards per reception (#6 in league), 41 Targets (#3 in league). I’m hoping that his numbers go down over the next couple of weeks and the other receivers start getting the ball.
2. Bernard Pierce found himself on the bench for this one. He missed last week’s game with a thigh injury. Lorenzo Taliaferro steeped up in Week 3, Justin Forsett was big in Week 4. Is Pierce #3 on the depth chart now, and would you trade him?
MB – I think Pierce probably should be third on the depth chart right now. Forsett looks the most natural zone runner on this team and Taliaferro has shown a better cut-back ability than Pierce. So for me, I’d have Forsett taking most of the snaps with Taliaferro spelling him, as we saw on Sunday. While it’d be nice to get something for Pierce, realistically, getting anything back for him is unlikely. Running backs are a dime a dozen and you can find plenty of guys off the street that can offer what you want and do a job. I don’t think any team would be in a hurry to trade much of anything for Pierce.
NK – Baltimore has a three headed running attack – Forsett as the primary runner in the ZBS, Taliaferro as the hammer in short yardage and Pierce in between. It’s nice to have depth at this position.
MJ – If the Ravens didn’t have other options he would have seen the field on Sunday, so I’d say it’s safe to assume where he sits on the depth chart. I don’t think trading him would be a good move because for one I’m unsure what value he has at this point and two Kubiak will use him at some point this season. One thing that stood out from a game planning perspective is that Kubiak will use his runners if the match-up is ideal. Pierce isn’t done yet in Baltimore but he needs to stay healthy and continue to adjust to the zone scheme to find more snaps.
MR – Don’t mess with a good thing. Forsett and Taliaferro are guys brought in based on Kubiak’s scheme. They fit. Pierce was already here, maybe he’s not as good a fit as we thought. Either way, keep riding the hot hands. Take a look at who we just played, Carolina. They have Jonathan Stewart battling a knee injury, DeAngelo Williams left the game with and ankle, Mike Tolbert is on IR. They are decimated. I would offer Pierce to them for a draft pick. They always are looking to stockpile picks, and they gave up a few in trades this past offseason.
JW – At this point, you can’t pull the dynamic duo of Pierce and Taliaferro. They’re playing too good. Truthfully, Pierce needs to stick around for these guys to continue their dominance. They need to know there is competition. It’s good for everyone to have this “three-headed monster”, especially Gary Kubiak. No problem having three great RBs on the roster, so I would give Pierce touches and keep him around for as long as possible.
3. What can be done about Jacoby Jones? He hasn’t brought his hands yet this year, yet the Ravens kept all of these receivers from the preseason, and Michael Campanaro continues to be inactive.
MJ – Let him find the bench. The Ravens have other options in Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken and they should get more chance if Jacoby can’t catch the football. So far he hasn’t had a large impact in the return game so after this season I’d wonder if the Ravens might want to cut him. The cap situation will be interesting anyway and they can’t justify his number for so little return on their investment.
JW – Jacoby isn’t a receiver, but the Ravens like to think he’s an elite weapon that needs to make plays. He’s on this team for his return skills, and he’s darn good at it. He’ll hang around here for awhile after his nice contract in March, but he won’t get much action on the offensive side of the ball.
MB – The problem is that Jones still has return duties. Until Baltimore want to try a different return man, then they can’t afford to inactivate Jones for anyone else. Jones also has plenty of experience in this offense having played in Houston under Kubiak. I think rather like Pierce, we’d have to see an injury to Jones for Kubiak to put in the likes of Campanaro.
NK – Jacoby is struggling as a receiver. He’s only been thrown at 1 time in each of the last three games after being thrown at 5 times in the first game. At this point, I wouldn’t mind seeing Kamar Aiken getting some snaps in Jacoby’s place.
MR – He needs to be taken out of the slot for starters. The slot is where you put your sure handed guys. Jones is good at one thing. Running fast, “9” routes. Put him in there in 4 WR sets on the outside and let him fly. He’s still a weapon in the return game. I’m intrigued by Campanaro, but he’s a return guy as well. So if you make Aiken a gameday inactive then you’re taking a gunner off special teams. Aiken runs crisp routes as well which are key in this offensive style.
4. On the defensive side, what do you think about the secondary being the weak link on that side of the ball?
MJ – I think that’s clear. Jimmy Smith is only true talent they have back there in terms of ability to cover. I’m getting worried about Webb at this point and if he’ll be able to return to play at a high level. That leaves this group awfully thin and it’s forced Coach Pees to play a lot of zone. Without a consistent pass rush I can see top quarterbacks having their way with this defense.
JW – I actually think this secondary can be very good with a few scheme adjustments. Matt Elam needs to be used in the right way moving forward and I trust the Ravens will make the right move. Jimmy Smith is becoming a near-pro bowler, and Lardarius Webb should be back to elite for the final stretch of the season. I trust this unit will do enough to be just fine. Could they make a move in the next few weeks to sign a free agent like Terrell Thomas? It wouldn’t hurt.
MR – I think the only real weak link right now is Matt Elam. He looks silly so far when he’s in man coverage against a receiver. It’s easy to pick out some poor plays by everyone, Chykie Brown on A.J. Green, the miscommunication between Jimmy Smith and Darian Stewart on Kelvin Benjamin, but those things will happen to every team, all year. On the whole, they’re the weakest link on the dense, but they are still ok. They are getting by and hopefully Will Hill can be a contributor when he is able to return. That’s the beauty of the salary cap. Every team has a weakness somewhere. Secondary appears to be theirs, and it’s still not completely dreadful.
NK – The Safeties have been playing very poorly all season. The Ravens don’t have a true FS with experience on the roster. Terrence Brooks is still adjusting to the pro level and cannot be counted on to play FS. Although Brooks played in 50% of the snaps against the Panthers. One pass was thrown in his direction and he gave up a reception for 18 yards. The ravens really need Will Hill on the roster. It looks as if he will make his return week 7. In the meantime, Elam and Stewart continue to interchange playing FS and SS. Both are really struggling against deep passes.
MB – I’m not sure I agree with that. The secondary hasn’t blown people away, but the pass rush hasn’t helped them out. While the pass rush is slowly starting to ramp up the pressure, it’s still not nearly consistent enough. There is only so long a secondary can be expected to cover. They definitely need to improve, but from my point of view, the pass rush could do a lot more to help.
5. Are you buying or selling the defense being a top ten unit at years end? Despite the backfield, they allowed a mere 10 points, and have allowed just two TDs in three home games.
NK – Will Hill, Terrence Brooks and Ladarius Webb getting on the field will help propel the Ravens as a top 10 defense. If they cannot get on the field, then I don’t see how the Ravens can be a top 10 defense. Baltimore still has to play teams that have receivers that run deep routes in the Bengals, Falcons, Chargers and Saints. All 4 teams will challenge the secondary.
MR – I’ll buy that. They are allowing 15 points per game, and they have played a decent schedule. You look ahead and there are some favorable games: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Miami, Jacksonville and Houston. There is potential for a couple single digit points allowed games in there.
JW – Everything about the defensive front has been nearly perfect. The defensive line is the best it’s ever been in the John Harbaugh era thanks to a healthy Haloti Ngata, strong play from Chris Canty and Brandon Williams, and guys like Pernell McPhee and DeAngelo Tyson working hard to shed blocks. This is a good unit, and it’ll only get better as the season goes on. Don’t sleep on C.J Mosley for Defensive Player of the Year.
MB – Selling. Bend-but-don’t-break style defenses rarely last the whole length of the season. Eventually it will start to crack. Not to say they will drop to the bottom ten, but I don’t see them finishing in the top ten either, at least not playing this way.
MJ – It’s quite amazing to watch this team let the opposition march down the field with relative ease but then once they get inside the twenties they become a much tougher group. Shortening the field helps immensely for this unit. Regardless of how many yards they give up, the only real stat that counts is points given up and in that category the defense has done its job.
6. Looking to Week 5, Keys to the game on offense against Indy’s defense?
MB – The Colts have done a pretty good job up front stopping the run. This offense needs to run the ball to be successful, so not abandoning the run will be key. But perhaps starting with the quick-hitting passing game to help open up the run could help.
MR – Keep up on the scoreboard as Indy had racked up over 40 points each of the last two games, albeit against Jacksonville and Tennessee. Indy’s defense is not that good, and they are missing their big playmaker, Robert Mathis, for the year. The balanced attack has worked wonderfully for the Ravens offense in the last three games. If the Colts jump out to an early lead, DO NOT abandon the run game. Joe Flacco has been good for two reasons. He’s not been sacked in three games, and the effective running sets up the play action and boot legs. Abandoning the run and having Flacco throw 40+ times is never good.
NK – Take advantage of Greg Toler. He struggled against the Eagles and Broncos. The Colts LBs and Safeties are average, so there may be opportunities for the TEs to make some plays. The OL needs to keep playing well and not allow any sacks on Joe Flacco.
MJ – The offense must have the same type of production that they showed against Carolina. A good mix of run/pass with big plays to keep pressure on an average group on the road. In order to win they must be prepared to score in bunches in a shootout.
JW – One phrase: If it aint broke, don’t fix it. Gary Kubiak knows what he’s doing here. Building a great offense means constant building blocks along the way. If he keeps doing what he’s doing (maybe with a little more Kyle “Juice Check”), this offense will be just fine against a mediocre Colts defense.
7. Keys to the game on defense against Indy’s offense
JW – Someone other than Jimmy Smith has to play big. This game involves covering Reggie Wayne, T.Y Hilton, and Coby Fleener. If Dean Pees wants to continue to trust Matt Elam, good luck to him. Asa Jackson has to be tough and play his best game of his short career. Some pass rush from Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil won’t hurt, either.
MR – As I mentioned before, keeping Indy under 40 points would be a good start. Andrew Luck leads the games highest powered passing game at 326 passing y/g. But the Colts running game leaves a lot to be desired. Ahmad Bradshaw is the team’s best RB, but he still plays second fiddle to Trent Richardson. Either way, they racked up just 54 yards (19 from Luck) against Denver, and just 2.6 YPC on 41 rushes last week. The Ravens run defense has been solid all year, so this Indy rushing attack shouldn’t be a problem, rendering them one dimensional.
MB – The Colts still love to run the ball, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton comes from a run-heavy offense background. But so far most teams have managed to contain the Colts rushing attack for the most part. Andrew Luck is having a fantastic season so far, passing for 370+ yards in three of the Colts first four games. So keeping Luck on check will be the key on defense. It won’t be easy, T.Y. Hilton offers game-breaking speed on the outside, while Reggie Wayne still runs as crisp routes as ever. So keeping a lid on Hilton while taking away underneath routes to Wayne seems like a tough task for Baltimore. They might have to rely on their red zone defense holding Indy to field goals over touchdowns.
MJ – Andrew Luck is having a monster season. He’s 60-of-80 for 763 yards, eight touchdowns, one interception and only two sacks in the past two games. The game plan should be to mix coverages, disguise blitzes and do whatever you can to make Luck have to think a little more under center. It’s going to be a tough task for the Ravens because I’m unsure how much of what I just wrote Dean Pees will implement.
NK – The secondary, especially the Safeties must have the game of their lives against Indy’s receivers. No stupid mistakes.
8. Prediction time. Who do you got?
JW – Give me the Ravens, 33-29. This is going to be a fun one. The Colts score a touchdown late, but it won’t matter.
MB – This is one of the more intriguing games for the Colts, who had two tough teams in Philadelphia and Denver and two weaker teams in Tennessee and Jacksonville. The Ravens offer a stern test while not having the high-powered offense that Denver and Philly bring to the table. I think it will be close, within one score, but I fancy the Colts to take this one at home.
MJ – Luck is in the zone right now – Colts 31-24
NK – Unfortunately going with Colts 24-27 on this. I don’t think the Safeties and secondary will be able to contain the passing game.
MR – The Ravens defense shuts down the running game, leaving it in the hands of Andrew Luck all by himself. The Ravens effective running and long drives will keep Andrew Luck off the field a bit, and I’ll take the Ravens as the more complete team coming out on top. Call it 27-20.
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]