Re­port card shows bright spots, room to im­prove

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - Mike.pre­ston@balt­ twit­­stonSun

But Oak­land had a good quar­ter­back in Derek Carr and two top wide re­ceivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crab­tree. And the Ravens lost, 28-27.

In the next 12 games, the Ravens get Pro Bowl quar­ter­backs Andy Dal­ton and Ben Roeth­lis­berger twice each, and face Kirk Cousins, Eli Man­ning and Tom Brady, as well as top rook­ies Dak Prescott (if Tony Romo isn’t back from in­jury by Week 11) and Car­son Wentz.

The list of top wide re­ceivers the Ravens will face in­cludes su­per­stars An­to­nio Brown, A.J. Green, Bran­don Mar­shall and Odell Beck­ham Jr. But be­fore we go too far into the fu­ture, let’s look back and give out grades for the first quar­ter of the sea­son. Quar­ter­back: Af­ter miss­ing the last six games of 2015 to a ma­jor knee in­jury, Joe Flacco has re­turned to form, which isn’t al­ways a pretty form to watch. Flacco can take over a game and light up a de­fense, but few can pre­dict in which half that will hap­pen. He has com­pleted 108 of 170 passes for 1,072 yards, but has as many in­ter­cep­tions as touch­down passes (four). He’ll get bet­ter af­ter spend­ing more time with his re­ceivers, and Flacco still de­liv­ers in crunch time. Grade: C+ Run­ning backs: The Ravens are ex­pected to use Ter­rance West as the starter con­sis­tently now. What took so long? For­mer starter Justin Forsett be­gan strug­gling in the sec­ond pre­sea­son game, but the Ravens still hung with him even though he lacked ac­cel­er­a­tion and the abil­ity to make de­fend­ers miss. Buck Allen can serve as the backup un­til rookie Ken­neth Dixon is up to par, but Allen is a li­a­bil­ity in pass pro­tec­tion. West, though, can wear a de­fense down be­cause of his phys­i­cal style. Over­all, the Ravens don’t have a game breaker among the bunch. As far as talent and style, they’re all pretty much from the same mold. Grade: C Of­fen­sive line: Pass pro­tec­tion was pretty good un­til last week, when the Raiders smacked Flacco around. That was largely be­cause left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley and left guard Alex Lewis were out with in­juries. For two rook­ies on the same side of the line, that tan­dem has been solid. The Ravens can’t get a run­ning game go­ing be­cause they don’t get move­ment at the line of scrim­mage. Cen­ter Jeremy Zut­tah had strug­gled un­til last week, and maybe his shoul­der in­jury is start­ing to heal. Pro Bowl right guard Mar­shal Yanda has played well, but not as well as in pre­vi­ous years. Right tackle Rick Wag­ner has been con­sis­tent but looked slow against Oak­land. The Ravens have lit­tle depth af­ter the start­ing five. If in­juries keep mount­ing, the of­fense will con­tinue to strug­gle. Grade: C Re­ceivers: Steve Smith Sr. (24 catches, 281 yards, one touch­down) is start­ing to re­gain Line­backer Zachary Orr, right, leads the Ravens in tack­les with 32. Michael Pierce and the Ravens de­fense are al­low­ing just 87 rush­ing yards a game. his top form af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a rup­tured Achilles ten­don. He is get­ting sep­a­ra­tion from cor­ner­backs again — some­thing he didn’t do in the first three games. New­comer Mike Wal­lace (14 catches, 210 yards, three touch­downs) has shown he can be more than just a ver­ti­cal threat, and he has a good all-around game. Bre­shad Per­ri­man has po­ten­tial, but he shied away from con­tact against the Raiders. Both Per­ri­man and rookie Chris Moore had rep­u­ta­tions out of col­lege as play­ers who drop easy passes, and so far they have lived up to those rep­u­ta­tions. Tight end Den­nis Pitta (21 catches, 200 yards) was Flacco’s go-to weapon in the first two games, but teams are go­ing to get more phys­i­cal with him at the line of scrim­mage. Grade: C De­fen­sive line: This group has been the strong­est of any unit. The Ravens are al­low­ing just 87 rush­ing yards a game, and op­po­nents can’t run inside the tack­les. The Ravens have too much beef there with nose tack­les Michael Pierce and Bran­don Wil­liams, both of whom can col­lapse a pocket. From day one of train­ing camp, de­fen­sive end Timmy Jerni­gan has been a dis­rup­tive force be­cause of his quick­ness off the snap. He isn’t overly big but is stout in short-yardage sit­u­a­tions. Fel­low end Lawrence Guy doesn’t get a lot of no­to­ri­ety, but he makes one or two out­stand­ing plays a game that of­ten turn the mo­men­tum. Grade: A- Lineback­ers: There was con­cern about this unit at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son be­cause Zachary Orr and Al­bert McClel­lan were start­ing for the first time. Both have played well, with Orr lead­ing the team in tack­les with 32. The best player might be C.J. Mosley, who seems more at ease this sea­son play­ing mid­dle line­backer af­ter be­ing on the weak side the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons. Mosley is sec­ond on the team with 23 tack­les, and a lot of them have been made go­ing side­line to side­line. The big­gest area of im­prove­ment for this group is in pass cov­er­age. Com­pared to a year ago, the play­ers’ drops into cov­er­age are bet­ter, and so is the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Tack­ling has also im­proved, and the unit prides it­self on fly­ing to the foot­ball. Grade: B Sec­ondary: The com­mu­ni­ca­tion is bet­ter, and so is the cov­er­age, com­pared with last sea­son. The Ravens were for­tu­nate in the first three games be­cause they didn’t face a top pass­ing team, but the Raiders ex­posed them. The Ravens don’t have a top-notch shut­down cor­ner­back. Jimmy Smith plays well at times but isn’t con­sis­tent. Op­po­nents have ze­roed in on cor­ner­back Sha­reece Wright. The best pure cover cor­ner might be rookie Tavon Young, but he is small. The Ravens might also want to give Will Davis more play­ing time. Safety Eric Wed­dle has played well, but the Ravens aren’t get­ting much from the other safety, Lar­dar­ius Webb. Grade: C Spe­cial teams: Kicker Justin Tucker has been the team’s Most Valu­able Player. Punter Sam Koch also has per­formed well, av­er­ag­ing 47.4 yards and land­ing four punts inside the 20-yard line. Re­turner Devin Hester Sr. has had fum­bling prob­lems the past two weeks and has not taken many risks. The Ravens are al­low­ing 14.6 yards on punt re­turns, and that’s too much. Penal­ties have hurt this unit in two of the four games, but the Ravens’ abil­ity to block field-goal and ex­tra-point at­tempts has helped them win two games. Grade: B+ Coach­ing: John Har­baugh did a good job of get­ting his team through train­ing camp and the pre­sea­son with­out many se­ri­ous in­juries. But a lot of his de­ci­sions to gam­ble seem based more on emo­tion than logic, and that has hurt the Ravens. On of­fense, the Ravens have not found a rhythm, and the run­ning and pass­ing games have strug­gled. On de­fense, the Ravens had bet­ter find a way to get pres­sure late in games on quar­ter­backs. Grade: C



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