Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 3-1 start


Several of the Ravens’ injured players returned to practice Wednesday, and that pushed the team’s excitement meter to a new level.

Among those on the practice field in Owings Mills were cornerback Marlon Humphrey (foot), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee), wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Rashod Bateman (hamstring), and safety Marcus Williams (ankle).

Coach John Harbaugh, after watching practices and getting input from trainers, will determine later this week which players will participate in Sunday’s game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, but at least his stars were back on the field.

The Ravens (3-1) are in first place in the AFC North and have a chance to go up two games on their top division rival. Maybe the best is yet to come.

“It’s good to see guys out there practicing,” Harbaugh said. “Different guys are in different stages. As the week goes on, in terms of all the different guys, we’ll see where they’re at for Sunday. But it is good seeing guys get back out.”

Coaches don’t like to talk about the big picture publicly because they don’t want to look too far ahead, but privately there have probably been discussions among the assistants.

The Ravens have already won two games in the division against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. And the Houston Texans, whom the Ravens beat, 25-9, in the season opener, easily defeated the Steelers, 30-6, Sunday.

The Ravens aren’t taking anything for granted.

“Elite focus,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “We talked about being lasered in week by week. Obviously, the Ravens-Steelers game is one of the best rivalries in the world, and if you’re not ready for a game like this, what are you doing?

“But for us, being able to focus out here in practice knowing what to do, visualize the moment and make the plays when they come because it’s a week-by-week basis. We just have to keep on stacking, keep on going. If we do that, we’ll be the team we want to be.”

The Ravens don’t want to look too far ahead, and neither does The Baltimore Sun. Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position through the first four games:


Statistically, Lamar Jackson is on pace for one of his best seasons. He has completed 78 of 105 passes — a career-high completion rate of 74.3% — for 794 yards and four touchdowns, and has a passer rating of 104.2. Jackson has shown significant improvement passing inside the red zone; he throws the ball only in a spot where his receiver can make the catch. Jackson has once again carried the offense but is still inconsistent from game to game with his accuracy. He seems to want to prove he is a pocket quarterback instead of just letting the game come to him naturally and improvising. Jackson also has a problem with ball security; he leads the league with six fumbles, losing three. Grade: B

Running backs

The Ravens have made the most of a position hit hard by injuries. They lost starter J.K. Dobbins in the opener with a torn Achilles tendon. Gus Edwards (44 carries for 193 yards and a touchdown) has been serviceable, but he is basically an inside runner. Backup Justice Hill, the designated outside runner and third-down back, has missed two games with a turf toe injury, but his speed makes a significant impact. Hill has just 22 carries for 83 yards but has scored two touchdowns. Overall, this group has been solid but is far from reaching its peak level. Fullback Patrick Ricard is still one of the best lead blockers in the NFL and has helped in pass protection. Grade C

Offensive line

This is another group that has been hampered by injuries, to Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum, but has performed well. Patrick Mekari, filling in the past three games for Stanley at left tackle, has played well despite being undersized and competing against some of the top pass rushers on each team. Guard play has been steady with both John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler; both run reasonably well when pulling. Right tackle Morgan Moses is strong against the run but has problems with speed rushers and needs to cut down on penalties. The Ravens have allowed 11 sacks, but that is somewhat misleading because Jackson is extremely mobile and can find ways out of jams. Backup center Sam Mustipher was solid filling in for Linderbaum but did struggle in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts. Grade: B-


All those glowing reports coming out of training camp about rookie receiver Zay Flowers were true. Not only does he have speed, but Flowers also runs great routes and is excellent at gaining yards after the catch. He leads the Ravens in receptions with 24 for 244 yards. Because of a quadriceps injury, Andrews started the season slowly but has played well the past two games. He is second on the team with 14 catches for 160 yards and is still Jackson’s favorite target inside the red zone with three touchdowns. Without Flowers and Andrews, this group would receive an incomplete grade because both Bateman and Beckham have seemingly spent as much time on the injury report as they have on the field. Veteran addition Nelson Agholor has 10 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Grade: C

Defensive line

This unit is unheralded but has gotten the job done in three of the first four weeks. The Ravens have the No. 7 rush defense, allowing 92.5 yards per game. Last week, they held Cleveland to 93 rushing yards, 44 of which came in the final minute of the game. The Ravens’ top linemen, Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce, each have 10 tackles. Madubuike (two sacks, three quarterback hits) relies more on quickness and penetration, while Pierce has more of a power game, which is the nature of the position. He is a bully and takes on constant double teams but still has as many tackles as Madubuike and has recovered one fumble. Top reserve Broderick Washington has four tackles and two quarterback pressures, while veteran Brent Urban has three tackles and two pass deflections. Grade: C+


Middle linebacker Roquan Smith has to be considered one of the top players in the NFL. He might not be as dominant as some other stars, but he is one of the few, especially on defense, who can take over a game. Smith leads the team in tackles with 43, including 20 solo, and weak-side linebacker Patrick Queen is second with 36. Together, they have accounted for 3 1/2 sacks. In theory, they are doing exactly what needs to be done because a middle and weak-side linebacker should always be in the top three in tackles. Another force has been outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, who has 10 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and five quarterback pressures. Both young outside linebackers, Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo, were expected to have breakout seasons but so far have been injured and missed extensive time. It will be interesting to watch some other edge rushers perform, such as Malik Harrison, Jeremiah Moon and recently acquired veteran Kyle Van Noy. Grade: A-


Despite Humphrey and Williams missing extensive action, the Ravens are ranked No. 3 in pass defense, allowing 168.3 passing yards per game. The secondary has fortunately played against several unproven quarterbacks, but the unit has still delivered some good production, especially coming up to make tackles and preventing big plays. Cornerback Brandon Stephens is third on the team in tackles with 28, and both safeties, Geno Stone and Kyle Hamilton, are tied for fourth with 21. Stone has two of the team’s four interceptions and Hamilton has three sacks. When the Ravens have needed a big play on the back end, these guys have usually delivered. Grade: B-

Special teams

The kicking game is fine. Justin Tucker has converted on four of six field goal attempts, with both misses coming from 50-plus yards. Jordan Stout is averaging 49 yards on 21 punts with a net of 39.6. But the special teams have slipped this season, allowing an average of 22.1 yards on punt returns, including an 81-yard touchdown by Bengals rookie Charlie Jones. Then there was the fair catch debacle against the Colts, which allowed Indianapolis to use the two-minute warning to stop the clock. In recent years, the Ravens’ special teams have been outstanding. So far this season, they can’t even decide when to return or fair catch a punt. Grade: C-


Despite the injuries, the Ravens are in first place in the AFC North. One of Harbaugh’s strengths is to rally his teams around adversity, and this team has avoided early setbacks. The offense is still a work in progress and the Ravens haven’t shown much of a deep passing game. Regardless, they’ve been successful because of Jackson’s big-play ability and their strong defensive performances. The Ravens are able to plug players in and still control most offenses. Maybe only the San Francisco 49ers have a better defense right now. Grade: B


Source link

Denial of responsibility! Planetconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment