5 Baltimore Ravens to Watch vs. Miami Dolphins
Who will play a key role for Ravens in Week 5?
The Baltimore Ravens find themselves in an interesting spot as they face a 3-1 Miami Dolphins team that has the ability to put them below .500. At 2-2, the Ravens surprisingly tallied one of their two losses to the Buffalo Bills in disappoint fashion last week on the road in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Despite the dismal showing across all fronts for the Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco overcame five interceptions and almost found a way to pull the Ravens back just falling short 23-20. The Dolphins are coming off of a blowout loss on Monday Night Football to the New Orleans Saints and are looking for another big win to help them bounce back from 38-17 defeat.
The good news for the Ravens is that head coach John Harbaugh has a 20-6 record when following a loss. Baltimore already found a way to win after their Week 1 loss to the Denver Broncos this season with a 14-6 narrow win over the now 3-2 Cleveland Browns.
I pegged both of these teams as playoff contenders before the season started, and I'm not going to back off of that statement because both of these teams have playmakers on defense to take their respective teams far into the playoffs. When the Ravens and Dolphins hit the field for kickoff, I'll be keeping my eyes on several key members of the Ravens as they will be crucial in the outcome of the game whether they win, lose or draw.
Jeffrey Kryglik is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter at Jeff_Kryglik, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.
5. John Harbaugh
I know he isn't a player, but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh can have a significant impact on how this game turns out for the Ravens and Dolphins. John admitted last week and accepted responsibility for abandoning the running game too early. Yes, I know Jim Caldwell is the offensive coordinator, but John makes the decisions final. It will be interesting to see how aggressive he is on the road against Miami this week. His team came out sluggish early against Buffalo, and he wants to avoid a poor start in the first half because it could put Baltimore behind the eight ball early.
4. Lardarius Webb
Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb finds himself once again on the injury report and is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Webb will likely play, but you have to wonder just how healthy that knee is, given his knee issues in the past and the fact that he tore his ACL last season. If I'm the Miami Dolphins, I'm lining up Mike Wallace on his side and running nine routes to test his speed and to see just how healthy he is. Wallace has struggled in his first four games with Miami and doesn't have a great track record against the Ravens, but he may have an advantage on the outside this week with his top-notch speed.
3. Eugene Monroe
The Ravens made the move to acquired tackle Eugene Monroe earlier this week and I do expect him to see some game action against the Dolphins. While it probably won't be in a full-time role just yet, it'll be interesting to see what the 26-year-old can bring to the table before he's really acclimated into the system. I expect Monroe to see anywhere from 20-25 snaps, and maybe we'll see a new package or two that may include both he and left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
2. Ray Rice
It's been a disappointing start to the 2013 regular season for Ravens running back Ray Rice, and he knows that has to change soon if this team is going places. Rice had just five carries for 17 yards against the Bills, and he has only touched the ball on the ground 30 times for 89 yards and one score in three games (he missed Week 3 against the Houston Texans with a strained left hip flexor injury). Where I think Rice has been missed the most is the check-down passing game as the Ravens have tried to use him more as a receiver, rather than as a decoy that could be hidden before. That will have to change against this tough front seven of the Dolphins.
1. Gino Gradkowski
It's been a rough start for center Gino Gradkowski in his first year as a full-time starter, and the loss of Matt Birk to retirement is looking fairly huge given the way the Ravens have struggled up front. Whether it's the miscommunication with signals and blocking schemes or just being overpowered, Gradkowski has failed to answer the call thus far. Given that the Dolphins now have former Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, a guy who loves pressuring up the middle via the blitz, it'll be interesting to see just how well the second-year man adjusts.