5 Baltimore Ravens to Watch After Bye Week
5 Ravens to Watch Post-Bye
It's bye week for the Baltimore Ravens and it couldn't have come at a better time in my eyes. While there are virtual no major injury issues on the forefront with this team, there are many issues with the team's execution as the Ravens are below .500 for the first time at the bye week in the John Harbaugh era.
Baltimore finds themselves in unfamiliar territory, but two things are still in the books: Harbaugh has led the Ravens to a 21-8 record the game after his team loses and coming off of the bye week, the Ravens are undefeated (5-0) under his guidance as head coach. It's hard to really pinpoint a 3-4 start on a select group of individuals because the team collectively hasn't been able to produce a solid 60 minutes of football.
Baltimore's motto thus far has been win ugly and stay in game's for as long as possible. If the offense is up in a half or quarter, the defense is down and vice versa. Discussions about the offensive line play have been a plenty, questions about Joe Flacco as the leader of this football team have come to light and Terrell Suggs declared a "state of emergency" in the Ravens organization just last week.
This sounds a lot like a team that has hit the panic button at Week 8 of the NFL season. Or are they just playing scared? Desperate? Some teams work better that way. I guess when you're trying to make the playoffs for the sixth straight year, anything is acceptable. That being said, if the Ravens are going to make the playoffs, these five guys must step their game up and be x-factors.
5. Tandon Doss
One of the better from-nothing-to-something stories on the Ravens has to be wide receiver Tandon Doss. The 24-year-old was pegged to be one of the main facets of this offense heading into training camp, but found himself cut after the final week of the preseason. Now, look at the guy. The former 2011 fourth-round pick has become a consistent punt return option -- taking one back to the house against the Houston Texans -- and has finally emerged somewhat as a threat as a wide receiver.
If he can become a viable option out of the slot, maybe the Ravens can fix their third-down woes more often by going to the receiver quarterback Joe Flacco rants and raves about all the time.
4. Jacoby Jones
Now that he's healthy, wide receiver Jacoby Jones can play like the player he was starting to become -- a wide receiver who happens to be a star return specialist. The one problem with this Ravens offense has been the limited number of options and overall lack of depth at tight end and wide receiver outside of Torrey Smith. If the 29-year-old can run crisp routes and show that he is more than just a speedster in the second half, the Ravens offense might be able to fix their problems on third down and sustain more long drives.
3. Kelechi Osemele
It's no secret that left guard Kelechi Osemele is hurt and his back will require surgery after the 2013 season. However, you have to commend a guy for playing given the nature of such an injury. Anytime a big ugly up front has to deal with a back injury carrying all that weight, their job is going to be significantly harder. However, excuses can't be made and KO has to step up his level of play, given the collective disappointing efforts from the offensive line thus far. The inability to blow anyone off the line has to change, or the power-running schemes the Ravens hoped to re-install into the offense will never work.
2. Jimmy Smith
One of the biggest surprises this season has been the stellar play of cornerback Jimmy Smith. Often given the task of covering the opponent's best wide receiver, Smith has stood tall in virtually every game and has become an even more crucial component of this defense with the struggles of cornerback Corey Graham coming to light thus far. Facing guys like Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green, Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson will be tough tasks in the second half, but I feel as if he's up to the challenge.
1. Matt Elam
It's been tough sledding for rookie safety Matt Elam thus far in Baltimore, but don't get too down on the 2013 first-round selection just yet. While he was praised in college for being able to play multiple positions, asking him to step in and fill the void of Ed Reed at free safety in his first NFL season may have been too daunting a task. Baltimore is lucky James Ihedigbo has been what he's been because Elam was actually battling with him for the strong safety spot and has had to take over free safety because of Michael Huff being the biggest disappointment thus far on the team. Expectations are always higher on the guy who is selected first, but it may be too lofty to expect a 5-foot-9 safety to match up with tight ends at times. Still, Elam has to step up or this secondary will continue to give up big plays and keep the offense off the field as opponents sustain drives.