The rest of the AFC North: Looking at Baltimore 8 weeks into the season


The Baltimore Ravens accepted they were not going to be as talented last year when they signed quarterback Joe Flacco to a bad contract that forced them to wave goodbye to a number of big players on both sides of the ball.  8 games into the season, the Ravens are 3-5 with Flacco looking extremely average with a giant pile of money.  Meanwhile, the rest of the team has holes that need to be addressed and are going to need to rely on the draft to fill them.

Oct 20, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens helmet in a team huddle before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Flacco has been mediocre but has not gotten much help.  The Ravens weapons are hurt, overrated or simply bad.  Torrey Smith is their one player that seems able to make some plays for them.  Beyond him, they are missing Dennis Pitta in a big way and relying on has-beens and never-will-be’s to try to fill the void.  They may have found something worth holding onto in Marlon Brown, but beyond that, wide receiver is a problem and they really miss Anquan Boldin.

The Ravens have running backs in Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, but the inability to have receiving threats that have been able to scare anyone, teams are clamping down on the run and forcing Flacco to beat them with his arm.  The results have been extremely questionable.

The Ravens have some really talented pieces along the offensive line including Marshal Yanda, Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele and they hope the acquisition of Eugene Monroe can stabilize the left tackle spot.  If he can, they can sign him to a longer team deal and keep him.  If not, they can let him walk and draft someone else.  The big question mark for the Ravens up front has been center Gino Gradkowski who has trouble with power in division that has a lot of it.  They might try to stay with him and hope he can improve, but he is not Matt Birk; even an ancient Birk.

Defensively, the Ravens are not in bad shape.  Their defensive line features some big name players they have counted on for years in Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Arthur Jones.  They are getting a nice boost from Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty has been solid.  They also have up and coming young players including rookie Brandon Williams.  Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee have shown flashes but are still question marks.  All things considered, the Ravens are a good unit in this area.

Inside Linebacker had one unexpected setback when they lost Dannell Ellerbe who unexpectedly jumped ship for the Miami Dolphins.  The Ravens were set up to get past the loss of Ray Lewis’s rotting carcass with the drafting of Arthur Brown, but they were not equipped to lose both players.  Brown looks like he has a bright future ahead of him, but they need to get him a running mate.

The secondary has some good pieces and some question marks.  Lardarius Webb is good.  Jimmy Smith has been an enormous disappointment and while he can make plays at times, tends to be an underwhelming player overall.  They like what they might have in Matt ElamJames Ihedigo has probably done better than expected, but he is not a long term answer.  They might have half the pieces they need to be good in that area.

With Ozzie Newsome running the show, the Ravens are always a team that is a threat to get right back and compete.  He has done extremely well in the draft overall even if he has had some big misses along the way.  Their cap is a little hamstrung right now in no small part because of the money invested in Flacco.  They need to get him weapons.  Torrey Smith is a low end #1 receiver and should really be a #2.  Pitta being back would be huge, but the Ravens really need a top end wide receiver to make defenses take that part of the game seriously and to get the best out of Flacco.  The Ravens need more help in the secondary and finding that other inside linebacker.  The Ravens are mediocre right now and may be in for a down year, but they are positioned in a way to get back up quickly.  For example, imagine if the Ravens were able to add a player like Mike Evans, the receiver from Texas A&M into the mix.  They are a much different team.  With the money invested in Flacco, this offseason needs to be dedicated to making sure he has the tools to be successful or that contract is a giant albatross around the organization’s neck.