Every week, we learn a little more about the Baltimore Ravens. After their week four contest against the Carolina Panthers, we got far more insight about this team and what they are all about. Today, we look at what we learned about this team at the end of the first quarter of the 2014 season.
Steve Smith Sr. is looking like the pickup of the year in the NFL. Going into Week 4, Smith was in sixth place in receiving yards with 290. After a game where he put up 139 yards and two touchdowns, Smith boosted himself right into third place in the NFL with 429 total yards and tying for tenth in receiving touchdowns.
More impressive are his target numbers. While having a rough week one in which jitters got the best of him, Smith has been targeted an impressive 42 times with 25 receptions. He is on pace for 100 receptions and 1716 yards for the year. Not too shabby for the old man, right?
The thing that all the writers here at Baltimore Beatdown were excited for when his signing was announced was a mixture of his attitude and his ability to teach the young receivers. I personally made a remark after seeing several receivers come back to the ball for a good catch that Smith has already made an impact on the young kids. I've also seen the receivers do more once Flacco is rolling out or under duress in scrambling around and finding an open spot in the secondary, which has led to Flacco and the whole offense continuing drives and making big plays. Again, that is a Smith specialty and an influence that few outside of Baltimore expected to see so soon.
The young rookie plays a position that won't see him get a ton of accolades every week outside of major turnovers or vicious hits. However looking at his stats, he is sitting at 13th in the NFL for total tackles with 34. As Mosley is able to get a little more used to the speed of the game and get more acclimated to the defensive scheme, he should be able to post better numbers.... think about that for a second. He's 13th in the entire league and he's going to get better!?
Many analysts ragged on him for his size, but his four pass deflections and forced fumble to go with his tackle totals means that he has been all over the field this year and had a massive impact on this team already. It is way too early to start making the claims, but Mosley could easily be in the running for defensive rookie of the year if he keeps playing at this level.
Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones
A tale of two receivers. While Torrey Smith was able to find some room in the offense for his skills this week, Jacoby once again let his hands cost him playing time.
Smith nabbed his first touchdown of the year on a great route with plenty of grabbing by the defensive back and was able to get another big catch in the seam by just finding the right spot in the zone. Torrey is improving a bit as the season goes on and while he will likely never get to a true number one type of receiver, he is showing up as a good compliment.
Jacoby on the other hand is likely relegating himself to punt and kick returns for the foreseeable future after another bad drop that hit him square in the hands and bounced off the turf. Jones has the speed to put himself in position to make great plays and as we've seen, he's been able to do it in the past for the Ravens. But if he continues to have a case of butterfingers, this receiving group has too much talent and depth in it to allow him to see offensive snaps. Kubiak had to cut him once while in Houston and I don't think it would be a reach to say that Jones might find himself on the outside looking in this offseason unless he can turn his season around and make a case for his salary.
I know, I know, I know... Enough about Ray Rice already. The major storyline all year has been about how the Ravens would replace Rice for two games and then for the entire year. Journeyman Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro are making people forget about Ray Rice already. 127 on 30 carries against one of the better defenses in the league goes a long way to show that the Ravens have made major improvements on their run game in every facet. Once a major question and point of concern has quickly turned into the best part of Baltimore's offense.
The Ravens are capable of putting together a complete game. Offensively, the Ravens handled one of the best front sevens in all of football with ease. The offensive line featuring rookie James Hurst was able to get push on short yardage situations and open holes throughout the entire game. Joe Flacco had plenty of time to throw and he turned in a brilliant performance going 22 of 31 for 327 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions for a final rating of 137.4. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro again made his name known by gashing the Panthers defense at a time when everyone knew the Ravens were going to push the ball down their throats.
Defensively, you saw the Ravens secondary perform well against a fast Panthers receiving group. They started a little slow to begin the game in allowing the Panthers to march down the field, but were pretty quickly able to lock down Kelvin Benjamin. Outside of a single major issue with Darian Stewart not doing his job, the Ravens were able to cycle several guys in and out and hold the Panthers. The Ravens front seven again dominated, holding the Panthers to 67 yards on 26 carries (a 2.5 ypc average).
If the Ravens can continue to play every week like they did against the Panthers, there are few if any teams that can compete with them for a full 60 minutes. This looks like a team that is destined to go far in 2014.