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Enough bye-week soul searching. Time for the Baltimore Ravens to put in work

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AMY SANDERSON/ZUMA PRESS/ICON SPORTSWIRE

The NFL is a week-to-week league. The Baltimore Ravens October results are in the past, all that matters now is how they play in November and December. The next challenge ahead is a home match against the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that has brought out the best in the Ravens over the last several seasons.

Five key starters are expected to return from injury in Week 5 for the Ravens. The list includes Ronnie Stanley the team’s highest drafted rookie in sixteen seasons, and seventeen combined Pro Bowl selections between Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr. Marshal Yanda and C.J. Mosley.

Clearly, the Ravens need to play much better in order to reach their postseason goals. Fortunately, most of the veteran players on the team have proven they are capable of performing at a higher level. Over the next nine games, the coaching staff must make adjustments to put their personnel in position to succeed.

Points of emphasis for each position group:

Quarterbacks: Pre-snap is one area where Joe Flacco can improve without needing much assistance from his teammates. If Marty Mornhinweg sends the play calls in faster, Flacco can help the offensive line with cadence, adjust protections and audible to counter what the defense is showing.

Offensive Line: Holding their blocks longer would certainly help, but what the offense really needs is to give Flacco room to step up in the pocket. Joe is capable of avoiding rushes from the edges but struggles when he has pressure in his face. Minimizing the traffic around his feet will allow Flacco to be more accurate and protect the ball. The return of Yanda to the lineup and Alex Lewis to the opposite guard spot should provide a noticeable boost.

Running Backs: One way to slow down an aggressive front is to stretch the field horizontally with Kenneth Dixon and Buck Allen through short passes and outside runs. Once the linebackers are on their heels, feeding Terrance West the ball and will enable the the offensive line to wear down the opponents.

Wide receivers: Someone needs to step up as a clutch target who will go up and make a play in the fourth quarter. Better hands are required from Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore.

Tight Ends: Another group that needs to reduce drops, Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gillmore can do damage if they are utilized on routes that maximize yards-after-the-catch potential.

Defensive Line: Using stunts on passing plays will generate consistent pressure, but Dean Pees has to balance these creative play calls to maintain integrity against the run.

Inside Linebackers: Continue swarming to the ball and generating turnovers. C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr should be called upon more frequently to blitz the A-gap. Refining their drops in pass coverage is the main area to work on.

Outside linebackers: Without a timetable for Elvis Dumervil’s return from injury, pass rushing production from Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith and Kamalei Correa is essential. Keeping Terrell Suggs on the field, even below full strength, is important. His intelligence benefits the whole defense.

Cornerbacks: Jimmy Smith is nearing his best form. Becoming a certified ballhawk by baiting quarterbacks into interceptions is the next step. Growing Will Davis’ confidence as an outside corner should be a priority, he allows the Ravens to play more man coverage with Smith and Tavon Young in the red zone.

Safeties: Just tackle better. The Ravens defense will be tough to beat if they take away the big plays. Replacing Webb with a safety who possess better speed would solidify the back end.

Special Teams: Block for returners and watch Justin Tucker knock them through.