Where would the Baltimore Ravens be without Mike Wallace and Eric Weddle? A winless start to the 2016 season is possible.
Through the first two games, the veteran offseason signings have made the big plays the Ravens lacked in 2015.
In victories over the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, the Ravens have scored three total touchdowns. Mike Wallace has caught all three of these touchdowns. Wallace has been the most dependable player on an inconsistent Ravens offense. Over two games, he has accumulated 132 receiving yards, putting him on pace for a 1,000-yard season.
The Ravens offensive line has been underwhelming through two games. With the rushing offense averaging a paltry three yards per carry, big plays from the passing game have been necessary. Dennis Pitta and Steve Smith have provided Joe Flacco with capable secondary targets, but Wallace has been the go-to receiver who has scored the crucial touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Eric Weddle has made his presence felt. Against the Browns, the safety came down with a momentum turning interception. With the Ravens trailing 20-9, Weddle corralled an errant throw to halt a Browns drive and allow the Ravens to kick a field goal right before halftime. Last season, the Ravens safeties would not have held onto the pick.
Weddle has also helped shore up communication in the Ravens secondary. Shareece Wright had issues in coverage against the Browns, but blown coverages have been greatly minimized so far this year. Weddle has led the Ravens to the second best pass defense ranking in the NFL at this early point in the season. After allowing 30 passing touchdowns last season while securing only six interceptions last season, the Ravens touchdown to interception ratio is knotted at two apiece so far this year.
The Ravens front office has not received the expected production from several of their veteran free agent signings since the franchise’s last championship in 2012. After two contests, their investment last offseason in both Wallace and Weddle has proven to be a wise use of cap space. Judging by an admittedly small sample size, the team would be in trouble without these two veterans in the fold.
Sound execution of assignment based football only goes so far in this parity driven league. Winning teams need players to step up and make game winning plays. So far, Wallace and Weddle have been up to the task.