The Baltimore Ravens have a losing record and have fallen behind in the division. Nevertheless, the bye week is an opportunity to be introspective and scout themselves. Which positions have been a weakness, and which have carried the Ravens so far? This is an assessment of each position group and how they've performed so far.
A common sight has been an Baltimore offense plagued by poor offensive line play and an inability to run the ball. The running back and O-line grades reflect those inadequate performances.
On defense, the secondary has given up some big plays, and the team has struggled against the run in recent weeks. Despite that, the pass rush has been excellent all year, led by the outside linebackers.
The grades are based on the statistical output of each group and how well they've done their jobs. Without further ado, here are the midseason grades for the defending champions.
|Joe Flacco||160-of-269 (59.5)||1917||7.1||254.7||8||8||78.9|
Joe Flacco has never had great numbers, but he's on pace to throw for a career high in passing yards. Unfortunately, if he continues at his current clip he'll also set a career high in interceptions.
He's had to overcome a feeble rushing attack and a porous offensive line (both of which are improving).
Looking at the numbers alone doesn't show how Flacco has carried his team. He had one terrible outing against the Buffalo Bills, but he's been the only offense the Ravens have had for the most part.
The ground game that is usually the strength of the Baltimore offense has been nonexistent in the first seven games of the 2013 season.
Dreadful offensive line play is the biggest reason for this, but the rushing statistics that you see above are absolutely awful.
None of the running backs have found any success, but Ray Rice has been mildly productive as a receiver and checkdown option for Joe Flacco, picking up over 100 yards in receptions.
The level of production has to increase as we head into the second half of the season to give the entire offense a boost. Both Rice and Bernard Pierce have been battling through nagging injuries, so hopefully the bye week has given them the chance to fully recover.
Baltimore ranks 28th in rushing yards per game and last in yards per carry. Such a performance should earn a failing grade, but they get a slight bump because their woes have mostly been caused by the offensive line.
Position Grade: D+
Torrey Smith entered the season with many critics questioning whether he'd be able to take over as the primary receiver for the departed Anquan Boldin. Those critics no longer have any concerns.
Smith has been phenomenal, showing that he is a much more refined receiver than many assumed last year. He's the best offensive weapon on the roster and is among the league leaders in receiving yards. The one area where he's struggled is scoring touchdowns, but his development is extremely promising for the future.
Likewise, the maturation of Marlon Brown and Tandon Doss is a great sign for Baltimore's future. It's what the front office was hoping for when they traded Boldin and didn't bring in any high-level free agents.
With the return of Jacoby Jones, the Ravens have depth at wide receiver. Considering the number of three-WR formations that he deployed used in the Ravens' last game, offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell appears more willing than ever to spread out defenses.
In a surprising turn of events, the receiving corps looks like the strength of the offense.
Position Grade: B+
The tight ends that were tasked with replacing Dennis Pitta have been disappointing and inconsistent. None of them more so than Ed Dickson.
Dickson has completely lost the form that saw him catch 54 balls for over 500 yards in 2011. He was supposed to be a breakout candidate once Pitta went down, but a severe case of the drops to start the year shattered his confidence.
Dallas Clark has been much more impressive, and he's caught a touchdown in each of the last two games, perhaps a sign that he's getting more comfortable with Joe Flacco.
If it continues, he could improve his numbers after the bye week and become a more consistent receiving weapon, but for now the tight ends have been very average.
Position Grade: C-
|Player||Sacks Allowed||QB Hits Allowed||QB Hurries Allowed||Penalties|
This is all you need to know about the offensive line: the Ravens made the first midseason trade in franchise history this season, and they did it to address the O-line problems.
So far, Eugene Monroe has looked like a big upgrade over Bryant McKinnie and another brilliant acquisition by general manager Ozzie Newsome (especially if Baltimore can re-sign him in the offseason).
The Ravens have given up 20 sacks, which is the ninth-highest number in the league, and the run-blocking has been terrible. According to ProFootballFocus, they are the seventh-worst pass-blocking team and the second-worst run-blocking team in the league (subscription required).
There is reason for hope, however. According to Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun, players met with head coach John Harbaugh to voice concerns over the blocking scheme. Some changes were made, and the offensive line had its best game of the season (by far) in Week 7 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Those changes will have been fully installed over the bye week, so the O-line performance may improve moving forward. Unfortunately, that doesn't save it from the bad grade right now.
Position Grade: F
Haloti Ngata has looked dominant at times, and he's played very well for the most part. That was to be expected since Ngata is widely regarded as one of the best nose tackles in the game.
The more exciting development for the Ravens has been the rapid progress made by rookie Brandon Williams. The Division-II product has looked extremely comfortable, and the adjustment to the NFL has not been too difficult for him.
Unfortunately that might result in Terrence Cody not being re-signed at the end of the year.
The defensive line has been excellent in some games and iffy in others. None of the bad play is because of the nose tackles, who have performed very well.
Position Grade: B+
The performance of the defensive ends has varied week to week. More often than not, they've played very well. Over the last few games, however, they've looked a little vulnerable against the run.
Arthur Jones and Chris Canty have done a good job of pressuring quarterbacks, as evidenced by their sack numbers.
If the ends can hold up a little better against the run, they'll earn a higher grade.
Position Grade: C+
For the first time in Ravens history, Ray Lewis wasn't lining up at inside linebacker. His replacement, Daryl Smith, has been excellent.
He's among the league leaders in tackles, and he's been a steady presence anchoring the defense.
The other inside linebackers have played well also, and the return of Jameel McClain will be important for the second half of the season.
In the last few games, the group has had a little difficulty shedding blocks against the run, which is one of the reasons why offenses have recently had success on the ground.
Position Grade: B-
Terrell Suggs is sure to be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation if he continues at his current pace, and the pair looks like it can break the Ravens record for most sacks by two players (24 sacks by Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas in 2006).
They've terrorized quarterbacks, and it's incredibly difficult for opposing O-lines to block both of them. Moreover, the outside linebackers have also been good against the run and have consistently set the edge well.
Position Grade: A
None of the three cornerbacks has positive grades from ProFootballFocus, and each has struggled at various points in the year (subscription required).
Lardarius Webb has been a welcome addition (returning from injury), but Jimmy Smith has looked like the best corner. Deep-ball coverage has been a weakness, as well as tackling in some games.
Position Grade: C-
|Player||Tackles||Solo Tackles||TFL||Missed Tackles||PD|
Out of the three players, James Ihedigbo seemed heading into the season like the least probable candidate to step up and be the best safety of the bunch. Sure enough, that's what he's been through seven weeks, and he is currently ProFootballFocus' sixth-best safety in the league (subscription required).
Matt Elam has gotten better every week and turned in a very good performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7.
Along with the cornerbacks, the Ravens safeties have made some errors against the deep ball that have resulted in big plays. Overall, however, they've been solid in coverage and good against the run.
Position Grade: B
Justin Tucker: A-
Stats: 15-of-17 FGs (88.2%), 15-of-15 XPs
Justin Tucker's two-miss performance in Week 2 was an aberration, and he's looked great since that point.
Sam Koch: B+
Stats: 43 punts for 1944 yards (45.2 avg), 12 IN20
Sam Koch has been solid, but he's also mishit a few punts that have cost the Ravens valuable field position. Most of the subpar net yardage has been due to bad punt coverage.
Tandon Doss: A+
Stats: 15 punt returns for 267 yards (17.8 avg), 1 TD
Tandon Doss took over the punt-return duties after Jacoby Jones' injury, and he's been phenomenal. He scored on an electrifying 82-yard touchdown in Week 3, and he has the highest return average in the NFL.
Jacoby Jones/Deonte Thompson/Shaun Draughn: B
Stats: 16 kick returns for 437 yards (25.7 avg)
Baltimore hasn't yet rediscovered the return magic of last year, but a healthy Jacoby Jones could alter that. The returners have been solid but unspectacular.