Baltimore Ravens Week 4 Stock Report
For the Baltimore Ravens, the only thing worse than playing a division foe like the Pittsburgh Steelers on a short week is doing it while sitting at 0-3. Granted, the Steelers will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but regardless, there isn’t a whole lot else to be encouraged about.
Going into Thursday’s game, the Ravens are coming off back-to-back losses, where the defense caved late to game-winning drives. Even without Roethlisberger, the Steelers are a dangerous team, and this game is going to be far from a gimmie.
Which players’ stocks are up this week? And which guys have stocks that continue to dip? Read on, and find out.
Unless specified, all stats and player data courtesy of NFL.com.
Justin Forsett, RB
With three games under his belt, running back Justin Forsett has been about as mediocre as can be. Tragically, not all of his struggles are of his own doing. Forsett’s game is predicated on being able to find seams and creases and exploit them with his quickness. The bottom line is that this year, those seams and creases just don’t exist.
As ESPN NFL writer Field Yates pointed out, the sledding for Forsett has gotten much more difficult, but he hasn’t adjusted to it very well.
Justin Forsett led the NFL with 3.8 yards before contact per rush last year. This year he's 39th out of 49 qualified RB's at 1.5.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 28, 2015
Nevertheless, even if Forsett has to work harder for his yards, he must find a way to make it happen. Last season, Forsett only averaged 1.6 yards after contact, and this season, he’s averaging 1.7. Only difference being that that contact is coming sooner. So, in other words, Forsett is a back that must have a perfect situation in order to be successful. Considering the state of the Ravens offensive line, that’s a perfect case for stock down.
Steve Smith, WR
If there is a spot on the Steelers defense that can be exploited, it is the secondary. The Pittsburgh defensive backs have been very inconsistent all year long. And in each game this season, Pittsburgh has allowed one wide receiver/tight end to have a 100-yard game. Last week it was Kenny Britt of the St. Louis Rams that torched the group.
This is great news for quarterback Joe Flacco and his favorite target, wide receiver Steve Smith. Smith has been lighting up the box score and is by far Flacco’s favorite target.
Smith has an opportunity to feast on the Steelers secondary. There isn’t a stronger, more physical receiver in the league, and he is well beyond the talent of anyone Pittsburgh has on their team.
The Rest of the Wide Receivers
For as great as Smith has been, the rest of the Baltimore wide receivers have been bad. To illustrate, while Smith has 25 receptions through the first three games, the rest of the wide receivers on the roster have 15 combined.
The leader of this group is rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman. In case you don’t remember who he is, he’s the first-round pick of the Ravens in 2015. The speedster from Central Florida was supposed to come in and give the Ravens that speed element they lost when Torrey Smith left. However, Perriman remains on the milk carton and is nowhere to be found.
That means that the rest of the guys on the depth chart—Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Michael Campanaro— have to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case at all. As much as Flacco might want to get these guys the ball, they clearly haven’t earned the trust of their quarterback, and until they do, this offense is going to flounder.
C.J. Mosley, LB
If there has been a high point on a defense that has given up 767 yards passing over the past two weeks, it has been the play of linebacker C.J. Mosley. Without outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in the lineup, this group took a huge hit in athleticism. Courtney Upshaw is so limited physically, and the age of Daryl Smith is much more obvious without Suggs on the field.
So it has been up to Mosley to pick up the slack. In three games, Mosley has 21 tackles, three passes defended and two sacks. On Thursday, Mosley will be tasked with trying to shut down running back Le’Veon Bell, not only as a rusher but also as a receiver out of the backfield. If there’s a guy on the front seven up to the challenge right now, it is definitely Mosley.
The Ravens Secondary
On paper, it may appear that the Ravens will have an easy time containing the Steelers passing attack on Thursday. Without Roethlisberger, quarterback Michael Vick will be making his first start since Week 12 of the 2014 season. In fact, Vick has nine starts in the past two seasons and won three of them. Should be no problem for this much-maligned group, right?
Not so fast. Vick might be rusty, but when you have wide receiver Antonio Brown out there in the route, any quarterback can look good. Additionally, tight end Heath Miller and aforementioned Bell are all elite pass-catching skill players that will give the defensive backs all they can handle.
In particular, cornerback Jimmy Smith needs to be on notice. Pittsburgh is going to move Brown all over the field, and it will be worth noting if Smith follows him. If he does, that indicates man coverage, and when you have an athlete like Vick at quarterback, the Ravens secondary will have to be aware of his ability to run.