Here are five thoughts on the second half of the Ravens’ season, which begins Sunday (1 p.m.) against the Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium.
1. It’s way too early to talk about the Ravens (2-6) making a second-half charge.
They haven’t won two games in a row. They’ve only won once at home. Their defense is ranked 29th in the NFL against the pass. Let’s see the Ravens do this. Beat the Jaguars (2-6) on Sunday, which would give the Ravens two straight wins. Beat the Rams the following week, which would give the Ravens three straight wins at home. If they do that, we can say the Ravens are on the upswing. If they can’t, they’re not ready to make a move.
2. With Steve Smith injured, even more will be learned about the Ravens’ other receivers.
Whether or not Smith retires, or Breshad Perriman plays this season, the Ravens will be looking to upgrade the wide receiver position heading into 2016. Every receiver during the final eight games will have an opportunity to strengthen, or damage, their chance of staying around next season.
3. Will giving up big plays continue to be a big problem for the Ravens’ secondary?
The Jaguars have two quality receivers in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. We’ll see if the Ravens’ secondary can avoid the kind of glaring mistakes that hurt them badly over the first eight games. The Ravens won’t win consistently unless they reduce the big plays against them.
4. Joe Flacco will really need his young tight ends.
We know for sure that Dennis Pitta isn’t coming back this year. However, second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore already has three touchdown grabs, and rookies Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams have 23 catches between them. If all three tight ends continue to make plays, it will help relieve the pressure of losing Smith.
5. Special teams could help the Ravens steal a win or two.
Sam Koch is having a Pro Bowl caliber year as a punter, and Justin Tucker is a proven clutch kicker with great range. The Ravens don’t have the firepower to blow teams out. But if they give Tucker a few more chances to seal victories, they’ll like the results.