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Five Ravens thoughts heading into last eight games


Five Ravens thoughts heading into last eight games

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.

RELATED: Zuttah questionable, but Harbaugh encouraged

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 


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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.


Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.