When it comes to the Ravens' rookie class, coach John Harbaugh cracks into a smile. That's not easy these days given his team is facing serious questions on both sides of the football coming out of the bye week.
"We have a good rookie class, don’t we? I mean, it’s a good group," Harbaugh said.
The Ravens have gotten a lot of contributions from their first-year players, though some understandably have yet to get their chance:
Kelechi Osemele: The RT worked his way into the starting lineup and has started every game. He injured his right knee and ankle in the 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans but appears to be OK. Harbaugh: "Kelechi speaks for itself. He’s started every single game. He had the ankle (injury) and then he comes rolling back out there in the second half, gutted it out, and played pretty darn well."
Bernard Pierce: As the No. 2 RB behind Ray Rice, he hasn't gotten as much work as expected. But he's averaging better than 5.0 yards per carry. Harbaugh: "You’ve seen his talent. … Talking about the running game and getting the ball in Ray’s hands a little, that’s something we need to do with Bernard, too. We need to get Bernard out there more. We need to get him some more carries and touches, because he brings a different little style."
Justin Tucker: The K has only missed one FG, making 16 of 17, including 4-for-4 from 50 yards or more. Harbaugh: "He has done a great job."
Courtney Upshaw: He took over the starting job at rush LB in Week 2, when Paul Kruger went down with a back injury, and hasn't done anything to lose it. Harbaugh: "Courtney is getting better every single week. He won the game ball (vs. Dallas) for defense."
Christian Thompson: Still hasn't worked his way into the secondary even with the injury to Lardarius Webb. Because they're thin there the third-string SS will remain active and get his chances on special teams.
Gino Gradkowski: He hasn't had to replace veteran C Matt Birk, but given the injuries to the OL he could find his way on the field given Harbaugh's suggestion he might mix and match to get better protection for QB Joe Flacco. Harbaugh: "Gino has been active every game, so he’s in the mix as a backup guard. I really think he’s ready to play if his opportunity comes."
Deonte Thompson: Third-string WR lost the starting job as kick returner going into the Dallas game as he was de-activated and Jacoby Jones installed. Jones responded with a 108-yard return for a TD and has relegated Thompson.
Bobby Rainey: The fourth-string RB recently was elevated from the practice squad but hasn't been active for any games yet. If he's to make the game-day active roster, he'll have to earn the playing time on special teams.
Asa Jackson: There hasn't been any room for the third-string CB as a returner or in the secondary, but that could change given the injury issues. Harbaugh: "Asa has been growing into the thing. He was close to being active (vs. Houston). He’s working in the slot, so that’s a possibility with the injury to Lardarius (Webb) that he could see some time."
DeAngelo Tyson: The DE played for the first time vs. Houston, and given the lack of production from that position -- starter Pernell McPhee and second-stringer Arthur Jones only have a total of one-half sack -- he could edge his way up.