All the buzz in Baltimore this week was the trade for Jacksonville left tackle Eugene Monroe. The Ravens traded for Monroe on Thursday for two “third day draft picks.”
But the Baltimore Sun reported that the Ravens aren’t sure if Monroe will play a key role against Miami on Sunday.
It’s been a crash course for Monroe, who the Ravens acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday for two draft picks. Monroe will eventually become the Ravens’ starting left tackle, but Harbaugh said that he’s still not sure the 26-year-old will know enough of the offense to play a prominent role Sunday.
“He seems good, he seems sharp,” Harbaugh said. “He was here all night [Thursday] night with the offensive line guys. He was in here early this morning again and went through the practice and seemed like he knew what he was doing. I think we’re on schedule, but I’m not sure what the schedule is with a guy like that. This is kind of new to us.”
Harbaugh said that the team will partly rely on Monroe’s feedback about his comfort level with the offense before making a decision. If Monroe is not ready, Bryant McKinnie will start at left tackle.
Although it might be easier to beat the Dolphins in the air than on the ground, it sounds like Baltimore might look to run the ball against Miami. Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell told Ravens reporters that the team should have ran the ball more than nine times in last week’s loss to Buffalo. Baltimore has struggled on the ground this year and running back Ray Rice looks like a shell of his former self.
“If you had a chance to do it all over again, perhaps we’d have to consider and look at running that ball a little bit more,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think we ran it quite enough. We chose to throw it, and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. We learned from it. We’ll tee it up and learn from it again.”
The Ravens have fallen to 28th in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 64 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry.
What’s the plan for turning it around?
“We have to match the other teams’ intensity when we go out there to even want to be able to be effective in the run game,” said Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, who has rushed for 89 yards on 30 carries. “I don’t have one guy on my offensive line that’s saying, ‘We’re just going to screw this play up.’ What we’re doing is getting a guy who wants it a little bit more on the other side.
The Baltimore Sun is playing up Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam’s return to South Florida.
Elam was a star running back at Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens (and started out his high school career at West Palm Beach’s Palm Beach Lakes) before becoming a star safety for the University of Florida.
A consensus All-American as a junior last season at the University of Florida before declaring for the NFL draft, Elam will have a large contingent of family and friends attending the game at Sun Life Stadium.
“Playing in front of my family will be exciting,” Elam said. “I can’t wait. It should be a lot of fun.”
Elam has 17 tackles and one pass deflection in four games (three starts). He had a career-high six solo tackles in a 23-20 win over the Buffalo Bills, but also missed an open-field tackle on Bills running back Fred Jackson’s 16-yard touchdown run.
“I just slipped, I lost my feet,” Elam said. “There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Although Elam was expected to become the team’s starting free safety after being drafted with the final pick of the first round, James Ihedbigo, an undrafted player out of UMass in 2007, has held on to the job and excelled.
Ravens writer Matt Vensel did a feature on Ihedbigo in today’s Baltimore Sun, saying that Ihedbigo had other plans when Elam was drafted — “not just to keep the job, but to stand out on a defense full of stars.”
“I knew I was a proven starter in this league,” Ihedigbo said. “I just needed to showcase my talent, show people that they weren’t just putting me in there [as a placeholder], that I was more than qualified to play the position.”
After bouncing around the NFL for a couple of years and surviving another training camp competition, Ihedigbo is thriving as a starter for the Ravens. The 29-year-old is providing sound coverage, reliable tackling and leadership for a younger group of defensive backs that lost a pair of veteran mentors in Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard this past offseason.
“James has been kind of the glue back there,” coach John Harbaugh said.
Elam isn’t Baltimore’s only Palm Beach County native. Deonte Thompson, who starred at Belle Glade’s Glades Central before playing for UF, performed well in his first game as Baltimore’s kick returner, according to the Carroll County Times.
Thompson is questionable to play against the Dolphins after suffering a concussion last week. But if he is on the field, the Dolphins 16th-ranked kick return unit will be tested.
Thompson, playing in his first game this season, took over as the Ravens’ primary kick returner and averaged 24.3 yards per return on three returns.
One of the returns went for 34 yards.
“He hit the returns fast,” Rosburg said. “The one return that there was a hole there, he did all of the things that we want a returner to do. On the one return, we ran into the same sideline that wasn’t there, he protected the ball and got what he could. So, it’s a good start for him.”
Despite Baltimore’s struggles, Vensel writes that Baltimore’s offense is actually milliseconds faster this year — “though their ineffective running game and inability to sustain drives have probably limited their ability to go no-huddle as much as they would like.”
A season ago, they averaged 27.54 seconds between offensive plays in neutral situations, which Football Outsiders computed by excluding drives that start in the fourth quarter or the final five minutes of the first half and only included drives that occurred when the score was within six points or less. They do this to eliminate two-minute situations and the times when teams hurry up while playing from behind to give a truer representation of which teams are trying to operate the quickest when all things are equal.
So far this season, the Ravens are averaging 27.47 seconds between situation-neutral played and 24.61 seconds between plays overall, according to Football Outsiders.
Only five teams have had a quicker offensive pace in neutral situations. Those teams are the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Patriots, Broncos and Green Bay Packers.
“I think it can be faster, but our pace has been good,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. “We’ve certainly been able to substitute along with getting plays off very quickly at the line of scrimmage and making the necessary adjustments we need to make, as well. Yeah, I think our pace has been good but our pace can get better.”
After Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs suffered a torn achilles in the 2012 offseason, and made a surprising return in October of last season, Carroll County Times’ writer Matt Zenitz says Suggs is “in arguably the best shape of his career.”
Through four games, Suggs is second on Baltimore in tackles with 31 and tied for third in the AFC with four sacks.
The Ravens believed Suggs was capable of this kind of year as early as mandatory minicamp in June, when Suggs showed up healthy after dealing with the effects of a torn Achilles tendon for much of last season and in arguably the best shape of his career.
But Suggs has been maybe even better than expected.
“‘Sizzle’ is playing as well as he’s played, ever,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s playing at, obviously, a Pro Bowl-type level. But he can even play better. That’s the thing. He’s so determined right now. I see him walking around here. He’s just got a look on his face, a single-minded purpose-type of a look on his face, so that’s the way he’s playing.”
Suggs had made an impact as a pass rusher, as he has been throughout his career, but he’s also been a presence for the Ravens in the run game.
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