Steve Smith is a Maniac, Can the Ravens Run on the Panthers?
By Brett Foote
Sep 7, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) prepares to run a route during the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Baltimore Ravens 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to Lunchtime Links, where we round up all the latest Ravens news from around the web for your convenient consumption. Today, we find out that Steve Smith is a “maniac,” discuss whether his recent comments were a slight at Cam Newton, ponder whether or not the Ravens can run the ball against the Panthers, and find out what sort of shuffling will be going on with the offensive line this week.
Steve Smith is a “maniac,” did he take a shot at Cam Newton?
As we prepare for this weekend’s “Steve Smith Bowl,” there have been quite a few entertaining sound bytes coming out of the week’s press conferences. One of the best came from Joe Flacco, when asked if he thought that Smith might request more targets with the intentions of carrying out revenge against his former team.
Flacco replied with “if I pay attention to that maniac, who knows how I play?” It is a hilarious nod at the intensity that Smith carries with him seemingly 24 hours a day. For his part, Smith does appear to enjoy playing with the calm and collected Flacco. For some reason, the media turned his comment that it was refreshing to play with Joe Flacco into a slight against his former quarterback, Cam Newton.
Newton clarified that he didn’t take the comments as a slight on Wednesday, telling the press “I can tell you that me and Steve have a healthy relationship. I’m rooting for him, except for this particular Sunday. That’s all in the competitive love. I wish him the best.” We think that playing for a slightly older and more mature Joe Flacco has been a better fit for Smith than the young Newton, who is still learning how to be a leader.
Can the Ravens run the ball on the Panthers?
As we will discuss in tomorrow’s feature (spoiler alert!), one of the keys to this weekend’s game against the Panthers is the Raven’s continued ability to run the ball. The success of the ground game has been a huge part of the Ravens success this season. Meanwhile, the Panthers have one of the stoutest defenses in the NFL, with the exception of their letdown against the Steelers last week.
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Andrea Hangst at Bleacher Report agrees, but believes that the Steelers performance provides a blueprint for the Ravens to follow. We, however, tend to view single game performances with skepticism, especially those that are a big departure from the norm (i.e. Seahawks/Chargers week two).
The Panthers have played stout defense going way back to the beginning of last season, so we see that game as an exception to the rule. Not saying that the Ravens can’t run the ball or shouldn’t, but we don’t expect the Panthers to put up two soft performances in a row.
Eugene Monroe injury forces offensive line shuffling
Another reason we are concerned about the run game is the necessary shuffling that is getting ready to take place along what has been one of the NFL’s best offensive lines this year. With Eugene Monroe out 3-4 weeks following knee surgery, the Ravens are going to trot out undrafted rookie James Hurst to man Joe Flacco’s blindside.
Pass protection and run blocking have been the keys to the Ravens success through three games. If Hurst can’t hold up on the left side, the Ravens could shift Kelechi Osemele over, as he has experience at left tackle. The problem with that is, how do you replace Osemele’s production in the run game at the guard position? He has been absolutely dominant this season. It’s a troubling thought, but one that may become a reality as soon as Sunday.