Ravens can compensate for loss of Steve Smith


Oct 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr (89) lays on the field after being injured against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Ravens won the game, 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

There are two things that have become abundantly clear after watching four weeks of Baltimore Ravens football.  First, the Ravens can and will compensate for the loss of their offensive identity and most productive player on that side of the ball as Steve Smith nurses an injury that will keep him out of week 5’s game and perhaps beyond.

Second, the Ravens are going to have to find a way to do so anyway, even if Smith returns in short order. Smith hasn’t just been the leader of this offense, he has been the entire offense.  With an insane 47 targets through 4 games (3 and some change, really), something here has to change.

Even if Smith wasn’t hurt, opposing defensive coordinators were/are going to figure out a way to slow down the 36 year old.  Whether that be a scheme change, double coverage, or safety help over the top, nobody gets the benefit of the doubt forever in the NFL.

You can argue that some teams don’t have enough talent in their secondary to slow down the seemingly unstoppable Sr., and you might be right.  But no team can enjoy sustained success on the back of one player.  And when that one player goes down, it makes things even harder.

When you look at the rest of the Ravens’ wide receiver depth, you quickly realize that there is a massive talent gap between Smith Sr. and everybody else.  It’s why he is such a large part of the offense.  You’ve got nothing more than career journeymen, raw youngsters, and undrafted players behind him.

With Smith on the shelf, the Ravens aren’t going to win games by throwing the ball 40-50 times a game. They are going to have to run the ball, eat up time of possession, and pick up first downs.  And they know this, which is why the Ravens ran the ball more after Smith left week 4’s game (19 times) than they tossed it (15 times).

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They key here is that the run game remains as effective as it was against the Steelers, obviously.  After a dreadfully slow start to the season, Justin Forsett finally blew up and snagged 150 yards on 27 carries last week.  The Cleveland Browns, sporting the worst run defense in the NFL, present a clear opportunity to do so this week.

There is simply no other way, because the Ravens don’t have a contingency plan behind Smith.  No other receiver has consistently stepped up to date, and it might take a while for the newly acquired Chris Givens to learn the offense.

If the Ravens want to dig their way out of the 1-3 hole they are currently in, it’s time to ground and pound (and pray that Steve Smith comes back soon).

Next: Brandon Williams quietly breaking out

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