I can picture people scratching their heads and wondering what I am going on about. What is a Deus ex machina? The briefest definition is a plot device used in ancient Greek plays where a character that can conquer a seemingly impossible obstacle very easily; as in perhaps a God, is introduced. In more modern times the definition is used a bit more liberally. This is where I come in. More importantly this is where Kyle Juszczyk comes in.
What few people may know; outside of Ravens fans, is that Kyle was not a star running back at Harvard University. He wasn’t a star fullback. He was a first team All American as a Tight End after posting a season of 52 catches for 706 yards and 8 touchdowns. This means Kyle is smart, he knows how to run routes, and he has some pretty reliable hands. At 6’1” and 250lbs he isn’t the prototypical TE size so a position change in the NFL was inevitable.
This is how I envision his role with the Ravens this season. Having “Juice” in the backfield now represents a true dilemma for opposing offenses. Is he going to lead block, is he going to run the ball, or most importantly, which route will he run to catch a pass? As great as Vonta Leach was, he was a one dimensional fullback. Very few teams still use a player of that mold now. With Leach out, Juszczyk in, the other weapons that are in place, and now Gary Kubiak’s offensive scheme being implemented this could be a very productive year for “Juice.”
He isn’t the same powerful lead blocker as Leach was. It wasn’t something he did much in college, but he’s worked hard in that area all off season. It is paying tremendous dividends as he’s starting to get noticed for his blocks. He’s also not the kind of fullback that will simply stand around in the flat and catch a dump off pass. He can actually run a route tree and his hands are not made of cement. With the injury to Dennis Pitta, I see Kyle getting a lot of opportunities to contribute in a similar fashion in the passing attack. If an opposing team does not account for him he will rack up yards and the opposition will be left wondering how they lost the game.
And I will simply utter what I think should be the new nickname for Kyle. The Juszczyk Machina.
When I started tweeting about Ravens players for what I do for The Purple Reign Show, I had no idea they would pay attention, take notice, and take part of their valuable time to respond. In today’s game against the Browns I thought I had seen at least a couple of plays where Courtney Upshaw got into the backfield, but allowed the play to run by him. He failed to “set the edge.” Of course this is only my opinion as I don’t know what his exact assignment is on each snap, I can only guess as a spectator. I decided to tweet this observation and apparently Courtney was paying attention and we had this little exchange.
Seems like he took it the right way. I wasn’t trying to bash on him or anything. I am just calling things as I see them. He had some disruptive plays as well; such as on the sack of Brian Hoyer late in the game. I must say I was a little worried about his reply at first because he’s not a guy I think I would like to make angry. But I looked at some of his other tweets and I felt like I didn’t have to worry about being substituted in for Ben Roethlisberger on that big hit he took from Courtney in week 2.
I just think sometimes context can be hard to understand in 140 characters or less. I wanted to take this opportunity to clear it up for those that might think I mean more than I do with my posts. The Ravens are my team, I bleed black and purple and black and orange (Orioles). I am just trying to remain unbiased and share my humble opinion about what I am seeing in a game. Whether I am right or wrong, that’s for you all to decide. I just hope I am entertaining people that follow me and you enjoy what I post.
Just wanted to give Courtney Upshaw some credit for addressing me and my little comment and taking time out of his day to reply. He made my day even better than it had been for a Ravens victory.
DT Timmy Jernigan: suffered a meniscus injury. Look for Christo Bilukidi to be activated.
QUESTIONABLE: (50% chance of playing)
RB Bernard Pierce: Thigh injury is the report that had him limited in practices. Ravens released WR Deonte Thompson and added RB Fitzgerald Toussaint to the roster yesterday.
PROBABLE: (80% chance of playing)
CB: Lardarius Webb: back injury, was full practice participant all week.
CB: Asa Jackson: suffered concussion in Pittsburgh game. Passed protocols and was full practice all week.
QB: Joe Flacco: illness; sat out Wednesday’s practice but was full practice for the rest of the week.
LT: Eugene Monroe: knee issue; sat out Wed practice, but was full practice rest of the week.
RB: Ben Tate: suffered a knee injury in week one.
LB Barkevious Mingo: shoulder injury
TE: Jordan Cameron: shoulder injury
WR: Travis Benjamin: Knee injury
DL: Desmond Bryant: Wrist injury
CB: Buster Skrine: thumb injury
P: Spencer Lannging: Shoulder injury
OL: Paul McQuistan: Ankle Injury
After two games the Ravens look like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, so which one shows up for game time? Is the Browns rushing attack for real? Find out what the PR staff and I think in my preview for Purple Reign.
If you didn’t catch the post here on my blog, check it out here on the Purple Reign site. While you’re there check out some of the other amazing content such as The Purple Reign Podcast from Wednesday, Rob Michels excellent article about Ray Rice, Will Grabill’s “Stats to Know for Week 2,” or share a laugh or two with Brandon Spiegel. All good reads and you should be checking us out!
Check out what the crew had to say about the Ray Rice saga, the tough week one loss to the Bengals, and what to look forward to tonight when the Steelers come to OUR house!
There is always something a little special in the atmosphere when a heated division rival comes to town. In recent history there really has been no bigger rivalry than The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Both cities are known for their tough, blue collar, bring your lunch pail to work type backgrounds. Both teams try to represent that ethic on the field. Pounding running attacks, hard hitting defense, and a relentless style of play.
We really are looking at mirror images here when comparing the Steelers to the Ravens. In Joe Flacco’s career he has played the Steelers twelve times and owns a 6-6 record. In the last three head to head match ups the greatest margin of victory was three points. Both teams run a version of the 3-4 Defense. In the home opener the Ravens defense struggled at times to contain the running game, as did the Steelers woes against the Browns. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco threw for well over 300 yards, both threw a TD pass, and both threw an interception. Neither the Baltimore defense, nor the Steelers defense recorded a turnover. Both teams had to wait until the final minutes of the game before their fate was sealed. The Steelers capitalized on their opportunity when Shaun Suisham kicked a game winning field goal. The Ravens squandered their only hope as Joe Flacco was sacked on a 4th down play.
So what can we look forward to on Thursday?
STEELERS PASS OFFENSE VS. RAVENS PASS DEFENSE : EDGE STEELERS
“Big Ben” has always been a tough individual and has been a clutch performer in the past. With no sacks coming from the Ravens against the Bengals, no interceptions, and question mark as to how healthy Lardarius Webb will be, I have to give the edge to the passing attack of the Steelers. Antonio Brown could cause some severe problems for our secondary. They present a well rounded attack as second year receiver Markus Wheaton is emerging as a weapon, Heath Miller can always be counted on for a crucial catch, and Le’Veon Bell is a legitimate weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. Perhaps the only good news is that Lance Moore will not be active which takes away another deep threat and big play making option.
STEELERS RUSH OFFENSE VS. RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: EDGE RAVENS
Le’Veon Bell is establishing himself as one of the better running backs in the game and it is exactly what the Steelers needed to go along with a traditionally stout defense and a good passing attack. Bell ripped up the Browns defense and ran for over 100 yards for a TD in just 21 carries. While the Ravens looked shaky at times against the Bengals they did manage to contain their ground game to just 79 yards and no touchdowns. Time and time again the defense came up with a big stop when the Bengals went with the rushing attack. The revamped defensive line and line backing crew featuring the speed of C.J. Mosely and the swarming Daryl Smith got the job done. Bell and the Steelers offensive line will be a tough assignment but I think the Ravens will contain the ground game.
RAVENS PASS OFFENSE VS. STEELERS PASS DEFENSE: EDGE STEELERS
The Steelers 3-4 defense has always been known as a tough scheme to play against. They usually defend the rush well, disguise their pass rush well, and could make you pay by forcing a turnover. Troy Polamalu may not be the same player he once was in pass protection, but he still swarms around the ball and isn’t afraid to make any tackle. The Steelers did record 3 sacks against the Browns. The Ravens had issues last season with the offensive line and new pieces Jeremy Zuttah and Rick Wagner are about to get a wake up call about how tough the AFC North is when Pittsburgh comes to town. The line protected Flacco fairly well until the most crucial time of the game. The new offensive system by Gary Kubiak saw receivers routinely getting open. The issue was that while they were open they didn’t exactly catch the football. Steve Smith had 4 drops by himself. Jacoby Jones, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, and Owen Daniels all had drops as well. I think the unit will respond better and secure the ball this week. In the end I think the pressure the Steelers can bring just might be too much for the offensive line for the Ravens.
RAVENS RUSH OFFENSE VS. STEELSER RUSH DEFENSE: EDGE RAVENS
While Bernard Pierce never seemed to get himself going, Justin Forsett came off the bench to rush for 6.4 yards a carry and had a nice 13 yard TD scamper. Pierce will probably start the game but look for Forsett to get his fair share of carries in week two. Forsett seemed more patient in allowing the blocks to set up and then finding the right hole and bursting through. The offensive line seemed adept at opening up lanes for Forsett to work with. FB Kyle Juszczyk didn’t factor into the offense by the stat line, but he got some good lead blocks in and was also was slotting out wide in some formations and running routes. He was targeted a couple of times, so it is only a matter of time before he gets a catch. The Steelers defense had no answer for any running back the Browns put in the backfield. Terrence West, Ben Tate, and Isiah Crowell all rushed for well over 5 yards a carry and totaled 183 yards and two touchdowns. If the Steelers prove inept against the ground game this week the Ravens could have a great day.
SPECIAL TEAMS: EDGE STEELERS
The normally reliable Justin Tucker missed a FG and the coverage unit for the Ravens missed some tackles. They also failed to set up decent blocks on kick and punt returns. That being said, Jacoby Jones is always a threat to run one back. Sam Koch; who has been a very good punter in his career, hasn’t quite looked the same last season and in week one had a very short punt. The Ravens actually brought in a rookie punter to challenge Koch in the off season. Meanwhile the Steelers have a steady unit and while Suisham has had accuracy issues in the past, he’s been at 90% or better in the past two seasons which is impressive when you consider his home field. Dri Archer; Pittsburgh’s primary kick returner looks like he will miss this game. LeGerrette Blount and Antonio Brown are listed as the back ups on the depth chart. Blount is actually a good return man and could present a big problem for a Ravens unit that struggles to wrap up in tackles so they can’t afford to sleep on him.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
For the Ravens: On offense they need to establish the running game, catch the football, and protect Joe Flacco. See if the Steelers corrected their mistakes on run defense. Flacco has proven he can win games as long as he avoids the silly mistakes. On the defense they simply have to make the tackles. They can’t afford to miss a back like Bell. They need to get bodies on Roethlisberger and force turnovers. A big plus to the Ravens is getting Webb back in the secondary.
For the Steelers: As long as Bell is getting over 100 yards a game they can’t ask for much more. Roethlisberger has to continue to be a tough leader and just deliver the ball to his play makers. On defense the Steelers have to stop the running game and continue to sack quarterbacks. Eventually that kind of pressure will lead to costly mistakes for their opponents.
It is usually always close for these two teams and the outcome normally comes down to the last play on the field. The Steelers were cruising to a victory and then all of a sudden almost blew it late against the Browns. The Ravens looked completely lost on offense while the defense shut down the Bengals before the offense finally woke up a little too late. Taking everything into account I am going with the Ravens; 23-18 in another tough, hard hitting match up.
PR STAFF PREDICTIONS:
Phil Gentile - Purple Reign Director @ihatejjredick: Ravens 23 Steelers 21
Lindsey O - Purple Reign Show Co-Host @lindseyyok: Ravens 21, Steelers 20
Tim Horsey - Co-Host, Purple Reign Show @TimHorsey: Steelers 24, Ravens 21
Will Grabill - Purple Reign Draft Writer & Contributor @DraftRavens: Ravens 23-20 behind a rebound performance from the receivers and another breakout game from Justin Forsett.
Slater Jackson - Purple Reign Contributor @b_money28: Ravens 13, Steelers 10
Ethan Felderstein - Purple Reign Contributor, efelderstein14 : Steelers 24, Ravens 20
Nick Meriwether – Purple Reig Contributer, @ngatabigdeal92: Ravens 17, Steelers 14
PROBABLE: RG: Marshall Yanda: Nursing a foot injury he sat out Monday’s practice but was a full participant on Tuesday and Wednesday. He should be good to go.
QUESTIONABLE: CB: Lardarius Webb: Suffering from an injured back it was thought he could have played week one but would have been less than 100%. He’s been a full participant in practices on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. So far looks like he will be starting against the Steelers.
OUT: RB: Dri Archer: Recovering from an ankle issue; the rookie is mainly a return specialist.
OUT: WR: Lance Moore: Suffering a groin injury; Moore looks to be out this week. A known weapon and big play maker in the past the Steelers will miss him but will look for Markus Wheaton to step up again.
In an article for Purple Reign I examine what the future might be for the Ravens without their former leading rusher.
The Baltimore Ravens have received DT/DE Christo Bilukidi off waivers and to make room on the roster for him they have cut RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. The Ravens had only five defensive linemen listed on the roster as DE Brent Urban, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore are on the IR list and DT Jamie Meder is on the practice squad. Toussaint was added to the 53 man roster only after the Ravens had cut CB Derek Cox. He was behind Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce, and Lorenzo Taliaferro.
Bilukidi is listed at 6’5” 320lbs and has played two seasons in the NFL. He was drafted in the 6th round by the Oakland Raiders in 2012, played in 13 games and recorded 8 tackles. He was released during the 2013 season and then was signed by the Bengals and recorded 5 tackles and 1 sack on the season. He holds the career sack record at Georgia State University and was the college’s first player to be drafted into the NFL.
The Ravens have gotten into the habit of making frequent substitutions on the line to help keep their big men fresh. Having a versatile player like Bilikudi for depth is a bonus. He has the right size and could see limited reps behind the likes of DeAngelo Tyson, Chris Canty, Haloti Ngata, Timmy Jernigan, and Brandon Williams. This may be some insurance in case Terrence Cody is unable to return from the PUP list later this year.
UPDATE: The Ravens have re-signed RB Fitzgerald Toussaint to the practice squad.