Some fairly shocking news hit the Baltimore area earlier today when John Harbaugh announced that TE Owen Daniels was going to miss some time with a knee procedure. This may not be very surprising because Daniels has had a history of getting banged up over the past few years of his career. What is a bit puzzling is why the team mentioned he was fine all week long until this point. The Ravens were already at a bit of a loss when what most would consider Joe Flacco’s safety valve; Dennis Pitta, went down with another gruesome looking hip injury. Daniels was filling in admirably and many thought that as long as Daniels could remain healthy the Ravens would get a big year of production out of him. Fortunately for the Ravens his injury does not seem all that serious and he might not miss significant time. What is also significant for the Ravens is that they have a lot of options.
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Gary Kubiak’s offense has turned things around in Baltimore. Not only are the Ravens back to being one of the best running offenses in the league, but they are also a top rated passing attack as well. A lot of the credit has to go to the improved offensive line for sure. The coaching philosophy and game plan also has to get a fair share of credit. The zone blocking scheme employed by Kubiak is the same that would churn out almost no-name running backs into 1,000 yard rushers. Justin Forsett had one of his best statistical seasons under Kubiak’s running scheme in Houston. But what his offense also does is set up a number of options for the quarter back to utilize. Providing a helping hand is Ozzie Newsome and his ability to collect talent. Thanks to these two factors the loss of Daniels may not be so devastating as it might be to another team that lost both of their starting tight ends. Let’s take a look at why.
It all starts with options. Steve Smith Sr. has emerged as a blessing because he is showing that there was probably a lot more left in the tank than the Panthers thought he had when they let him go. This pick up is looking like one of those classic Ozzie steals. After that you have Justin Forsett who is just as dangerous as a receiver as he is a running threat. The Ravens also decided to go a different route at FB and moved away from the rather one dimensional lead blocker in Vonta Leach to go with the more versatile Kyle Juszczyk. The Ravens can also take a TE off the field and deploy one of their larger body wide-outs in Marlon Brown or Kamar Aiken. Crockett Gillmore was drafted this season and is primarily known as a big, strong, blocking type. Gillmore himself will downplay his receiving prowess but what many might not know is that in high school he was voted first team all district at both DE and WR. He also led his college team in receptions in 2011. He might measure out as slow, but he is an underrated athlete who will make the catches he should. The coaching staff has done a good job of adjusting on the fly and coming up with strategies to utilize the weapons they have available.
Image courtesy of Amarillo Globe-News
Helping the cause this week will be the injuries that are plaguing the Cincinnati Bengals. The major news getting all the press is about WR A.J. Green. What I think will be more telling is the depleted line backing unit for the Bengals. Vontaze Burfict has emerged as a bonafide leader on the defense and the team looked lost without him. He should be back for the game this Sunday but how healthy is he? Rey Maualuga is also listed as “out” for practice this week and will probably also miss the game. Another linebacker; Emmanuel Lamur, was limited in practice on Wednesday but was a full participant Thursday. The middle of the field might be wide open for the Ravens to exploit and despite the loss of Daniels and Pitta there are still weapons to be deployed in that area.