Baltimore Ravens: Flourishing in Next Man Up Mentality


With three games remaining in the Baltimore Ravens 2014 season, there have been many defining moments. Those that stick out particularly to me have been the suspensions and injuries.

If you can remember back to the Ravens’ Super Bowl-winning season they were riddled with injuries, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That year the Ravens started out 9-2 and looked almost unbeatable. Then the injuries started hitting the team hard, they lost three straight and finished the season 10-6.

Then of course there were doubters. And after the Ravens beat the Colts in the AFC Wild Card game, they were never favored in their remaining three matchups.

This season the Ravens have been forced to adjust because of suspensions and injuries.

The first obstacle the Ravens had to overcome was the suspension, and then the release of Ray Rice. Rice was an essential part of this Ravens offense since being drafted in the second round by the Baltimore in the 2008 NFL Draft.

The Ravens did not falter; they had confidence in their offense line, their system, and their running back corp led by Justin Forsett. Forsett was at first just a depth signing, most likely to be released upon Rice‘s return from his original two-game suspension. Well, we are 13 games into the season,  Justin Forsett is third in rushing yards with 1,080 yards and leads the NFL with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Forsett also leads the NFL in carries of 20+ yards with 14.

The Ravens also lost easily their best cornerback in Jimmy Smith, who showed signs of becoming a shutdown cornerback in the NFL. He started eight games for the Ravens, but then injured his foot, which turned into a season-ending injury that placed him on injured reserve.

So, again the next man had to step up. After an abysmal performance against the Steelers, the Ravens had to try something different. They signed Danny Gorrer and converted safety Anthony Levine to a cornerback to start opposite of Lardarius Webb.

While the Ravens rank 31st in pass defense, the secondary has played well enough to win the last two out the three contests. If the secondary can continue to build chemistry and cut out big plays, they can definitely improve from 31st in the NFL.

Nov 24, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Anthony Levine (41) acknowledges fans as he walks off the field after their 34-27 win over the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The most recent obstacle for the Ravens to overcome was the loss of Haloti Ngata for four games for violating the league’s drug policy. Ngata has been absolutely fantastic this season. He ranks 8th in his position in the NFL on Pro Football Focus and has been a force in the run game this season.

His loss forced two players especially to step up: Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan towards the beginning of the season was only used in mainly pass rush situations, but with the Ngata suspension has seen his snaps increase. Since his snaps increasing, Jernigan has been very productive for the Ravens. He has consistently gotten penetration in the run game, as well as pass rush situations.

Many teams have the philosophy of the “Next Man Up” mentality, but the Ravens choose to relish in it.