Projecting three stars for the Ravens' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

October 11, 2014|By Jon Meoli | The Baltimore Sun

Some sports name three stars of the game after the game. I'll do that one better: I'm going to name them before the Ravens even play. These will be the three stars when the Ravens travel to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers on Sunday.

1. Tight end Owen Daniels

When Daniels caught a pair of scores on play-action passes in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the football world collectively slapped its head, as if to say: "Why didn't we think of that?"

Daniels was a frequent red-zone target for Gary Kubiak when the Ravens offensive coordinator was in Houston, and the plays he scored on were textbook Kubiak sets.

Daniels' role in the offense hasn't grown much since starter Dennis Pitta's hip injury, but his 183 receiving yards and two touchdowns trail only wide receiver Steve Smith's totals, while his 19 catches are third on the team, behind Smith and running back Justin Forsett.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller each got red-zone scores against Tampa Bay. Last week, after superstar New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham left with a shoulder injury after catching two passes, journeyman Benjamin Watson caught five passes on eight targets for 43 yards.

In five games, opposing tight ends have 33 catches for 336 yards and a pair of scores against the Buccaneers.

All of which bodes well for Daniels, an old head who can find holes in Tampa Bay's Cover 2 defense. Expect about seven catches for 90 yards and at least one touchdown for the veteran tight end.

2. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil

Since the Ravens signed the three-time Pro Bowl selection and former All-Pro linebacker away from the Denver Broncos ahead of the 2013 season, Dumervil has been a boom-or-bust pass rusher.

After getting sacks in his first two games last season, five of Dumervil's remaining 7.5 sacks came in two games — Week 6 against the Green Bay Packers (two sacks) and Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals (three).

The same has proved true this year, as Dumervil picked up a pair of sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 and 1.5 sacks against the Carolina Panthers in Week 4. Ravens coaches will rightfully tell you that he and fellow pass rusher Terrell Suggs impact games even when they aren't getting sacks, but Dumervil seems primed for another one of those games against a Buccaneers offensive line that hasn't exactly been porous, but has really faced only one strong pass rush this year — that of Rams.

In that game, the Buccaneers dropped back to pass just 21 times and allowed a single St. Louis sack. The Ravens likely will force them to throw the ball more than that this game, and Tampa Bay could have success throwing the ball with Mike Glennon at quarterback, but all those dropbacks could let the Ravens pin their ears back and attack.

Dumervil will record his 25th career game with at least 1.5 sacks and force a fumble as well.

3. Quarterback Mike Glennon

Glennon is hardly the quarterback the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck is, but he's steady and has provided an immediate upgrade over Josh McCown, who played the first two-plus games of the season. To hear Ravens coach John Harbaugh talk about him, Glennon might pose the same threat as Luck.

Glennon's skills will be tested Sunday, but he could exploit a Ravens secondary that's 27th in pass defense. Vincent Jackson is a big target who likely will get the Jimmy Smith treatment, but if hulking rookie Mike Evans overcomes a groin injury, he could create mismatches with either Lardarius Webb, Chykie Brown or newly signed Dominique Franks, who will step in at cornerback for the injured Asa Jackson. It's still unclear whether the Ravens are comfortable using Webb on the outside, especially against someone as physical Evans.

Expect the Ravens to tighten up in the red zone, as they've done all season, but Glennon will find the end zone once in this one and creep close to 300 yards in a losing effort.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

twitter.com/JonMeoli

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