Ravens' offensive additions working well in Gary Kubiak's system

  • Ravens running back Justin Forsett.
Ravens running back Justin Forsett. (Cliff McBride/Getty Images )
October 13, 2014|Mike Preston

When the Ravens signed three free agents in the offseason to boost their offense, only the acquisition of veteran receiver Steve Smith seemed to create a buzz around town.

After six games, all three additions and center Jeremy Zuttah have had a significant impact, but none greater than Smith. He gave the Ravens two elements they were missing from last season — a go-to receiver who could work the entire field, and a hard-nose veteran with a strong work ethic

Smith has 35 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns so far this year. Not only has he made his fellow receivers better, but quarterback Joe Flacco as well.

Running back Justin Forsett appeared to be more of a stop gap or role player when the Ravens signed him in early April, along with tight end Owen Daniels. With Ray Rice's future in doubt, Forsett seemed destined to be a third-down back as a receiver out of the backfield.

But he has rushed 64 times for 408 yards and three touchdowns, including 111 yards on 14 carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. He has now started three straight games and might end up being the team's unsung hero.

Daniels is in the twilight of his career, and he was expected to be the No. 2 tight end behind Dennis Pitta. But he has 21 receptions for 217 yards and two touchdowns and has taken over as the starter with Pitta injured again.

The Ravens also traded a 2015 draft choice for Zuttah from Tampa Bay in March. Zuttah struggled with the Buccaneers, and he'll have trouble against big nose guards. But he has exceptional quickness and can pull, something the Ravens haven't been able to do regularly with a center in years.

Of course, a lot of this wouldn't have happened without Gary Kubiak becoming the offensive coordinator in the offseason. Forsett and Daniels are former players from Kubiak's time as Houston Texans head coach, and that downhill running game can work with small, fast linemen like Zuttah.

It's safe to say the Ravens wouldn't have had this type of offensive success with Jim Hostler, the team's former receivers' coach, as the offensive coordinator.

Kudos to Kubiak

While on the subject of Kubiak, it was refreshing to hear him say last week after the Ravens lost to the Indianapolis Colts that he needed to call a better game and he could have provided rookie left tackle James Hurst with help by running the ball more.

He didn't criticize the media for criticizing him or blame his players. He just went out and put 48 points on the Buccaneers.

That's how it is done.

Harbaugh's coaching tips

I love John Harbaugh's postgame news conferences because he always says something great about the opposition, some of it way overboard.

Here's the gem he left us with after Sunday's win over Tampa Bay: "The fact that they [Ravens] came down here in this kind of heat against a team that's really been coming on the last couple weeks and is a very good football team — you're going to find out [Tampa Bay] is a really good football team — and to play the way we did in a game that's kind of a business game that we need to win, it speaks a lot to who we are as a football team."

Really.

That stuff had to come out of Page 9, Article 5 of the NFL coaching manual.

Competition at punt returner

I like the fact that the Ravens put rookie Michael Campanaro in Sunday to return a punt. It may not have had an impact on the sluggish Jacoby Jones, but a little competition makes the best come out in some players.

Jones was decisive on fielding two punts and had two kickoff returns for 81 total yards, including one of 58. Maybe he will return to his old form and break a long one for a touchdown soon.

Quick throws for Flacco

One of the keys to Flacco's success has been his quick release, unlike in previous years when he sometimes held onto the ball too long.

Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, one of the better defensive tackles in the league, said he couldn't even get a whiff of Flacco.

"They knew where I was at all times, and when I did beat my guy and come off the block, the ball was gone," McCoy said Sunday. "That's very frustrating to defensive linemen. It was like that all afternoon."

The Buccaneers didn't have a sack or even a quarterback hit on Flacco.

Balance in the AFC North

The AFC North may not be the best division in the NFL, but it now has become more competitive again with the Cincinnati Bengals losing and then tying in their last two games.

Did anyone catch the glare on Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' face while he was walking off the field after Mike Nugent missed a 36-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in overtime Sunday?

The Bengals ended in a 37-37 tie with the Carolina Panthers.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns smoked the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-10. After watching the Philadelphia Eagles push Pittsburgh around in the preseason, it was easy to tell these weren't the old Steelers. They have no hardness about them.

Question of the day: How did the Steelers lose to Tampa Bay, 27-24, earlier this season?

Trouble for ex-Ravens assistant

It looks like former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, the New York Jets coach, is in trouble. The Jets are 1-5, and they're still heading south.

It will be interesting to see if Ryan still has enough name recognition to land another head coaching job.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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