NFL Wire News

Ravaged Ravens continue next man up approach


The Sports Xchange

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh remains stoic when discussing how the team will move forward with the mounting injuries decimating the roster.

When wide receiver Steve Smith was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday because of a torn Achilles tendon, he joined 11 teammates whose season already ended.

Despite the adversity, Harbaugh is adhering to the “next man up” philosophy as the Ravens (2-6) try to salvage their season.

“You move on, that’s what you have to do,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll move on to the next players, and the players will be expected to step up and play at a high level — the highest possible level. That’s our expectation. It never changes.

“We’re never going to use excuses. We’re never going to say that we don’t have enough firepower or ammunition or anything like that. We’re never going to say that, because we don’t believe it. We always believe that we have players in the pipeline that can get the job done, and we’ve been coaching them. I have a lot of confidence in those guys, and it will be their job to get the job done.”

After losing four games in the fourth quarter this season, Baltimore finally flipped the script Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

Quarterback Joe Flacco perfectly orchestrated a two-minute offense to set up Justin Tucker’s 39-yard field goal as time expired to give Baltimore a 29-26 victory.

The Ravens’ six losses this season have been by a total of 30 points. One of the main goals moving forward is to win those types of close games.

However, the Ravens will have to meet that challenge without some key players.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Matt Elam, cornerback Will Davis, wide receiver Michael Campanaro and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro have all been placed on injured reserve.

The loss of Smith is particularly devastating because he was by far the team’s top playmaker. Now, Flacco will have to rely on Kamar Aiken, newly signed Chris Givens and a patchwork of other receivers to step up and make plays.

In the victory over San Diego, Flacco threw the ball to nine receivers and that has given him some confidence heading into the second half of the season.

Harbaugh said the receivers and young tight ends must be a bigger part of the offense in the second half and that would be the case even if Smith weren’t injured.

Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman agreed with that sentiment.

“I think we have to really work toward that,” Trestman said. “We have some young, talented guys that we’re developing and working hard to get better.

“We certainly see moments of that showing up throughout the game, and we want to do it in a more consistent level. We’re going to need the production at that position.”

The Ravens close out the season with five of the next eight games at home. Harbaugh is confident his players will take advantage of that favorable schedule.

“I always feel like we’re capable of succeeding no matter where we’re going or where we’re playing,” Harbaugh said. “Playing at home is a lot better than playing on the road, and playing road games close are a lot better than playing them all the way across the country.

“So, the fact that we’ve got those situations behind us is great.”

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