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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Nathan Beaucage from Baltimore Beatdown and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Is there any chance that Steve Smith will suit up on Sunday? Do you expect him to go? If Smith doesn't start, who will the Ravens' top receivers be and how much have they contributed in their careers?"
Nathan: "Smith isn't suiting up. Even though he is somehow 'day-to-day' with broken ribs, his doubtful status will keep him out of Sunday's contest. The Ravens definitely want to keep their best receiver healthy, and an aggravation of the injury could cut his final year short. As for the Ravens remaining receiving corps, they look like a bunch of castoffs. Here's who is headlining 'The Who', as our receiving group has been affectionately named.
* Kamar Aiken: My personal favorite. Kamar has gone from an UDFA who bounced around on practice squads for years, to a receiver capable of being a legitimate WR2/3. He's posted lines of 5 REC./ 75 REC. YDS in two of the past three games, and despite lack of name recognition, isn't to be taken lightly. I'd expect him to receive the most snaps.
* Marlon Brown: He's just okay. He broke out in his rookie year, grabbing seven touchdown catches, but since then, he's been nowhere to be found. I don't see that changing anytime soon. He should receive the second most snaps, but it will be close.
* Darren Waller: The six foot six inch beast has been waiting to be unveiled. While quite a few thought he might even miss the final roster, he has been propelled all the way to the WR4/5 slot thanks to injuries. While we've only seen him reel in one catch for 17 yards thus far, things might just change this week with only five active receivers playing.
* Chris Givens: He's the shiny new toy we all want to see in action. Many were calling for the team to bring in a deep threat, and their prayers were answered with the acquisition of Givens by way of St. Louis. His top skill is dazzling speed, and it is very reminiscent of Torrey Smith's wheels. Givens is indeed active for the game, and QB Joe Flacco has already heaped praise onto the new receiver. With the lack of receivers, Givens likely won't be 'eased in'.
* Jeremy Ross: Won't be much of a threat in the receiving game. He is a returner by trade, and was promoted to the active roster since both of the Ravens' returners are out. The receiving game definitely falls on the shoulders of the men above, and not on Ross."
Chris: "Although he's coming off of a big game against Pittsburgh, Justin Forsett and the Ravens' ground game has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. Do you put that on Forsett, the offensive line, or the arrival of Marc Trestman?"
Nathan: "I blame no one. Forsett is very talented, and is not a 'one-hit wonder'. The offensive line admittedly had its woes, but that was almost entirely the fault of James Hurst. Hurst filled in for the concussed LT Eugene Monroe in Weeks 1-4. Hurst was quite literally the worst player in football, or so said PFF. Now that Monroe is back, expect this offensive line to improve greatly.
While Trestman also could have ran it a lot more, the gameflow didn't necessarily favor the rushing attack in some of the games. After last week's attack, and with the OL at full health, I think Trestman finally realizes how vital the run game is to the team's success."
Chris: "Obviously, you don't just 'replace' impact players like Terrell Suggs or Haloti Ngata. With that said, have any players in the front seven stepped up their games in their absences?"
Nathan: "No one is too sad about Haloti being gone. It's pretty easy to forget about him when you've got Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, both some of the best in the league, to fill in for the void he left. As for Suggs, I think practically everyone is overblowing that loss. Even though that last name might send shivers down your spine, he is nowhere near the defensive beast he was in 2011, when he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Ravens won a Super Bowl the last time he suffered this same injury, and I don't see his absence hindering the team again. Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and the rookie Za'Darius Smith are all doing a fine job in his place."
Chris: "Generally, how would you rate the Ravens' secondary this year?"
"Week 1: Pretty damn good.
Week 2: Dumpster fire
Week 3: (See above)
Week 4: (See Week 1)
As you can see above, there is no middle ground with the secondary thus far. There has been a lot of finger pointing, and while the player personnel is definitely at fault, I would argue that the blame lies more on the Defensive Coordinator, Dean Pees. His playcalling is all over the place, and is practically the opposite of what you would normally call on defense. While his playcalling was up to snuff in Weeks 1 & 4, you couldn't say the same for Weeks 2 & 3. Lining up 10 yards off of A.J. Green in the red zone was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to his bad decisions. While the team's secondary had a good showing last week, I am tempering expectations. This is a secondary that is still very much a work in progress."
Chris: "Tell us about a player, other than someone at the wide receiver position, who Browns fans might not know about but who is playing well for the Ravens this year."
Nathan: "Well of course that'd be no one other than the 'Crockett Rocket', a.k.a Crockett Gillmore. Our 'Mini Gronk' has been living up to the breakout expectations that many in the fan base pegged him with this offseason. Even though his 151 YDS./ 10 REC stat line might look a little low on paper, he has looked absolutely fantastic each time the team gives him the ball. His two-TD performance against the Broncos kept the Ravens in the game, and he is arguably the team's second-best receiver. While he was out last week, and has been ruled out against the Browns, he will definitely let his presence be felt as soon as he finds his way back on the field."
Thanks again to Nathan for taking the time to answer my questions.