When the Baltimore Ravens gutted their Super Bowl team, many thought they were reloading with key free-agent signings and a talented rookie class. Halfway through the 2013 season, the Ravens resemble a rebuilding team instead of a playoff one.
Not much has gone according to the Ravens' offseason plan as the team dropped to 3-5 on the year.
"The Ravens thought they had done enough to offset losing starters like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard and Paul Kruger," Comcast SportsNet's Clifton Brown wrote. "But through eight games, the Ravens are clearly a team in transition. And that transition may include missing the playoffs for the first time in John Harbaugh’s tenure."
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If there is a question about leadership on the Ravens, The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston believes it will be answered during these tough times. "The Ravens went through a stretch like this last year but back then they had tough guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed," Preston wrote. "They had the nasty boys, Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard. Those guys weren't going to go down easy and Boldin and Pollard weren't going to hide when fans started criticizing them or the coaching staff."
Cornerback Jimmy Smith is likely questionable for Sunday's game against the Bengals after leaving in the second half with a groin strain. "Jimmy came in feeling better today," coach John Harbaugh said, via the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. "He had a little groin strain in there and we thought it was better for Chykie (Brown) to play during the game, the trainers did. We'll keep working on that throughout the course of the week and we'll see how that develops in some of our practices Wednesday, Thursday, Friday."
In their ongoing challenge to jumpstart their running game, the Ravens have turned to the pistol formation, where the running back lines up behind the quarterback in the shotgun instead of next to him. According to The Baltimore Sun, the Ravens used the formation five times against the Browns. They ran the ball with running back Ray Rice on each of those plays. Rice rushed for just 5 yards on those five carries. 'There’s going to be more of that," Harbaugh said. "Obviously there’s a lot of offense you can run out of that formation. It’s something that we’ll try to build on and give defenses something else to defend.”
As The Press Box notes, this is the first time the Ravens are two games under .500 in Harbaugh's six seasons.