For CBSSports.com’s RapidReports, I was asked to give midseason grades for the Ravens in six different categories. To view those, click HERE.
Since each entry in RapidReports is limited to 45-50 words, I figured I’d expand and offer some added analysis on each player chosen for one of the six awards.
Midseason offensive player of the year: Ray Rice
This one was easy to pick. Rice is what makes the Ravens go with his ability to run between the tackles, get outside on the edge and become a threat in the passing game. It seems each time the run is stifled he comes up with a play in the passing game.
For the season, Rice has 532 yards rushing, 416 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns. His six rushing touchdowns already surpasses the five he had in all of 2010.
Midseason defensive player of the year: Terrell Suggs
Suggs has six of Baltimore’s 26 sacks this season, setting the tempo for what’s been one of the NFL’s best pass rushes. Suggs hasn’t been contained this year, most evidenced in Sunday’s 23-20 win over Pittsburgh.
Just when you thought Suggs wasn’t active enough in that Steelers game, he came up with a crucial interception with Pittsburgh deep in Baltimore’s territory. That’s the kind of player Suggs has been so far this season.
Midseason rookie of the year: Torrey Smith
The second round draft pick out of Maryland has showcased his speed in a big way, beginning with his three-touchdown performance against St. Louis in Week 3.
The Ravens brought in veteran receiver Lee Evans to be a deep threat in this offense. But with Evans dealing with what has seemingly been a never-ending ankle injury, Smith has been forced into the spotlight as the team’s No. 2 receiver.
Smith was almost the goat on Sunday against Pittsburgh when he dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown wide open in the end zone.
But he followed his drop four players later with the game-winning touchdown on a much tougher play, fighting off pass interference to come down with the score.
Midseason assistant coach of the year: Chuck Pagano
A year ago, Baltimore’s pass rush was scrutinized since it only tallied 27 sacks for the season. Halfway through this season, the Ravens have 26.
Pagano’s been the mastermind behind a more aggressive approach, dialing up blitzes while eloquently disguising where they’re coming from. Against Arizona, Pagano dialed up a corner blitz for cornerback Chris Carr.
Carr lined up in the defensive backfield and watched Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb go through his reads. Once Kolb looked away, Carr came up to the line. Those in the press box saw Carr coming. But Kolb didn’t, which resulted in Carr coming up with the sack.
The play itself was well executed, but a lot of the credit goes to Pagano and the defensive coaching staff, which has placed more faith in their players to come up with big plays.
Best free agent pickup, at the midseason point: Bernard Pollard
When the Ravens signed Pollard, it was assumed by those outside the organization that he was a run-only, pass-never kind of safety. This hasn’t been the case. While Pollard has excelled in stuffing the run, his coverage skills have pleasantly surprised.
Pollard was on a Houston team in 2010 that ranked at the bottom of the league in pass defense. It was apparent that Pollard needed a fresh start, and he’s gotten that in Baltimore.
His teammates and coaches call him “The Angry Man,” as Pollard plays with a lot of passion and fire. He’s a nice guy and has a bright smile, but that’s off the field. On the field, he looks like he wants to hurt you. And he does.
Midseason comeback player of the year: Lardarius Webb
Webb tore his ACL toward the end of the 2009 season, which affected his 2010 campaign.
Heading into 2011, Webb was deemed a nickel back with Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith winning the starting jobs. Then Smith got hurt in Week 1 against Pittsburgh, which put Webb into a starting role.
Webb has had an outstanding season so far. He’s second on the team in tackles with 44 and has tallied two interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown against the Jets.
Smith, Baltimore’s first round pick in 2011, is now healthy. But it doesn’t appear Webb will leave the starting lineup any time soon.
By Jason Butt