Ravens expect boost from Jones, McClain, Rice

Ravens expect boost from Jones, McClain, Rice
October 26, 2013, 10:30 am
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Ravens confident they can improve season after bye

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones, left, is stopped by Carolina Panthers inside linebacker A.J. Klein during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Baltimore, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Here are three Ravens who should have a bigger impact after the bye than they had before it – Jacoby Jones, Jameel McClain, and Ray Rice. Here’s why:

Jones – He missed four games after suffering a knee injury during the season-opener. Since returning, Jones has had a positive impact on the passing game, even though his numbers (nine catches, 98 yards, one touchdown) have not been overwhelming. Jones has the speed to make big plays, both as a punt returner and as a wide receiver. Jones’ route running has improved, which should make him a better intermediate target for Joe Flacco, But Jones’ bread and butter remains his ability to make big plays. If he stays healthy, look for that aspect of his game to help the Ravens down the stretch.

McClain – Played his first game in 10 months against the Steelers, after suffering a spinal cord contusion in December. It’s great to see McClain just playing football again, after waiting months to get medical clearance. However, seeing McClain move and react against the Steelers as if he had never been away was a bonus for the Ravens. Even when Josh Bynes (infected finger) returns, McClain may remain the starting inside linebacker opposite Daryl Smith. McClain was the starter before he was injured. He’s looking like a starter again, which should help the Ravens’ defense, particularly against the run.

Rice – It would be a major lift to the Ravens’ offense if Rice began to play like Rice. Only he knows for sure how much the hip injury he suffered in Week 2 has hampered him. But at age 26, is Rice already starting to decline? Don’t believe that. If you’re hurt, you’re hurt, and Rice didn’t look healthy when he first returned to action. He was moving better against the Steelers, and the bye week gives Rice more time to get himself right. He expects a big second half of the season, and the Ravens need it.