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Ask the Nest: Ravens fans want to know about the front 7

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have amazing fans, and the Nest already has a great community growing like a beautiful garden. I am beyond thankful for the fact that we can have this Q&A session, as they are my favorite posts to write. We have a few regulars that have followed me over to the nest. Life as they say is good.

@cancelpennies asks: When I read about Daelin Hayes, I get flashbacks to Adalius Thomas, a very versatile, utility linebacker that can line up at multiple positions and cover a variety of assignments. Do you agree? What role can he play this year for the Ravens?

Answer: When Jaylon Ferguson came out of Louisiana Tech, he was a flashy prospect but we knew he was raw. With Daelin Hayes, there isn’t a ton of flash, but he’s ready to rock. Hayes is going to get a lot of playing time as a rookie. I could see him being used much like Tyus Bowser and Matt Judon have been in the past. Neither of those players were double digit sack guys, but contributed as actual linebackers, not just pass rushers.

I think Adalius Thomas is a high bar to reach for with Hayes. I don’t think he has that kind of versatility. He’s versatile but Thomas made a Swiss army knife jealous. I think Hayes will earn time on the field as a run-stopper. It would surprise me if he had five sacks in his first season, but I could see him getting six to eight of them per year, once he gets his NFL rhythm.

Hayes only had nine sacks in four years with the Fighting Irish. In a world where we judge edge rushers by sacks alone, he was a more productive player than it looks like. According to he had 20.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, and 97 total tackles in his Notre Dame career.

Hayes is a strong-side outside linebacker who will get involved in the run game. He can drop back in coverage, but you’re not going to ask him to do that a ton. He’s a force on the edge who doesn’t need to have his hand in the dirt and can play in the second level. He’s a linebacker, not a defensive end, essentially.

A batch of questions from one Ravens fan:

@Ravensfan86 was really ready for this. They asked a few questions.

  1. Will the defensive lineman Williams, Campbell, Wolfe hold up for the season? Should they all be on a snap count? If so, what should it be?

Answer: That is an awesome question. The reason this is such a good question is because last season this was a big issue for the Ravens. Calais Campbell probably doesn’t need to be on a snap count, but you don’t want to overdo it with a defensive linemen in his 30’s. If it weren’t for injury last season, Campbell could have had a much bigger season. One of the more underrated problems of the 2020 season was how much Campbell was dealing with lingering affects of injury.

Williams won’t be on a snap count, because he’ll get situational playing time. On running downs, you can bet he’ll be on the field for the most part. If Don Martindale needs an extra pass rusher or an extra defensive back, he knows Williams isn’t going to get much pass rush. The substitution almost makes itself. Williams usually misses a game or two a season. Taxing his body less in a good idea because he’s the heart of the run defense.

Wolfe was the rock for the Ravens defensive line last year. If he stays healthy, he’s the defensive lineman the Ravens may work the most.

2. What is your opinion of the defensive line backups? I see Madubuike being a star taking the 2nd year leap. I like Broderick Washington. He did a good job in rotation. Ellis is okay. But not for a long string of snaps. Especially if we are trailing in the 4th quarter.

Answer: Personally, I can’t get enough Madubuike. I need more Madubuike progress in 2021 because I think he’s going to be a really good defensive lineman for the Ravens. Madubuike is a rock solid athlete. He wins off a good first step at a fairly high rate for such a young player. I think you are right on the money on his second year leap. Give him six sacks and a solid overall season as my bold prediction.

Washington is solid. I can’t seem to get to excited about him. He has the potential to be a Kelly Gregg like player, though I haven’t seen enough of the positives yet. He’s a decent Brandon Williams understudy who will get some good playing time. I’m worried that his ceiling is low because he’s not all that explosive, but his floor isn’t that bad.

Ellis is okay, you worded that appropriately. The defensive line boils down to the progress of Madabuike and whether or not Campbell can have a more productive, healthy season. What we know is that the top three guys are good, with a chance of having great production. The defensive line isn’t a top three strength, but it also isn’t a weakness for the Ravens.

3. What current free agent would make the most sense to sign?

The obvious answer here is Justin Houston. Houston is still a free agent. If you told me that he would last this long after the draft on the market, I wouldn’t have believed you. The only reason he is available is all about the price. If the Ravens can work out a deal that gets him here that they can swing with their tight cap space this will eventually get done. The longer Houston waits to sign, the less picky he will be able to be. That’s just something to think about.

Melvin Ingram is still available, depending on what he has left in the tank after a season ending injury last year with the Los Angeles Chargers. The same can be said about the free agent from the Cleveland Browns, Olivier Vernon. Houston is the obvious answer. In an unpopular opinion, let me say that if DeCosta can’t get Houston, the team should just go with what they have.

Last Call Ravens fans:

@RavenManiac17 asks: What impact do you see Keith Williams and Tee Martin having on our receivers and passing game this season?

Answer: I answered a very similar question in the last Ask The Nest. That being said, there is more digging into this that can be done. Last time I talked about how the offense would attack more of the field, and how the receivers would be coached to be tougher. Let’s take this a different angle.

The first thing you have to no is that it doesn’t matter who the passing game coordinator is in title. Keith Williams holds that job, but he’s going to work with Tee Martin to bring something new to the offense run by Greg Roman. Roman doesn’t get the passing game. That’s not an insult, it’s a fact. That’s like saying I struggle with understanding sarcasm. It’s not an insult, I do.

Roman will be calling the plays. He won’t be designing the passing concepts anymore. Think of Williams and Martin as the co-authors of his offense. He’s the run game guy, tasked with keeping the run game the best in the business and continuing to maximize efficiency offensively. He’s the lead writer and he has help.

NEXT POST: NFL Draft: What I learned from being wrong about Ronnie Stanley in 2016

This is as close to getting a new coordinator for the offense as the Ravens could have done without replacing Roman. It’s not just Harbaugh’s loyalty to Roman that is keeping him here. Roman has run a very efficient offense, and he’s a coordinator that can maximize what he’s already built with Lamar Jackson. The offense will change, but not be replaced. That’s the deal.


I am Chris Schisler. I am the owner and lead writer here at the Nest! Football is my passion and I'm very happy to share it with the Flock!

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