By Chris Schisler
Welcome to another edition of Ask The Nest! In these posts, I answer questions submitted by the Baltimore Ravens’ faithful via Twitter. We had some great questions come in so let’s get to it.
The lead off question:
@ravensfan86 asks: What’re the chances of the Ravens adding another interior (younger) defensive lineman with decent pass-rushing skills to the rotation via trade? Looking at our roster, I worry most about that group. With a smallish MLB behind them.
Answer: I genuinely doubt the Ravens would make a trade for a defensive tackle or a defensive end at this point of the offseason. Remember, the Ravens love their draft picks. Will Eric DeCosta part with a fifth-round pick to bring in a star? Sure. Will he trade a pick to get a little extra help for the defensive line? Probably not.
I could see the Ravens signing a player like Geno Atkins. That would make some sense. I could see them going after a defensive tackle in free agency, maybe one off the radar even. For the most part, the Ravens roster should be set. When it comes to the defensive linemen Baltimore likes what they have.
Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Derek Wolfe together make up a hefty investment. Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington are upcoming players and Justin Ellis offers solid play as well. If Campbell stays healthy and Madubuike picks it up in his second season, the Ravens should get enough pass rush from the unit.
Depth is the biggest issue. Washington will rotate in for Williams. Madubuike can come in for any of the starting three. The Ravens have to find one more player in this mix. Free agency seems like the only viable option here. This is why you shouldn’t count out Aaron Crawford to make the 53 man roster.
The Ravens linebackers don’t concern me though. L.J. Fort and Malik Harrison are legitimate thumpers. Patrick Queen may not be bulky but his athleticism is off the charts. The Ravens still may be too dependent on Brandon Williams in the run game, but that’s nothing new in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens Question 2
@DJ_MORE asks: With us being a little thin on the DLine do you foresee Pat getting a few snaps back on the defensive side?
Answer: You almost have to wonder if this is why the Ravens drafted Ben Mason. Mason seemed like a throwaway kind of a pick because the Ravens already had Pat Ricard as a great fullback. In fact, Ben Mason coming out of Michigan looks an awful lot like Pat Ricard coming out of Maine. If the Ravens plan to get Ricard more involved on the defensive side of the ball, having two fullbacks could make more sense.
The real question is what would you get out of Ricard at defensive tackle? He’s primarily played on the offense for a while now. I’m down for some Project Pat, but I really wonder if he’s fully transitioned into Pancake Pat.
Baltimore Ravens Question 3
@cancelpennies asks: How are you feeling about our front 7 on defense? I feel like it has been getting the least amount of attention this off-season.
Answer: The front seven is fairly solid overall. The starting three defensive linemen are some of the best players on the roster. The young talent at inside linebacker with Patrick Queen, Chris Board, and Malik Harrison is exciting. Bringing back L.J. Fort solidifies the whole group and really makes me think this is going to be the best year the position group has had since Daryl Smith was a Raven.
So I look at a front seven like this and I like it for run defense. You get the big defensive linemen with length and reach with those quick hard-hitting linebackers in the second level. There is a lot of gaps being clogged and there are linebackers to flow to the football.
The questions all come at outside linebacker. Do the Ravens have enough pass rush? That remains to be seen. Losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue didn’t seem that bad because they weren’t exactly killing it off the edge. It wasn’t like losing Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
The versatility of the outside linebackers should be a strength though. Pernell McPhee will help, especially on run-downs. Tyus Bowser is a complete linebacker who plays on the edge. The Ravens need to get just enough from Odafe Oweh in his rookie season to make things click enough from a pass rush perspective. It starting to look more and more like this is the grouping they are going with and it’s solid. They could use more star power and a healthy Calais Campbell could definitely bring that.
Baltimore Ravens Question 4
@Bij_Sadoughi asks: How would Todd Gurley fit into the Baltimore Ravens offense if signed?
Answer: The Baltimore Ravens could use a Mark Ingram replacement. Ingram became a third fiddle but offered a good bit in the passing game when he was used. That’s something the Ravens want to get more out of with J.K. Dobbins, but it could be Gurley’s specialty.
It’s not that Gurley is done or washed up. Gurley is still a great athlete. He just can’t sustain those crazy bursts of explosive running any more. Give him five to 10 touches a game with a good percentage of those touches coming as a receiver out of the backfield and I think you have a nice three headed monster there.
Hopefully that answers your questions. This is the second Ask the Nest where we’ve focused on the defensive front. This is an area of the roster that has some proving to do when games start.