By: Ashley Anderson
The Baltimore Ravens are a complex team to analyze at the moment. While they are 4-1, they could be undefeated just as easily as they could be 1-4. All but one of their games this season has come down to the wire, with two going to overtime. This week is not any simpler to predict with the 4-1 Los Angeles Chargers coming to town. Here are the three biggest questions facing Baltimore.
Who Will Corral Austin Ekeler?
This has been a downright awful year for the Ravens as far as tackling goes. Teams are running all over them, and the Colts exploited a weakness in their screen defense, allowing Jonathan Taylor to go 76-yards untouched. Without a doubt, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale is aware of the issues, but the question is how to fix them.
When L.J. Fort went down with a season-ending ACL tear, everyone thought Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison would step up and fill the void. Instead, teams are attacking both of them, and it is fair to say they are both having sophomore slumps. As a result, Chris Board has seen more action, and the Ravens have elevated Josh Bynes from the practice squad on occasion.
Nose tackle Brandon Williams has also acknowledged that he needs to do a better job shedding blocks at the line of scrimmage to stop running backs before they get going. It will likely take a combination of better defensive line play, better reads by the linebackers, and some help from the safeties to correct the problem. If they are unable to do so against the Chargers, Ekeler will embarrass them all day. That will also allow Los Angeles to keep Lamar Jackson off the field, which would almost certainly spell disaster for Baltimore.
Will the Ravens Find Success on the Ground?
Right now, the Ravens are without a true number one running back. As a matter of fact, they do not have a single back that has separated himself from the pack. From week to week, Baltimore is still seeking answers in their backfield.
When Ty’Son Williams was finding some success early in the season those issues were glossed over. Unfortunately, his ball security problems have given Head Coach John Harbaugh pause, and Williams was a healthy scratch against Denver. He received just four carries against Indianapolis and gained a mere six yards.
Devonta Freeman was involved in the passing game against the Colts, but he has done very little on the ground. While Latavius Murray has scored three touchdowns, he is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Ravens have only activated Le’Veon Bell once, and he has contributed very little.
The good news is the Chargers are the lowest-ranked defense against the run so far this season. There is nothing better to cure the Ravens’ woes than to take advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses. Lamar Jackson should be heavily involved in the run game, and he will make Los Angeles pay if they sell out to stop the rush. If there was ever a time to ground and pound, this is it.
Can the Baltimore Ravens Keep Pace With the Chargers Offensively?
Baltimore is first in the league with 440.6 yards per game, but they are ninth in points per game. On the flip side, the Chargers rank seventh in both yards and points per game. They are coming off a 47-point performance against the Browns, and Herbert is getting MVP mentions.
In all likelihood, the Ravens are equipped to keep up with the Chargers. However, given the weaknesses in Baltimore’s defense, particularly on the ground, Los Angeles may have the edge in time of possession. If so, the Ravens will have to strike fast.
Silencing doubters, Jackson has demonstrated an ability to throw deep and outside the numbers this season. He is averaging over nine-yards per pass attempt and a whopping 13.6-yards per completion. When the Ravens were down 22-3, his up-tempo offense was what got them back into the game.
Perhaps the bigger question here is whether the Ravens defense can slow down the Chargers enough to allow Jackson to work his magic.