Posted in Complicated made simple: X's and O's and scouting for all fans

2022 NFL Draft: 3 things Ravens fans should know for round 1

Chris Schisler

The 2022 NFL Draft is tonight! What are the things that you have to understand before you wait for the Ravens’ picks (and all the other selections?) Let’s get into this.

1. This isn’t your typical NFL Draft

Every NFL Draft is different, but this one could get absolutely bonkers. There’s no hype for the quarterbacks. The premium talent is a little harder to come by and the middle is packed tightly together. This draft honestly feels harder to predict than any year in recent memory. There’s serious steam for Travon Walker going number one overall, but Aidan Hutchinson had that spot locked down for months. Either way, we think we’re starting out with an edge rusher.

There are good wide receivers, but nobody can seem to agree on any of them. Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Treylon Burks, and even Jahan Dotson could all go in the first round. The order, who the heck knows. These should be the guys, though Christian Watson and Skyy Moore have been getting first-round love as well. The excitement really isn’t about the typical skill positions here. It’s edge rushers, offensive linemen, and cornerbacks. The biggest star power may actually belong to Kyle Hamilton, and he’s a safety.

If the NFL goes ga ga for quarterbacks tonight they really are forcing it. Malik Willis belongs in the first round – you want that first-year option. Outside of that quarterbacks should sit on the sideline and the NFL has a bad habit of manufacturing QB talent that isn’t there. If more than two quarterbacks are taken here, somebody reached hard.

2. Value is the name of the game (And that can be frustrating)

The number one thing you want in the draft is to walk out with the courage of your convictions. Eric DeCosta wants to leave this draft knowing he made the team better. The only way to do that is to trust the process and stay true to your team-specific board. You have to be a slave for value, you can’t get excited and do something that works against your process.

The 14th spot is a horrible place to be for the Ravens. It would actually behoove them to be six or seven spots down, where they normally are. Because the premium talent is all that they need (Edge rushers, Offensive tackles, and cornerbacks) and because there is a stiff drop-off after the first wave at these positions, 14 is kind of late to the party. It’s increasingly likely that the Ravens will either take the best player available or force themselves into a slight reach.

Here’s a perfect example. Say the top four edge rushers, the top two corners and both of the elite tackles are off the board at 14. Say the options are Tyler Linderbaum, Trevor Penning, Andrew Boothe Jr., or Jordan Davis. Now say, you don’t value any of them with the 14th spot but would have more comfort taking any of them at 20. Trading back becomes the most valuable option. even if you could live with one of those picks.

This is a draft where there are only so many sure thing home run picks. At 14 you have to get the value that makes a difference. If you can’t do that, make a trade. What if you want the Ravens to trade up though? Well, then do it. Just remember the heart of this class is in the middle rounds and that’s where the Ravens have the most draft picks.

3. Wide receiver isn’t off the table:

The NFL Draft has multiple approaches. The Ravens have always been cozy with the best player available model. Wide receiver may just be the position that offers them the best player available with the 14th pick. On my personal board, Chris Olave is the third-ranked player. I have Drake London at 12 and Garrett Wilson at 13. Should the Ravens take any of these players, I really don’t want to hear any whining. We just watched the Bengals have a surplus of wide receiver talent take them to the Super Bowl. I want some of that.

Next Post: 2022 NFL Draft Prospects that scream Ravens

Marquise Brown hasn’t really proven that he’s the number one, a core franchise player to build around. If Brown isn’t the future at the position, give Rashod Bateman an exciting partner in secondary crime. Why not. The Ravens don’t need to take a wide receiver in the first round but it would be hard to argue with, should they make that call at 14.


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

2022 NFL Draft Prospects that scream Ravens

By Chris Schisler

The 2022 NFL Draft is basically here. Soon I’ll be having my customary Peanut M&M’s and watching the draft with a few Bold Rocks and all is good with the world. While you may have your annual draft traditions, you’re probably not equipped with your big board and position rankings ready to go, That’s where guys like me come into the picture.

Today we’re going to take a look at the players that just scream Ravens. These are the prospects that would surprise not one soul in the Ravens Flock or in the football world if they ended up in Baltimore. The most talked-about player in this category has been Jordan Davis. Davis is an unbelievable prospect in the sense that almost nobody has ever been built like him.

At the NFL Combine, Davis measured as a 6-6 345 pound man. He’s massive. While he’s not quite the dancing bear that Haloti Ngata was, he has the unrefined explosiveness that gets results. Davis has a quick explosion out of his stance, he gets a lot done with each stride and rip. He needs to make more of himself as a pass rusher, but NFL teams are certainly wondering if he can have an Aaron Donald-like impact in the NFL.

While drafting Davis isn’t my totally ideal scenario, the upside makes this in play. The Ravens have to look at defensive linemen quite seriously. It’s one position group that made one of the smallest impacts last season. A pick that makes perfect sense in the second round would be Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey. Winfrey is a 6-4 defensive lineman with a 290-pound build. He’s a bit more of a knife into the backfield kind of tackle but he gives you all the two-gap space-eating goodness to go with it.

Trench warfare needs to be improved on both sides of the ball. One center that I think would work incredibly well in Baltimore is Luke Fortner. This is a big-bodied Bradley Bozeman replacement that could come at a great value. I have Fortner as the 52nd best player in this draft class, but I bet in actuality he can be gotten in the third round.

There’s been a ton of talk about Trevor Penning being in play with the 14th overall selection. Penning is a small school product but a big-bodied bruiser. While he would add a mean streak to the offensive line, he’s never really been, my guy. This is a take I hold firmly at the 14th overall spot.  He’s a bit more of a project than most people seem to think and he’s not very polished. If the Ravens want an offensive tackle, the realistic fit I see most is Bernard Raimann. He’s a solid technician of an offensive tackle from Minnesota. This reminds me of the Le’Veon Bell vs. Mark Ingram thing. The Ravens typically go substance over flash. Either way, they’d have to trade back for either player to work for me.

Cornerback is a position that the Ravens can surely justify being aggressive with. Have you seen the passing attack of the Cincinnati Bengals? No corner screams Ravens more than Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. He’s an aggressive corner with a Marcus Peters-style swagger that would fit right in. If that doesn’t happen, Kyler Gordon out of Washington is a great option. He’s just so tough and scrappy that you get “Play Like a Raven” vibes.

Then there’s Quay Walker. Walker is a linebacker from Georgia who has never seen a hit he didn’t want to make. He’s tough and he’s a thumper but he has enough athleticism to be a starting linebacker next to Patrick Queen. That screams Ravens.

Finally on my list is Romeo Doubs, a wide receiver from Nevada. Doubs has that Anquan Boldin-like fight for the ball thing going that really works for Baltimore. Find me anything with more staying power than Ravens fans looking for that. You can’t.

I know it’s been a while guys. Thanks for hearing me out. Let’s get it Ravens Flock!

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens winning in NFL Free Agency: 3 big things

The Baltimore Ravens are building a monster. Free agency has lifted them in a big way:

Check out the pod!

The Baltimore Ravens have reportedly agreed to terms with Za’Darius Smith. This may be the best move in all of NFL Free Agency. The Ravens are getting a top-level pass rusher, the one that should have never gotten away. According to reports, it’s a four-year deal for $35 million. That’s a great deal for a player who had 12.5 sacks in 2020 and has recovered from the injury that took him out of all but one game in 2021.

Smith was an absolute hit for the Green Bay Packers. In his first season with the Packers, Smith had 13.5 sacks. It was the breakout season his play hinted at in the last year of his rookie contract with the Ravens. Even after an injury took him last season, Smith is still in the prime years of his career. The Ravens are in the rare situation where they get to invest in ascending homegrown talent while also giving that homegrown talent a second stint with the organization.

This is the best part of free agency for the Ravens, but they’ve had some certified master moves already this offseason. They reached a deal with Marcus Williams on the second day of NFL Free Agency. This gives them their starting free safety and should solidify the backend of the defense. Morgan Moses was another addition that filled a dire need for the purple and black. The Ravens basically got their replacement for Orlando Brown Jr. a year later. Moses is a huge offensive tackle that doesn’t give up a lot of pressure and fits into this offense.

The Ravens are a much better team than they were last season, already. Here are three big things to think about.

1. The value the Ravens got is hard to believe:

The Ravens’ deal with Morgan Moses is awesome. He doesn’t have a big cap hit at all on his three-year contract. He’s a starting tackle that didn’t break the bank. Za’Darius Smith was a lot cheaper than you’d think he’d be. Just look at the money that Chandler Jones got. Reports say that Jones got three years for $51 million from the Las Vegas Raiders. Baltimore gets Smith for a little under $9 million per season.

Smith’s injury and the fact that a reunion was so mutually beneficial obviously helped the Ravens get this deal. Smith didn’t get played, but you wonder if any other franchise could have made this deal with the Ravens. This has the potential to be one of the biggest signings in Ravens history. A combination of Za’Darius Smith and Odafe Oweh could bring an organic pass rush back to Baltimore. This is a position where a free agent of Smith’s caliber should cost more. The Ravens get to save at a premium position.

Marcus Williams got a big deal. The thing is he could have gotten more elsewhere. A five-year deal worth $70 million is very respectable for Williams. He gets most of his guaranteed money front-loaded into the deal. Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun tweeted that PFF and expected these players to get more lucrative deals in free agency.

That kind of says it all. The Ravens understood the assignment. Eric DeCosta managed to improve the team responsibly.

2. The 3 biggest needs for the Ravens have been addressed:

Baltimore had three problems that haunted them last season other than injuries. The Ravens gave up too many big plays down the field. They couldn’t get enough pass rush without blitzing, and the right tackle situation was deeply depressing. The Ravens just found three starters that improve the team in those specific areas.

Cole Jackson (From Two Guys Watching Football) tweeted this out about Moses. He’s one of the best and most consistent offensive line analysts in the Ravens Flock, and his opinion carries weight with me. Jackson’s take is that Moses is best described as steady. That’s the one thing the Ravens need at right tackle. I liked Moses coming out of Virginia, and he’s been good with Washington and the New York Jets. This looks like a win for the offensive line of the Ravens.

The Ravens’ defense is starting to come together. When they get Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey back, it won’t take much for them to get the secondary humming along. Williams gives the Ravens the deep safety they didn’t have. This was one position they couldn’t trust to a rookie and they couldn’t stay put at. They needed a proficient middle-of-the-field safety. Williams has had at least two picks every year of his career and has a PFF score of 80.1.

Smith should give the Ravens a more natural pass rush. Pairing him with Oweh could be a deadly one-two punch. The secondary is close to being where it needs to be as the Ravens head into the draft. The pressure that Smith can provide should work harmoniously with that fact.

3. The Ravens have a lot more work in front of them this offseason:

The Ravens have made their big moves but they are not necessarily done. The only glaring need for the Ravens now is to figure out who’s playing at the center position. It’s important to remember that the Ravens have a lot of draft capital. They have 10 draft picks to work with. The Ravens can do just about anything they want with the 14th pick. They’ve put themselves in a situation where taking the best player available is completely acceptable. Sauce Gardner anyone?

NEXT POST: Introducing PBN Radio: A Baltimore Ravens podcast

The offseason is off to a thrilling start. The Ravens didn’t just sit here and say “All it takes is us getting healthy next year.” The Ravens made a statement. They’re trying to build a monster, and so far the purple and black are winning NFL Free Agency.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Introducing PBN Radio: A Baltimore Ravens podcast

By Chris Schisler

Welcome back to the nest ladies and gents. I know, the content has been at a slower pace, I’m getting back on track though. Today, I wanted to share the new podcast, PBN Radio. PBN Radio is now going to be a staple of what I offer you. It’s a place for analysis of the Baltimore Ravens and fun takes on the game of football.

In the future, PBN Radio will have a rotation of co-hosts so it’s not just me rambling into a microphone. In today’s episode, I give my thoughts on the Super Bowl. and I got into the offseason for the Bengals, Ravens, Browns, and Steelers. This is essentially the exit interview for the season for the entire division, including the team that lasted the longest, the Cincinnati Bengals. The podcast is a major work in progress. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the podcast game for you all and it can be a main part of the blog. I humbly present my first shot at this, hopefully, you dig it.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Super Bowl LVI: 4 predictions and a score for the big game

By Chris Schisler

Super Bowl LVI time. The Cincinnati Bengals will take on the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday is fastly approaching and we’ve had plenty of time to dig into this one. One of the exciting things about this game is that both teams feel like a team of destiny. The Bengals are on their magic carpet ride, they have a quarterback and a burning hot hope to go with him. The Rams went all-in and this feels like Matthew Stafford’s time to spring up into the pantheon of great quarterbacks. It’s different for both teams but we’re talking magic either way.

So how does this game go down? Here are four predictions and a score for the biggest game of the year, Super Bowl LVI:

1. A Quarterback battle for the ages:

Joe Burrow is a tough quarterback. If we’ve learned anything about Burrow this season it’s that nothing is going to be too big for him. The stage isn’t going to bother him. On the other side, Matthew Stafford is a very experienced quarterback and he’s never out of a game with his arm. This is Stafford’s big chance at glory and he should be expected to bring his A-game. There will be a winner and loser for this game, but neither quarterback will be charged with the crime of letting their team down.

I expect Burrow to have 250-300 yards in the air and to be very efficient. Burrow completed just over 70 percent of his passes in the regular season and he’s sitting at a 68.8 percent completion percentage in the postseason. He’s got no shortage of weapons and he’s a good decision-maker. We know that nothing gets to Burrow, no amount of pressure and no amount of stakes are going to take him out of his element. He’s got a little Ben Roethlisberger in him, you can hit him and he just keeps slinging the football. Let’s go on the high end for Burrow. Let’s say he goes 28-41 passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

Matthew Stafford threw for 4,886 yards in the regular season. He fits into the Rams offense and he has a full command of it. Stafford is red hot during this postseason. He had 337 yards, two touchdowns and a pick against the San Francisco 49ers. He had 366 yards and two touchdowns against the Buccneeers, with the game sealing bomb to Cooper Kupp to get into field goal range. The Rams are the best when Stafford gets to fire all the rockets all over the field. Look for Stafford to shine. Let’s say he’s 35-49 passing for 345 yards and four touchdowns. If it goes down like this we’ll remember this shootout for years to come.

2. This one is going to be a drama producing game

When the Rams take on anybody in the playoffs it always seems to be a tight game. The 49ers looked poised to beat them. The Buccaneers almost came back and beat the Rams after they built a huge lead. The Rams are a team that play with fire. Just look at Sean McVay’s other playoff games. Remember the Rams vs. Saints playoff game on the last Rams’ run to the Super Bowl? Exactly. The Rams are a neccesary ingredient to a crazy playoff game.

The Bengals had the easiest path to the Super Bowl and it was still filled with drama. They played a Las Vegas Raiders team that barely made the playoffs and didn’t look like they belonged once the postseason started. That game was still too close for comfort. The Bengals then played the Titans and have Ryan Tannehill to thank for giving them the game. That game was razor thin tight and the way the Titans played the Bengals probably should have walloped them. The Chiefs fell apart but were killing the Bengals before they crumbled. Neither team has an easy button. This game is going to be intense.

3. The trenches will be a huge advantage for the Rams:

Games are won and lost in the trenches. The Cinncinati Bengals gave up more sacks than anybody this season. Burrow may be good at taking a beating, but that also means he’s good for some negative plays. Drive killers are what get you beat in a shootout. This game is billed as a last quarterback to get the ball kind of affair. Keeping pace is huge. Sacks and holding penalties are going to be a problem for the Bengals against a Rams team that can pressure Burrow without sending extra blitzers. The four biggest words in this game could be : Aaron Donald, Von Miller.

Counting the playoffs Burrow has been sacked 63 times this season. However that number is only 35 times. There is a huge discrepency here between the amount these teams protect their quarterbacks. The Rams have a solid offensive line and an offense that doesn’t give Stafford a lot of punishment. The Bengals need to have Burrow sling it and they don’t protect him. Negative plays stemming from pass protection is a huge element of this game. Watch for the Rams pass rush. Let’s put them down for five sacks and a forced fumble on Burrow. Let’s also put them down for three offensive holding penalties having trouble against Aaron Donald.

4. Eric Weddle will have a pick six:

This is by far my favorite prediction and it’s easily the most fun of the four. Eric Wedle came out of retirement to give the Rams a boost in the postseason. He had the most tackles for the Rams against the San Francisio 49ers and he’s already become a leader for that defense. It was like he never left the Rams in the first place. Weddle is an insitnctive player who steps up in big games. Nobody is going to be more prepared than Weddle will be.

As a guy whose been a Weddle fan long before he was a Ravens legend, I want nothing more than him to have one of his victory ice cream bowls with all the fixings next to the Lombardi Trophy. If the Rams win, I’d volunteer to bring the ice cream down to the field if it would get me in the stadium. All jokes aside, I’m going all in on Weddle being a difference maker and walking out into the sunset the way his glorious career should end. There’s nothing I want to will to existence in this game more than this pick six for one of the greatest men football ever knew.

And Now a Score: Rams win 31-28

The game will be a back and forth affair. In the end, I think games are won in the trenches. The Rams have a huge advantage at the line of scrimmage and it will lead them to the Lombardi Trophy.

NEXT POST: Brian Flores is right, the NFL has a problem they must address

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Brian Flores is right, the NFL has a problem they must address

By Chris Schisler

The National Football League is essentially being called out by Brian Flores’s lawsuit. First of all, you have to feel for Flores here. He gets fired after making the Miami Dolphins a relevant team, in a move that seemingly came out of nowhere; Bill Belichick texts the wrong Brian and Flores, and that’s how Flores learned he didn’t get the New York Giants job. Six head coaching vacancies have been filled and all six head coaches are white.

Meanwhile, there are some very good head coaching candidates that haven’t gotten a fair shake this offseason. You could make a case that four of the best candidates this offseason were black candidates.

You can make a case the best candidates were all black coaches:

Bryon Leftwich is an up-and-coming offensive coordinator that was close to getting the Jacksonville job before removing himself from contention. He’s learned under some strong coaches, most recently Bruce Arians and he was a former quarterback. Players would instantly give him their respect because he played the game with heart and knows the game from the other side of the locker room. He knows life as the starter and the backup.

Jim Caldwell was the last Detroit Lions coach to make the Detroit Lions look like a legitimate franchise. Matt Patricia took everything Caldwell built in Detroit and ran it into the ground. Dan Campbell is actually quite likable, but it’s clear that the Lions are a garbage organization. Matthew Stafford had the same effect on the Rams that Tom Brady had on the Buccaneers. Stafford legitimized the Rams and they now await the Super Bowl. Three of Caldwell’s four seasons were winning seasons in Detroit and he was the last coach to get anything out of Stafford in Detroit.

Caldwell of course won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. He was the offensive coordinator that orchestrated Joe Flacco’s majestic Super Bowl run in the 2012 season, and he had a long run as a head coach for Wake Forest at the college level. He’s the safest bet at the coaching position. He has a lot more positive experience to bank on than Doug Pederson did. Why did Pederson automatically get to rebound into a head coaching job? If Caldwell had been interested in any of these jobs, he should have landed one. He’s a proven coach with an actual legacy. Pederson is the blind squirrel who found a nut, Caldwell has a whole collection of acorns ready to go.

NFL Should be looking for the next Tony Dungy or Mike Tomlin

Then there is Eric Bieniemy, the right-hand man to Andy Reid. I’ll never figure out why he hasn’t gotten a head coaching spot. The New Orleans Saints suspiciously want to interview him, quite suddenly they announced it. The interview itself looks like a way to make the league look better.

The  Houston Texans declared Flores a finalist for their job search, another cost-free way to improve bad publicity for the league. Okay, you have four legitimate candidates who sound like a better gamble than some of the names that got hired for the coaching vacancies this year. You have four black candidates that should be standing out as the cream of the crop, who aren’t getting the jobs.

The Rooney rule has never been called into greater question. Is it a rule that sets up sham interviews with minority coaching candidates? You’d think that NFL owners would be looking for the next Mike Tomlin, one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL. Lovie Smith took the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl. Tony Dungy is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Denny Green is an icon we’ll never forget. Herm Edwards had a long great run.

We have a lot of examples of black head coaches, and many of them have had great chapters for their respective franchises. It never seems to change though. Now, the NFL is being called out for the unequal treatment of minority coaches and coaching candidates. Just from the perspective of hirings, you have to see that point.

The Bottom Line:

Don’t tell me it’s about the best man for the job. I’d take Caldwell over Pederson 100 out of 100 times, and their resumes speak to why. As for Bieniemy, if Andy Reid relies and vouches on you, you’re a great coach with invaluable wisdom and creativity. Reid gave John Harbaugh a chance and Harbaugh (as a special teams coach no less) got a chance way before Bieneiemy even became a candidate.

NEXT POST: NFL Overtime debate: Bills deserve loss, but we deserve a new format

If the best candidate always got the job, black and minority coaches would have a much bigger fingerprint on the game. When you look at coaching resumes, and you look at the body of work from the candidates, you have to see how some of these things don’t add up. When Doug Pederson gets a quick second chance as a head coach, and these candidates are still out there, it’s mind-numbing. The NFL has issues. This is just one side of this issue. No matter how you want to slice it up, a single blog post isn’t getting to the bottom of the whole big picture here.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

NFL Overtime debate: Bills deserve loss, but we deserve a new format

By Chris Schisler 

NFL Overtime doesn’t need a change but it should change anyway

The Buffalo Bills lost a heartbreaking playoff game to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The game went into overtime. Patrick Mahomes got the ball first and took his team the distance. There was no opportunity for a Bills counterstrike, Josh Allen didn’t get the ball. Of course, this game was played by the rules, yet we can forgive the Bills Mafia if they believe the rules should be tinkered with.

It’s not necessarily unfair. Overtime technically works as it is. If you play defense and get a stop you’re actually at an advantage. After the stop you’ll get better field position and then you just need a field goal. The problem is when you get to a situation like the NFL had at the end of the divisional round, it doesn’t feel fair. Everyone watching knew the team that won the coin toss was winning the game. The coin flipped the Chiefs way and made Josh Allen’s and Gabriel Davis’s masterful performances a moot point.

College football overtime is a fun alternative. In this scenario, each team gets a possession at the 25-yard line, right outside of the red zone. Whoever is ahead at the end of the untimed period wins. If the teams match scores, we go into double overtime and so on and so on. This is an entirely different experience and nobody is leaving without touching the ball in overtime. It takes away the who question of “But what if the other team won the coin toss?”

Change already happened, now go all the way there: 

The league already changed the sudden death rules once, so it’s not like we have to abide by the rules that won the Baltimore Colts a championship when Alan Ameche scored the first sudden-death touchdown. Once they took a field goals power away on the first overtime possession, by not allowing it to decide the game, the NFL acknowledged an overtime dilemma. They chose a half measure.

Changing the rules to give both teams a guaranteed possession would have given us what we wanted, more of that incredible game. If the Bills had a chance to respond to the Chiefs touchdown, we wouldn’t be debating the all-mighty power of a coin flip. No football fan would have anything to bicker about, they’d get a satisfying process, even if it wasn’t the outcome they were pulling for.

The Bills tempted fate. They asked for this. Buffalo saw fire, touched fire, and learned it hurt. They asked for this when they gave up two Chiefs scores in less time than it takes to read this blog post. They had a lead with 13 seconds. Buffalo had a lead with 13 seconds and they lost. You can argue they lost fair and square. Letting the game get tied at all with 13 seconds is unforgivable.

The fact that this game shouldn’t have gone into overtime in the first place doesn’t mean it didn’t point out a problem. The team that wins the toss usually wins. If the idea is starting a brand new football game, why should either team get a huge advantage? The NFL official basically said that they were starting a new game. Getting the ball at the beginning of the game or after halftime is monumentally different than getting the ball to start overtime. 

The Bottom Line on NFL Overtime: 

Seeing what is essentially a shootout between Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes would have been the most compelling television in human history. You were already at the edge of your seat. The game was an instant classic, imagine what using the college overtime rules would have added to the enjoyment of the game. It would have been the most interesting moment in the history of the NFL playoffs. 

NEXT POST: Don Martindale out as Ravens defensive coordinator: Breaking it down

The NFL added a Monday night wild card game for entertainment purposes, not a football purpose. They already like this line of thinking. Overtime doesn’t need a change, however changing it could make it a better version of free football. In my personal opinion, there’s nothing more entertaining in sports than College Football overtime. The NFL should do this. They won’t, but they should.  




Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Don Martindale out as Ravens defensive coordinator: Breaking it down

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have moved on from Don Martindale. It will go down in history as the Ravens mutually part ways with their defensive coordinator. This one comes as a surprise, so let’s unpack it.

Unpacking the Don Martindale news: 

Martindale clearly had his worst season as the Ravens defensive coordinator. In each season prior to this, he had a top 10 defense. This year the defense statistically ranked in the bottom tier. The Ravens gave up a lot of big plays down the field, with blown coverage being a common trend.

The injuries of the Ravens clearly gave Martindale some excuses. Not only did he lose Marcus Peters for the whole season, but by the end of the year, he was relying on raw corners like Keyvon Seymour and Robert Jackson.

You can make the argument that Martindale’s defense relies too heavily on personnel. When he doesn’t have a Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey combo, the defense doesn’t work. He needs great cornerbacks to lean on so his defense works.

You can also point to Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon’s immediate success after leaving the Ravens. Don’t forget, Yannick Ngakoue had a comeback season with the Las Vegas Raiders. Did Martindale struggle to get the most out of his pass rushers? It’s a fair question.

Why it doesn’t feel right: 

Here is the catch. Here is why this doesn’t feel right. Martindale held the Steelers to 16 points in the finale. Martindale held down the Los Angeles Rams to just 20 points. In the back half of the schedule, only the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals scored over 24 points on the Ravens. The defense was just as hampered by injuries as the offense was and kept the Ravens competitive in games the offense didn’t do much in. 

All things considered, this wasn’t even that bad of a year for the Ravens’ defense. It could have been a lot worse. If the Ravens want to move in a different direction, this move may make some sense. In that case, it was more of a parting ways thing than a firing situation. If this is the sacrificial lamb of the Ravens missing the playoffs, the organization missed the mark. Why this happened matters more than anything else because it completely changes the context for everything. 

This feels very much like a case of “They got the wrong guy.” If the point of this was to change things up after a tough season and to add some consequence to ending the year in a six-game slump, they got the wrong coordinator. If Greg Roman was told goodbye it wouldn’t have been surprising. It’s been near the front of our minds for months; whether or not you want Roman gone, you’ve thought about it. Martindale’s exit is a shocker. 

Change is coming post Don Martindale: 

This is a great chance for the Ravens to change directions and undergo a defensive youth movement. Moving on from Don Martindale allows the Ravens to start fresh defensively. The personnel could change as much as the philosophy if you think about it. 

Brandon Williams, Justin Houston, and Calais Campbell are all unrestricted free agents. The makings of a youth movement are already there for the Ravens with Odafe Oweh, Justin Madubuike and Tyus Bowser positioned to be key players in 2022.

Calais Campbell may retire, which would honestly help the Ravens if they’re moving in the younger direction. Justin Houston is a player you could go either way with. It’s very much like it was the last offseason, the Ravens should want Houston, but at a price, they’re comfortable paying. Houston was solid for the Ravens but he only had 4.5 sacks and he’s 32 years old.

The Ravens’ run defense has always been dependent on Brandon Williams. Williams is a space-eater who doesn’t; rush the passer much. He’s always been valuable because he’s been elite at what he does well- stopping the run and anchoring the defensive line. If the Ravens think he’s losing a step or it may be time to cut him loose before it’s too late, this is their chance to do so. Like Houston, Williams is also 32 years old.

What the Ravens lacked defensively were difference makers. Oweh had moments. He’s shown enough to make the franchise think he might be the next Terrell Suggs for them. The Ravens always want to be good at stopping the run, but what if they invest more in pass rush. What if the Ravens’ goals are to find the counter punch on the other side to Oweh and a defensive line that starts getting after the quarterback.

This is the Ravens’ chance to redo how they do things. They could theoretically switch to a 4-3 defense and commit to Oweh as a defensive end. Tyus Bowser, Patrick Queen and, maybe Josh Bynes (back at a cost-effective price) could be your three linebackers. The Ravens could draft some defensive linemen who could get into the backfield and play fewer two-gap responsibilities. Justin Madubuike may fit into this kind of defense a bit better anyway.

Martindale should be held in high esteem: 

Change is coming and thinking about that change is exciting. That doesn’t mean moving on from Martindale was the right decision. It just means that if the Ravens get the right hire in at defensive coordinator, this can be a positive when it’s all said and done. The Ravens need to get better at rushing the passer. Now a new coordinator will have to work towards that progress. 

Martindale was loved by the players. I’ve always respected his authenticity. Martindale’s stock as a defensive coordinator should still be high after all of this. He was with the Ravens organization since the 2012 season and when he supplanted Dean Pees it took the defense into a much better direction.

With Pees the Ravens died slowly. Soft zone coverage, typically a cover 3, allowed good quarterbacks to come back and put the final nail in the Ravens’ coffin too many times. Martindale went for it. Martindale would take chances in the situations Pees would sit back and fold his arms. I’ll always admire him for that. 

NEXT POST: Ravens NFL Draft spotlight: Evan Neal OT, Alabama

The Ravens defense did crumble and gave up late leads in the Ravens six-game losing streak. Ben Roethlisberger sent the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs with an overtime drive that couldn’t have sat well with anybody in the organization. Moving on doesn’t feel right, but change is not unwarranted. It’s a sad day, Martindale was a huge part of this franchise for a long time. Change is hard, but if the Ravens do this right, it’s an opportunity to get back to dominant defense. 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

NFL Playoffs: 5 things we learned from Wild Card Round

By Chris Schisler

The NFL playoffs are underway and one round is in the books. What did we learn? How has the race for the Super Bowl started to take shape, and what do we know about some of the teams who didn’t do so hot this past weekend? Here are some answers, five lessons from the NFL Wild Card round.

1. The NFL playoff expansion hurts the quality of football:

There’s no way around the fact that the number two seed in both the AFC and NFC had a cakewalk of a game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had it the easiest. They got a Philadelphia Eagles team that looked completely unprepared for the moment. The Buccaneers won 31-15 and the Eagles scored all 15 of their points in the fourth quarter. That may have been the worst playoff game I’ve ever seen. It was awful. The Kansas City Chiefs looked like they had a challenge. Then they turned on the jets and the Steelers were in trouble. Kansas City won 42-21.

The seventh seed led to two very pointless games. The Buffalo Bills also dominated the New England Patriots 47-17. The Los Angeles Rams made the new Monday night wild card game boring with a 34-11 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The playoffs are already where the contenders start to separate from the pack. Wild card blowouts aren’t actually that much of a rarity. Six teams per conference were enough. Seven teams per conference increase the chance of pretenders playing playoff games.

2. The Chiefs and Bills have a lot of firepower

The Chiefs looked like the Super Bowl contender that everybody feared them to be. Patrick Mahomes just went 30/39 for over 500 yards with five touchdown passes. Travis Kelce added a touchdown pass for good measure, I guess. Six Chiefs caught at least four passes. It was an onslaught and it was unstoppable. When the Chiefs are in a groove they are the most deadly offense in the NFL.

Speaking of in a groove, that’s what we got from Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The Bills scored on every offensive possession except the one where Josh Allen took a knee at the end of the game. It wasn’t just the Allen to Steffan Diggs show. It was nine different Bills catching a pass. Also, it was Allen picking up 66 yards on the ground and Devin Singletary churning out over 5.1 yards per rushing attempt. When the Bills and Chiefs are on, they are very on.

These teams are set to take on each other in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship game. The amount of firepower these two teams have is going to make this must-see TV. It’s a good chance that the AFC representative for the Super Bowl is the winner of this battle.

3. The 49ers have a Jimmy Garappolo problem

If the San Francisco 49ers could get by without throwing the football, they probably would. While the Dallas Cowboys had no answers for Elijah Mitchell or Deebo Samuel, they didn’t let Jimmy Garappolo have a big day. Garappolo threw a costly interception that got the Cowboys back in striking distance. While he was efficient completing 16 out of 25 passes, he only mustered 172 yards. It’s almost surprising how little the 49ers ask Garappolo to do.

The 49ers have some big wins under their belt. Garappalo has been average and he’s had some games where his play reached a high level. The big question against the Green Bay Packers though, is whether or not Garappolo will keep this offense in the hunt against Aaron Rodgers and a good Packers team. This is the best Packers team since Rodgers won the Super Bowl over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s hard to have confidence in the 49ers’ quarterback and that’s a problem.

4. NFL Wild Card game proves Raiders should be looking for a new head coach:

Rich Bisaccia may be the only interim head coach to lead a team to the playoffs, but he also had more talent than most interim head coaches have. The Raiders had Derek Carr, Darren Waller, Josh Jacobs, and a heck of a pass rush. That’s not a bare cupboard to bake dessert with. The fact of the matter is that the Raiders were a borderline playoff team. They got in, but it could have easily gone the other way. A playoff appearance isn’t a ticket to keeping the job.

The Raiders made it a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. They lost 26-19. but they looked completely out of sorts. The whole game was the Raiders playing catch-up and doing so in very uninspiring chunks at a time. The Raiders were penalized seven times. Most of this was undisciplined self-inflicted mistakes for the Raiders. Did Bisaccia take over for Jon Gruden and exceed expectations? He did, but how low were his expectations?

The Raiders are starting over. There’s no more Gruden. There’s no more Mayock, and keeping Bisaccia may make their fresh start a half-measure.

5. The Bengals are unfazed by the NFL postseason pressure

Give credit where credit is due. The Bengals handled the pressure of going for their first playoff win in 31 years beautifully. They embraced it and clearly saw it as an opportunity rather than something to worry about. Joe Burrow looked like he’s been in the playoffs before and it was his first trip to meaningful games in January.

Look, I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop. The defense has some issues and their inability to protect Joe Burrow in the pocket is worth bringing up. Larry Ogunjobi being out for the postseason hurts their defensive line and if Trey Hendrickson is out on Saturday it’s good news for the Tennessee Titans. Whether they’ve overachieved or not, this Bengals team is a confident one. They have a legitimate shot at going to the Super Bowl. If the shoe doesn’t drop and their carriage doesn’t turn into a pumpkin, the Bengals may be for real. The fact that beating the Raiders looked like another day at the office is a big sign for Zac Taylor’s team.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment

Bring on the NFL Divisional Round. This should be fun.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

NFL Wild Card Preview: Thoughts for Saturday Slate

By Chris Schisler

The NFL Wild Card round starts today and it’s time for a quick preview of the action. The Saturday slate starts with a battle in The Jungle, it’s the Las Vegas Raiders vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. The nightcap is the Buffalo Bills hosting the Patriots in a division rivalry playoff style. Here’s what I’m thinking going into these games.

Raiders vs. Bengals

This game feels a lot like the Ravens playoff game against the Titans in 2019. It’s a Bengals team that’s feeling itself after winning the division for the first time in a long time. It’s a sneaky good matchup for the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bengals rebuild comes on the backs of young players and their lack of playoff experience has to be noted. The pressure is on the Bengals and if the Raiders make this a game, Cincinnati may not be able to handle it.

The Bengals are the best team in this matchup. Joe Burrow and those three great receivers are the marquee players here. Remember the Ravens were objectively better than the Titans in 2019. In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter unless you’re the better team that day. The Bengals’ offensive line isn’t great. Burrow has been sacked 51 times this season. That’s the most sacks a quarterback has taken this year,

Ravens fans know firsthand how Maxx Crosby can ruin a game. Crosby has eight sacks and a favorable matchup against a team built to throw it a lot. Yannick Ngakoue had 10 sacks this season and the Raiders are generally known for their ability to get after the quarterback.

Because of the Raiders’ one matchup advantage here and the fact that the Bengals are brand new at this contender thing, give me the Raiders. I’m going with the upset.

Prediction: Raiders win 35-28

Patriots vs. Bills:

This one is tough. These teams know each other very well and the AFC East was decided by the slimmest of margins. The Patriots have a young quarterback, but they have all the things that help said young quarterback. They have a coach who is a game plan master. They have a running game that has three running backs averaging over four yards per attempt. New England also has great tight end play. If the Bills can’t stop the run it will be a problem.

This game goes down to two things. Can the New England Patriots win the battle at the line of scrimmage? Secondly, can Josh Allen play at a level where the Bills are going to win regardless? Allen has been hot and cold this season. If Allen throws for under 250 yards and this is a defensive battle, the balance goes to the Patriots. If Allen plays his best, the Patriots aren’t stopping the Bills and their receiving weapons. The Bills have more firepower and they know it. They want to be aggressive in this game and get out to a fast start.

In the first game between these teams, the weather had a huge factor and the Patriots were able to just run the ball and get the win. Tonight will be brutally cold at Orchard Park, but for Buffalo standards, the wind is pretty mild. Both teams are used to playing in the cold so it’s hard to see this playing too much of a factor. In the end, I’ll go with Josh Allen over Mac Jones. Give me the Bills in this one.

Prediction: Bills win 28-24

NEXT POST: Ravens NFL Draft spotlight: Evan Neal OT, Alabama

The Purple and Black Nest aren’t getting a break just because the Ravens are out of the mix. There is plenty of offseason talk to go over with you. At the end of the day, this is a football site and the playoffs are in our jurisdiction. Playoffs, NFL Draft season, you name it and we’re on it.