Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions as Ravens Host the Packers

By Ashley Anderson

Although the Baltimore Ravens Ravens lead the AFC North with an 8-5 record, it feels like the sky is falling in Baltimore. Back-to-back divisional losses and more major injuries are threatening to derail this season. Getting on track will not be easy against the visiting Green Bay Packers. Here are the biggest questions facing Baltimore as they head into Sunday’s matchup.

3.) Is there any way the Ravens can slow down Aaron Rodgers?

On paper, the Ravens are badly overmatched against Aaron Rodgers. Already, their secondary was without Marcus Peters, DeShon Elliott, and Marlon Humphrey due to injury. Then, Chuck Clark, the defensive signal caller, landed on the Covid-19 list. Clark could still play if he tests negative Saturday, but the secondary will be painfully thin if he does not.

Baltimore brought fan favorite Tony Jefferson back into the fold, signing him to the practice squad. So far, he seems to look good in practice. Unfortunately, he likely has not had enough time to get back up to speed to make the calls.

Communication issues have reared their ugly heads periodically throughout this season. Forcing a less experienced player to relay Wink Martindale’s notoriously challenging calls could prove disastrous. Martindale indicated he wants a full-time player to wear the communication helmet, so it would not be a surprise if Anthony Averett takes on that responsibility.

Averett has committed his fair share of gaffes this season. Injuries forced him into a much larger role than initially expected, but Martindale said he believes Averett could be an All-Pro player. At this point, he has enough experience to thrive, but his performance is still uneven. He will already have his hands full with Davante Adams, so the added pressure may not be a solid plan. Could rookie Brandon Stephens get the call?

Another major issue is Baltimore’s lack of a pass rush. The Ravens have only registered 26 sacks on the year, and failing to pressure Rodgers is untenable.  While players have expressed confidence in their ability to get home, the stats are not in their favor. If Baltimore has any chance of containing beating the Pack, containing Rodgers to some degree is a must.

2.) Can a ground and pound approach help Baltimore stay competitive offensively?

As the season wears on and the weather turns cold, the run game becomes more crucial. In recent weeks, Devonta Freeman has taken hold of a more lead-back role with Latavius Murray getting goal line carries. Since late November, Freeman is averaging about 15 carries per game.

Freeman put up 64-yards against the Browns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He has shown the ability to pick up tough yards, and the vision to make the most of a small crease. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman would be well served to give Freeman additional touches.

One thing that has flown a bit under the radar is Freeman’s impact on the passing game. Quietly, he has amassed 28 receptions for 178-yards and a touchdown. Whoever ends up under center for Baltimore would benefit from getting Freeman more involved in the quick passing game.

Controlling the clock is going to be a huge factor against Green Bay. Their offense is too explosive and high-powered to allow them the edge in time of possession. The Baltimore Ravens need to get back to their roots and employ a complex running attack that will keep pressure off their quarterback while keeping the Packers off the field. Now, the only question is whether Roman will get the memo.

1.) Will Lamar Jackson play?

After seeing Lamar Jackson go down with a sprained ankle, many Baltimore Ravens fans felt that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tyler Huntley very nearly pulled off a miracle comeback, but his two fumbles proved to be the difference. With Jackson not practicing all week, Huntley could very well be starting on Sunday.

A decision on Jackson’s official status will be made Sunday morning, but the Baltimore Ravens likely already know which direction they are headed. Baltimore’s coaches and players have voiced their confidence and support for Huntley throughout the week, and he seems poised to take the reins. A full week of practice with the ones could be the difference from a near comeback to a massive victory.

Huntley operates much in the same way as Jackson. Although he lacks a little bit of the speed Jackson possesses, Huntley is still a dangerous runner. Against the Browns, Huntley had such an impressive run at one point that you almost had to double check his jersey number.

What Huntley does not have is big game experience. Yes, he played for a bit in Baltimore’s playoff loss to Buffalo, and he started against the Bears this season. Still, he is not a former MVP, and he is essentially a rookie based on the amount of time he has played.

One thing going in Huntley’s favor, however, is the fact that Jackson had been in a month-long slump heading into last week. When Huntley came into the game, Baltimore actually looked better on offense. That is not to say Huntley is the better long-term answer, but he may be better for now.

Baltimore’s offensive line has resembled a turnstile at Disney Land this year. Jackson is seeing ghost, and he is constantly trying to hit the home run to cover for the stale offensive game plans being employed by Greg Roman. It has not been working, and maybe a break is exactly what he needs to hit reset. Allowing him to play on a bum ankle behind that line is akin to criminal negligence.

Next post Ravens host Green Bay Packers: 4 predictions and a score

All that said, if Jackson can play, he will. Regardless of his recent performance, Jackson is Baltimore’s best hope of a deep playoff run. He is a former unanimous MVP, generational talent, and the emotional leader of the team. Now we just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens Three Big Questions Versus the Browns

Last weekend, the Ravens missed a golden opportunity to extend their division lead. A failed two-point conversion was ultimately their undoing. Now, they travel to Cleveland with the Browns coming off a bye week. Here are three big questions facing Baltimore today.

Can they contain Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt again?

When the Browns traveled to Baltimore two weeks ago, the Ravens were dominate in their run defense. Brandon Williams helped clog up the middle, and Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh set great edges. The Browns managed a total of 40 rushing yards that day, a season low.

As the weather turns colder, the importance of the run game increases. Cleveland will surely be looking to get back on track today. With a banged up secondary, containing the run game becomes even more crucial for Baltimore.

It will be challenging to limit the Browns the way the Ravens were able to in Baltimore. It almost feels like a fluke that they were so completely suffocating. However, holding Cleveland to under 100 yards rushing would be a huge achievement for a short handed defense.

Who will step up now that Marlon Humphrey is out?

Last week’s loss became even more depressing with the news that Marlon Humphrey suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. Although he struggled early in the year, Humphrey had really turned things around in recent weeks. Now, the Ravens are tasked with replacing him. Mind you, they have already been without number two corner Marcus Peters all season.

By default, Anthony Averett is now Baltimore’s top corner. If he is healthy, Chris Westry is the de facto number two. Jimmy Smith’s role also increased last week and will likely continue to do so. The biggest problem is that none of these guys are fully healthy.

Against  Pittsburgh, slot corner Tavon Young managed just eight snaps coming off an illness. For the secondary to have any hope of overcoming the loss of Humphrey, Young will have to find a way to stay on the field. He appears recovered from the illness, but only time will tell.

Aside from those guys, Baltimore also has Kevon Seymour. Seymour has mostly been on Baltimore’s practice squad, but he will be forced into action now. It would be unreasonable to expect Seymour to provide anything other than depth, but given all the injuries in the secondary, the importance of depth cannot be overstated.

Can Lamar Jackson get out of his slump?

When the Ravens were winning close games earlier this season, it was because Lamar Jackson put the team on his back. However, over the last month, Jackson has been in a slump. Ever since the Thursday night game in Miami, Jackson has not been himself.

The Dolphins threw a heavy blitz at Jackson, and the Ravens were unable to adjust. In each matchup since then, teams have applied the same strategy. Baltimore has yet to adjust.

Each week, reporters ask Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman what the solution is to their recent drought. Roman swears he has a vault of plays to call upon, but it seems he has not employed it. With a depleted offensive line and a slumping quarterback, something has to change.

Replays seem to show that Jackson has open receivers, but he is not finding them. Whether it is a result of quick pressure or indecisiveness, Jackson is also taking far too many sacks. It is only a matter of time before he gets injured the way he is playing.

Jackson has an excellent record against the Cleveland Browns. His familiarity with them could allow him to break out of this slump today. The time is now for the offense to get back on track. With a banged up defense, the Ravens will need to score a lot of points to keep pace and try to make the playoffs.




Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

By Ashley Anderson

I would say good morning, Baltimore Ravens fans, but I am quite sure you are all still reeling from last night’s loss. Of course, the defining moment of the game was Head Coach John Harbaugh’s decision to try for a two-point conversion to win in regulation after Baltimore drove down to score. Conventional wisdom tells you to kick the extra point, go for the tie, and let things play out in overtime. Harbaugh decided against that.

Insider Information

The Ravens, of course, knew something that fans at home did not. Marlon Humphrey had suffered a potentially serious injury on Pittsburgh’s previous drive, and he would not be returning to the game. Pittsburgh had already been running roughshod over Baltimore’s defense, and now they were even more short-handed.

Pundits’ Reactions to the Baltimore Ravens choice:

Some pundits were jumping for joy, excited to see an aggressive approach in line with Harbaugh’s typical strategy. Others felt the Ravens should take the near sure thing and have Justin Tucker kick the extra point. After the touchdown, Harbaugh immediately held up two fingers, and those watching the CBS broadcast could hear how enthused Tony Romo was.

Pittsburgh took a timeout to get their defense situated. Baltimore then seemed to hesitate, as Tucker was on the field. That was just a decoy, however, as Harbaugh fully intended to go for the two-point conversion from the get-go.

The Play Itself

By now, everyone has seen the play. The Ravens went with a misdirection, trying to fake like the ball was going to Devonta Freeman. T.J. Watt did not bite on the fake, and he was in Lamar Jackson’s face untouched nearly instantaneously.

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was caught out of position, though. His eyes were in the backfield, as he believed Freeman had the ball. That left tight end Mark Andrews wide open in the flat.

Andrews appeared to slow up on the route and square his hips to the line of scrimmage. With Watt in his face, Jackson threw an off-target pass that went wider than he intended. Although Andrews stuck out one hand and tipped the ball, he was not able to tip it back to himself to secure it. The pass fell harmlessly to the turf, and the Steelers escaped with the one-point win.

Football has always been a game of inches. Early in the day, Pittsburgh missed on a sure touchdown when Dionte Johnson had a ball bounce off his fingertips in the end zone. The Ravens missed a near pick earlier as well on a ball that bounced off a couple of players and through the hands of Marlon Humphrey. On the last play, a couple of inches made all the difference.

Questions Abound for the Baltimore Ravens

It is fair to question Baltimore’s strategy in this situation. Their offense had just executed a solid touchdown drive, and there was nothing saying they would not get the ball back in overtime. Harbaugh, however, felt the best chance at a win came from finding a way to get those two key points in regulation.

In four straight games, the Ravens have now failed to score 20 points. Their offense has sputtered, even when they are in a position to score like they were early in yesterday’s game. The offensive line was dealt another blow with the loss of right tackle Patrick Mekari to a hand injury. Pittsburgh had an eye-popping seven sacks on the day, partly due to poor play by the line, and partly due to Jackson holding the ball too long. With all that going against them, Harbaugh did not trust them to execute another scoring drive.

He also did not trust his defense to make a stop. After holding Pittsburgh to three points through the first 45-minutes, the defense came unglued in the fourth quarter. Poor tackling again reared its ugly head. Anthony Averett was getting burned on every other play.

A miscommunication between Averett and Humphrey allowed Johnson to take a 29-yard pass untouched for a score. Humphrey’s injury occurred while trying to defend Johnson as he scored his second touchdown of the day to put Pittsburgh on top. 17 unanswered points certainly does not inspire confidence.

My Opinion

Personally, I still wish the Ravens had kicked the extra point. Sure, it is the most conservative approach, and it may have extended the misery. Perhaps, Harbaugh was trying to avoid further injuries and get our of Pittsburgh with at least a handful of healthy corners. However, with a kicker who was good from 66-yards earlier this season, one has to wonder what could have been if the coin flip went Baltimore’s way.

If the Ravens won the toss, there was nothing saying Devin Duvernay wouldn’t take the kickoff to the house. He leads the league in kick return yards, so it is entirely possible he would have ripped off a big gain and put Baltimore in excellent field position. On the previous kickoff, Chris Boswell actually kicked the ball out of bounds and gave the Ravens the ball on the 40-yard line. If either of those things happened, Jackson would have only needed to move the ball between 25-30 yards to kick a field goal.

The flip side is that Baltimore may have lost the toss. Even in that scenario, the special teams unit had pinned Pittsburgh deep all day. A proud defensive unit, even sans its top corner, would have been eager to make a stop. Wink Martindale may have found a way to pressure Ben Roethlisberger into a mistake, or bounce or two may have gone Baltimore’s way.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens 2021 1st round is looking like a smash hit right now

Now, we will never know what might have been. As he did all day, Watt disrupted Jackson’s timing, and poor execution on both ends of the play caused the two-point try to fail. It never should have come down to that, but the Ravens made too many mistakes throughout the game. At 8-4, Baltimore still leads the AFC North, but their season is very much in jeopardy.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

3 big questions for Baltimore Ravens in battle with Browns

By: Ashley Anderson

As the 7-3 Baltimore Ravens prepare to host the 6-5 Browns, there are facing a number of pressing questions. Here’s a look at Baltimore’s top concerns heading into Sunday night.

3.) Can Baltimore Ravens contain Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt?

Despite a leaky secondary, the Ravens have been stout against the run. They are second in the league with 88.6 rush yards allowed per game. This week, they face their toughest challenge yet in the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb leads the NFL with 6-yards per carry, and Hunt is fresh after missing the last five games due to a thigh injury.

The Ravens have been missing nose tackle Brandon Williams due to a shoulder injury, but he may return this week. Unfortunately, things are a bit less certain about defensive end Calais Campbell. If one or both big men miss this matchup, it will leave Baltimore painfully thin upfront. Justin Ellis has done a fine job filling in for Williams, but this is a bigger stage than he has been on before.

With Baker Mayfield dealing with various injuries, there is no doubt the Browns plan to rely on their run game. The weather is also expected to turn frigid Sunday night, which favors the ground and pound approach. Baltimore must key in on Chubb and Hunt, especially on screen passes, if they expect to walk away victorious.

2.) Will Lamar Jackson deal with rustiness?

Somewhat surprisingly, Lamar Jackson missed last week’s game with an illness. He has also missed a great deal of practice time for various reasons this season. Although he practiced throughout this week, his last game action was all the way back on November 11th in Miami.

As previously noted, the weather conditions will be significantly different than the last time Jackson played. In Miami, the Ravens were dealing with extreme heat and humidity, and they were on a short week of rest. Tomorrow night, temperatures are expected to be in the mid-to-low ’30s.

Due to the time off, Jackson could be dealing with a bit of rust. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins said Jackson looked good in practice, but having your defense “pressure” you is nowhere near what Myles Garrett brings to the table. For the Ravens to be successful, Jackson must take good care of the ball and avoid turnovers. He needs to be on his A-game, so hopefully, he can get momentum early and stay hot.

1.) How will the Baltimore Ravens deal with their myriad of injuries?

Injuries are nothing new for the 2021 Baltimore Ravens. Before the season even began, starters were dropping like flies. To date, things have not improved.

This week, ten players are considered questionable, including several starters. Against the Bears, Baltimore only had three healthy corners, and they may be shorthanded again. Jimmy Smith is likely out, and Tavon Young, Anthony Averett, and Chris Westry all missed time this week. Although he played sparingly, safety Ar’Darius Washington was lost for the season when he broke his foot Wednesday.

On the defensive line, Pernell McPhee is out for at least three weeks after landing on IR. Without him, rookie Odafe Oweh has added responsibility with setting the edge. He will take on even more duties if Campbell cannot play. Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale usually likes to rotate guys to keep them fresh, but these injuries simply do not allow for that.

NEXT POST: Ravens offense: Things we want to see against the Browns

If there is any consolation for Baltimore, it is that Cleveland has struggled to score of late. They cannot be overlooked, however, as Mayfield is smart enough to take advantage of broken plays. Chuck Clark and Marlon Humphrey have to get on the same page this week to overcome other absences and prevent the back-breaking plays Baltimore has been known to surrender this season.

Posted in The good bad and ugly

Ravens Edge the Bears: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

By: Ashley Anderson

With a 16-13 win over the Chicago Bears, the Ravens now stand at 7-3. It was an odd day for Baltimore that required a miracle comeback for them to escape with a victory. Here is a recap of the good, bad, and ugly for the purple and black.

The Good:

Tyler Huntley found out Sunday morning that he would be making his first career start. It was far from a perfect performance, but Huntley played his heart out. Although he was sacked six times, Huntley went 26/36 for 219-yards and an interception. On the ground, he recorded 40-yards on seven carries. Most importantly, Huntley stayed cool under pressure, leading Baltimore on a game-winning drive with under two minutes in the game.

Running back Devonta Freeman was ultimately responsible for the go-ahead score. His day was good enough on the ground, as he led the team with 49-yards on 16 carries. Freeman has also shown a knack for contributing in the passing game. He notched six receptions for 37-yards.

It was also nice to see Sammy Watkins have a bounce-back performance. His return from injury was less-than-stellar against the Miami Dolphins. Against the Bears, however, he had three catches for 48-yards, including the 29-yard catch that set the Ravens up for the game-winning touchdown.

Defensively, Tyus Bowser finally has the breakout game everyone has been waiting for. He was responsible for five tackles, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, two sacks, and a fumble. When Bowser bulldozed his way into the backfield to prevent a Hail Mary try by Andy Dalton, fans let out an audible sigh of relief.

On his 32nd birthday, Justin Tucker was a perfect 3/3 on field goals and 1/1 on extra-point tries.

The best part of this game was that the Ravens found a way to win. Plenty of things went wrong for Baltimore, with a number of key players ruled out Sunday morning. However, they dug deep and pulled out a crucial win. It proved even more important as both the Browns and Bengals won as well. With Pittsburgh losing on Sunday night, Baltimore now leads the Bengals by one game in the AFC North.

The Bad:

Again, the Ravens allowed a big passing play moments after Dalton took over at quarterback. It seems Baltimore is allergic to defending screen passes, allowing a 60-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney as a result of over-pursuit. Poor tackling was an issue as well as Chuck Clark had a clear whiff on the play.

Baltimore’s aggressive play-calling was as head-scratching as it was unsuccessful. On a fourth-and-11 late in the fourth quarter, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale called for a Cover 0, all-out blitz. When no one got home, Dalton found Marquise Goodwin wide open for a 49-yard score to give Chicago a late lead. Baltimore’s defense was down to three healthy cornerbacks against the Bears, and it showed on the stat sheet with two Bears receivers going over 100-yards.

The offensive line had another poor showing despite the return of Nick Boyle and Patrick Mekari. Huntley was under constant pressure, and he was sacked six times. The running backs barely found room to run, and Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray both averaged under four yards per carry. Although the unit has undergone an insane amount of change, it is time for everyone to step up and protect the guy under center.

The Ugly:

Oh my goodness, was the injury list ugly this week. Lamar Jackson was unable to play as he continued to battle an illness. He traveled with the team but was ultimately ruled out Sunday morning.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Anthony Averett were both scratched as well. Neither seemed to have an issue during the week, but they developed mysterious injuries somewhere after Friday’s practice. That left Baltimore painfully short-handed in the secondary, with Chris Westry making his first start.

Starting wide receiver Marquise Brown is dealing with a thigh injury, and he was surprisingly ruled out after a limited practice Friday.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens sneak past Bears: 7 lessons on victory Monday

If Jackson is unable to play against Cleveland, it will be a massive blow for Baltimore. The Ravens will also be keeping their fingers crossed that Smith and/or Averett find a way to get healthy. It was a minor miracle that the 49-yard score late in the fourth quarter did not sink Baltimore’s ship. They will likely not get that lucky when the Browns come to town.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions as Ravens Travel to the Windy City

By: Ashley Anderson

Coming off an embarrassing 22-10 loss against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night football, the Baltimore Ravens had to do some soul searching this week. With a few extra days rest, they travel to Chicago on Sunday to take on the Bears. Led by rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears are currently 3-6. Their record is deceiving though, as they have played a number of close games. Here are the big questions leading into Week 10.

3.) Can the Baltimore Ravens find a way to limit big plays defensively?

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” – Cool Hand Luke, 1967.

When people think of the Baltimore Ravens, they typically think of bruising defenses led by the likes of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Although there is plenty of talent on the 2021 squad, it seems like the Ravens are struggling to put them all together. Nearly every week, even if the defense plays well as a whole, they experience lapses. Big plays have become the norm rather than the unexpected.

Somewhat astonishingly, Baltimore has allowed six plays of 50 or more yards in just the past three weeks. Their busted coverage on a 64-yard catch and run by Albert Wilson evaporated any chance of a comeback against Miami. Even in the win against Minnesota, they surrendered a 50-yard touchdown to Justin Jefferson.

Long-time fans are baffled by the overall performance of the unit, which is typically prideful and dominant. There are plenty of factors, including injury, that point to the down year. The biggest issue, however, seems to be a lack of communication within the group.

For some time, the Ravens were struggling with tackling, leading to explosive plays. They seemed to have that figured out a bit in recent games, but there have still been several big plays. Often, there appears to be a breakdown in pre-snap communication. Safety Chuck Clark wears the green dot on his helmet, so he is ultimately responsible for relaying the play calls. Marlon Humphrey has also taken responsibility for his part in the lapses.

All-in-all, chunk plays are a dagger for any defense. The Ravens know this is an area of weakness and one that must improve if they hope to make a playoff run this season. Facing a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields should help them get things right this week.

2.) Will the running game get back on track?

For years, the bread and butter of Baltimore’s offense was their rushing attack. It seemed they could run against any and every team in the NFL. However, there has never been another season where the Ravens lost all three of their top running backs prior to the start of the year.

The losses left the front office reeling as they searched for help. Ty’Son Williams made the 53-man roster out of camp, and Baltimore quickly added Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell. Since then, they also added Nate McCrary back to the practice squad.

Murray missed the past three games with an ankle injury, and the run game suffered as a result. Most weeks, quarterback Lamar Jackson is actually the leading rusher, and none of the backs separated from the pack. With Murray finally getting healthy, the Ravens made the surprise choice to part ways with Bell.

Much of the blame for the run game struggling can be placed on the offensive line. Without Ronnie Stanley, the unit was forced to shift Alejandro Villanueva to left tackle. Patrick Mekari had finally stabilized the right tackle role before he went down with an ankle injury. Second-year man Tyre Phillips is not built to be a tackle, but Baltimore was forced to use him there. Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland were rotating at left guard before Powers suffered a knee injury. Powers struggled in his absence.

Cleveland may be ready to return this week, and Mekari is also getting healthy. As the weather turns cold, Baltimore is certainly hopeful that someone or something can provide a spark on the ground. Could this be the week Nate McCrary finally gets a call-up?


1.) How will mid-week absences from Lamar Jackson and Bradley Bozeman affect the offense?

Both Lamar Jackson and Bradley Bozeman were sent home from practice Wednesday with non-Covid related illnesses. Jackson is virtually the only reason the Ravens are 6-3 at this point, but he has now missed practice time four separate weeks. Meanwhile, Bozeman has been the anchor of an offensive line that has faced a ton of adversity this season.

It is never a good thing when starters miss practice time for any reason. What makes matters worse is that Jackson and Bozeman are the most crucial pieces of an offense that would look dramatically different without them. At this point, there is no reason to believe either will miss Sunday’s game. The missed practice time, however, could throw off the rhythm of the entire offensive unit.

Jackson has shown an uncanny knack for building chemistry with his receivers despite the repeated absences. Still, there are moments when the timing seems just a touch off with this offense. For example, in his return from a three-game absence, Sammy Watkins was targeted early on a deep pass against the Dolphins. Unfortunately, he either believed the ball to be overthrown, or he lost it in the lights, and a would-be touchdown landed incomplete. Slightly better timing between Jackson and Watkins may have made a difference.

Losing Bozeman would be equally damaging. Last year, the Ravens struggled mightily with poor snaps, but Bozeman virtually eliminated the issue. He has been one of the top centers in the league and easily the best lineman in Baltimore. Without him, the Ravens would have to turn to Trystan Colon, who has primarily been used as an additional lineman in heavy packages. Colon would then have the responsibility of making pre-snap reads and trying to gel with a line that, as previously mentioned, already dealt with its fair share of change.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: A full examination of the Greg Roman situation

All-in-all, it is too early to panic here, but the situation bears watching (no pun intended). Jackson and Bozeman may both return tomorrow fine as fiddles, and this question becomes irrelevant. Any other scenario, however, could put the Ravens at a huge disadvantage.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions Versus the Chargers

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.

Next post: Baltimore Ravens: Keys to beating the Los Angeles Chargers

Perhaps the bigger question here is whether the Ravens defense can slow down the Chargers enough to allow Jackson to work his magic.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions Versus the Broncos

By: Ashley Anderson

With a little luck and some star-kicking power, the Ravens found themselves at 2-1 after three weeks. This week, they travel to Denver to take on the undefeated Broncos. Here are some pressing questions heading into the game.

3.) Will Justin Tucker break his own kicking record?

Okay, this is a bit facetious, but even the Ravens have commented on the possibility this week. When Tucker lined up for his 66-yard try against Detroit, it had a 10% chance of being good. With a kiss off the crossbar, it ended up going through the uprights to send Baltimore to a huge win. Tucker now holds the record for the longest kick in NFL history by a two-yard margin.

Now, with the thin air in Denver, there is speculation Tucker could hit from around 70-yards. Long snapper Nick Moore said Tucker often hits 65 to 70 yarders at practice. However, there is a big difference between practice and a real game. For a kick of that distance to have any chance of success, every aspect needs to be perfect.

During the 66-yard attempt, Tucker initially set his feet before deciding to take a step backward. That single step had the potential to disrupt the timing of everything. Moore had to get the perfect snap to Sam Koch, Koch had to hold it a fraction of a second longer, and the blockers had to keep Tucker clean and avoid costly holding or false start penalties. Oh, and Tucker still had to kick the ball so violently that it would have the distance to clear the bar.

Considering the minutiae of the whole operation, conditions would have to be pristine to even make the attempt. Given the ability for the opposing team to return a miss, the whole team would have to be on alert to avoid points going the other way. Chances are, the Ravens would only try for a kick that long if it were at the end of a half. In fairness, there is no better kicker in the league to try it.

2.) Can the Baltimore Ravens make Teddy Bridgewater uncomfortable?

Through three games, Teddy Bridgewater has only been sacked seven times. He has been able to stay comfortable in the pocket and is currently second in the league with a 76.8% completion rate. This week, however, he will be without his starting right guard, and his left guard is questionable.

Baltimore has struggled to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks so far. As a team, they only have five sacks, and no player has more than one. What was an area of concern prior to the start of the season has continued to be worrisome.

It also hurts that the Ravens’ secondary is not at full strength. After losing Marcus Peters near the end of training camp, they were also without Jimmy Smith for the first two weeks of the season. Chris Westry got hurt in Week 1, DeShon Elliott has been banged up and missed time, and now Anthony Averett is questionable.

Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale can usually scheme pressure with a variety of personnel, and he may need to start getting more creative. At this point, the Ravens are not winning many of their one-on-one assignments, and tackling is an issue that has continued to rear its ugly head. If Bridgewater has time to work, he will dissect Baltimore’s secondary.

1.) Will the Baltimore Ravens end Denver’s Undefeated Streak?

Of course, the biggest question heading into this game is whether Baltimore can snap Denver’s three-game win streak. The Broncos are one of only five undefeated teams in the NFL, and they are trying to keep pace with the Las Vegas Raiders. Baltimore has had a very uneven season so far, and they could as easily be winless as they are 2-1.

The “real” Ravens have likely yet to emerge as they deal with a plethora of injuries. For the first time this season, their opponent is also greatly hampered by injuries, which levels the playing field. Still, Baltimore has to take advantage of the situation by exploiting mismatches, or that will not matter.

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos: 4 predictions and a score

Denver’s three wins came against two rookie quarterbacks and Daniel Jones of the Giants. The Ravens boast a much more talented roster, but they cannot afford to play sloppy. If they have drops and penalties like they did in Detroit, the Broncos will send them home with a loss.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Ravens vs. Lions got interesting: 3 big questions for the game

By: Ashley Anderson

It has been a crazy week in Charm City. The Ravens came away with a major win over the Chiefs on Sunday night and quickly got back to business. Lamar Jackson missed some time with a stomach bug, then Covid-19 struck again. Most experts have penciled in a win for Baltimore, but there are plenty of lingering questions.

3.) Will the Ravens suffer an emotional letdown coming off a big win?

Sometimes, when teams win a huge game and emotions are super high, they have a tendency to overlook their next opponent. The Detroit Lions are in a different conference, rarely face the Ravens, and are currently 0-2. This has the makings of a perfect trap game.

Baltimore faced Lions quarterback Jared Goff in 2019 when he was with the Rams. Under the lights of Monday Night Football, the Ravens shellacked the Rams 45-6. Goff is in a much different situation now, although it hardly seems much better.

This is the type of game where the Ravens are heavily favored, and pundits are giving them a big edge. However, Detroit has plenty of solid weapons. In the NFL, and team can truly beat any other if conditions are favorable.

All season long, the Ravens have been battling injuries, and now Covid-19 reared its ugly head again. With their emotions on a rollercoaster, it would be understandable if Baltimore suffered a letdown Sunday. If that happens though, they could be in for a surprise defeat.

Since taking over as the starting quarterback, these are the types of games Lamar Jackson has rarely lost. Head Coach John Harbaugh preaches celebrating for 24 hours then turning focus back to the upcoming game. Few teams are as well-coached and built to withstand adversity as well as Baltimore, but they will be put to the test Sunday.

2.) Will Jimmy Smith Finally Return?

When Jimmy Smith initially went down with an injury in training camp, his season seemed to be in jeopardy. Fortunately, team doctors diagnosed him with an ankle sprain rather than any breaks or tears. It looked as though he would be able to return prior to the start of the season, or very early on.

Smith has continued to be limited at practice as his injury proved to be more serious than it seemed. As a result, he has yet to play in a game. In his absence, opposing tight ends have been eating the secondary alive. First, Darren Waller had his way, picking on Chuck Clark in particular, then Travis Kelce was a one-man, tackle-breaking wrecking crew.

This week, the Ravens are tasked with stopping T.J. Hockenson, who is arguably one of the top tight ends in the league. Smith finally got in a full practice on Friday and appears primed to make his season debut. His return would be a huge boost for the secondary who are already missing Marcus Peters and Chris Westry. It would also benefit DeShon Elliott, who suffered a concussion last week.

Fans have been anxiously awaiting Smith’s return. The Ravens officially listed him as questionable, and the full practice is a positive sign.

1.) Can the Ravens survive the latest battle with Covid-19?

The Ravens are a team that has faced issues with Covid-19 multiple times. Last season, the NFL postponed the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers twice due to an outbreak. Pittsburgh dealt Baltimore a close loss that ultimately affected playoff seeding. At full strength, the Ravens would likely have won that matchup.

Before the start of this season, Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards both missed time after testing positive. Ultimately, it did not matter for Edwards, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury. For Jackson, however, it cost him valuable reps with a new receiver group. In particular, Jackson had precious little time to develop chemistry with rookie Rashod Bateman before Bateman was injured.

Now, just three weeks into the season, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson has tested positive. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale employed Ferguson sparingly the first two weeks. However, losing Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg.

Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike, and Brandon Williams will all miss Sunday’s game as the Ravens deemed them to be close contacts. We can infer that they are all unvaccinated based on the team’s response. If any of them end up testing positive, it could cause them to miss even more time.

Next Post: NFL Picks: Predictions for the whole week 3 slate of games

This is simply not a good scenario for the Ravens. It leaves them thin along the defensive line for this game and potentially even longer. Although the Lions are 0-2, Baltimore can hardly take a win for granted. Already ravaged by injuries, the hits just keep on coming.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 big questions vs. Las Vegas Raiders

By: Ashley Anderson

The Baltimore Ravens will finally kick off their 2021 season this Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders. Although they have yet to play a down, there are some folks saying recent events will derail the entire year. Surely, it will not be an easy start as Las Vegas will have fans at Allegiant Stadium for the first time. Here are three big questions facing the Ravens on Monday night.

How will the offense handle the noise at Allegiant Stadium?

2020 was a quiet season in the NFL with most games played in empty stadiums or crowds with a limited capacity. That will no longer be true Monday night as the Raiders will finally have fans in their new stadium. The max capacity is 71,835, and they will be roaring to go.

To mimic that noise, the Ravens have been plumping pumping fake crowd noise and loud music at their practices. However, there is nothing quite like a fully packed football stadium in prime time, and Baltimore’s offense has a tall task. It is Bradley Bozeman’s first game back at center, and he and Lamar Jackson must be able to communicate well.

One thing Baltimore can do to quiet the crowd is get off to a fast start. If they strike quickly, it will likely make things a bit easier going forward. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman could incorporate more silent counts or high percentage plays to help get the offense in rhythm. Still, it is up to them to execute in a tough environment.

Will recent injuries affect morale for the Baltimore Ravens?

After back-to-back serious injuries in practice Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens cut their day short. It was later confirmed that both starting running back Gus Edwards and starting cornerback Marcus Peters suffered season-ending ACL tears. It was a gut-check for the team, especially given the other serious injuries they have dealt with this offseason.

The Baltimore Ravens regrouped on Friday and reiterated their resolve. This is a team with excellent depth, but injuries have tested them so far. Undoubtedly, seeing your star players go down has an impact on morale. Even head coach John Harbaugh seemed stunned at the losses, and it shows how deeply connected he is to his players.

Baltimore lives by their “next man up” mantra, and there is no better time to flex that than now. Young guys will need to step up and play their hearts out in honor of those who are sidelined. Only time will tell if the Ravens can withstand these challenges.

Who will lead the Ravens’ backfield?

This is the biggest question looming not just over Week 1, but really this entire season. It started when J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL in the final preseason game against the Washington Football Team. It was an unfortunate injury, but Baltimore knew they had reliable runner Gus Edwards waiting in the wings along with veteran Justice Hill and preseason hero Ty’Son Williams.

They were again dealt a blow when Hill tore his Achilles just days after returning from an ankle injury that cost him most of training camp. Still, Edwards and Williams were there, and the Ravens knew they could add a third back after cuts and from remaining free agents. Then, the unthinkable happened as Edwards tore his ACL, thus ending his season.

That latest setback left the Ravens reeling. Eric DeCosta swiftly added Le’Veon Bell to the practice squad and Trenton Cannon to the 53-man roster. Bell was prolific in his heyday, but it has been a while since he played at a high level. Cannon is more of a special teams guy, who would likely receive few carries.

Baltimore then went on to add Devonta Freeman to their practice squad. Freeman spent camp with the New Orleans Saints, so the Ravens are confident he is in football shape. After the Saints also parted ways with Latavius Murray, the Ravens also snatched him up on a one-year, $2 million deal.

Bell, Freeman, Murray, and Cannon have had limited practices with Baltimore, and they have much to learn about the playbook. One of them, however, will be the second-string running back come Monday night, with Williams, the only back who spent a full offseason with the team, leading the way.

NEXT POST: Picks for each NFL game on the week 1 slate

Likely, Lamar Jackson will do a bit more running than the Ravens would like to offset these recent issues. The Ravens could also use a versatile player like Devin Duvernay as a runner on jet sweeps to keep the ground game moving. It is a tall task, but the Ravens led the NFL in rushing the past two seasons with a variety of backs, and this year should be no different.