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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.




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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens Three Big Questions About The Special Teams

By: Ashley Anderson

It’s time for 3 Baltimore Ravens questions about special teams. As a former special teams coordinator, Head Coach John Harbaugh has always put a huge emphasis on having a well-rounded special teams unit. Although some players prefer to be divas or stars, Ravens players seem to embrace the grind of the “other third” of football. With the best kicker and arguably top punter in the NFL, it may seem like this is a group without any lingering questions. However, there are a few areas of intrigue.

3.) Will Justin Tucker continue to lead the NFL in all-time accuracy?

What Justin Tucker has done in his nine seasons is nothing short of remarkable. Year after year while other kickers struggle, the Ravens have been able to rest easy knowing they have the NFL’s all-time leader in field goal accuracy. With a current success rate of 90.65%, the bar is high for Tucker.

It is tough to imagine a time when Tucker somehow went undrafted out of the University of Texas. The opera singing, Royal Farms commercial star came to Baltimore in 2012, and he quickly became a fan favorite. Winning the fan base over was easy considering Billy Cundiff broke hearts all around Baltimore few months prior. No one will ever forget Cundiff’s shanked 32-yard field goal try that squashed the Ravens’ last opportunity in the 2011-2012 season AFC Championship game. Just saying “Cundiff” is enough to trigger PTSD in Baltimore.

Tucker helped erase most of those memories, however. He has been the model of consistency, and his work ethic is unmatched. Year after year as kickers join the Ravens for training camp, he provides an example of what it takes to make it in the NFL. As such, Baltimore has churned out numerous prolific kickers since his arrival, although none have challenged his roster spot.

During training camp this year, Tucker said he feels like he is just hitting his prime. Kickers can theoretically play much longer than most other guys, and at age 31, he still has plenty of gas in the tank. The Baltimore Ravens are surely confident Tucker will continue to be the gold standard among kickers, and he will accept nothing less from himself.

2.) Who will step up to provide leadership for the Baltimore Ravens?

The Ravens took a gamble when they chose to part ways with long-time special teams ace Anthony Levine. Better known as Co Cap around Baltimore, Levine provided a great deal of leadership on the special teams unit. Although the Ravens added him back to their practice squad, there may be weeks where he does not receive a call-up due to more pressing needs. 

Also known for their special teams contributions, Justice Hill and LJ Fort are out for the season with a ruptured Achilles and torn ACL respectively. In addition, Baltimore waived veteran Jordan Richards from the practice squad to make room for Le’Veon Bell. At this point, this is a unit lacking a big-name veteran presence.

As previously mentioned, head coach John Harbaugh expects everyone to be prepared to play special teams. Veteran linebacker Josh Bynes was recently added to the practice squad, and fellow linebackers Chris Board and Kristian Welch will likely be heavily relied upon as well. In addition, the younger players Baltimore kept due to their high ceilings will earn more playing time by embracing and excelling on special teams. Though there is not one clear leader like Levine on the 53-man roster, Baltimore is counting on someone to emerge from the pack. 

1.) How will the Wolfpack look with Nick Moore at long snapper?

Since 2012, the Ravens relied on the well-oiled machine known as the Wolfpack on field goal and extra-point attempts. Long snapper Morgan Cox got the ball to punter Sam Koch, and Koch promptly faced the laces out for Tucker to put the ball through the uprights. Save for nine games in 2014 when Cox was injured, that was simply the Raven way.

The trio became so close, no one could imagine one without the other. Even as Koch approaches age 40, it seemed like they would be a unit forever. However, in one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, Baltimore parted ways with Cox in favor of Nick Moore.

Moore, a former Georgia Bulldog, spent most of the 2020 season on the Ravens practice squad. When Cox was placed on the Covid-19 list, Moore was activated for one game on December 2nd versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was no noticeable drop-off in production, and he did not commit any major gaffes. As a result, the Ravens felt comfortable moving forward with a younger, cheaper option.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 3 keys for the defense vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Cox is more well-known than most long snappers in the NFL, and he deserves a round of applause for a stellar career in Baltimore. For Moore, the best thing he could do is fly under the radar. When people are not hearing your name as a long snapper, it usually means you are doing your job well. While they rarely get much credit, long snappers are crucial to the field goal and punting units, and the focus will be on Moore until he proves to be as reliable as Cox.


Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens 3 Big Questions About the Secondary

By: Ashley Anderson

Baltimore Ravens blog

There is no position group more stacked for the Baltimore Ravens than their secondary. Following along with Ozzie Newsome‘s belief that you can never have too many corners, Baltimore loaded up on talent in recent years. Now, there are some pressing questions about the group.


Will Tavon Young (Finally) Stay Healthy for the Baltimore Ravens?

When he is healthy, Tavon Young is among the best nickel corners in the NFL. The Ravens invested heavily in Young with a then record-breaking 3-year, $25.8 million deal in 2019. Since then, he has only played in two games. Young restructured his deal last November to give Baltimore some cap relief, but they are still seeking a return on their investment.

Young’s 2019 season was over before it started due to a neck injury that happened in training camp. After working his way back from that, Baltimore was hopeful for a productive 2020. Unfortunately, only two weeks into the season, Young suffered a season-ending knee injury. Prior to that streak of bad luck, Young missed all of 2017 with a knee injury.

Reports out of training camp indicate Young is back up to speed and playing like his old self. Baltimore has become less reliant on him in recent years, but they would love to play Marlon Humphrey at his natural outside position. In a surprise move, the Ravens traded Young’s most likely replacement, Shaun Wade, so they appear confident in his ability to stay healthy.

Although he is not a free agent till, after the 2022 season, Young needs to stack games this year. His return gives a major boost to the secondary, but only if it does not flame out early in the year. Certainly, no one is hoping for a healthy season more than Young himself.

When Will Jimmy Smith Return?

Seeing Jimmy Smith get carted off the practice field gave many fans a touch of PTSD. Like the aforementioned Young, Smith has been dogged by injuries throughout his career. He is a classic example of a player who could have been a Hall of Famer if only he stayed healthy.

Initially, the injury looked pretty serious. Reports quickly came out indicating otherwise, and Baltimore released a collective sigh of relief. Rather than something season-ending, Smith is dealing with a low ankle sprain. At the time, Head Coach John Harbaugh said Smith could return in, “a week or two is what I was told.” That was on August 8th.

Since then, Smith has yet to return to practice. It is possible the Ravens are simply being cautious. Smith is entering his 11th season, and he would benefit more from rest than strenuous practice. Having only played a full season twice in his career, a conservative approach is understandable.

At this point in his career, Baltimore will take what they can get from the oft-injured corner. He still plays at an extremely high level when healthy, and it is a matter of when, not if, he returns.

Who Makes the Cut?

To get to 53, the Ravens have some excruciatingly tough decisions to make. With such a strong secondary, there are bound to be players who are highly capable that simply do not work out numbers-wise. There are definitely some locks, but there may also be some surprises.

Baltimore has already jettisoned their rookie 5th round pick, Shaun Wade, to New England because he was on the roster bubble. In return, they got New England’s seventh-round selection in 2022, and their 2023 fifth-round pick. The seventh-round pick should actually be high in the round because it originally belonged to the Houston Texans.

In their first round of cuts, the Ravens also placed Iman Marshall and Khalil Dorsey on Injured Reserve. Marshall has struggled to stay on the field since Baltimore took him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Dorsey, an undrafted free agent acquisition in 2020, also suffered season-ending injuries in his first two years.

Roster locks include Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, and Anthony Averett at corner. At safety, Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are also safe, no pun intended. For those keeping score, that is already seven players.

That leaves corner, Chris Westry, hybrid players Brandon Stephens, Anthony Levine, and Nigel Warrior, and safeties Ar’Darius Washington and Geno Stone fighting for their jobs.

Of that group, Stephens is the most likely to be safe. As a 2021 third-round pick, it is highly unlikely the Ravens would part with him, especially since he probably would not clear waivers. Westry has also drawn a great deal of praise during training camp, and his size makes him ideal to provide outside depth. Like Westry, Warrior has put together a strong preseason, and he spent the 2020 season on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, so he knows the system.

An undrafted free agent out of TCU, Baltimore felt so strongly about Washington that they guaranteed him $100,000. Surely, they want to see what he can do going forward. Stone was a seventh-round pick in 2020 who spent most of 2020 in Baltimore before being waived in December. After a brief stint in Houston, the Texans cut Stone free, and he returned to Baltimore. If the front office lacked faith in him, it seems unlikely they would have brought him back.

That leaves Anthony Levine, aka CoCap. A fan favorite and special teams ace, Levine could find himself on the outside looking in on cut day. Hearts will break around Baltimore if that happens, but football is a business. Levine is an older player whose departure would make way for young, up-and-coming talent.

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

Bottom line, the Ravens have to do what is best for the team. They created a good problem for themselves in stockpiling their secondary, and now they will have to make some unpleasant decisions. Tonight’s final preseason game against the Washington Football Team will go a long way in helping with those decisions.