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

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

Chris Schisler

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

1. This isn’t your typical NFL Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Wide receiver isn’t off the table:

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

Next Post: 2022 NFL Draft Prospects that scream Ravens

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


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

Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have lost Marlon Humphrey for the year. The Ravens secondary in general is an injury-stressed place and the offense is going to have to score more points without their Pro Bowl corner. The offense needs to score. It’s an absolute need against teams like the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Los Angeles Rams. The Ravens needed 21 points to beat the Steelers last Sunday and didn’t get it.

With that in mind let’s take a look at how the Baltimore Ravens can get the offense going. Let’s look at the problems in three segments: Lamar Jackson, Greg Roman, and the offensive line. These are the three major drivers of what is hurting the Ravens. The quarterback, the play-caller, and the offensive line are the key factors in turning everything around. So let’s start with the player who touches the football every play.

Lamar Jackson:

This may be an unpopular answer, but Lamar Jackson just needs to snap out of it. Jackson is stuck in his head and it’s affecting the way he sees the field. The Lamar Jackson from the Ravens’ thrilling wins and the Jackson of the past several weeks are effectively two different players. We’ve been over that already though. We’ve diagnosed the problems earlier this week. Now we have to look for solutions.

The first fix for Jackson is to change the metabolism of the game. The Ravens should use a high-tempo offense. They should get to the line of scrimmage quickly. The Ravens have been comeback kings, they even mounted a last-minute drive against the Steelers that would have tied up the game if John Harbaugh made a different decision. It may sound a little simplistic, but this team only seems to do well when they have a sense of desperate urgency. Simulating that with tempo isn’t a bad idea.

More importantly, it could get Jackson out of his head. The Ravens need to get him rolling out of the pocket by design a little more, play fast and encourage Jackson to take off and run the football. When Jackson is in the zone he’s a stone-cold killer of NFL defenses. Spark Jackson.

Jackson needs a mindset change. He can’t always be trying to make the big play. He has to go through his progressions and make the short pass that’s there when the deep shot isn’t available. Jackson needs to see the whole field. He needs to go back to being a point guard style of quarterback. He is responsible for creating big plays, but his ultimate responsibility is to make the right decision and distribute the football to players with green grass in front of them.

Greg Roman:

If Jackson’s job is to change his mindset and spark himself by taking what the defense gives him, Greg Roman has the responsibility of putting Jackson in the best situation. That means calling a game for tempo rather than huddling. That means calling plays with check-downs and easy completions to get up his confidence. When Jackson is struggling and frustrated, call a designed run. Running the football is the one thing Jackson can do in any state of mind. Jackson wakes up when he realizes he’s a dual-threat. Roman has to understand that fact when calling the game.

If I was Roman I would call plays that simplify things for Jackson until the rut is gone. I’d try to lean more on the ground game which would maximize the play-action passing game for Jackson. Roman also needs to avoid getting too cute with it. Think about the two-point try. T.J. Watt was a problem off the edge. Think about the overtime interception against the Vikings. Jackson couldn’t get the ball over an edge defender on a play that clearly needed him not to be there. This is actually a pattern on less prominent plays as well. Roman needs to do a better job factoring in edge rushers in his play-calling.

Any creativity that Roman has left, this is the time to pull it out. If there’s some magical vault of plays he has at the ready this is the time to go to the bag. Roman has to bring some fun into this offense. Whether that means using Devin Duvernay in creative ways out of the backfield or coming up with some trick plays, now is the time. The Ravens have been miserable to watch. Part of the reason that is true is that they’ve seemed tense and frustrated on the field. Mixing things up is a great idea right now. The status quo has become the worst part of the offense.

The offensive line:

The offensive line has to put their best forward. Lamar Jackson took seven sacks against the Steelers and it kind of felt like more than that. A good bit of that is actually on the quarterback, but excusing seven sacks from an offensive line isn’t happening in my book.

There’s only so much the Ravens can do upfront. The Ravens need Pat Mekari at right tackle. There’s just no way around it and it looks like Mekari won’t be able to suit up against the Cleveland Browns. Mekari didn’t practice on Wednesday because of his nagging ankle injury. Maybe Ja’Waun James can be the answer by the end of the season, but that’s a major question mark. If Tyre Phillips is your right tackle, you have issues.

The offensive line needs help from Pat Ricard and the second and third tight ends on the roster, mostly on the right side of the offensive line. Ricard should get more time on the field because the fullback is the best extra blocker Baltimore has. The right side is the big problem. Alejandro Villanueva is having a surprisingly decent season at left tackle. Bradley Bozeman is doing well at the center position. Helping out the right tackle has to be a part of every game plan.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

Boiled down, the keys are getting Jackson going with tempo and play-calling while helping out the right side of the offensive line with extra blockers.

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Baltimore Ravens: How to spark run game against the Vikings

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens offense needs to spark the running game and no time is like the present. This can’t be a lingering problem when there are actionable steps to fix the run game. The Baltimore Ravens must reclaim confidence on the ground in their battle with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Ravens oddly enough are a pass-first team. It sounds odd but it’s true. Lamar Jackson has thrown for over 230 yards in every game but one. Mark Andrews at tight end and a good group of receivers are carrying the offensive box score. How can the Ravens finally achieve the balance they’ve been looking for now that their run game is struggling and their passing attack is mostly flourishing?

Open rushing lanes with the passing game:

The first part of this is to realize that the passing game has to open up the run game while subsidizing some of the production. Screen passes and a quick-firing passing game can act much like the run game. It’s a staple concept of the west coast offense. While that’s not the Ravens’ deal, there are elements of the west coast approach that would help the Ravens.

Having more of an underneath passing game would keep Lamar Jackson honest as he tends to ignore his safety valve. Jackson either keeps the football too long or he forces it down the field when a passing play breaks down. The idea however of using this approach is all about getting something extra in the offense. It’s like working at a restaurant, you scrape every extra drop out of those big plastic jars of mayonnaise.

Lamar Jackson is the key to the run game. He’s always made a huge impact on the defense. The Ravens need to use more RPO (Run pass options) and get back to more of the zone-read concepts that Jackson and company have made such a dangerous attack in the past. Surely, the lack of chemistry with the running back fill-ins has factored into everything, but these concepts are a requisite threat when Jackson is the quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens always must lean on Lamar Jackson:

More quarterback runs make sense. Jackson is going to do more damage than 30-year-old running backs seeing lesser results. Jackson is averaging 6.3 yards per rushing attempt. That’s a good way to get the run game going. The running backs are only going to get going to an extent. Accepting that is a key component to understanding the run game as it is.

Jackson had 16 rushing attempts against the Chiefs. That may have been the best the offense functioned the entire season. Winning that game without those rushing attempts would have been a tall order. Jackson won’t always have to tuck the football. He didn’t really have to do much against the Broncos the way his passing was torching Denver. The Detroit Lions got beat by his arm, and the Chargers got beat by the most complete team win of the Ravens’ season.

When Jackson has to turn on the run game by himself, he has to realize it. He also needs to take off more rather than taking sacks he doesn’t need to take. Improvised run plays may be the single greatest danger to the defense, and Jackson is forcing it sometimes as a pocket passer to prove that he can do it. Mr. Jackson – it’s proven, you can take off and make something magical happen with your legs.

Other Factors:

The offensive line is a huge part of this. Say what you want about Tyre Phillips, he may be the answer at left guard. At right tackle, Phillips looks abysmal his heavy footwork is his undoing and he loses leverage a lot. Remember he was the Ravens’ first choice at left guard. He clearly struggles at tackle but if we just accept that he’s a guard he could give the offensive line a boost next to Bradley Bozeman. Down the line, Phillips can move back to guard if the Ravens can find anything better at tackle (Cedric Ogbuehi is that anything better).

Greg Roman needs to be less predictable with his play-calling. The Ravens need to stop with a simple dive play to a running back who doesn’t have much burst in short-yardage situations where the middle of the offensive line is closed for business. Creativity has always been Roman’s calling card. I’m going to go back to the Chiefs game again… What happened to the offensive coordinator who bragged about how many running plays he didn’t even use yet?

The Vikings won’t see Latavius Murray, who is listed as doubtful for the game. This is a good chance to let Devonta Freeman audition for the main spot. How much does he have in him? Go find out already. When the Ravens have had big plays it’s either been Freeman or Ty’Son Williams and Williams has been stuck in John Harbaugh’s doghouse.

Speaking of young running backs, Nate McCrary is sitting on the practice squad. The running back one job was Ty’Son Williams’s job to win at the time the season kicked off. He lost the job, why not see if McCrary, a player who was neck and neck with Williams this preseason, can win the job this year?

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens defense: 3 keys against the Vikings

The run game has to get going. It’s an essential part of the Ravens’ identity and the offense needs to reclaim it. This was an exercise of throwing ideas against the wall to see what could be done. The Vikings and Dolphins present a perfect chance for the Ravens to spark the run game and get back to something they love to do.

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

Baltimore Ravens: Defensive game plan against the Bengals

By Chris Schisler

I’m going to put my coaching hat on here and give Baltimore Ravens fans a sense of what I would do if my name was Don Martindale and I was the defensive coordinator against the Bengals. This game is exciting because the Bengals really do possess a lot of players you could consider a threat.

It starts at the wide receiver position for the Bengals. They have Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. Chase is their big-play threat. He averages over 20 yards per reception and has found the end zone five times. The game plan for the Ravens starts with shutting Chase down. This is a game where the Ravens cornerbacks have to come out fighting and they have to be ready. Marlon Humphrey will shadow Chase all day. The Ravens have to put their best cornerback on their best target it’s that simple.

Baltimore Ravens must start by taking away their strength

Because I have so much trust in the secondary of this team, I’m going to be aggressive. De’Shon Elliott and Chuck Clark have been great this season. Anthony Averett has really only had one bad game and he’s shown he can handle his business overall. The defense has turned things around after a rough first two weeks of the season against Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes. Trusting my players is essential.

So I’m being physical with the receivers. I’m rerouting the receivers and making it hard for Joe Burrow to go to his first read. It’s exactly what the Ravens did against the Chargers only this time it comes with more pressure. You have to pressure Burrow and you have to test the merit of his arm talent. If he burns me once or twice, I’ll live with it. He’s not having all day to throw that football. He’s going to have to beat me with perfect throws all day long and against pressure.

No “Mixon” it up

The number one thing I’d tell my outside linebackers in this game outside contain is paramount. I just told you I’m being aggressive. If Odafe Oweh or Justin Houston don’t rack up sacks in this game it’s fine. I’ll send pressure. We have to play gap sound defense. We can’t let Joe Mixon get around the edge. The second the Bengals are a one-dimensional team, with no run game to speak of, the second I can really get to work.

I’m going to have a player always spying on Joe Mixon. He’s not going to make an impact on this game if I can help it. I know the biggest liability here is my inside linebackers in pass coverage. I’ll use some well-timed fire zones at them. It may be Oweh dropping into a shallow zone, or maybe even Calais Campbell, but we’re going to make the passing lanes tough places for Mixon to get the ball underneath.

Wrap Burrow in the fire:

This is a great game for stunts, especially in passing situations. Let’s see Justin Madubuike playing a shade of the center, wrapping around Calais Campbell who comes across the A gap on his side. Let’s see Oweh do a super stick all the way into the A gap with the nose guard slanting the other way into the guard and a blitzing Patrick Queen flying up the other A gap. What I want to do is to get defenders getting the Bengals’ wires crossed upfront.

I’m going to send a lot of different looks at the Bengals. I’m going to stretch out every morsel I can out of the “positionless” defense we have in Baltimore. One play I’ll send Chuck Clark. The next it will be Tavon Young. Heck, let’s get De’Shon Elliott a sack too. This whole game is about making Burrow constantly deal with somebody in his face. It’s all about making him reckless and giving him no time to think.

With a scarcity mindset and off-balance launch points, Burrow will make bad throws. It may be a deep ball that lags behind his receiver and into a defensive back’s hands. Maybe it will be a ball forced into a tight window, a ball without the requisite juice to thread that needle.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 6 keys for the offense against the Bengals

It’s a thin line between being aggressive and being reckless. This is a game where I trust Marlon Humphrey on an island, I use extra defensive backs to play around with coverage and blitzes. I can have my cake and eat it too. The hypothesis is that if you put Joe Burrow in hell, no angel is going to save the football from harm’s way. Turn up the heat. Adjust accordingly, but never let them feel comfortable, especially the quarterback.

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

Baltimore Ravens: Analyzing third down problems for the offense

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have had a lot of problems on third down this season. The Ravens are 17-50 on third down attempts this season. This is actually uncharacteristic of the Ravens offense in the Greg Roman and Lamar Jackson era. Efficiency has been the key to their success in past seasons. This year the key has been just avoiding third-down altogether.

Let’s take a look at the third downs on drives that ended in a Sam Koch punt against the Denver Broncos. What went wrong with these plays? How much does play-calling factor into the equation? How can the Ravens improve on third down based on this sample size? Answers are on the way, let’s dive in!

Number 1: A Drop short of the line to gain:

The Ravens’ first drive against the Broncos wasn’t a three-and-out. They managed to pick up the initial third down with a quarterback keeper. It wasn’t blocked particularly well, and it was obviously a play where Lamar was keeping the ball. This led to one of Jackson’s scariest hits of the game, but the Ravens moved the chains.

The Ravens’ next set of downs got them to a 3rd & 8. Sammy Watkins was the intended receiver on an out route run two yards behind the line to gain. Even if Watkins caught the ball, it would have been tough for him to pick up the first down. It’s not the worst play-call in the world as Watkins wasn’t the only read and Jackson did make the right call according to the coverage. I still want the routes to go beyond the first down yardage unless it’s a clever design that sets up the necessary run after the catch.

Number 2: Le’veon Bell gets stuffed

The next Ravens drive saw the Ravens losing the field position battle. On third down and short the Ravens lined up with one back in the backfield. After a motion from the tight end to form a bunch on the left side, the ball was snapped and Le’Veon Bell got the handoff and a whole bunch of nothing. The Ravens ran it right up the gut and the Broncos were ready for it. It’s almost as if you’re known for your running game, teams are ready for a run up the middle on third down. The blocking wasn’t there, the Ravens got pushed back off and the Broncos enforced their will.

Number 3: Never had a chance

The Ravens next drive had the Ravens backed up near their own end zone. It was a third and long and an obvious passing situation. The Ravens lined up in an empty set. What this means is that there was no running back in the backfield and it was five-man protection, completely on the offensive line. Pressure forced Jackson to step up and throw an awkward pass.

Number 4: Latavius Murray gets stuffed

The Ravens had another short-yardage situation on third down. The Ravens motioned Pat Ricard from the left to the right. They ran Latavius Murray right behind him (he almost ran into Ricard). This was another running play up the middle with a little window dressing to go with it. The Ravens should be getting familiar with the result of that method at this point.

Number 5: False Start, Blitz, Sack…

The Ravens were forced into a 3rd & 11 after a false start penalty. The Broncos took the obvious passing situation to send a beautifully executed blitz. Jackson was sacked before the play had a chance to fairly develop.

Last but not least: The same old thing from the Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens needed one yard on third down. They lined up with their fullback and a tight end creating an unbalanced line. This time there was no motion, just the extra blockers to one side. Where did the Ravens run it? You guessed it, right up the gut. What was the result? The same old thing.

That’s what happened, now let’s talk about it:

I’m willing to cut Greg Roman a little slack. The Ravens don’t have J.K. Dobbins or Gus Edwards this year. When you look at the third-down running failures, this makes a huge difference. Le’Veon Bell has barely had time to work in regular-season and the Broncos are a tough way to get going for him. Still, I have some qualms about how the Ravens approach short-yardage situations, especially outside of the red zone.

The most frustrating thing is how ready the opposing defense has been for the Ravens running plays on third down. We’re not even seeing creative calls here. Half the time the pre-snap motion leads the defense right to the running back’s point of attack.

You have to think that these plays are opportunities for Lamar Jackson to make a difference. If the defense is jumping this hard against the run, play-action presents big chances down the field. Pass protection has been better than run blocking, for the most part, this season (I know, it’s weird). If you’re not going to pick up a high percentage of short-yardage situations, you might as well take a shot down the field. That would loosen up the defense for next time.

Jackson is the MVP of this team. On third down, he should more often than not get the chance to move the chains. His dual-threat ability gives him the chance to run or pass for the first down. You have options when Jackson has the ball on the pivotal play.

Hot off the press: NFL Week 5: Predictions for every game of the weekend

What happened to the RPO’s? Safe completions with Jackson rolling out make sense. The key here is to increase the likelihood of a first down, rather than pinning your chances on something the team isn’t doing well. It’s almost as if Roman can’t feel the way the game is going and how the matchup is playing out.

The Ravens are without Ronnie Stanley. At one point in this game, the Ravens were also without Alejandro Villanueva who left with a knee injury. This offense needs all the help it can get when everybody on the planet knows a pass is coming. Roman has to be more careful than lining up Jackson in an empty set. Five-man protection against a likely blitz is putting the offense in a bad spot.

When you boil it down, Roman has some problems to deal with but is culpable for the Ravens’ third down failures. While this is only a sample of third-down attempts against the Broncos, this has been a problem all season long. When the Ravens couldn’t move the ball against the Raiders in key spots, these same tendencies showed up.

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

Ravens vs. Raiders: 3 keys for the offense post Gus Edwards injury

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have been absolutely rocked by the bad news machine that is the injury bug. Gus Edwards isn’t available for the purple and black this year. What does that mean for the offense? It means they have to move on in a hurry. The Ravens take on the Las Vegas Raiders in three days (Not counting today). What are the keys for a Gus Edwards-less offense against the Raiders? Let’s dig into that.

1. See what you can get out of Ty’Son Williams

Whether you like it or not, Ty’Son Williams has basically become the top back in Baltimore. He’s an undrafted free agent and this is going to be his first regular-season action. The Ravens got a strong performance from him in the preseason, though the regular season is a whole different animal. Can Williams really be RB1? The Ravens need to find the answer to that in week 1.

The Ravens have always prioritized experience and Williams is basically a rookie. The thing is he’s the readiest to rock and roll for this offense. Le’Veon Bell just got signed to the practice squad. Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman got into town after he did. Willams is the back who’s been here and is the most familiar with the offense despite his lack of experience in games that count.

There’s nothing the Ravens could get in the Raiders game that would make Baltimore more confident than a 100-yard performance from Williams. That doesn’t have to be the bar, and it’s important to note the other backs the Ravens have active will factor into it. Still, the more the Ravens get out of Williams the better off the offense is. If Williams can be a solid starter, the situation isn’t dire for the run game.

2. The Ravens have to stick to what they know:

The Ravens’ experience at training camp can only be described as chaotic. With players dropping like Watermelons in a game of Fruit Ninja, the Ravens have to stick to what they know. KISS is a great acronym, Keep It Simple Stupid. The Ravens don’t need to show off an evolution of the passing game. They don’t need to get new players involved. Let Lamar Jackson cook in his comfort zone and get Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown heavily involved.

People forget how much of the heavy lifting Jackson has always done for this offense. In 2019, the receiving group was filled with players like Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Seth Roberts, and Chris Moore. Jackson led the NFL in touchdown passes. In 2020, the offensive line was a trainwreck. Jackson getting the Ravens to 11 wins with help needed upfront and a clearly un-elite group of wideouts has to show you something. The Ravens need to run this offense as if Edwards didn’t go down. They have to stay the course and not try to act like something they’re not. Jackson will always amaze, it’s what he does.

The Ravens needed to pass the football more one way or the other. That was probably already in the works for this game. It may sound like a dumb thing to say, but the game plan didn’t change that much after Edwards went down. The cast and crew can change, but the next iteration of Jackson x Roman is upon us. The Ravens can focus on growing in the passing game this season. They can expand the main cast of targets this season. For week one, let Jackson do his thing. Expect tons of Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.

3. Keep the Raiders honest but simplify things in the backfield:

Jackson doesn’t have his established running backs in this game. The Ravens love to run zone-reads. They love to do the whole run-pass-option thing. The Ravens need to stay true to themselves, but understand that there is no chemistry between Jackson and the running backs at this point. Even in the preseason, Jackson really only got to work with J.K. Dobbins. Miscommunication in the backfield, especially on zone reads can cause turnovers that should never happen.

If I’m Greg Roman, I’m not expecting the running backs to get this offense perfectly. That standard can’t even go to Williams because he has a lot on his plate. Minimize the risk in week one with the mesh point in the backfield. The who has the ball game creates hesitation in the defense, but it has to be done right. A dumb turnover isn’t what anybody ordered. This is surely something to keep in mind.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Moving forward after Marcus Peters injury

These are the key things that the Ravens have to think about heading into this game. This really is a game to keep it simple. If Baltimore gives an authentic Ravens performance, they can show that they have more going for them than these injuries allow you to realize. Go get it, Action Jackson!



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

Baltimore Ravens: Grading the 53 man roster by position groups

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have their 53 man roster set. Kind of. There are some things that could be in flux, but let’s look at what Baltimore has on its hands at the moment. Position by position let’s grade this roster.

Let’s start with the Baltimore Ravens’ Quarterbacks: A

Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley are all that the Ravens need. They have a perennial MVP candidate in Jackson and a backup that can run the same style of offense. There was no room on the 53 man roster for Trace McSorley.

The Ravens could end up with McSorley on the practice squad and therefore available at a moment’s notice. Unpopular opinion: The Ravens would be justified in moving on from the McSorley business altogether. Huntley looked so good in the preseason he kind of made McSorley look bad. At the most important position group, the Ravens have their guys.

Running back: B +

I can hear you. You’re wondering why this grade is still so high without J.K. Dobbins for the whole season. The Ravens were at an A + before Dobbins got hurt. His injury is surely noticed and it knocked the team down a whole letter grade in this category. It’s not going to all the sudden turn to doom and gloom for the Ravens run game. Edwards is indeed a bus and I’ve bought into Ty’Son Williams as a solid number two.

Wide Receiver: (When healthy) B

When Rashod Bateman is ready and gets into the thick of things the Ravens receiving corps are solid. Whether or not Marquise Brown is a number one receiver, the Ravens have put enough around him. Brown is reliable and a Jackson-favored receiver.

Sammy Watkins could be the most underrated pickup of the offseason. James Proche, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace all have a chance to show up more than many pundits and fans are expecting them to. With Bateman in, the wide receiver group is a solid and secure B.

Tight End: A

Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle are really good at their respective jobs. When Boyle is ready the Ravens have one of the best blocking tight ends the NFL has had in this generation. Andrews is a Pro Bowl-caliber superstar who has a next-level connection with his quarterback. Josh Oliver should give the Ravens just enough as a third tight end to be a valued member of the group. If Miles Boykin does indeed stick around his value is mostly as a blocker anyway, so you can almost add him to the tight end discussion.

Offensive Line: Forced to give a grade I’ll say a B –

The offensive line has a lot of good. Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Kevin Zeitler, and Alejandro Villanueva. The left guard spot remains a question mark heading into the regular season and the depth on the inside is much greater than the depth at tackle.

Tyre Phillips is the swing tackle. Take that for what you will. The Baltimore Ravens should get credit for keeping the right nine-player mix along the offensive line. Still, you want to see somebody take command at left guard. You want to see Villanueva prove it. This grade has the right to move up during the season. I’ll give it a B – for now.

The Baltimore Ravens defense

Defensive Line:  B –

Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams aren’t spring chickens and injuries were a problem for both players last season. There isn’t a ton of depth. I don’t think there is a bad player in the mix here. Campbell and Justin Madubuike in particular could exceed expectations this season. This unit should stuff the run. I need to see that the depth won’t be a problem and a little more pass rush before I raise the grade.

Inside linebackers: A –

The only problem with this group is that the members are too young to know any better. That’s a strength and a potential limitation as Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison enter their second season. Harrison looked great in the preseason. If he keeps playing this sound and reading his keys this well, he’ll have a big year. Patrick Queen’s athleticism is uncontainable and he could be set for a big year two jump. With Chris Board, there is nothing not to like.

Outside Linebackers: B

Justin Houston gives the Ravens enough of a veteran presence and enough pass rush to make this thing work. Solid play from Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, and Daelin Hayes should get the Ravens what they absolutely need from this group. Jaylon Ferguson looks better than ever. If the light is starting to come on for him that could change the outlook of this position.

Young talent with a strong leader like Houston equals the definition of solid. Outside linebackers feel free to overdo it this season. If this unit plays at an A level the Ravens will be unstoppable.

Defensive Backs: A +

We’re counting cornerbacks and safeties together because these positions are filled with defensive backs who can serve many exciting purposes for Don Martindale. The Ravens have an elite group of starting cornerbacks. At this point, Chuck Clark and De’Shon Elliott are savvy veterans (They grow up so fast). Sub-packages are going to be fast -Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone, and Ar’Darius Washington can all cover a lot of ground quickly and have ball skills. This group is crazy good.

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens 53 man roster: Key observations on cut day

Specialists: A +

It’s hard to have anything but trust for Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. Nick Moore hasn’t made me miss Morgan Cox yet. As long as that remains true this trio is as good as it gets.

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

Baltimore Ravens: Projecting 53 man roster after 2 preseason games

By Chris Schisler

  • Editor’s Note: This article has been updated

The Baltimore Ravens are undefeated in the preseason so far, and it’s a testament to their roster’s depth. Let’s take a look at what I project to be the 53 man roster. Evaluation is a subjective thing. This is a blend of what I would do and what I think the Ravens will do. With that in mind, this is my first crack at making the 53 man roster.


  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Tyler Huntley

This is a two-quarterback kind of year for the  Baltimore Ravens. They have been keeping three quarterbacks. Once Trace McSorley gets healthy they can call him up from the practice squad if they absolutely must. Here you have an MVP quarterback and a backup who can run the same style of offense. This is a good situation, especially considering that Huntley will only get better with experience.

Running back/Fullback

  1. J.K. Dobbins
  2. Gus Edwards
  3. Ty’Son Williams
  4. Pat Ricard

You may be surprised that Ben Mason isn’t on here. The Ravens can probably stash him away on the practice squad. That pick seems like a contingency if the Ravens can’t re-sign Ricard. I have Ty’Son Williams stealing Justice Hill‘s job here. Williams has been the most impressive back in the preseason. Hill is dealing with an ankle injury. Everything lined up for Williams to be the third running back.

Tight End:

  1. Mark Andrews
  2. Nick Boyle
  3. Josh Oliver

This is a self-explanatory position. Mark Andrews is a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. Once he returns, Nick Boyle is the most elite blocking tight end in the NFL. Josh Oliver gets the nod at the third tight end spot in my estimation. The fact is that he’s gotten the most work in the preseason from the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens want to test him because they want him to win the job. Oliver has prototypical size and athleticism. I think he gives you enough blocking to beat out Eric Tomlinson for the third tight-end spot. Eli Wolfe is a great candidate for the practice squad.

Wide Receiver:

  1. Marquise Brown
  2. Sammy Watkins
  3. Rashod Bateman
  4. Devin Duvernay
  5. Tylan Wallace
  6. James Proche

Most of the preseason talk was about Miles Boykin. Boykin hasn’t played in the preseason due to a hamstring injury. The Ravens are probably best off putting him on injured reserve. It’s almost a deferment of a decision. I decided to keep Bateman on the week 1 roster. Assuming the Ravens want him back as soon as possible, IR may be something the Ravens try to avoid with him.

We all kind of knew that the Ravens weren’t going to keep Binjamen Victor or Jaylon Moore. The question all along was if the Ravens keep six or seven receivers. With the surplus of talent the Ravens have at defensive back, they needed the room and seven was out of the question. In the scenario where you can basically take Miles Boykin out of the decision, these are the clear six.

We haven’t seen a ton from James Proche in the preseason. He’s had a strong training camp though. He offers some special teams versatility and he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. That’s enough to get him a job in the regular season.

Offensive Line

  1. Ronnie Stanley
  2. Ben Cleveland
  3. Bradley Bozeman
  4. Kevin Zeitler
  5. Alejandro Villanueva
  6. Tyre Phillips
  7. Ben Powers
  8. Ben Bredeson
  9. Patrick Mekari

Offensive tackle depth is bleak here. The Ravens knew that was going to be a problem one way or the other. If the Ravens kept Michael Scolfield or Adrian Ealy, they aren’t fixing that problem. The nine offensive linemen here are your best players. This was one of the hardest position groups to project. We’ve seen so many combinations along the offensive line throughout camp, and a lot of the competition at guard and center is pretty even.

Trystan Colon was the odd man out here. I originally had 10 offensive linemen, but I couldn’t make the roster math work. The Ravens have multiple options at center even without Colon. This is why roster math is a cruel practice.

Defensive Line

  1. Brandon Williams
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Derek Wolfe
  4. Justin Madubuike
  5. Broderick Washington
  6. Justin Ellis

I don’t really have to write about the starting three right? You know what they bring to the table and there was no decision to be made there. Justin Madubuike was a lock as well, Broderick Washington and Justin Ellis are fairly interchangeable, however, Washington is more of a nose guard than a defensive end. Washington could play a role very similar to a young Michael Pierce.

Ellis is a solid veteran. With Ellis, you probably aren’t getting big plays but he’ll have some tackles and he’ll chew up some space. Overall this is a good group for a 3-4 team. If Madubuike and Washington have breakout seasons, this could be a great group.

Outside Linebacker

  1. Justin Houston
  2. Tyus Bowser
  3. Odafe Oweh
  4. Daelin Hayes
  5. Jaylon Ferguson
  6. Pernell McPhee

Jaylon Ferguson makes the cut here. Ferguson has been impressive in the preseason. He’s always looked the part, but he’s shown growth as an outside linebacker. It’s too early to give up on him and the Ravens need three players who can rotate on the edge. Pernell McPhee adds to the run defense.  Houston and Bowser should be your starters. They’re the most versatile and experienced. Oweh and Hayes have looked great in the preseason. They’re surely rookies to be excited for.

Inside Linebacker

  1. Patrick Queen
  2. Malik Harrison
  3. Chris Board

With L.J. Fort being injured in the preseason battle against the Panthers, it leaves the Baltimore Ravens a little short at this position. At linebacker, it really boiled down to Kristian Welch vs. Jaylon Ferguson. The Ravens have a nice young nucleus at inside linebacker. The Ravens’ extra defensive backs will allow them to have almost an extra linebacker in sub-packages.

The team can get by with three inside linebackers. Fort would have made the roster if he was healthy and he could always return. It’s important to remember the 53 man roster is something you can edit over the season. The goal is to go into the season opener with the best combination of 53 players for the Baltimore Ravens.


  1. Marlon Humphrey
  2. Marcus Peters
  3. Jimmy Smith
  4. Tavon Young
  5. Anthony Averett
  6. Shaun Wade
  7. Chris Westry

This was the one preseason where the Ravens should be reluctant to cut any of their defensive backs. While some are better than others, there isn’t a bad player in the group. It’s kind of amazing. You can never have enough good defensive backs and the Ravens almost kind of do.

If you would have told me at the beginning of camp I would have Chris Westry on this list, I wouldn’t have believed you. This is the value of getting to see preseason games. Players stand out and impress you, pass the eye test and give themselves a chance. That’s what Westry has done. He’s a good cover corner and I couldn’t cut him.


  1. DeShon Elliott
  2. Chuck Clark
  3. Brandon Stephens
  4. Geno Stone

Everything I just said about cornerbacks I could say about safeties. Defensive back-wise, this team is loaded. Geno Stone had two interceptions in the first preseason game and has impressed all through camp. His advantage is that the Ravens saw potential in him, drafted him, and now they’re starting to see that they were right. Teams love being right and that helps his cause.

Washington is an undrafted free agent. He’s a player I ended up with on the cutting block. If that’s the case the Ravens better get him on the practice squad. Washington is such a fast and twitchy player. I love the way he plays and I want to see him get a chance to grow up with the Ravens. I listed Stephens as a safety, he can play either position.

Cutting Nigel Warrior was a tough call. It’s not a cut I was happy about. Roster math is rough. Warrior played fantastic football against the Panthers. Anthony Levine Sr. has been with the Ravens since 2012. Cutting him hurts the heart. There is just such a powerful youth movement at the defensive back positions. Levine offers value mostly on special teams and being a wise veteran. There’s too much talent in front of him this year.


  1. Justin Tucker
  2. Sam Koch
  3. Nick Moore

The best kicker of all time, the longest-tenured Raven, and a new long snapper walk onto the field… the kick is up, the kick is good.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers: The good, bad and ugly

When the Ravens make their final cuts, it will be interesting to see how accurate this projection is. It’s subjective because we’re talking about evaluation. My evaluations may differ from the coaching staff at a couple of points.


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

Baltimore Ravens salary cap: Strategy or coincidence?

By Jiji Nakaba

Did the Baltimore Ravens switch their offense to optimize their use of salary cap dollars better?

In 2019 the Baltimore Ravens created a new offense based on running the ball better than any other team in the League, utilizing Lamar Jackson’s unique running talent and his threat of running, requiring defenses to pay attention to him.

This offense is ideal for optimizing the running talents of running backs, the blocking talents of Tight Ends and Fullbacks, and is sub-optimal for passing statistics. The effects: great stats for rushing attempts, poor stats for passing yards, and this style of offense keeps the defense off the field for much of the game.

Fact: QB: Ravens have one on a rookie contract for now. An extension will be signed for >40 million/year but Franchise quarterbacks take up a large percentage of the cap. There are no exceptions.

Opinion: The only way to avoid paying big for a Franchise quarterback is to have a journeyman quarterback or a good one on a rookie contract. I’m not saying I don’t want the Ravens to extend Lamar Jackson. I believe an early extension for Jackson will put pressure on the Browns to pay Mayfield too much or make him unhappy.  It will be interesting to see how the Browns handle the cap trying to keep all the talent they accrued because of their losing seasons. They either franchise players, pay them too much, or let them walk starting with Chubb.

Fact: Premier Rushers are at the top of the salary scale.

Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens don’t have any premier rush ends and don’t try to sign any (after Terrell Suggs). They used a first-round pick on a pass rusher instead of going after a highly-paid veteran.

Fact: Defensive Tackles are paid less than Defensive Ends.

Opinion: Raven sign Defensive Tackles at the end of their careers, but don’t try to sign top tier Defensive Tackles, preferring to draft and develop them or add UDFA’s.

Fact: Running backs and tight ends are among the lowest-paid skill position players.

Opinion: The Ravens frequently have Pro Bowl-level running backs and tight ends and don’t need to spend first-round picks to get them. I think they were going to draft a running back in the later rounds in 2020 but J.K. Dobbins fell to them and they couldn’t pass him up.

Fact: Premier Receivers are among the highest-paid players.

Opinion: Ravens don’t have any ultra highly paid receivers and don’t try to sign any. They’ve never had a Pro Bowl receiver. The Ravens are drafting receivers every year now. Are they trying to create a succession plan of rookie salaried receivers? Will they let receivers walk after their rookie contracts?

Fact: Top tier cornerbacks are at the top of the salary scale but cheaper than Defensive ends

Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens are prioritizing cornerbacks over defensive ends because they’re cheaper – they have Pro Bowl level cornerbacks but sign them to extensions early when it’s less costly. The Ravens also always draft secondary talent every year – trying to create a cheap succession plan?

Fact: Linebackers are mid-scale salary-wise

Throughout their history, the Ravens have frequently had Pro Bowl quality linebackers. They are at the top of the league in drafting and developing Inside linebackers – it’s in their DNA.

Fact: Safeties are at the bottom of the defensive player salaries

Opinion: The Ravens’ current safeties are signed to reasonable contracts.  Though they did sign Earl Thomas to a big contract, they got burned and should have learned from that.

Fact: Kickers are at the bottom of the salary scale

Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens have always had one of the top kickers in the game and develop them as well as any team in the League.

Fact: Fullbacks are at the bottom of the salary scale

Opinion: The Ravens nearly always have one of the best fullbacks in the League and let them walk at the end of their rookie year. Patrick Ricard is an exception because he’s a one-of-a-kind irreplaceable player.

Strategy or coincidence? In my opinion, I think the Ravens offense and the priorities on drafting is a salary cap strategy, not a coincidence. If the Ravens draft more receivers each year that will be strong evidence of it.



Average salaries (from a year ago, some adjustments made by me):

QB’s: 16 m

Defensive Ends: 13m

Defensive Tackles: 9.5m

Running Backs: 9.25m

Wide Receivers: 12m

Cornerbacks: 11.5m

Safeties: 8.2m

Tight Ends: 7.1m

Linebackers: 11.3m

Offensive lineman: 11.4m

NEXT POST for Baltimore Ravens fans: The NFL Covid-19 vaccine policy is a fair rule that makes sense

Punters/Kickers: 3.3m

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

Baltimore Ravens red zone offense could be even better

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens offense could be better than ever in the red zone:

The Baltimore Ravens were very successful in the red zone last year. More often than not the Ravens walked away with a touchdown. The Ravens ranked second in red-zone efficiency last season. That’s amazing considering how back in the day Ravens fans joked to just bring Matt Stover out when they were in range, regardless of down and distance. Heck, we’ve made that joke in the Justin Tucker era too.

The Ravens’ offense mostly got the job done in the red zone, so it’s not a major complaint of the 2020 season. The Ravens converted for a touchdown on 67.2 percent of their red-zone trips. What if that number could be even higher though? The Ravens’ offense should be more equipped in the 2021 season.

One thing the Baltimore Ravens added to the roster this season was tough and reliable hands. Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins have a catch radius that was lacking in the offense last season. Tylan Wallace is a rookie with a lot of confidence when it comes to making the contested catch. Jackson can take more shots. Mark Andrews isn’t the only player he can trust to pull in the football.

Jackson’s connection with Andrews is proof that Jackson likes taking a shot when he believes in his receiver. There are numerous examples of Jackson slinging one up high for Andrews. Jackson isn’t afraid of taking shots, it’s just that his one target with an elite catch radius has been mostly facing bracket coverage.

When passing in the red zone, size, and toughness are important. Miles Boykin had the size, but that was about all he brought to the table. Marquise Brown is a play-maker but his size is always going to be a limitation in certain areas.

Baltimore Ravens that could be secret weapons

Nick Boyle went a long time without scoring an NFL touchdown. When Jackson finally got Boyle into the end zone in 2019, he didn’t stop. Boyle started to become a sneaky good threat in the red zone.

He had two touchdowns in 2019 and another two in nine games in 2020. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but he established himself as a legitimate threat inside the 20. It’s on the menu and if it’s there, Jackson is taking it. If Boyle hadn’t gotten injured against the New England Patriots, he could have scored two or three more touchdowns. Boyle being back will be helpful. He’s a player who has gotten better as a receiving option every year.

One expected improvement from the Ravens’ offense is the amount that J.K. Dobbins helps out as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Dobbins becoming a natural weapon for the passing game will help inside the 20-yard line. There aren’t a lot of linebackers that can keep up with Dobbins. This may be a way to create mismatches. If this becomes a strength for the offense, that equals more touchdowns.

One last thing:

Jackson will have more options. He’ll also have more protection as a passer. The interception in the playoff game against the Bills was a monument to Jackson’s frustration. He’ll never say it, but the team around him was not making life easy. Jackson forced a throw. A little more pass protection and it would have been a touchdown.

The Ravens’ offensive line will be better in the 2021 season. Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva will stabilize the right side of the offensive line. Bradley Bozeman is going to give the Ravens a boost at center instead of the left guard spot. Ronnie Stanley being back makes a huge difference. Jackson has more options. He has better pass protection.

NEXT POST: What the Indianapolis Colts don’t get about the Baltimore Colts

The Ravens have a built-in advantage in the red zone. They average over five yards per carry and their run game doesn’t stop working inside the 20-yard line. In fact, Dobbins appears to have a nose for the goal line. A very efficient offense has the tools to become more efficient where it counts.