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

By Chris Schisler

Last week I got 10 games right. Here are my picks for the NFL Week 3 slate.

NFL Picks: Winners are highlighted purple

Panthers @ Texans

Davis Mills, welcome to the NFL. The Panthers have looked a little good, and a little bad. They should be able to take on a rookie quarterback though. Give me Sam Darnold and the Panthers, but not too convincingly.

Chargers @ Chiefs

The Chiefs just lost in the best game I have ever seen. They’ll be out for a little vengeance against a division rival. Justin Herbert and the Chargers look better, but I don’t see them outdoing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Cardinals @ Jaguars

The Cardinals look really good offensively. Kyler Murray is playing awesome football. I don’t see how the Jaguars stop the Cardinals. I also don’t see the Jaguars putting up the points to win this one. The Jaguars are heading to a very convincing 0-3 mark.

Bears @ Browns

The Browns played around a bit with the Texans. In the end, they pulled away and you knew they were going to win it. Do the Browns have more issues than most pundits want to admit? Sure. However, the Browns have a ton of talent and they should win this game.

Washington Football Team @ Bills

Buffalo wasn’t right in their opener against the Steelers. Washington just gave up 29 points to a Giants team that isn’t great. Give me the Bills here. Josh Allen has a good day and the Bills eat up the Washington offensive line defensively.

Colts @ Titans

Carson Wentz is hurt and the Colts haven’t looked that good. The Titans woke up last week with an overtime win. I don’t have confidence in either team. The Titans are at home and they found their identity on offense last week. Give me Tennessee.

Saints @ Patriots 

Which Saints team is real? The Saints team that whooped the Packers or the Saints team that got rocked by the Panthers. The Patriots are at home. While I don’t think the Patriots have been all that tested this season and I still have doubts about their offense led by Mac Jones, they’ve looked very similar in their two outings this season. This game could go either way and Bill Belichick coaching at home is the only thing giving me the Patriots as my pick.

Falcons @ Giants 

The Giants and the Falcons are bad football teams. I don’t have confidence in either team. The Giants are at home and the Falcons are very convincingly 0-2. Give me the Giants in a game NFL RedZone doesn’t want to be stuck on too much.

Bengals @ Steelers

This will be my first time picking the Steelers this season. If this game was in Cincinnati, I’d be very tempted to pick the Bengals. The Steelers’ offense isn’t very good. The Bengals offense is under the radar strong. The defense of the Steelers will get to Joe Burrow just enough in a tough place to play. The Steelers win, but their offense will remain a problem.

Ravens @ Lions

The only chance the Lions have is if the Ravens have a complete letdown game after their big win against the Chiefs. The Lions have looked good for a couple of quarters in both games. They haven’t put a good game together yet. This Lions’ defense isn’t very good. The Packers just put up 35 on them, but that was in a slow start. Give me the Ravens to drop 42 and get the win. If the Lions score under 20, I’ll have virtually no new concerns with the Ravens.

Jets @ Broncos

Zach Wilson looked atrocious last week. The Broncos have been impressive. I’m not ready to call the Broncos one of the better teams in the AFC, but they are a class above the Jets.

Dolphins @ Raiders 

Derek Carr just sliced up the Steelers. He’s going to do that against the Dolphins. That’s essentially a given. Tua Tagovailoa is out for this game and the Raiders are at home. That’s enough for a Vegas blowout.

Buccaneers @ Rams 

This one is going to be good. I think the Rams get revenge against Brady. The Super Bowl loss to the Patriots can’t quite be avenged against Tampa Bay but I think that’s the framing of this game. Give me the Rams to win with Matthew Stafford making one more big play than Tom Brady.

Seahawks @ Vikings

The Seahawks will beat the Vikings. The Vikings can make it a shootout but Russell Wilson should come out the victor.

Packers @ 49ers

The Packers had their get-right game. I’m not sold on the 49ers. The Packers offensive line scares me because I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. Give me the Pack.

Eagles @ Cowboys 

Give me the Cowboys here. The Eagles looked like world-beaters against the Falcons and then fizzled out last week. I guess the Falcons can make anybody look good. Dak Prescott puts up too many points at home and the Cowboys win.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: What we learned week 2

NFL week three starts tonight. Let’s get it.

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Marquise Brown is set to go off for the Baltimore Ravens

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens offense is rolling and Marquise Brown has a big hand to play in that success. Brown torched the Kansas City Chiefs for six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown. Brown has started the game with 12 receptions in his first two games averaging 15.2 yards per catch.

While it’s only two games and his average output may shift up and down, take a second to see what kind of pace Brown is on. If he keeps his average output at six catches a game and 15.2 yards per reception, he’s looking at 102 grabs for 1,520 yards. That would be next-level kind of numbers. That’s a stat line reserved for a player like Stefon Diggs or DeAndre Hopkins.

Do I think Brown gets quite that high with his production? It’s a long season and the Ravens offense isn’t exactly the air-raid… I’d bet he falls short of the 1,520 yards. Mark Andrews will probably heat up. In the two games of the 2021 season, Andrews only has 77 yards. The passing game will probably develop a bit with Sammy Watkins and eventually with Rashod Bateman.

The pass distribution should even out a bit. It may not be possible for a wide receiver to lead the league in receiving yards in this offense. 1,000 yards is a viable goal though, and the way things are going, Brown should get to that mark.

Marquise Brown is feeling it and you can tell:

Still, Brown is the number one target. Lamar Jackson always wants to get Brown the ball. If Jackson is going to force anyone to be involved it’s going to be Brown. We saw the negative side of that on Sunday Night Football when Jackson threw the ball at the Chiefs triple coverage of Brown. There is no way Jackson is ever going to ignore Brown and this year Brown is getting open at an eye-opening rate.

Brown is playing with a level of confidence and toughness that he hasn’t always had. Take the Raiders game for example. There was a catch where he had to go low and get the football. It was an incredible snag that many receivers wouldn’t have secured. Last year you may not have seen Brown make that catch. It’s not an overreaction. Brown is showing signs of taking extra steps.

This is why I was glad Marquise Brown switched to his old number. It’s not a huge deal, but if it means something to Brown then it’s worth it. He was a superstar at Oklahoma. He’s been good but not great in the NFL. Anything to get him to his full level of swagger is encouraged.

The Ravens always envisioned Brown as their version of Tyreek Hill. Last season fans were expecting the big jump up in production. The hope may be starting to be realized. Nobody in a Chiefs uniform could keep up with Brown on Sunday night. Brown was wide open several times in the big win against the Chiefs.

The Bottom Line is good for Marquise Brown

It would be one thing if Sammy Watkins and Mark Andrews both had huge numbers. Against the Chiefs, no other receiver had more than 57 yards for Baltimore. Watkins had more yards against the Raiders, but Brown had the touchdown and two more receptions in the opener. Brown still has to do the heavy lifting as a pass-catcher. His situation hasn’t changed. Not yet.

When Mark Andrews does get going, and Rashod Bateman finally joins the offense in week four or five, Brown’s situation will actually change. That glowy idea of having an offense that he’s not getting all the defensive attention is coming. Much like the Ravens in general, the best is yet to come. Brown’s had good starts to the season before. Contextually this feels just as good as his first two games in 2019 and it hints at him taking the next steps he’s always been capable of.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: What we learned week 2

I said all offseason that this was going to be a big year for Marquise Brown. A 1,000-yard season with eight to 10 touchdowns seems like a possibility. That’s a very exciting opportunity.




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Ravens shock Chiefs: Good, bad and ugly

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens obviously have a lot of good to go over from their thrilling 35-36 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Ravens’ offensive line performed like a completely different group than they did against the Raiders. Alejandro Villanueva shockingly held his own, filling in for Ronnie Stanley at left tackle. Pat Mekari did a decent job on the right and there even was a Ben Cleveland sighting.

This allowed the offense to stay on the field and have some of the most important drives of the Lamar Jackson era. The Ravens picked up 31 first downs and had 481 total yards. Jackson, Ty’son Williams, Latavius Murray and, Devonta Freeman all had positive showings on the ground. Williams even got a lucky bounce, as the ball popped up and back into safety for the touchdown.

The cool thing about it is that the Ravens did it their way in a character-defining play. 251 rushing yards and 230 passing is the Greg Roman offense working the way it was intended. Marquise Brown was a game-changer. Brown is going to have a breakout year. He looked like a game-changer. The offense lived up to the moment. They lifted the team up.

The defense did just enough and made key plays: 

Odafe Oweh is the biggest bright spot defensively. Oweh forced the game-winning fumble. He got the pressure that led to the Patrick Mahomes interception. Tavon Young had a rough day but that interception was gold. Oweh was explosive off the edge and was a key component of the fourth quarter shutout.

Mahomes had 343 yards and three touchdowns. Whatever Don  Martindale did, Mahomes could move the ball. Still, Tyreek Hill registered as a statistical non-factor and the defense stepped up when it absolutely needed to. Anthony Averett and De’Shon Elliot deserve some praise today.

The biggest thing here is the heart the team had. With that, the Ravens really found themselves. When Lamar Jackson zoned in and played within himself everything became possible. 

The Bad

Tackling and flow to the football could have been better. Bryon Pringle and Travis Kelce both scored touchdowns where they had long runs after the catch for a touchdown. For the second week in a row, the Ravens gave up over 100 yards to a tight end. It’s going to be fun not having to deal with Darren Waller or Kelce the rest of the regular season.

The game started out with a pick-six. It really wasn’t a mistake from Jackson as Sammy Watkins slipped. That slip was costly and it was a rough start.

The scary thing is that the Ravens left some points on the field. There were a few drives that didn’t manifest into points that absolutely should have. Jackson threw a pass into triple coverage and was picked off in the second quarter. Jackson had an open receiver underneath and had no reason to throw that football. They should have picked up the first down. They should have scored at least three there. Two interceptions and some stalled drives (mostly because of iffy play-calls) could have cost the Ravens more dearly. Let’s be honest, the Ravens made too many mistakes against a team that doesn’t need any help.

The Ugly

The Ravens got hampered by the officials. This was one of the worst called games I’ve ever seen. The worst example was the phantom illegal man downfield that took away a two-point conversion. Thankfully, it didn’t cost the Ravens the game. It did seem like the officials were trying to help the Chiefs.

Martindale deserves credit for how the defense finished. His defense still gave up 28 points. The idea of not blitzing Patrick Mahomes didn’t work all that well. The defensive line wasn’t generating enough pressure. For most of this game, Mahomes had a very clean pocket to throw the football.

NEXT POST: Ravens win over the Chiefs: Processing all the emotions of the game

The comeback was a thing of beauty. The Ravens put themselves in a position where they had to do it the hard way. They got just enough stops, though this defense for the second straight week had some issues.




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Baltimore Ravens keys vs Chiefs: Video preview of Sunday Night Football

Chris Schisler breaks down Chiefs vs. Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have a big battle in a tough spot. With more injuries than any season other than maybe 2015 already, the Ravens have to take on the team that has repped the AFC in the Super Bowl two years in a row. It’s a powerhouse team coming to Baltimore, to take on a team with an early-season slogan of “Next man up.”

In the video, PBN lead writer Chris Shisler talks about the finale of the second NFL Sunday. What does the offense need to do? Is it all on Lamar Jackson?

Hot post: Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The psychology of the game

What does Don Martindale do with the problems in the secondary against the top passing attack in the NFL? What’s the secret key to slowing down Patrick Mahomes? In the video, all of these things are discussed.

For the writing part of our game preview, let’s take a look at three players on both sides of the ball for the Ravens.

Players to watch on the Baltimore Ravens defense

  1. Odafe Oweh: The Ravens need to win off the edges in this game. The Ravens have to be able to generate pressure without blitzing. This is a tall task for the Ravens, so thinking the big picture isn’t a bad idea. Progress from Oweh and some flashy plays could at the very least give the Ravens something to hold onto regardless of the score.
  2. Anthony Averett: There is a ton of pressure on Anthony Averett in this game. The Chiefs have a high octane offense. It’s not just about stopping Tyreek Hill. Mecole Hardman is a real handful, and this could be a tough assignment for Averett. This would have been a tough game for Marcus Peters, which magnifies the pressure on Averett.
  3. Justin Madubuike: Inside pressure wouldn’t hurt in this one. Madabuike could pressure Mahomes and make the pocket uncomfortable for him. That’s something that has been missing in the previous battles with the Chiefs.

Players not named Lamar Jackson to watch on the offense:

  1. Patrick Mekari: There isn’t much reason for optimism with Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle. Assuming Ronnie Stanley doesn’t play, Villanueva is expected to start at left tackle. Pat Mekari on the right side could offer surprisingly good play. Mekari is a solid run blocker, and he’s experienced in Greg Roman’s offense. Pass protection may not be great, but as long as it’s solid, Mekari could give the ground game a boost on the right, with the help of guard, Kevin Zeitler.
  2. Mark Andrews: You know how the Ravens don’t an answer for Travis Kelce? Let’s not pretend that the Chiefs have an answer for Mark Andrews. Jackson needs all the help he can get to, and Andrews is the obvious matchup problem for the Chiefs.
  3. Devonta Freeman: Freeman is now on the active roster. The Ravens couldn’t seem to commit to Ty’Son Williams or Latavius Murray after Monday Night Football’s debacle. Freeman could get his chance to show off. Does he have anything left in the tank? Is he any better than the other running backs? We’ll find out on Sunday evening.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens battle the Chiefs: 3 keys for the offense

Get ready for the game Baltimore. This game promises to be an emotional one, no matter what happens. The Baltimore Ravens are either looking at 0-2, or a revitalizing first win that nobody saw coming. The Purple and Black Nest will be there for you after this game. My sincere hope here is that we gave you the proper perspective for this week two game. Let’s go.


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Meet the new Ravens running back room: It’s basically Plan Z

By Chris Schisler

No more J.K. Dobbins for the Baltimore Ravens. No more Gus Edwards. A completely new running back group. Things changed in a heartbeat, didn’t they? The Ravens running back room now consists of Ty’Son Williams, Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray and, Devonta Freeman. Trenton Cannon also figures into the equation but is projected by most pundits as a special teams player. Okay Plan B-Y are essentially gone through. Here’s plan Z.

So what should we think of this make-shift group of running backs? Let’s take a real look at what we can expect from each running back. Here is the one thing going for each of them, and the one thing that works against them the most.

A look at the Ravens running backs:

Ty’Son Williams: What works for him?

What’s working for Williams is that he’s young and he’s got fresh legs. He’s the one running back who hasn’t gotten a chance to shine on the big stage. Monday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders is a big jump up in competition than the third quarter of a preseason game. Williams has a lot of competition, though he’s the only one with untapped potential. At this point in their careers, Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman can’t be workhorses for the offense.

This is essentially the Suicide Squad of running backs. These are mostly second chance running backs, who didn’t have options and are relatively expendable. Bell can potentially work his way up to stardom, he’s definitely the Blood Sport of this group (Or DeadShot, depending on which version you want to use with this analogy). The point is that in the group of cheap replacements, Williams is the cheapest. He’s on his first contract as an undrafted free agent. The Ravens can run him into the ground if they have to, and they may have to.

What works against Williams? 

The thing that works against Williams is that he’s so inexperienced. We may not know what his counterparts have left in the tank, but they are known commodities. When it comes to the little things it could be his downfall. Pass blocking, route running out of the backfield, and becoming one with this offense are all things that could potentially be hiccups for him.

Le’Veon Bell: What works for him with the Ravens?

What is working for Bell is that he’s a really good pass catcher. This is a running back that has caught 394 passes in the NFL. Do all of the running backs have the ability to be receivers out of the backfield? Sure, some more than others. Bell has a track record for doing it the best. If Bell gets back to the player he was (Or even gets 50-75% there) he’s going to be the most versatile and dynamic back on the roster.

Bell may have skipped the entire 2018 season. Bell may have been on a downward trajectory that started with a bad New York Jets team, but he was a superstar half a decade ago. The Ravens can bring him some stability and this could be the fresh start he’s needed for a while. There’s an idea going around that if anybody can get something out of Bell it’s Baltimore. I think that’s true.

What works against Bell? 

Bell’s running style is well documented and it’s not what the Ravens do. The whole stand behind the line of scrimmage and watch the blocks unfold thing isn’t going to work for the Ravens. Bell probably will adjust. The Ravens probably told him he has to. That’s something to keep an eye on. This marriage isn’t built on a perfect match but on necessity. Bell has to stop a slide down in his career. Things have been going the wrong way. Slides down the hill are hard to stop. Climbing back up is hard too, so there’s a concern here. Cautious optimism is a good thing to have will Bell.

Latavius Murray: What works for him?

The good news for Murray is that he’s put up decent numbers for a complementary running back for the most part of his career. In the last two seasons, Murray had over 600 yards and averaged over four yards per rushing attempt. Murray is a huge running back. Is he Gus “The Bus”? No. Is he someone that a linebacker really wants to tackle when there’s a full head of steam? Nope. Murray could be the best fit. He’s basically still what he’s always been. He’s a running back who can chip into a running back rotation. He didn’t look good in the preseason and the Saints asked him to take a pay cut. He’s not a star, but if the Ravens call on him, this can legitimately work out.

What works against Murray? 

What works against Murray is that he’s not overly explosive. He’s 31 years old, and the Ravens have to see how much is left in the tank. With Murray, you’re getting a player that fits with the Ravens, but the ceiling may be lower for him than Bell. The ceiling could be lower for him than Williams, who has a real chance for a breakout year.

Devonta Freeman: What works for him?

Freeman is a good pass catcher of the football and is a player that could work in the one cut-and-go offense of the Ravens. Freeman stylistically may even fit the best out of all the running backs. So what’s the catch?

What works against Freeman? 

Freeman is coming off a year with the Giants where he didn’t factor into the equation much. He only played in four games and he didn’t look great in that small sample size. Back in the day he was one of the better running backs in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons.

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens: Moving forward after Marcus Peters injury

The problem is that he’s less exciting than Bell and Williams as a pass-catching running back. On top of that, it seems like he was just signed because he was available and the Ravens needed to act quickly.


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NFL Kickoff preview: Breaking down Cowboys vs. Buccaneers

By Chris Schisler

The NFL Kickoff is here! It’s here! We made it. The sun now has my permission to come up each morning, my neighbor’s rooster even has permission to “ca-caw” today. Everything is a little bit better because the NFL is back. Let’s break down the game we’re all about to see. Do we usually just stick to Baltimore Ravens football? Yes. But, you’re watching tonight so I’m talking about the game.

Bucs Defense could write the story of NFL Kickoff

This game is going to boil down to the defensive side of the football. The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl after Tom Brady came in and legitimized their operation. Still, the best part of the Buccaneers is the defense.

The athleticism that the Tampa Bay defense is off the charts, especially at the second level of the defense. Devin White and Lavonte David can cover a lot of ground and help against the run and in pass defense. Shaq Barrett is one of the best pass rushers in the game of football. With a good secondary behind them, this defense is the calling card of the team that gets less attention than the quarterback who wears 12.

The big key for the Buccaneers is to keep everything in front of them. Without Dak Prescott the Dallas Cowboys were a sad puppy fighting wolves. Prescott is back and the Cowboys have some teeth to show again. Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup make a nice trio at the wide receiver positions, while Ezekiel Elliott is still a dangerous running back.

You know what the Cowboys want to do. They want to push the ball deep down the field. Prescott, not Elliott, has become the main ingredient in the Cowboys’ attack. The game plan for the Buccaneers is going to be incredibly similar to their game plan in the Super Bowl against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. While Prescott isn’t exactly Patrick Mahomes, he’s still arguably a top 10 passer in the NFL.

If the Buccaneers can keep things in front of them while generating pressure without sending too many extra blitzing linebackers, Dallas is going to be bottled up. That athleticism I talked about at the second level of the defense is going to be such a huge key in this battle. The linebackers ability to cover is going to be a core component of the game if Tampa Bay wins this thing.

How the Cowboys should attack Tampa Bay:

If I was Mike Mccarthy here’s what I would do with my Cowboys’ offense. I would try to give Tampa a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott. Going to a more run-oriented attack is running into the strength of the Buccaneers linebacker corps, but it’s not like the middle of the field can be off-limits for the whole offense.

Sticking to the ground game will allow the Cowboys to keep some of the pressure off Prescott in his first game back from a brutal injury last season. The Buccaneers have no interest in allowing big plays down the field – big plays down the field are going to be the lifeblood of the Cowboys’ offense – so play-action needs to be set up. The Cowboys need to trap the Buccaneers into being over-aggressive in the tackle box. That’s when Prescott can attack.

That’s when the Cowboys can get the real payoff there. It’s not about Elliott and Tony Pollard racking up 100 or more yards on the ground. It’s about sneaking a couple of shots past a defense that doesn’t give many up. If the Cowboys do run for over 100 yards, this will be a damn competitive game.

I said the whole thing boils down to defense. I meant that. The reason I have focused on the Buccaneers’ defense is that they have my trust. I know what to expect from Tampa Bay on defense. The Cowboys have to earn my trust on the defensive part of the equation. There’s no getting around the fact that the Cowboys’ defense has been absolutely terrible, and terrible for a while.

The NFL Kickoff bottom line:

I could see this game being a shootout or a close struggle in which both teams have some kinks to work out. Either way, I trust the Buccaneers’ defense to get enough stops, to get at least one more stop than  Dallas will. Probably several more stops. The Cowboys gave up 29.6 points per game last season. If the Buccaneers score just 24 in this game,

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

I think they’ll have enough. Last year, the Buccaneers averaged 30.3 points per game. I wasn’t ignoring the Buccaneers’ offense in this post. I just think we can expect the Buccaneers’ offense to have the best of the matchup against the Cowboys defense. The Buccaneers can win in multiple ways, the Cowboys just need their offense to do too much of the heavy lifting to expect a Dallas win. Happy NFL Kickoff guys and gals.

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Baltimore Ravens 53 man roster: Key observations on cut day

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have trimmed their roster to 53 players. While the Ravens technically have reached their final round of roster cuts, there is nothing final about this 53 man roster. Several players will be going to Injured reserve tomorrow and a couple of players or even a handful could come back. The practice squad is another avenue for technically keeping cut and waived players.

There’s nothing horribly shocking about the 53 man roster that Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh have put on display today. The biggest surprise is that Miles Boykin survived roster cuts. Boykin, who was basically a non-factor in training camp due to injury could be heading for IR. One way or another the Ravens aren’t giving up on the 6’4″ receiver just yet.

It was debatable what the Ravens would do at inside linebacker. The Ravens chose to keep Kristian Welch. It’s still one of the thinnest position groups, though having a fourth inside linebacker means that Ravens don’t have to schematically and strategically make up for just having three interior linebackers.

Were there several position groups the Ravens could have gone a different way with? Sure. Were there any decisions that were big surprises? No. The Ravens cut Pernell McPhee. That almost counts as a big surprise, though it seems likely that he’ll end up back on the roster for the regular season.

Our roster projection at PBN came out before the Shaun Wade trade and the J.K. Dobbins injury. We still got 49 spots on the 53 man roster right. The main point is that the Ravens had a very defined group of players we knew mattered coming into training camp. Some players scratched their way onto the team during camp and preseason action, but Baltimore had less to figure out than a lot of teams.

9 offensive linemen + 11 defensive backs = Correct priorities

The Ravens knew what they absolutely needed when it came to depth. The Baltimore Ravens kept a high number of offensive linemen and defensive backs. This makes sense because of the importance of these position groups and the overall competition at these positions.

The starting left guard job is still arguably up for grabs. At the moment it looks like the nod is going to Ben Powers, though Ben Cleveland could end up with the job. The depth on the offensive line is strong. Tyre Phillips and Pat Mekari can play multiple positions. The tackle depth is a little shakey, however the number of viable interior linemen they have is truly impressive.

This preseason it was thought that the last defensive back spot could be a battle between Geno Stone and Ar’Darius Washington. Both made the 53 man roster. Each of the young safeties offer value and, keeping both players is a refreshing commitment to the backend of the defense. Both players should be able to chip in on special teams and offer more range than the starting safeties. Sub-packages have options in Baltimore.

Whether or not this is the year that Tavon Young finally stays healthy, cornerback is the strength of the roster. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters remain the best duo in the NFL. Jimmy Smith is a very trusted veteran in Don Martindale’s defense. Anthony Averett has grown up and become a solid corner. Chris Westry has very sound cover skills that round out the group. Ideally, the team stays healthy at their best position, though they clearly have a lot of good options.

The offensive line needs to be supported by numbers and competition. The defensive backs are where the Ravens have the most surplus talent. Baltimore chose to keep that surplus as strong as possible.

The defensive line is the only questionably thin area on the Baltimore Ravens roster:

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t keep Aaron Crawford or Justin Ellis. This leaves the Ravens with only five defensive linemen on the roster. Brandon Williams is 32 years old and Calais Campbell turns 35 tomorrow (HAPPY BIRTHDAY Calais). Justin Madubiuke and Broderick Washington are young players but five players are thin even for a 3-4 defense. This is why it wouldn’t be shocking if Justin Ellis came back to the team after some roster juggling.

The pass defense has been prioritized with this 53 man roster. The Ravens didn’t keep Pernell McPhee who is strongest against the run and is one of their best defenders against the run. Justin Ellis is a notable cut for sure, though he didn’t contribute much as somebody who could push the pocket. One thing is for sure, young Ravens defensive players are going to have to do a lot this year.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 5 preseason performers

There’s plenty more coverage headed your way on the Ravens 53 man roster. These are the key initial thoughts and observations on the roster as it stands after cut day.



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J.K. Dobbins out for the year: How the Ravens move forward

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens had one of the worst possible things happen in their preseason game against the Washington Football Team. They lost their star running back J.K. Dobbins for the season. According to reports, Dobbins tore his ACL and won’t play in the 2021 season. How do the Baltimore Ravens move forward? Let’s dive into that.

This obviously makes Gus Edwards the top running back in Baltimore. An outside signing isn’t out of the question. Todd Gurley talked to the Ravens this offseason. Frank Gore hasn’t retired yet and is available. With the regular season coming in just a couple of weeks, the timing for a move like this isn’t ideal.

The most likely scenario is that the Baltimore Ravens roll with the running backs on their roster. This probably means that on the 53 man roster, Gus Edwards, Ty’Son Williams, and Justice Hill will make up the running back spot. Dobbins is hard to replace, though there isn’t suddenly room for a fourth running back on the 53 man roster.

The Ravens didn’t just have two unproven running backs play amazing football to sign an older and staler player on a knee-jerk reaction. The roster is loaded but the Ravens should absolutely get Nate McCrary on the practice squad. He could be called up if needed. The running back position as a whole got a little less proven, but it’s not a completely disassembled unit.

Edwards is in a very interesting position. On one hand, he’s one of the most consistent running backs the Baltimore offense has ever had. Edwards has had three straight seasons over 700 yards. On the other hand, Edwards has never been the Jamal Lewis or the Ray Rice type of player. He’s been the compliment of the Ravens run game more than he’s been the bell cow. Edwards is looking at a bigger role.

Dobbins averaged six yards per carry in his rookie season. If Dobbins stayed healthy he more than likely would have had over 1,000 yards on the ground. Last year, Dobbins, Edwards and, Jackson totaled 2,533 total yards. To stay on track Edwards needs to have his best year ever and at least flirt with the 1,000-yard mark.

As good as Ty’Son Williams has looked in the preseason, the Ravens running back group took a huge hit. The Ravens lost one of the best one-two punches in the NFL. Whether the number two back becomes Williams or Justice Hill, it won’t pack the same dynamic. Edwards’s role was often to be the closer at the end of the game, who would run without mercy against a tired defense. Now he’s the starting pitcher.

One of the major concerns of training camp was how severely the injuries prevented the offense from gelling. Should Lamar Jackson and the now-injured Dobbins have been playing in the final preseason game? No. The motivation to play them though was to get as much of the starting offense rolling together as the Ravens could.

The Dobbins injury compounds the chemistry problem. The purple and black now have to go into the preseason without working out the kinks in a game with their real starting offense. They have to figure out the new rotation at running back and establish a new pecking order in the backfield.

The Ravens should still be one of the best running football teams. They even have a chance to remain the top running football operation in the NFL. Lamar Jackson will always boost the ground game. He does this not only by producing on the ground but by making the defense mindful that he can produce on the ground.

The Ravens aren’t going to go from being one of the best running teams in the history of football (maybe even the best) to struggling on the ground. The ground game should still be the core competency of this offense. The question isn’t even how many yards this will shave off their total production running the football, but how will it impact the crazy efficiency of the unit on the ground.

Jackson averaged 6.3 yards per rushing attempt last season. Dobbins averaged an even six. Edwards picked up five yards a pop. At the end of the year, if the Ravens don’t have their three top runners picking up five or more yards per attempt, it takes a bit of the bite out of the strength of the offense.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens 3 Big Questions About the Secondary

The Dobbins injury doesn’t sink the Ravens. It is however completely deflating to lose a potential superstar breakout year from a young running back. The Ravens lost star power and it’s awfully early to be turning to the next-man-up mentality. One way or another the Ravens needed to see gains from their passing attack in 2021. This surely reinforces that. If the Ravens don’t add an outside running back it shows you that they are still confident in their ability to be a dominant team running the football.


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Baltimore Ravens: Ty’Son Williams deserves a roster spot

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have had no position battle more compelling than the battle at running back. While J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were mostly out of the spotlight, Ty’Son Williams and Nate McCrary have made a strong push for Justice Hill‘s job.

Is it Justice Hill’s job?

Justice Hill was the presumed running back number three. He was a fourth-round draft pick and he’s competing against two undrafted free agents. Hill may have entered training camp as the favorite for the third running back spot, but the competition has heated up.

Hill had 59 rushing attempts in his rookie season averaging just 3.9 yards a pop. In 2020, Hill only had 12 rushing attempts. The Ravens, by the way, are the most committed football team to the ground game. Hill hasn’t made much of an impression in the backfield. Assuming the job was his no matter what is a little foolish.

The job is certainly in fair play. Speaking of play, the Ravens have two running backs who are performing at a high level. Hill has reportedly been dealing with an ankle injury. Preseason games aren’t the full story, in fact, the practices probably tell a larger portion of the story. Preseason games are however the window we have for analyzing the players in a game setting. Being mindful that we can’t put too much stock in the preseason to be fair and realistic, the eye test has spoken. Ty’Son Williams has aced it.

Ty’Son Williams has traits:

Going into the preseason I had 10 preseason predictions. One of these predictions is that Nate McCrary would make a serious push for the third running back spot. I picked the right position battle but backed the wrong back. McCrary has had some impressive moments. Statistically, he’s right there with Williams. The traits Williams has put on display should give him the edge.

The first thing the Ravens need from a running back behind Dobbins and Edwards is the ability to catch the football out of the backfield. This trait is why the Ravens flirted with the idea of bringing in Todd Gurley this offseason. Williams has caught seven passes this preseason for 39 yards. He’s shown himself to be a natural hands catcher, it’s not awkward. He checks the box here, even if it’s not the main aspect of his game.

Williams has great leg strength and the ability to run through a crowded tackle box. His contact balance is almost on a Gus the Bus level of impressiveness. It’s hard to bring Williams down and he always fights for a couple of extra yards. Stylistically, Williams could be another bowling ball the Ravens use to tire out defenses. Edwards packs a little more thickness and weight, but they’re both freight trains.

The Baltimore Ravens play that showed it all:

Williams’s touchdown run against the Panthers showed everything. It’s one play that makes the whole argument. Five Panthers had a chance to take Williams down. Foster Sewell pulled on the play and got just enough of a Panthers linebacker. Williams ran behind the block he got to get to the second level. Vision and awareness made this run possible.

A Panthers’ safety failed to square up on Williams. Williams showed just enough shake to throw. The defender took a bad angle and hit Williams on the side. Williams brushed it off like it was nothing, for a lot of running backs that would have been just a seven-yard gain at that point. Then Williams managed to stave off a couple of shoestring tackle attempts. He started falling almost five yards before the goal line. It took balance, core strength, and determination to get in the end zone.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Projecting 53 man roster after 2 preseason games

Williams topped off his second impressive performance with a run that was the best possible pitch for a roster spot. The eye test really works in his favor. He’s got traits, he’s popped onto the scene and if the Ravens are smart he’s not going anywhere. He should be your running back number three.


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Baltimore Ravens LB L.J. Fort out for the year: 3 big things

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens got some bad news on the injury front out of their preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. According to reports, L.J. Fort tore his ACL and will be out for the entire 2021 season. How big of a deal is this for the Ravens? What do they do now? How does this affect the 53 man roster? Let’s break this down component of the story at a time.

1. How big of an injury is this for the Ravens?

In the big picture, this injury shouldn’t derail the Baltimore defense. Fort was a rotational player for the Ravens. He was a solid veteran linebacker, but he wasn’t projected to be a starter this season. Fort will be missed. It’s not a little deal, it’s just not a dealbreaker for the Ravens’ season.

Defensively, the Ravens lose some veteran leadership and are down to just three inside linebackers that are locked in for the 53 man roster. The Ravens have a young linebacker trio made up of Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, and Chris Board. For a 3-4 base defense that uses two inside linebackers three is playing it tight. To have a proper rotation of inside linebackers, another player is probably needed. We’ll get to the aftermath in the next part.

The defense loses a linebacker that had 35 solo tackles last year and 53 total tackles. Board is the senior member of the position group as an undrafted free agent from 2018. Queen and Harrison were 2020 NFL Draft selections of Eric DeCosta and the Ravens. The good news for the Ravens is that the preseason has given a very encouraging sample of the growth Queen and Harrison have made going into their second season.

Fort is also a loss on special teams. The Ravens are going to have to go with the next man up on that front. Losing Fort isn’t ideal. Let’s move on to what the Ravens should do now.

2. What do the Baltimore Ravens do now?

The Baltimore Ravens can go about this in a few different ways. It really depends on how many linebackers they absolutely need on the roster. If replacing L.J. Fort is a necessity to the coaching staff, Kristian Welch becomes the next man. He could go from the roster bubble to the fourth linebacker on the 53 man roster.

The Ravens could also replace Fort with a signing. When the Ravens signed Fort, they got a lot more from him than a lot of pundits thought they would. The Ravens are good at finding role players from free agency. One popular option is signing Patrick Onwuasor, a former Ravens linebacker. Onwuasor would come in with the advantage of knowing how to fit in Don Martindale’s defense. They may not go with Onwuasor, yet they have to at least consider it.

Don’t rule out the idea of the Ravens going into the regular season with just three inside linebackers. Queen isn’t going to come off the field much, he’s a three-down linebacker. The Ravens will spend plenty of time in sub-packages with more defensive backs on the field. The depth the Ravens have at safety could allow the purple and black to have what equates to an extra linebacker on the field. This route maximizes the speed and range of the second level of the defense.

3. How does this affect the 53 man roster?

The Ravens are a team with a ton of surplus talent on the defense. Specifically, the Ravens have a lot of defensive backs. Just like this could motivate the Ravens to keep an extra linebacker it could also give the Ravens to keep an extra safety. Let’s do an exercise here. Out of the following players who do you want to cut? Geno Stone, Nigel Warrior, Ar’Darius Washington, and Anthony Levine Sr. ? Exactly. They all have a case for a job in the regular season and parting with any of them is tough.

Defensive back is not the only position where a bubble player could theoretically benefit from Fort’s injury. The Ravens have good reason to stockpile offensive linemen. The Ravens have seen the injury bug hit their offensive line fairly hard this August. Players like Ben Bredeson and Trystan Colon could be on the roster bubble. The Ravens ideally use Tyre Philips as the swing tackle. Ben Cleveland has missed some time and having two more interior linemen who can play multiple positions isn’t a bad idea.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Projecting 53 man roster after 2 preseason games

It really boils down to whether or not the Ravens want four inside linebackers and stick to that number. The Ravens’ lack of depth at the position group may have been intentional. Fort was playing late in preseason games for the purpose of getting the defense through the exhibition games. Staying slim at inside linebacker allows the Ravens more spots elsewhere.

Martindale can work around this with the extra depth at defensive back. It’s not the only option on the menu, though it allows the Baltimore Ravens to keep their 53 best players on the roster.