Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Odafe Oweh’s ability is exciting to see on the field

By Chris Schisler

When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman with the 27th pick, it felt for many Ravens fans like a monumental moment. When the Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh, it was more of a moment of cautious optimism. Oweh is a pick that grew on fans and pundits over the offseason and was always a boom or bust kind of a pick.

One preseason game in and Oweh’s athleticism and competence against the run stands out as one of the top two or three things to be excited about at Baltimore Ravens training camp. Officially, Oweh walked away with just one tackle, though he showed a ton of positives against the New Orleans Saints.

Oweh’s athleticism makes him a very versatile player. This versatility was even used on special teams. Oweh was used as a gunner on the punt team, a role typically reserved for wide receivers and defensive backs. Does this seem like something Oweh will do a lot? No. The idea though that a 6-5 outside linebacker would even be asked to do that is an eye-opener.

It almost reminds me of Adalius Thomas, a legendary outside linebacker from the Ravens’ past. Thomas had a different build, but he was the kind of outside linebacker who the Ravens would be able to put just about anywhere on their defensive front. For first impressions of a Baltimore first-round pick, being compared to Thomas is about as good as it gets. Other pundits have drawn the comparison as well including WNST’s Luke Jones. 

Realistic expectations with obvious excitement:

Oweh almost had a sack in the game against the Saints. Brandon Stephens (another rookie to be excited about) ended up with the sack, Oweh made it happen with his pressure. Oweh is fast. He’s almost got defensive back speed. Oweh’s upside was always built on his traits. If nothing else, those traits have been showing early in his Baltimore Ravens career.

It’s important to temper Oweh’s expectations for the time being. He still has to learn how to rush the passer in the NFL. His pass-rushing repertoire will improve. The good news is that he’ll be able to stay on the field for a high snap count because he’s not a liability against the run. Unlike Yannick Ngakoue, who didn’t do much for run defense, Oweh’s fundamentally sound and effective at that part of the job.

There will be tackles that Oweh can’t get past. He has to learn to convert that speed into power. Oweh has to learn to play against tackles who are used to getting in front of edge rushers every bit as athletic as he is.

That’s why Oweh’s production as a pass rusher is likely to come in spurts rather than be a consistent push upward. There will be games where he outmatches the offensive tackle trying to block him. There will also be games where he runs into a pro’s pro and speed and reach aren’t enough on their own. With the understanding that Oweh isn’t a fully developed player, the buzz about his future is completely merited.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

The long-term plan at outside linebacker is at the very least set in motion. Oweh hopefully grows into the Terrell Suggs role, while Daelin Hayes becomes the next Jarett Johnson. Tyus Bowser becomes the versatile Matt Judon-like player. For several years the outside linebacker position could be incredibly fruitful for the Baltimore Ravens while being relatively inexpensive because of drafted and then homegrown talent.

At the moment, Justin Houston brings legitimacy to the position group. He’s the leader and he should generate the most pass rush in the 2021 season. We’ll see impressive bursts from Oweh as a rookie, and the signs that a magical career could be possible.

NEXT POST: Odafe Oweh: Rookie scouting report for Ravens 1st round pick

Oweh could be an incredible player for the Ravens. His performance in training camp and in the first preseason game has me thinking he’s on the right track. When the Ravens take on the Carolina Panthers in the second preseason game, it will be interesting to see what Oweh does.

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

Rashod Bateman: Baltimore Ravens rookie scouting report

By Chris Schisler

Editor note: A correction was made to this post..

Today we’re going to look at the Ravens’ first-round pick Rashod Bateman. This will be a breakdown of what his game is all about and why the Ravens Flock should be excited. Before we get into the scouting report, let’s talk about the production Bateman put up at Minnesota.

In his freshman year, Bateman had 704 yards and six touchdowns on 51 receptions. It was in the 2019 season, however, when Bateman became a first-round draft pick. He had 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bateman saw nine more receptions boost his numbers that much. It tells you a lot.

The 2020 season was a weird one. He only played in five games and he dealt with a Covid-19 impacted season. He had 36 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns. My thought is that we can kind of throw the 2020 season out. Megan Ryan of the Star Tribune wrote a very good article about Bateman and what he went through in the 2020 season. It’s worth a read and it talks about Bateman’s personal battle with Covid-19 and the context around his final year with the Golden Gophers.

Now let’s get to the scouting report shall we?

Game notebook: Rashod Bateman vs. Penn State (2019)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWKhaRyXJSvt4m2sizsSNsA

Rashod Bateman went off in this game. He had seven catches for 203 yards. That makes this a great showcase game for the rookie wide receiver. This was just one of his five games over 100 yards so there’s a lot of them to choose from.

Bateman is a 6-0 receiver but he almost looks a little lanky. He has a very good stance and he’s smooth out of it and into his route. He has long graceful strides and he gets where he wants to go quickly. Route running is a little inconsistent with Bateman. He’s not always a technician in this department and his routes can be a little too rounded. It’s not a big knock, but it’s something to point out.

Bateman has excellent concentration. It’s a strength of his game. Let’s talk about that touchdown. The safety had to get all the way over to make the play and he nearly did. The Minnesota quarterback put the ball slightly behind Bateman.

The adjustment to make the catch and take off was nice, the razor focus despite the safety being in his sightline was fantastic. A good throw on the rope would have made this easy. Instead, Bateman just made it look like it was.

Amazing Athlete:

Bateman has an explosive burst that’s hard to compare. He’s not Marquise Brown fast but he’s got that kind of dynamic play-making. I keep going back to the word smooth. The athletes who move like this so naturally are the ones teams are looking for. He’s a very fluid and natural athlete.

He has excellent body control. Bateman can make catches at tough angles. He can toe-tap his feet near the sideline. His catch radius is impressive and his body control should make the Ravens quite happy.

Bateman can deal with physical cornerbacks and he doesn’t seem impacted by corners who give him little space to work with. Bateman is the alpha and he’s going to win 50/50 balls and cause a lot of pass interference penalties.

Other than having work to do as a route runner and one example of letting the ball get into his body (but catching it anyway) there’s nothing to complain about here. Bateman looks the part of a star.

Game Notebook: Rashod Bateman vs. Auburn (2019)

One thing I noticed in this game was that Bateman is a tough wide receiver. He really fits into what the Ravens have always wanted at the position. He’s a willing blocker and he’s a player that is all in. This isn’t a selfish player, but at Minnesota, he was the player who hogged up the spotlight.

There was one play in this game that really stood out. Bateman caught a screen pass and nearly took it to the house. He weaved through traffic like a running back once he had the ball. Tackling Bateman isn’t fun for defensive backs. Stylistically he has some Anquan Boldin in him.

In this tape, though we see a lot of the same things we saw against Penn State. Bateman has all the tools to be great. I’m not going to keep harping on about the same traits. You get it, this is just to show that his game is consistent and to give you another look. Bateman should be able to be productive right away in the NFL. He’s got things you can’t coach and he’s tough as nails.

NEXT POST: Odafe Oweh: Rookie scouting report for Ravens 1st round pick

Keep checking out the Purple and Black Nest. We have a ton of content already up. We have a ton of in depth analysis and some fun looking down memory lane with Ravens history.

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

Odafe Oweh: Rookie scouting report for Ravens 1st round pick

By Chris Schisler

Odafe Oweh is fun to watch, you have to give him that. The Baltimore Ravens drafted Oweh with the 31st overall pick. The first part of the Orlando Brown Jr. trade went to the defense. We’ll have to wait and see what Oweh can bring to the table on an NFL football field. While we wait and melt through the football-less days we do have a clear understanding of the player Oweh was at the collegiate level.

The Penn State edge rusher played mostly with his hand in the green grass of Happy Valley. There is some versatility here, but he’s truly a player who fits on the outside of the defensive line. He’s explosive and his frame is thicker than you’d expect for how explosive he is.

Prospect Notebook: Odafe Oweh Vs. Ohio State (2020)

I went back and re-watched some tape on Oweh this afternoon, so let me get this down in ink, while it’s fresh. I took a look at his snaps from the 2020 game against Ohio State. One thing that stands out is how strong and disciplined he is against the run. Oweh is very aware of what’s going on in the play. He wants to pin his ears back and wreak havoc, but he’s a balanced player.

Against the zone-read option, his discipline was perfect. He didn’t over-commit to the quarterback or the running back. He forced a decision by splitting the difference and he got in on the tackle. There were several occasions where Oweh overpowered the offensive tackle in front of him.

This was a game in which the box score probably wouldn’t impress you that much, He made an impact. On a tough day at the office for the Nittany Lions, Oweh had a respectable showing. One play, on a stunt, he looped in and attacked the A gap The stunt worked and Fields was flushed out of the pocket. With the help of a teammate, Fields was forced to take his eyes off the receivers down the field and scramble for a couple of yards.

There are some things to work on that you can point out from this tape. Oweh needs to learn to finish the play with his shoulder pads. This goes for quarterbacks and running backs alike. Oweh sometimes plays too upright. He needs to be more of a leverage seeker. There are some times he’s going to get pushed out of the play. Overall, enough positives to get me excited.

Prospect Notebook: Odafe Oweh Vs. Nebraska (2020)

This wasn’t a highlight reel, but Oweh’s game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers feels like one. There were no sacks, but there were a ton of pressures and hits in the backfield. Oweh clobbered the quarterback and forced an interception for one of his teammates (3:47 mark in the video). Oweh had nine tackles but he lived in the backfield.

This game is a great example of Oweh’s quickness. Oweh was simply a better athlete than the players trying to block him. Oweh’s got a smooth long stride and his wingspan is a weapon. He’s raw, I grant you that. My question is what is the AFC North going to do when this guy gets cooking? The Ravens haven’t had a player with these kinds of traits in a while.

You’re seeing some consistent characteristics of his game here. He has a good first step. He loves to work inside the tackle. This is probably because his 0-60 burst being so sharp and his traits allow him to get inside the tackle’s business. Sometimes he throws arms, but when he breaks down and runs through the tackle he’s a punishing defender. He’s disciplined and it seems like he’s all over the place.

NEXT POST: Ravens offensive line facelift is the key in 2021

Don’t get too excited, but be into this. He’s going to show flashes. He’s going to have some rookie bumps in the road. With reasonable expectations Oweh can have a successful 2021 season. Oweh has a chance to be great, right now the Ravens just have to hope for solid play with flashes of brilliance.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Ravens Offensive Line Facelift Key to 2021 Success

By: Ashley Anderson

It is no secret the Baltimore Ravens struggled in their passing attack during the 2020 season. After a prolific 2019, they took a big step backward, finishing dead last in the NFL in pass attempts and yards. Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic played a role, but there were internal issues as well. Following a brutal loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, General Manager Eric DeCosta knew he had his work cut out for him, and it did not take long for him to make a move.

Hours before the official start of free agency, the Ravens inked former New York Giants guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year, $22 million deal. For Baltimore, Zeitler perfectly fits their “right player, right price” mentality, as he does not count against the compensatory pick formula after being cut by the Giants.

The former first-round pick is an instant upgrade over the pairing of Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker who were part of the patchwork 2020 offensive line. Fans were certainly excited to see their franchise quarterback get some better protection, however, many still had one thing on their mind: a big-name wide receiver.

To the fans’ dismay, things instead got eerily quiet in Baltimore after Zeitler came on board. As one major wideout after another popped in for a visit only to sign elsewhere, Ravens Flock became restless. DeCosta finally addressed their concerns (sort-of) by signing former Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins to a one-year, $6 million contract.

The oft-injured wideout was a bit of a consolation prize to those who had their sites set on Allen Robinson or Kenny Golladay, but DeCosta worked his magic in the NFL Draft, nabbing Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman in round one and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace in round four. Still, some fans are adamant the Ravens should pursue Julio Jones.

Missing the Point

At this point, those fans are failing to see the bigger picture. Having a star receiver is great, but not even the best quarterbacks of all time can complete passes while laying on their backs. Look no further than Super Bowl LV where Patrick Mahomes spent so much time running for his life that the Chiefs’ high-powered offense was held to just nine points. Games are won and lost in the trenches, which is why the upgraded offensive line is actually what will propel the Ravens to success in 2021.

Related Post: How to scout offensive linemen for the NFL Draft

DeCosta prioritized the offensive line from the word go this off-season, and he made some bold moves to bolster the unit. Adding Zeitler was the first piece of the puzzle, then DeCosta executed a trade that sent Pro Bowl right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs. Kansas City is known to be a formidable foe to the Ravens, leaving some pundits scratching their heads as to why Baltimore would send an important, young player to a rival. However, DeCosta was able to deal an unhappy player, who already made it clear he wanted out, for significantly more capital than the comp pick Brown Jr. would have represented had he left in free agency.

The NFL Draft saw Baltimore come away with a steal in Georgia guard Ben Cleveland. Head Coach John Harbaugh is so high on the kid that he pleaded with DeCosta to move up and select him. Having stood pat, the Ravens still got their guy who figures to win the starting left guard job. As a result, last year’s starting left guard, Bradley Bozeman, will shift back over to his natural center position. A two-year starter and captain at Alabama, Bozeman will look to eliminate the snap issues that plagued the Ravens last year, particularly in the playoffs.

As for the gaping hole at right tackle, DeCosta patiently waited until after the Draft to lure former Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva to Baltimore. Locking Villanueva into a $14 million deal over two years allows the Ravens to rely on a savvy veteran while looking to develop Phillips for the future. All-in-all, only left tackle Ronnie Stanley figures to remain in his role from last season.

Ravens offensive line 2021 Outlook

At this point, the projected offensive line from left to right is Stanley, Cleveland, Bozeman, Zeitler, and Villanueva. In pounds, that is 315, 357, 325, 315, and 277, for a total of 1,589. In other words, the Ravens now have a massive wall in front of Lamar Jackson to help keep him upright and healthy. Not only should this help improve the passing game, it should also allow Baltimore to continue dominating the ground game for which they are so well known.

Ravens bottom line:

A top free agent wide receiver may have been the shiny new toy Ravens fans wanted, but the fleet of Hummers they got instead will prove more valuable. Baltimore has always emphasized their rushing attack, and that was not going to change for the sake of adding a player like Robinson or Jones.

NEXT POST: 3 forgotten Ravens of the month vol 1.

Thanks to masterful drafting by Eric DeCosta and Co., the cupboard is hardly bare as far as receiving weapons go. Now, Jackson can focus on taking the next step in his development rather than protecting himself from opposing defenders. DeCosta did all of this on team-friendly, low-cost deals, and the future is bright in Charm City.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Tylan Wallace: Realistic Expectations for his rookie season

By Chris Schisler

Tylan Wallace was a steal where the Baltimore Ravens got him in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens took him with the 131st overall pick in the fourth round. While there is a reason for excitement, let’s look at realistic expectations for the rookie from Oklahoma State.

First, we have to look into the situation he’s plopped into.

Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins are known quantities in the NFL. They won’t struggle to find playing time. Rashod Bateman is a first-round pick so the Ravens are going to get him involved to maximize the investment.

Wallace may be joining the team with the lowest passing yards total in the 2021 season, but he’s actually not joining a dehydrated and lifeless receiving group. He’s now in the middle of the pack in a fresh new unit.

Another thing to remember is the rookie tax, John Harbaugh’s favorite way of being wrong. If you’re not a first-round pick, you have to be ready when your name is called and you might be listening for it for a while.

Harbaugh started Orlando Brown Jr. much later in his rookie season than he should have. Ben Powers had to wait well into his second season for a real chance. Devin Duvernay got a little action last season but let’s not pretend like James Proche got a smidge of a chance to shine.

Wallace can play any of the wide receiver positions. Still, you have to think that Brown, Watkins and, Bateman will take the majority of snaps on the outside. The Ravens aren’t typically without a tight end on the field, so Wallace is fighting with Duvernay and Proche (Maybe Miles Boykin) for snaps as a slot receiver.

Tylan Wallace production looks like this:

If the Ravens are looking to keep Duvernay fresh for kick and punt returns, Wallace could see more snaps. It’s not like Duvernay isn’t part of the plan on offense though. If everyone at wide receiver stays healthy, Wallace could struggle to get on the field a lot.

Wallace is probably looking somewhere in the ballpark of Duvernay’s production last season. Wallace getting more than 20 receptions would be a surprise.

Wallace has two positives though. First, he has time to develop. Wallace has a chance to be one of the better players the Ravens have drafted at the position. Secondly, punt return skills could help his cause in 2021. The Ravens want to keep Duvernay on kickoff returns one way or another though.

Remember that the Ravens are stacking the wide receiver position not just for the moment at hand, but for the next handful of years.

The Ravens have two more years out of Marquise Brown should they pick up his fifth-year option. Watkins isn’t a long-term play. The Ravens seemingly get us excited about Miles Boykin every year. Do you really think he’s getting another contract out of the Ravens? I don’t. Bateman and Wallace could be the two main receivers not too far into the future.

The Bottom Line:

All the Ravens need out of Wallace in the 2021 season is to look the part. He needs to make plays when he has a chance. He needs to get us excited for the coming seasons and shat he can deliver.

If every once in a while he makes a contested-catch (His M.O. at Oklahoma State) or scampers down the field after a catch, the lights are on and Wallace is home. That’s all the Ravens need. If they get more in 2021, it will be gravy.

NEXT POST: 2021 Training camp battles for the Ravens

The Ravens should be excited about Wallace. They just aren’t getting a big year from him in his rookie season. Situation more than talent dictates that. Put him down for 20 receptions and somewhere around 300 yards. Put in some touchdowns too. If Jackson found touchdowns for Seth Roberts and Miles Boykin, he will find Wallace some scores too.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Ask the Nest: Ravens fans want to know about the front 7

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have amazing fans, and the Nest already has a great community growing like a beautiful garden. I am beyond thankful for the fact that we can have this Q&A session, as they are my favorite posts to write. We have a few regulars that have followed me over to the nest. Life as they say is good.

@cancelpennies asks: When I read about Daelin Hayes, I get flashbacks to Adalius Thomas, a very versatile, utility linebacker that can line up at multiple positions and cover a variety of assignments. Do you agree? What role can he play this year for the Ravens?

Answer: When Jaylon Ferguson came out of Louisiana Tech, he was a flashy prospect but we knew he was raw. With Daelin Hayes, there isn’t a ton of flash, but he’s ready to rock. Hayes is going to get a lot of playing time as a rookie. I could see him being used much like Tyus Bowser and Matt Judon have been in the past. Neither of those players were double digit sack guys, but contributed as actual linebackers, not just pass rushers.

I think Adalius Thomas is a high bar to reach for with Hayes. I don’t think he has that kind of versatility. He’s versatile but Thomas made a Swiss army knife jealous. I think Hayes will earn time on the field as a run-stopper. It would surprise me if he had five sacks in his first season, but I could see him getting six to eight of them per year, once he gets his NFL rhythm.

Hayes only had nine sacks in four years with the Fighting Irish. In a world where we judge edge rushers by sacks alone, he was a more productive player than it looks like. According to Sports-reference.com he had 20.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, and 97 total tackles in his Notre Dame career.

Hayes is a strong-side outside linebacker who will get involved in the run game. He can drop back in coverage, but you’re not going to ask him to do that a ton. He’s a force on the edge who doesn’t need to have his hand in the dirt and can play in the second level. He’s a linebacker, not a defensive end, essentially.

A batch of questions from one Ravens fan:

@Ravensfan86 was really ready for this. They asked a few questions.

  1. Will the defensive lineman Williams, Campbell, Wolfe hold up for the season? Should they all be on a snap count? If so, what should it be?

Answer: That is an awesome question. The reason this is such a good question is because last season this was a big issue for the Ravens. Calais Campbell probably doesn’t need to be on a snap count, but you don’t want to overdo it with a defensive linemen in his 30’s. If it weren’t for injury last season, Campbell could have had a much bigger season. One of the more underrated problems of the 2020 season was how much Campbell was dealing with lingering affects of injury.

Williams won’t be on a snap count, because he’ll get situational playing time. On running downs, you can bet he’ll be on the field for the most part. If Don Martindale needs an extra pass rusher or an extra defensive back, he knows Williams isn’t going to get much pass rush. The substitution almost makes itself. Williams usually misses a game or two a season. Taxing his body less in a good idea because he’s the heart of the run defense.

Wolfe was the rock for the Ravens defensive line last year. If he stays healthy, he’s the defensive lineman the Ravens may work the most.

2. What is your opinion of the defensive line backups? I see Madubuike being a star taking the 2nd year leap. I like Broderick Washington. He did a good job in rotation. Ellis is okay. But not for a long string of snaps. Especially if we are trailing in the 4th quarter.

Answer: Personally, I can’t get enough Madubuike. I need more Madubuike progress in 2021 because I think he’s going to be a really good defensive lineman for the Ravens. Madubuike is a rock solid athlete. He wins off a good first step at a fairly high rate for such a young player. I think you are right on the money on his second year leap. Give him six sacks and a solid overall season as my bold prediction.

Washington is solid. I can’t seem to get to excited about him. He has the potential to be a Kelly Gregg like player, though I haven’t seen enough of the positives yet. He’s a decent Brandon Williams understudy who will get some good playing time. I’m worried that his ceiling is low because he’s not all that explosive, but his floor isn’t that bad.

Ellis is okay, you worded that appropriately. The defensive line boils down to the progress of Madabuike and whether or not Campbell can have a more productive, healthy season. What we know is that the top three guys are good, with a chance of having great production. The defensive line isn’t a top three strength, but it also isn’t a weakness for the Ravens.

3. What current free agent would make the most sense to sign?

The obvious answer here is Justin Houston. Houston is still a free agent. If you told me that he would last this long after the draft on the market, I wouldn’t have believed you. The only reason he is available is all about the price. If the Ravens can work out a deal that gets him here that they can swing with their tight cap space this will eventually get done. The longer Houston waits to sign, the less picky he will be able to be. That’s just something to think about.

Melvin Ingram is still available, depending on what he has left in the tank after a season ending injury last year with the Los Angeles Chargers. The same can be said about the free agent from the Cleveland Browns, Olivier Vernon. Houston is the obvious answer. In an unpopular opinion, let me say that if DeCosta can’t get Houston, the team should just go with what they have.

Last Call Ravens fans:

@RavenManiac17 asks: What impact do you see Keith Williams and Tee Martin having on our receivers and passing game this season?

Answer: I answered a very similar question in the last Ask The Nest. That being said, there is more digging into this that can be done. Last time I talked about how the offense would attack more of the field, and how the receivers would be coached to be tougher. Let’s take this a different angle.

The first thing you have to no is that it doesn’t matter who the passing game coordinator is in title. Keith Williams holds that job, but he’s going to work with Tee Martin to bring something new to the offense run by Greg Roman. Roman doesn’t get the passing game. That’s not an insult, it’s a fact. That’s like saying I struggle with understanding sarcasm. It’s not an insult, I do.

Roman will be calling the plays. He won’t be designing the passing concepts anymore. Think of Williams and Martin as the co-authors of his offense. He’s the run game guy, tasked with keeping the run game the best in the business and continuing to maximize efficiency offensively. He’s the lead writer and he has help.

NEXT POST: NFL Draft: What I learned from being wrong about Ronnie Stanley in 2016

This is as close to getting a new coordinator for the offense as the Ravens could have done without replacing Roman. It’s not just Harbaugh’s loyalty to Roman that is keeping him here. Roman has run a very efficient offense, and he’s a coordinator that can maximize what he’s already built with Lamar Jackson. The offense will change, but not be replaced. That’s the deal.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens focus for secondary is on the future

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have one of the best cornerback combinations in the National Football League. It’s a fact. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are superstars at their position. Jimmy Smith came back while everyone has their fingers crossed that Tavon Young can stay healthy.

The Ravens have their starting safeties too, with DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark. When the purple and black had to part ways with Earl Thomas before last season, we weren’t sure that Elliott would be the answer at free safety. Well, it’s worked out.

The Ravens secondary has a lot to boast about. When you consider that pass rush has been too scarce, the secondary is passing the test with aces all around. The Ravens have had some focus on the secondary this offseason, though it hasn’t specifically been for the 2021 Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens had two picks go to the secondary in the 2021 NFL Draft. They drafted Brandon Stephens from SMU. They also picked up Shaun Wade from Ohio State. While both of these players are technically listed as cornerbacks, Stephens is projected to play safety and special teams.

Both rookie defensive backs have things you can bet on. The Ravens have to have a plan for Stephens if they took him with the 104th overall pick. Stephens has the type of build the Ravens typically look for at the safety position and he’s a good athlete.

While Elliott and Clark are safe as the starters, adding another young safety to the mix isn’t a bad idea. Neither Elliott or Clark would be classified as stars. Stephens can chip in right away with some snaps on defense and a ton of work on special teams and he could end up being a future starter.

For Wade it’s his Ohio State pedigree and his traits. Wade projects to be a lot like a bigger Tavon Young with better reach and height. If Wade pans out, the future at the nickel cornerback spot should be filled. Wade may even end up being a future starter on the outside.

The Ravens also brought in Are’Darius Washington as an undrafted free agent out of TCU. Washington is an undersized defensive back who could use some time to develop. In the 2019 season, he had five interceptions for the Horned Frogs. He has ball skills and speed. That’s another safety that may get a chance to develop under Clark and Elliott.

The Ravens have some credibility when it comes from maximizing the value of defensive backs taken late in the NFL Draft process. Clark and Elliott were both six round picks. Young, whose only problem is staying healthy, was a fourth round selection. The Ravens have gotten more than most thought they would from those three players.

The Bottom Line:

There is a ton of competition at safety and almost all of the names in the mix are young. Two names that will be fighting for a roster spot this preseason are Nigel Warrior and Geno Stone. At cornerback, it may be too early to write of Iman Marshall and you can’t forget about Anthony Averett.

The Ravens have one of the most stacked rosters in the NFL. The focus isn’t going to be on the depth and developing players of their secondary. It is something worth paying attention to however, something that will only get more important as time goes on.

The starters in the secondary, you already know. After that, things get interesting. This may be the area with the most competition that isn’t being talked about. People sleep on the depth of the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive backs, because they have so much confidence in the starters.

Next Post: The Baltimore Ravens play the Chiefs at the perfect time

The Baltimore Ravens most important defensive backs for the 2021 season won’t include a lot of the players we’ve talked about here today. That being said, the Ravens are building the future at the safety and cornerback positions. This is smart team building as there is no such thing as too many defensive backs.

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

What’s changed when Lamar Jackson drops back to pass

By Chris Schisler

When Lamar Jackson drops back to pass in the 2021 season, everything will be different. Let’s dive into what it could look like for the 2019 unanimous MVP. On one side of the field he’ll have his familiar friend, Marquise Brown. On the other side of the field he’ll either have Sammy Watkins or the exciting rookie, Rashod Bateman.

Things are already looking up, right? In the middle of the field will be his favorite target, Mark Andrews. In the slot will either be Devin Duvernay or Tylan Wallace. Dumping it off to J.K. Dobbins is never a bad idea. Things really do feel better.

Jackson has something he didn’t have when he was the MVP and he was slinging passes to Seth Roberts and Miles Boykin. Jackson has receiving options who can go up and get the football. Jackson knows that Watkins has a wealth of experience. He knows Watkins can win the fight with defensive backs.

Jackson will quickly learn that Bateman is a player he can always take a shot with. Bateman and Watkins don’t have to be wide open to make a catch. While we’re on the subject. Tylan Wallace was Mr. contested catch at Oklahoma State and Devin Duvernay had some of the most secure hands in college football history.

In the 2021 season you will see a more aggressive Jackson. In the past two seasons, Jackson has liked to force the ball to Andrews and Brown. We already know that Jackson is willing to take shots, he just needs to trust his target. Improving the receiving options for Jackson is reducing the forced passes to his favorite weapons, and gives him more chances to spread the ball around.

A Jackson who doesn’t have to lean on Brown or Andrews as a crutch is a Jackson who takes the next step in his development. Jackson has a reputation for not taking risks as a passer. This is partly due to the fact that he never has to. His legs create chances on the ground and also open up windows in the passing game.

This is partly due to the talent around him and the offensive line in front of him. Your perception of Jackson is going to change, if you are one of those who question his merits as a passer.

Yes, it’s not just about the new talent at wide receiver. If Ben Cleveland works out as a rookie left guard, the offensive line falls into place like the latest masterpiece of Eric DeCosta.

Ronnie Stanley and Allejandro Villanueva work as bookend tackles. Assuming the inside of the line works itself out with Bradley Bozeman at center and Kevin Zeitler at right guard, Jackson should have to bail on plays less, while he runs for his life. We’re dealing with cleaner pockets, heck we’re dealing with actual pockets for Jackson to work with.

It’s almost funny how the Ravens’ receivers have taken numbers almost exclusively between 11-16. When Jackson sees 12 he’ll want to get greedy and take a shot. When Jackson sees 13 (Duvernay) he knows he just has to get him in the open field. When Duvernay has his speed built up he’s gone.

When Jackson sees 14 (Watkins) he knows the full menu is on the table. Watkins can do a bit of everything for the passing game. Jackson knows that 15 (Brown) is always a threat with his speed and the chemistry he has with the receiver. 16 (Wallace) should prove to be one of the toughest receivers in Baltimore.

Another thing that is almost funny is how many people can’t seem to realize the offense is going to change in 2021. We’ve already gone into fairly heavy detail about the talent upgrades the offense has seen. The coaching staff got a boost as well.

Greg Roman is a great run game coach. He knows that better than anybody in the NFL. He’s always been limited in what he can bring to the table as an offensive coordinator because of the passing game. If you don’t think Keith Williams and Tee Martin will make a difference in the passing concepts of this offense you are crazy.

The Ravens wouldn’t have made those moves to the coaching staff, bringing in a pass game coordinator and a wide receivers coach, if they didn’t think the offense needed to grow. The Ravens aren’t committed to doing the same exact thing. If they do this right they’ll remain the best running team in the NFL and add a passing attack that will surprise defensive coordinators.

The idea most teams have against Jackson is to avoid getting beaten by his running skills. As long as Jackson is the quarterback and Roman is the coordinator, they will never lose their edge in the ground game. Teams are going to bet that Jackson won’t beat them with his arm. With a completely new passing game with a nearly all new group of receivers, Jackson will make teams lose that bet.