Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Ranking their top 10 problems after a tough loss

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have issues. They have been dealing with a lot on the injury front this season, and still have managed a 5-2 record. After a 41-17 loss to the Bengals, the problems are the clear focus of the fanbase. Let’s dive into the problems because they feel heavier than ever.

Problem 1: Offensive line is even more banged up

The Baltimore Ravens will probably be without Patrick Mekari for a while. He was holding down the fort at the right tackle position about as well as anybody could have hoped for. Now the Ravens are at their Plan C at offensive tackle. For the moment that means Tyre Phillips is back at right tackle. That’s not good. Ronnie Stanley is out for the season. The Ravens could use reinforcements on the offensive line but trades are hard to come by for linemen mid-season.

Problem 2: The defense is an enigma

The Ravens probably aren’t as good as they were defensively against the Chargers. That could easily look like an anomaly, a weird happening that nobody will ever complain about. The Ravens hopefully aren’t as bad as they were against the Bengals. Still, this defense makes no sense. How can this be the same defense that throttled Justin Herbert? The Ravens have no idea what to expect from their defense as a whole, which is the top concern for a defense with a lot of things to worry about.

Problem 3: Pursuit angles, open field coverage, inconsistent pass coverage

The Ravens give up more yards after the catch than I can bear; don’t make me look up that ugly statistic. The Ravens are taking bad angles to the football. In the passing game, their linebackers look lost and provide very little value. Currently, four of the top five leading tacklers are defensive backs. That means the front seven is letting a lot slip past them. If you watched the game against the Bengals you understand the defensive backs have a limited grasp on what a tackle should look like.

The Ravens have given up some big games in the air. In general, their pass defense is hard to count on. The Ravens couldn’t stop tight ends in the first two weeks of the season. Michael Pittman Jr. and Ja’Marr Chase have dominated them. The secondary either shows up or it doesn’t and when it hasn’t, it’s been ugly.

Problem 4: The run game is broken

The Ravens’ rushing yards are almost exclusively coming from Lamar Jackson at the moment. The running backs don’t have the burst to make it work. It’s not like the offensive line is creating much daylight, yet this running back group offers very little to be excited about. The Ravens don’t have an answer on their active roster. At this point, they may as well try Nate McCrary with the big boys.

Has the Ravens’ passing game grown leaps and bounds? You bet. Still, this is supposed to be the best running team in football and they are nowhere close to that. The Ravens lost their physical identity. They need Nick Boyle to come back for a much-needed blocking super booster. They need the line to block better. Adding a running back isn’t going to fix everything, but having somebody who can turn a two-yard run into a four or five-yard gain would add unspeakable value to this team.

Problem 5: Wide Receiver has become the top strength (And it’s not an elite unit)

What do the Ravens have going for them offensively? It’s a shortlist. The Ravens have an MVP quarterback and a good group of pass-catchers. All of a sudden the wide receiver position is the top position for the offense other than quarterback. Marquise Brown is a number one receiver. We can give him that after his strong start to the season. Rashod Bateman looks the part, it’s clear that he’s going to be good. James Proche and Devin Duvernay have stepped up this year and have become solid contributors.

While it’s good that the offense is getting more from the passing game (In particular their receivers) this is a troubling sign. The Ravens don’t have a top-tier group of receivers. Until proven otherwise, Marquise Brown is the only real game-changer the receiver position has. If you said at the beginning of the season that the Ravens’ offense would lean on its wide receivers, you may have become very nervous. That’s the point. It’s hard to have balance like this. This isn’t what the team was built for, even if it’s better than it was.

6. The defensive line has been relatively unimpactful

The Baltimore Ravens aren’t getting much from the defensive line. This has been Brandon Williams’s worst season. Justin Madubuike has been okay, yet with a larger sample size this season he’s underachieved. Calais Campbell is clearly the best defensive lineman the Baltimore Ravens have. Campbell isn’t the game destroyer he once was though, and the defensive line has been gashed several times this season.

7. Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison can’t be counted on:

The fact of the matter is that Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison had the opportunity to shine this season. L.J. Fort was lost to injury and the Baltimore Ravens desperately needed their young linebackers to play well. Patrick Queen has been not just underwhelming but frustrating. Malik Harrison isn’t showing to be a great athlete. Chris Board and Josh Bynes are the best linebackers the Ravens have. Queen has improved but in a situation where he’s losing snaps to Bynes, a player Baltimore had no choice but to bring into the fold.

8. Slow starts are getting old:

The Ravens can’t start games right this season. Other than the Chargers game, name one time the Ravens led a game wire to wire. Exactly, you can’t. The Ravens have won close games in which they needed to be an amazing fourth-quarter team. Doing things the hard way comes at a cost. The Bengals did not let the Ravens get away with it.

9. Baltimore can’t afford anything but an A effort from Lamar Jackson:

The Ravens are 5-2 because their quarterback has played like he wants his second MVP award. Jackson had two fumbles against the Las Vegas Raiders and was a bit off at times. Jackson was completely out of sync against the Bengals. They lost. If Jackson doesn’t amaze the Ravens can’t win unless they get a complete team win (It happened one time only: See Chargers game).

10. Injuries and general are adding up:

The Ravens have more players on injured reserve than you can count on your 10 fingers. The Ravens have lost star players for the season, players who were core to the whole plan this year. When you look at it the Ravens have very limited cap space and very limited options ahead of the trade deadline and they need fresh bodies on this roster. Injuries have been an incredibly bad problem.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens get dominated by Bengals: Nothing nice to say

The Ravens still have a chance to have a great season. They do have issues to work through though, and just about every problem feels heavy going into the bye week.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens get dominated by Bengals: Nothing nice to say

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens got absolutely worked by the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. In every way imaginable the Ravens came up short on Sunday. Their offense made things harder than they needed to be. Their defense had one of the worst showings in franchise history. The Cincinnati Bengals put up 520 yards of offense and 41 points. There’s nothing nice to say on this deflated Monday.

The Ravens had full control of the AFC North. They had the top spot in the entire conference. The Ravens had their five-game winning streak snapped and invited every doubt that anybody ever had about this year’s installment of the team. Let’s take a look at everything that went wrong. Let’s start with the coaching.

John Harbaugh mismanaged the game:

John Harbaugh went out of his way not to make sense in this game. The experienced coach, who has won a Super Bowl and was the 2019 NFL Coach of the Year, looked unprepared and made some tough to defend decisions. It’s time to talk about these errors:

  • The challenge on the Ja’Marr Chase fumble was a bad decision. If the play bounced differently, it could have stopped the bleeding and halted the Bengals momentum. You didn’t need 100 replays to understand it wasn’t going to work out that way.
  • After the Ravens intercepted Joe Burrow in the end zone they were trailing the Bengals by 10 points in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh decided to take two big risks on fourth down inside the Ravens’ own territory. Harbaugh basically pinned the game on that drive. It was an all-or-nothing decision that wasn’t motivated by analytics, there aren’t a lot of 4th & 7 plays that are high percentage conversions.
  • Harbaugh didn’t take points when he had the chance in the first half. In Justin Tucker’s field goal range he chose to keep the offense on the field. After a timeout, he called on the punt unit. This was a weak call that was inconsistent with his reckless decision-making later.

Call out the coordinators too:

The team looked unprepared. It wasn’t until the third quarter that it was truly fair to question effort, yet once the team gave in, it was obvious. This game wasn’t all on the coach though. There isn’t a player or coach that can write home about this one with pride. It was a bad performance. While we’re on coaching let’s talk about the mistakes the coordinators made in this contest.

  • Greg Roman chose the hard way in this contest. The Ravens couldn’t pass protect and Lamar Jackson was struggling to get rid of the ball in a timely manner. What does Roman call? Big shots down the field were called which forced Jackson to hold onto the ball for the routes to develop downfield. This was lighter fluid to the fire, especially after Pat Mekari left the game due to injury.
  • Don Martindale went away from pressuring Joe Burrow. In the first quarter pressure wasn’t the problem. The defense went soft not just in play but in the plan of attack. The result was easy routes torching the Ravens bit by bit.

The list of players on the Baltimore Ravens with blame is long:

Now it’s time to get the players some constructive criticism. We’ll start with the leader of the team, Lamar Jackson. Jackson looked much like he did against the Los Angeles Chargers in his first playoff game as a rookie. He held onto the ball too long. He took sacks that he should not have taken. Jackson missed throws he’s made all year long and his footwork and fundamentals all went away. He was overthrowing passes down the field and failed to find a rhythm. Long story short, he was awful.

Jackson’s offensive line didn’t help him. When Pat Mekari got injured it forced Tyre Phillips back at right tackle. That went about as poorly as it did last season. The offensive line wasn’t much better than that. Does Jackson have some culpability in the five sacks the offensive line allowed? Sure. Let’s not act as if the offensive line did much in this game though, it was rough to watch.

If you take out Jackson’s rushing yards the Ravens only had 27 rushing yards. The running backs were a non-factor. Their lack of explosiveness combined with an offensive line that provided no daylight made the offense one-dimensional. It was a bad day for Jackson to be so off. Everyone on the offense not named Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and Rashod Bateman had a rough day where nothing could go right other than a play here or there.

That Baltimore Ravens defensive “effort” was horrible:

Defense isn’t something I would say the Ravens actually participated in this game. Not in the first half. The Ravens made it a 17-13 game after the halftime intermission. The Bengals scored with very little resistance and the momentum never swung back in Baltimore’s favor. The Bengals scored 28 points and put up the bulk of their yards in the second half.

Anthony Averett fought hard in this game. He was tested an unfair amount considering Burrow could basically go any direction and complete passes at will. There just wasn’t one defensive back who won the fight from beginning to finish.

The traits of the Cincinnati receivers, the size, quickness, and toughness when fighting for the football won the day. Cincinnati’s receivers played great. Ja’Marr Chase looked like a younger version of Randy Moss and lived up to his early draft position. Tee Higgins had seven catches, almost all of which were made with a cornerback in position to make a play. The Bengals receivers were tougher. They wanted the ball more. It was as obvious as the night being dark.

Horrible is almost being too nice:

Marlon Humphrey had the worst game he’s ever had as a Ravens player, maybe in his entire lifetime playing football. It was a bad showing for somebody who is known as an All-Pro level player. The secondary in general was horrible. C.J. Uzomah scored two touchdowns. The second touchdown was on one of the most embarrassing blown coverages ever.

Three Ravens guarded the flats and the tight end ran right down the field for an easy catch and score. It was not only a miscommunication it was a lack of awareness. It was symbolic of the entire game. The Ravens were seemingly asleep at the wheel.

This was the sorriest excuse of tackling I have ever seen from the Baltimore Ravens. It’s absolutely befuddling how bad the Ravens are at open-field tackles. Part of this was clearly an effort problem. The Ravens knew that up multiple scores in the final quarter the Bengals were going to run the ball.

Still, Cincinnati moved defenders out of the play. Still, the Bengals were able to run the ball for chunks of yards. Part of it was taking horrible angles to the football. This team needs to do some pursuit drills more than any team I’ve ever seen. The coaching staff may not think they have time for teaching the fundamentals of football in practice, however, the fundamentals are what this team is lacking an understanding of. It’s enough to numb the brain. It makes no sense.

The Bottom Line:

It was very clear that the Ravens could lose to the Bengals. The final outcome isn’t shocking considering how well the Bengals have played this season. Losing and becoming 5-2 didn’t have to be the doom and gloom situation we’re looking at right now. The way the Ravens lost, however, is an unacceptable path to the outcome.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 outside linebackers in franchise history

It’s not very often that you can look at a loss and say that a team should be ashamed of their performance. Nobody is perfect, bad days happen and you can’t win them all. Still, the Ravens put forth an unorganized, mismanaged mess of a game, where effort became a valid complaint. As a team, they failed to “Play like a Raven” and they lost a game in which their opponent’s will to win outshined theirs. There is not a single nice thing to say.




Posted in Ravens Thoughts

6 Baltimore Ravens lessons from win over the Broncos

By Chris Schisler

1. The Baltimore Ravens passing game can carry the offense against a good defense

The Baltimore Ravens leaned on their passing game against the Broncos. They did that last week, but it almost didn’t count because it was against the winless Detroit Lions. This was the first time the Ravens played an incredibly talented pass defense and asked Lamar Jackson to throw for the victory. It’s important to remember that the Broncos came into the game with the top pass defense in the NFL. This was a defense that was stifling their opponents and the Ravens just had over 300 yards passing.

Lamar Jackson was next-level good against the Broncos. His deep ball has never looked so good, and many of his strikes were perfectly on the money. The criticism that “Jackson can’t throw” has always been laughable. Jackson has gone beyond proving that he can throw the old pigskin. Jackson is saying that if the game dictates it he can beat you through the air like an Aaron Rodgers or a Patrick Mahomes.

The Ravens are no longer built to win just one way. They didn’t do what they’ve done the last two weeks last season. For that matter, they wouldn’t have mounted a fourth-quarter comeback against the Chiefs last season. The Ravens have a better balance this year and the passing game can carry its weight.

2. James Proche can make an impact

James Proche had five receptions against the Broncos and looked like a player that belongs in this offense. Five receptions for 74 yards is a good stat line to see from a young and developing wide receiver. Proche has seven career receptions so it’s safe to say that this was the start. In his first real and fair opportunity to show up, Proche made important plays. The mostly sure-handed second-year player from SMU could be the possession receiver the Ravens need.

3. The Ravens will be in a tough spot if Alejandro Villanueva misses time:

Alejandro Villanueva was questionable in this game with a knee injury and he left the game with a knee injury. If Villanueva misses a game (or multiple games) the Ravens are in a very bad situation. Who would the Ravens play at left tackle? Ronnie Stanley is out for a while. Tyre Phillips may be the best answer once he returns from injury (once he returns being the keyword).

Phillips is not a very appealing answer yet he would have more going for him than Andre Smith, who looked as if he was hoping not to get the next man up call. Ben Cleveland could play tackle, that’s a rough spot to put a rookie guard in.

He does have experience at offensive tackle as a Georgia Bulldog. Villanueva may not be having a great season but he’s incredibly important. He’s a starter for a reason. The Ravens’ tackle depth is non-existent. Should Villanueva go down while Ronnie Stanley is still out for an unknown time, it will force a make-shift plan for the Ravens. At least Lamar Jackson is fast and elusive…

4. Odafe Oweh is as good as advertised

Odafe Oweh is worth every bit of his first-round selection. Oweh put on a show off the edge in this game. Funnily enough, the Broncos’ offensive line was decimated inside and the Ravens abused the starting offensive tackles. Oweh had a sack in which he blew past the tackle without much of a struggle. It was a ferocious play and it was good for his second sack of the young season.

Oweh may not have made a huge imprint in the box score other than that sack, but Denver had a lot of problems with him. He got great pressures and it’s amazing how many holding penalties he should have drawn. It was probably four or five times that he got held without consequence to the Broncos. Oweh is the real deal. I spent all offseason preaching patience with Oweh. Nah. He’s ready to rock and I was wrong there.

5. The Baltimore Ravens can win on the road without a lucky finish

For the Ravens Flock, this is a great win. It was nice to have your heart beating through your Ravens jersey louder than a marching band, wasn’t it? The Ravens were in full control of this game. Once they survived a bad start Baltimore enforced their will on the Denver Broncos. The Denver crowd doesn’t have to like that last play that got the Ravens the record but that’s about as fun of a way to end a game as there is. Deal with it, Denver.

The Ravens didn’t let this game get too close, even if they took their time finishing the thing. The Ravens found a way to win without a massive comeback in the fourth quarter or a historically long field goal. That’s what you like to see, especially on the road against an undefeated team. The Ravens are capable of taking care of business without giving us heart failure and for that, we should be thankful.

6. The secondary is still a plus for the Baltimore Ravens

Can the Baltimore Ravens secondary stand up so it can get recognized? Everyone clap. Courtland Sutton is one of the better wideouts in the NFL. He was held to three receptions for 47 yards. Noah Fant had six grabs and a touchdown but he was under 50 yards receiving also.

The Broncos had no shots down the field. Teddy Bridgewater dinked and dunked almost exclusively. Drew Lock took some ill-advised shots down the field, but all Denver could do was run slants and crossing patterns. What a glorious day for the Ravens’ secondary (and they did it without De’Shon Elliott)!

Marlon Humphrey, Anthoney Averett, Tavon Young, and Jimmy Smith all had great games. By the way, if Averett doesn’t make that interception in garbage time, the Ravens don’t get their rushing record. The secondary should get as much praise as Lamar Jackson in this game. It’s still a strength of this team. It’s only getting better with Smith back and Young getting his rustiness behind him.

NEXT POST: Ravens handle the Broncos: The good, bad and ugly

This was a big win for the Baltimore Ravens. These lessons are good ones to take in.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: 4 keys for the defense against the Broncos

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens defense has to step up against the Denver Broncos. The good news for the Ravens is that they have key players back. Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike, and Brandon Williams all return this week after being out for the Covid-19 close contact protocol against the Lions. What are the keys for Don Martindale and his unit going into their showdown in Denver?

1. Limit the easy completions for Teddy Bridgewater:

Teddy Bridgewater is completing over 70 percent of his passes. To put it frankly, the Broncos have had it too easy in the passing game. The Ravens are a defense that must finally offer them a test. Baltimore can’t get nickeled and dimed in this game. The Ravens have to take the easy completions away. The Broncos’ offense is very much built on timing. Disrupting the timing of the play by being physical with the receivers and getting into Bridgewater’s bubble is very important.

If Anthony Averett doesn’t play (He’s listed as questionable) this will force Martindale’s hand. He’ll have to be less aggressive in his coverage calls. This will require the defensive front to quickly get pressure on Bridgewater. Some fans have grown weary of Martindale blitzing, but if he doesn’t send some heat, the Ravens could die from slow cuts.

The defense has to pressure Bridgewater. The fact that Bridgewater has been so efficient makes me think it’s too good to be true. Bridgewater isn’t bad, but he isn’t this lethal of a quarterback. Martindale is going to have to use stunts and blitzes to make him prove it with pressure coming at him.

2. Bottle up Melvin Gordon:

The Broncos’ passing game is good, but no offense wants to be one-dimensional. Melvin Gordon is averaging 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. That is a healthy average. but it is inflated by one monster game against the New York Giants. Other than that, Gordon has not been on a roll. Bridgewater has had to do the heavy lifting for this offense.

If the Ravens make the Broncos one-dimensional, they make them more predictable. At that point, it becomes a chess match and Martindale should be trusted to call the right kind of game. If the Broncos have balance, it gives credence to the play-action and lets them keep Baltimore on their heels a bit defensively. It all goes back to key number one. The Ravens need to make Bridgewater uncomfortable, in a big way.

3. Don’t give up the big play:

The Broncos are feeling it and confident offensive coordinators like to take shots. The Broncos don’t have Jerry Juedy in this game. They don’t have K.J. Hamler in this game either. Courtland Sutton is not the biggest speed demon but he’s a hulking wide receiver who you don’t want to play around with. Noah Fant is a tight end who could have his biggest game of the season this week.

Baltimore hasn’t been able to defend the tight end. Travis Kelce and Darren Waller went off on this defense. The good news is that T.J. Hockinson was essentially a non-factor last week. If the Ravens have figured it out with tight ends the middle of the field is a little less available for the Broncos’ passing game.

4. Tackle. Tackle. For goodness sake Baltimore Ravens tackle:

The Ravens defense has actually put on a clinic on how not to tackle in the open field. It’s been awful. The Ravens defensively haven’t had a huge lack of effort or anything so it’s really as simple as cleaning up the fundamentals. This could be a really tight game. The difference in this game very well could be tackling in the open field. The defense needs to do a better job rallying to a receiver with the ball in the passing attack. They need to take better angles and for goodness sake, they need to run through and wrap up. Nothing frustrates me more than bad tackling and the Ravens have had it in the first three weeks.

NEXT POST: Ravens vs. Broncos: Key game day bullet points

There you have it. There are your defensive keys for the game. Let’s go Ravens.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.


Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens 3 Big Questions About the Secondary

By: Ashley Anderson

Baltimore Ravens blog

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


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

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

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

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

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

When Will Jimmy Smith Return?

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

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

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

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

Who Makes the Cut?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Baltimore Ravens: The best is yet to come for Anthony Averett

By Ronald Toothe

Coming into the 2021 season, the Baltimore Ravens secondary unit is one that is the envy of almost every other team across the league. With elite starting corners like Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters manning the outside, and young up-and-comers like Brandon Stephens and Shaun Wade looking to make their mark from the jump, there’s sure to be plenty of energy and excitement around this bunch. However, one man who you could say has been lost in the fold, however, could also be primed for his best season yet, is Anthony Averett.

Averett is coming off his most productive season yet for the Ravens, in which he started four games and accrued seven pass deflections. The prior two seasons in much more limited playing time he only combined for four total, which shows that he’s more than ready to take on an even bigger share of the workload, as he began to in 2020.

He’s yet to secure that first career interception, which is likely high up on his list of goals for this season as he continues to look for ways to make an impact. Averett also came close to doubling his number of tackles in 2020 as compared to 2019, which shows that he’s also no stranger to the physicality the Ravens love to have in their defensive backfield.

Breaking down the dollars

On top of his desire to help the Ravens win football games, the biggest factor that points to Anthony Averett gunning to be a strong defensive presence comes in the form of contracts, on numerous fronts. For starters, Averett is coming into the last year of his rookie deal with the team.

The Ravens drafted the aforementioned Stephens and Wade in April, which could be seen as them at least having a contingency in place should Averett be gone in 2022. The truth of the matter is though, Wink Martindale and company love having as much depth as possible in this facet of the team. A strong campaign in which he builds on the success we saw in 2020 could very well lead to the Ravens having no choice but to bring Averett back for a second, more lucrative deal.

The other contract aspect to keep an eye on in terms of Averett’s future is that of Jimmy Smith, who signed a one-year extension back in January and recently made it known that he won’t play anywhere else but Baltimore in his career. Smith has been one of the mainstays for the Ravens defense for almost a decade, but unfortunately, the injury bug is one he’s been unable to avoid for the majority of that tenure.

With 2021 potentially being his last year on the team, the Ravens would be smart to start planning who his successor will be at the third corner spot now. Giving Averett more consistent playing time in that role will show Martindale exactly what he has to offer, and whether or not he’s worthy of taking the said role.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

2021 is undoubtedly going to be the most important year of Anthony Averett’s career. In terms of the team respecting Jimmy Smith enough to give him every chance to lead the pack behind Humphrey and Peters, some aspects are entirely out of his control. However, what is in his control is how he performs in camp and how undeniable he makes himself in the eyes of the coaching staff and front office.

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There’s no question that Averett will receive a second contract in the league but in terms of where and for how much, well, that could be entirely up to him and his play. He can make a strong case for that to be in Baltimore, for much more money, if he takes another step forward in 2021.