Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens defense boosts team past Browns

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens escaped Sunday Night Football with a victory. They won the game against the Cleveland Browns 16-10. With about a minute to go Baker Mayfield got the ball with a chance to go down the field for a game-winning touchdown. Don Martindale’s defense stepped up and got the stop, solidifying the best defensive effort of the season.

The Baltimore Ravens won a game in which Lamar Jackson committed four turnovers. That’s not a sentence I thought I’d write earlier in the season. It used to be that the Ravens couldn’t win a game without an amazing performance by Lamar Jackson. Now the Ravens won a game without him and got a victory where he handed the other team extra possessions.

The Ravens defense held the Browns to 10 points. The Browns’ only touchdown came in a controversial fashion, as it appeared from the back angle that the ball hit the ground and it wasn’t a catch. The Browns went four out of 13 on third down attempts. They ran 20 fewer plays than the Ravens and lost two fumbles.

Don Martindale was aggressive in this game. He used blitzes to stop both the run and the pass. The Ravens played incredibly disciplined football. The outside contain was on point. Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike had strong showings and the defensive line stood tall even without Calais Campbell. The combination of Martindale’s game plan and the execution was something Baltimore had been waiting for all season long.

Baltimore Ravens held strong:

The Ravens weren’t going to let Nick Chubb beat them. He had eight rushing attempts and only picked up an average of two yards a pop. Kareem Hunt saw a similar fate on the ground. The only player who had a huge day for the Browns was Jarvis Landry. Landry had six receptions and 111 yards.

Landry didn’t make a huge imprint on the scoreboard though, so much of that production was inconsequential. The Ravens gave up some plays, but at the end of the day, they rarely broke. Three of Jackson’s interceptions were in the first half. The two takeaways Baltimore had kept that from costing the Ravens. One of the turnovers was Landry fumbling on a trick play attempt. He looked for somebody to throw the football to, the Ravens were ready and they got him in an uncomfortable scramble. Odafe Oweh strikes again.

Patrick Queen, who left the game at one point for an injury and then came back, had a great showing in this game. It could have been the best game that Queen has had with the Ravens. Queen had eight tackles and did a good job finding the football. Queen, and the Ravens in general stepped up their tackling for this game.

Having Anthony Averett back helped in this game. Marlon Humphrey was very impressive in this game. Other than a pass interference call (one that was weak sauce) he did a great job against the Browns. Tyus Bowser had a sack and was about as physically imposing as a player could be at the outside linebacker position.

The Bottom Line:

The Browns had 11 possessions and little to show for it. The defense stepped up and got stops on nine of these possessions. You can’t ask a defense to do much more than the Ravens defense did in this game. They stepped up and were the reason the Ravens won this thing. If the defense has figured everything out and can carry the offense on a bad day at the office for Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are a more dangerous team than people expect them to be. This is huge.

NEXT POST:  Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 Defensive Linemen in franchise history

The defense stepped up in this game. Don Martindale called a masterful game. The Browns got some yards, who cares. This defensive effort is one to be proud of.

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 Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Lions: Players who need to step up on Sunday

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens just beat the Chiefs and things seemed so hopeful. Then Covid-19 dampened the excitement. Jaylon Ferguson reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 leaving Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike, and Brandon Williams on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Losing Ferguson isn’t a big hit to the defense. The other three players are integral to the defensive front- now the Ravens defensive front is stretched thinner than what is almost doable.

Obviously when these many players are out of the picture the game plan changes. Obviously, some players need to step up and make this happen. Who are the players that need to step up the most to keep this a very winnable game for the Baltimore Ravens?

Baltimore Ravens players who need to step up:

Broderick Washington is the first player that comes to mind. Washington is the closest understudy the Ravens have to Brandon Williams. Washington is going to have to have a higher snap count than he’s ever been used to as an NFL player. The second-year player has to be the anchor of the defensive line, something that sprung on him out of nowhere.

The history of the Ravens missing Williams is daunting. When Williams has been out, the run defense hasn’t been the same. If Washington can just be a space-eater it will be enough. He needs to win off the ball and clog everything up. You’re not getting a two-for-one deal here. Washington isn’t going to replace Williams and Madubuike at the same time. We’re talking about a player who has barely played so far this season.

The good news is the Ravens have Justin Ellis and he’s at the very least an experienced player on the defensive line. The bad news is that Derek Wolfe still won’t be back from injury. The Ravens’ defensive front could tire out quickly. They’re missing two very important defensive linemen and a starting outside linebacker. This changes how the Ravens have to play defense in this game.

More good news for the Ravens is that Daelin Hayes should finally come into action at outside linebacker. Look for the Ravens to use Hayes a lot in this game out of nothing but necessity. Look for the outside linebackers the Ravens do have to be more like defensive ends on the defensive line than their typical linebacker roles. This won’t be a stretch for Hayes, or the impressive rookie Odafe Oweh, as it fits a lot of what they did a year ago in College Football.

If Pernell McPhee can go it makes a huge impact. The Ravens would then have a leader for the defensive front. McPhee can do the dirty work in the run game and can act as a defensive end/outside linebacker. McPhee is listed as questionable but the Baltimore Ravens really need him. Don’t forget Pat Ricard can do more than play fullback, he could get some reps in at defensive tackle.

Oweh was the defensive player of the AFC in the second week of the season. He made the big plays against the Chiefs that allowed that comeback to happen. The Ravens are going to have to use Oweh’s youth and energy in this game. His snap count is going to be higher and that’s unavoidable. He needs to continue to be explosive and versatile. Whether he sacks Jared Goff or not, he needs to keep being active with pressures and great run defense.

The Bottom Line:

Before the extra losses on defense for this game, the Lions offered a decent litmus test of the defense. The Lions aren’t a particularly good team, with T.J. Hockenson and De’Andre Swift being their two big weapons. Before the defensive line got thinned out, it seemed like if the defense held the Lions to under 20 points it would be the defense getting back on track.

The defense got a pass for all it gave up against the Chiefs because it was the Chiefs and the defense stepped up in crucial moments. This defense still needs to show improvements that we haven’t seen in the first two weeks. All of that is on pause now. The defense just has to be good enough. The expectations have gone down.

NEXT POST: Ravens vs. Lions got interesting: 3 big questions for the game

The best way for the Ravens to win this game is by the offense putting up points. If the offense can stay on the field and dominate the time of possession, they really don’t have to worry about the complete lack of depth on the defensive front. On defense though, it’s all about Broderick Washington, Daelin Hayes, and Odafe Oweh doing a little extra.

Posted in Pregame Content

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

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football for their week one game. Let’s dive into the game. It’s time to put on our defensive coordinator hat and think of the three things the Ravens need to be mindful of against the Raiders.

3. Bend but don’t break

Derek Carr doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done for the Raiders. He’s had over 4,000 yards three seasons in a row. In that streak, Carr’s lowest quarterback rating for a season was 93.9. Carr isn’t a bad quarterback. Josh Jacobs is a good running back. Darren Waller is the play-maker we always thought he could be and the Raiders aren’t a pushover team. Do I think the Ravens have the defensive firepower to outmatch them? Absolutely. I just don’t think it’s a Super Bowl XXXV-style game where the Ravens make the opposing offense completely useless.

The key is keeping the Raiders out of the end zone and keeping everything in front of white jerseys with purple numbers. Last season Nelson Agholor and Henry Ruggs both had over 17 yards per reception. Waller had 1,196 receiving yards and Jacobs had 1,303 total yards from scrimmage. The Raiders have some talent that can put points on the board. In 2020, the Raiders put up 30 points or more eight times and won seven of those games.

Red zone defense is going to be imperative in this game. Points are what will sustain the Raiders, not yards. If the pass rushers give the hoped-for amount of pass rush, this isn’t a game where the Ravens will have to do a lot of blitzing. The defensive front of the Ravens has more going for it than the offensive line of the Raiders does. Instead of Martindale being blitz-heavy, look for well-timed blitzes to be what gets the Ravens stops in the red zone.

2. Take the football away:

Last year the Raiders were minus 11 in the turnover ratio. That’s incredible considering that their quarterback only had nine interceptions on the year. Ever since Jon Gruden returned to the sideline, the Raiders calling card has been unforced mistakes and penalties. While the Raiders were on the wrong side of the turnover ratio, the Ravens were plus four. If these teams are similar to the 2020 versions of themselves (which they are) Baltimore should have the advantage in the turnover battle.

Often when we talk about Martindale’s creativity we’re talking about the movement before the snap and different looks and stunts that create pressure on the quarterback. In this game, Martindale is going up against a veteran quarterback who hasn’t had more than 13 interceptions in a season. Look for Martindale’s mastery of this game to be the way he calls his pass coverage. Look for him to switch up his coverage schemes and for the Ravens to generate a turnover by trapping Carr into a bad throw.

If that doesn’t work, there is always knocking the ball out. Forced fumbles could be a strength of the Baltimore Ravens this season. In the preseason the Ravens had a game against the New Orleans Saints where they had three interceptions and forced three fumbles. Marlon Humphrey is famous for the “Fruit Punch.” Other than Peanut Tillman, it’s hard to think of a cornerback who was better at forcing fumbles than Humphrey. Come hell or high water, Baltimore needs to force the Raiders into costly mistakes with the football.

3. Don’t let Josh Jacobs get a full head of steam:

In 2020, Jacobs had over 80 rushing yards in a game four times. The Raiders won all four of those games. Jacobs had over 20 rushing attempts in six of the Raiders games last season. The Raiders won five of those games. Even in games where Jacobs is averaging slightly under four yards per carry, the more involved he is, the better it is for the Raiders. A heavy dose of Jacobs keeps Gruden’s offense honest and keeps pass rush off of Carr.

This is really something you could say every week of the season, but Baltimore needs to make the Raiders one-dimensional. They need to completely discourage the Raiders from running the football. This makes their offense much more predictable and exposes the biggest challenges for the offense.

To make this happen for the Ravens, you need the defensive line to straight up own the line of scrimmage. Brandon Williams and Derek Wolfe have to come ready for a full day of work as space eaters. Justin Madubuike needs to be disruptive and Broderick Washington needs to be immovable. With the speed and tackling capability that the Ravens have at the linebacker position, just being gap sound should do the trick. Outside contain is crucial for the outside linebackers in this game.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders: 5 predictions and a score

Bottling up Jacobs isn’t complicated. The Ravens have to play fundamentally sound defense and play assignment football. The Ravens have the players to get the job done. The only way Jacobs gets going beyond a few nice runs is if the Baltimore Ravens make fundamental mistakes on defense.

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens: Why Brandon Williams shouldn’t be a cap casualty

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens may want more cap space, but parting with Brandon Williams would be an unwise approach. The Ravens have already restructured the deal with Williams and the reason they’re so invested in him is his importance to the defense.

Cutting Williams for cap space has been a conversation that’s been going lately. It’s a conversation it seems we’ll always have to go through once in a while. This time it was sparked by Patrick Wilson of CBS Sports. Wilson wrote an article about veteran players who could be on the chopping block. Since then Ebony Bird (my old stomping ground) and Kevin Oestreicher of USA Today’s Ravens Wire have written about it. It seems like it’s time for my two cents on the subject.

The Baltimore Ravens defensive line needs Brandon Williams

Cutting Williams would be solving one problem by creating another. If it allowed the Ravens the flexibility to sign Justin Houston, the temptation is at least understandable. That would leave the Ravens thinner on the defensive line. It’s already one of the Ravens’ most questionable areas of the depth chart.

Behind Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Derek Wolfe, the Ravens defensive line is mostly an area of question. Justin Madubuike is an exciting young player, though this is just year two for him. Justin Ellis is okay. Who else is there to get excited about? Aaron Crawford? Meh.

One of the biggest concerns for the Ravens is how their starters will hold up on the defensive line. Williams and Campbell had patches of injury problems last season. Baltimore needs their starters to do the heavy lifting and have Madubuike come on strong. That’s not a want. That’s something the Ravens need if it’s going to work in 2021.

Run Defense:

Even if cutting Williams would allow the Baltimore Ravens to sign Justin Houston, this would be fixing a problem and causing another. Williams is an essential part of the Ravens’ run defense. What happens when Williams is hurt? What happens when he isn’t there to stop the run? Exactly.

The Baltimore Ravens play in the AFC North. That means they have to deal with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt twice per season. Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in the NFL. He’s a back who is basically guaranteed 1,000 yards rushing if he’s healthy. Chubb is a back that averages over five yards per rushing attempt. If the AFC North crown is going to be fought for between the Ravens and the Browns, Baltimore doesn’t want to let go of Williams.

Brandon Williams is one of the best space eaters. He clogs up rushing lanes and is hard to move out of the way. The Ravens have quick and athletic linebackers, they need Williams to do his job in front of them. Williams makes everybody better around him. He’s the central piece, in the middle of the defense. If the Ravens lose Williams, the Ravens will give up 40-50 more yards on the ground a game. It would be very noticeable.

Williams often forces the running back to bounce outside. This allows the linebackers to flow to the football and make the tackle before the back sees too much daylight.

The Bottom Line:

The bottom line is that Williams is too essential to what the Ravens want to do on defense, to even consider letting him go. The Raven needs more pass rush, and that’s not something Williams typically provides. That’s also not what he’s getting paid for. He’s getting paid to be the anchor of the Ravens’ defense and to make running up the gut an impossibility.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Don’t count out the pass rush just yet

Williams is never going to be one of the flashiest Ravens. Fine. If the Ravens parted with him though, it would be a mistake.

Posted in Nest Talks

Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 Defensive Linemen in franchise history

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are known for dominant defense. This is why ranking the Baltimore Ravens top defensive linemen of all-time was a fun thing to do. Here’s a spoiler alert, all the starters from the Super Bowl XXXV defense made the rankings. That is in the discussion for the best defensive line units of all-time. I personally don’t think it’s debatable, the 2000 Ravens defense was the greatest of all-time.

When you do a top 10, honorable mentions are always good to have. The Baltimore Ravens had more than 10 players I could have put on the list. One player that missed the list was Michael Pierce. He was a very solid defensive tackle for the Ravens. He had 151 total tackles for the Ravens in four seasons.

Another player that didn’t make the rankings was Dwan Edwards. He had 120 total tackles in a five-year run with the Ravens to start his 11 year NFL career. He had his best years with the Carolina Panthers, but he had some strong moments with the Ravens. Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell have a chance to join the ranks of the best defensive linemen. The way that Wolfe played last year made me very tempted to give him a spot here.

I was always a big Lawrence Guy fan. He had three years with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s a rare free agent from the Ravens who actually took a step up after his departure from Baltimore. He’s been a great player for the New England Patriots.

The Top 10 Defensive Linemen in Baltimore Ravens history (Nest Talk Video)

We’ve been going through the traditional depth chart order. So far we’ve rolled through every offensive position group. Now we’re doing our top 10 rankings for the defensive positions. I cannot wait to start talking about linebackers, so keep checking out PBN!

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 Offensive linemen in franchise history

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Ask the Nest: Is Baltimore Ravens defensive line enough?

By Chris Schisler

Welcome to another edition of Ask The Nest! In these posts, I answer questions submitted by the Baltimore Ravens’ faithful via Twitter. We had some great questions come in so let’s get to it.

The lead off question:

@ravensfan86 asks: What’re the chances of the Ravens adding another interior (younger) defensive lineman with decent pass-rushing skills to the rotation via trade? Looking at our roster, I worry most about that group. With a smallish MLB behind them.

Answer: I genuinely doubt the Ravens would make a trade for a defensive tackle or a defensive end at this point of the offseason. Remember, the Ravens love their draft picks. Will Eric DeCosta part with a fifth-round pick to bring in a star? Sure. Will he trade a pick to get a little extra help for the defensive line? Probably not.

I could see the Ravens signing a player like Geno Atkins. That would make some sense. I could see them going after a defensive tackle in free agency, maybe one off the radar even. For the most part, the Ravens roster should be set. When it comes to the defensive linemen Baltimore likes what they have.

Brandon Williams, Calais Campbell, and Derek Wolfe together make up a hefty investment. Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington are upcoming players and Justin Ellis offers solid play as well. If Campbell stays healthy and Madubuike picks it up in his second season, the Ravens should get enough pass rush from the unit.

Depth is the biggest issue. Washington will rotate in for Williams. Madubuike can come in for any of the starting three. The Ravens have to find one more player in this mix. Free agency seems like the only viable option here. This is why you shouldn’t count out Aaron Crawford to make the 53 man roster.

The Ravens linebackers don’t concern me though. L.J. Fort and Malik Harrison are legitimate thumpers. Patrick Queen may not be bulky but his athleticism is off the charts. The Ravens still may be too dependent on Brandon Williams in the run game, but that’s nothing new in Baltimore.

Baltimore Ravens Question 2

@DJ_MORE asks: With us being a little thin on the DLine do you foresee Pat getting a few snaps back on the defensive side?

Answer: You almost have to wonder if this is why the Ravens drafted Ben Mason. Mason seemed like a throwaway kind of a pick because the Ravens already had Pat Ricard as a great fullback. In fact, Ben Mason coming out of Michigan looks an awful lot like Pat Ricard coming out of Maine. If the Ravens plan to get Ricard more involved on the defensive side of the ball, having two fullbacks could make more sense.

The real question is what would you get out of Ricard at defensive tackle? He’s primarily played on the offense for a while now. I’m down for some Project Pat, but I really wonder if he’s fully transitioned into Pancake Pat.

Baltimore Ravens Question 3

@cancelpennies asks: How are you feeling about our front 7 on defense? I feel like it has been getting the least amount of attention this off-season.

Answer: The front seven is fairly solid overall. The starting three defensive linemen are some of the best players on the roster. The young talent at inside linebacker with Patrick Queen, Chris Board, and Malik Harrison is exciting. Bringing back L.J. Fort solidifies the whole group and really makes me think this is going to be the best year the position group has had since Daryl Smith was a Raven.

So I look at a front seven like this and I like it for run defense. You get the big defensive linemen with length and reach with those quick hard-hitting linebackers in the second level. There is a lot of gaps being clogged and there are linebackers to flow to the football.

The questions all come at outside linebacker. Do the Ravens have enough pass rush? That remains to be seen. Losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue didn’t seem that bad because they weren’t exactly killing it off the edge. It wasn’t like losing Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

The versatility of the outside linebackers should be a strength though. Pernell McPhee will help, especially on run-downs. Tyus Bowser is a complete linebacker who plays on the edge. The Ravens need to get just enough from Odafe Oweh in his rookie season to make things click enough from a pass rush perspective. It starting to look more and more like this is the grouping they are going with and it’s solid. They could use more star power and a healthy Calais Campbell could definitely bring that.

Baltimore Ravens Question 4

@Bij_Sadoughi asks: How would Todd Gurley fit into the Baltimore Ravens offense if signed?

Answer: The Baltimore Ravens could use a Mark Ingram replacement. Ingram became a third fiddle but offered a good bit in the passing game when he was used. That’s something the Ravens want to get more out of with J.K. Dobbins, but it could be Gurley’s specialty.

It’s not that Gurley is done or washed up. Gurley is still a great athlete. He just can’t sustain those crazy bursts of explosive running any more. Give him five to 10 touches a game with a good percentage of those touches coming as a receiver out of the backfield and I think you have a nice three headed monster there.

NEXT POST: Rashod Bateman: Baltimore Ravens rookie scouting report

Hopefully that answers your questions. This is the second Ask the Nest where we’ve focused on the defensive front. This is an area of the roster that has some proving to do when games start.

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 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.

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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.