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 Nest Talks

Baltimore Ravens: Top 5 preseason performers (Video)

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens preseason is over. I don’t think there is a single fan of the Baltimore Ravens (Or of the NFL) that is going to be asking for more preseason games. Preseason football is kind of funny. We’re super excited about each preseason game and yet we can’t wait for the real football to get going. Preseason football is like the bread you get for free at a restaurant. It keeps you satisfied before you get going with your meal.

J.K. Dobbins got hurt in the final preseason game. I figured a look on the positives from the preseason could lift the Ravens Flock a bit.

In this video, I discuss the top five most impressive players from the Ravens’ preseason efforts. There are a lot of ways to go in this kind of video. I could have talked about the Ravens players that did the most to win a job on the 53 man roster. I could have focused on the players that surprised us the most. In the end, I chose five players that just really brought their A-game. These are five players who either prominently or subtly were stars of the preseason.

Goose, the official mascot of The Purple and Black Nest decided that she should be involved in the video. I always like having my four-legged friend with me. If you asked Goose, I am sure she would tell you that she stole the show. She kind of did. I’m just glad that my dog actually behaved.

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

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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.

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.