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.
We have placed Brandon Williams, Justin Madubuike, Justin Houston and Jaylon Ferguson on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 24, 2021
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.
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.