Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Reinforcements are on the way but is it enough?

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have made a move to sign Cedric Ogbuehi to the practice squad according to reports. Meanwhile, Nick Boyle and Derek Wolfe should return to the action against the Minnesota Vikings. The Ravens will have a little more help after the bye week. What kind of an impact can they expect from these three players? Is it enough?

Let’s start on the defense with Derek Wolfe. Wolfe coming back isn’t necessarily a game-changer, though it clearly doesn’t hurt. The biggest problems for the Ravens defensively are the big plays given up in the backend and a collective lack of tackling prowess. Wolfe isn’t solving either of those problems, but his impact will be felt by a defensive line that needed an extra body.

Wolfe is a physical player who plays the game aggressively. Getting Wolfe back could give the Ravens a little more of an edge. Other than Calais Campbell, no defensive lineman has been a consistent performer this season.

There are games where the defensive line fails to even leave an impression. The Ravens just got a little more power up front against the run. For the pass defense, Wolfe could get a few sacks and he’ll surely push the pocket a bit more. Having Wolfe opposite of Campbell gives the Ravens lots of length on both sides and it could affect the passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks.

The Baltimore Ravens are Boyle Loyal

For the offense, the biggest impact is going to be Nick Boyle coming back. Boyle is something every struggling offensive line could use. Getting Boyle back will help the Ravens spring larger runs because of the role he plays as a blocker. Boyle will also be used to help out the right tackle situation. Having Boyle next to Ogbuehi (Or Phillips) will be a huge help more often than not.

The Ravens are getting the best blocking tight end in the league back. To run the football effectively, the Ravens may need Boyle and Pat Ricard to lead the way and to make it possible as a tag team. You probably never imagined the Ravens having a hard time getting running backs going, but here we are.

Boyle is good for two or three fewer hits on Lamar Jackson per game. He’s good for two or three crucial run blocks that set up important plays per game. Let’s not shortchange Boyle as a pass-catcher. In the 2019 season, Boyle had 31 receptions. That was one more catch than Hayden Hurst had. Jackson loves throwing Boyle the ball. The short passing game could become very important with Pat Mekari out at right tackle. Boyle could be a secret weapon back in the mix.

Cedric Ogbuehi:

Now let’s talk about Cedric Ogbuehi. The Ravens signed the recently released right tackle to presumably fill at right tackle. Ogbuehi has a chance to give the Ravens enough at the right tackle position to get by. He’s been in the league since 2015. Being a former Cincinnati Bengals, I’m familiar with Ogbuehi to a point.

Pat Mekari really wasn’t an offensive tackle, and his lack of length was a problem he had to deal with. Ogbuehi is 6’5″ with longer arms and he’ll be playing his natural position. The Ravens can’t realistically throw Tyre Phillips at right tackle and expect good results. Ogbuehi should play above the level of Phillips.

If Ogbuehi is just serviceable, the Ravens will take it. Phillips can’t hold down right tackle. Phillips has a chance to be a decent guard, however, if we’ve learned only one thing about him it’s that we don’t want to see him on the outside. It’s ugly.

Wolfe and Boyle are known commodities. We know what they’ll pitch in for the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a bit of a wait-and-see situation for Ogbuehi. The Ravens should get credit for a legitimate stab at finding a fill-in when the next man up clearly wasn’t on the roster.

NEXT POST: The Baltimore Ravens should trade for Marlon Mack, here’s why

It’s worth noting that the Ravens could get back Sammy Watkins and Chris Westty after the bye as well. Reinforcements are coming. They should help. The Ravens still need to step up their game to reach the ultimate goal.


Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions About the Defensive Line

By: Ashley Anderson

After spending the last several weeks talking about the offense, it is time to tackle (pun intended) the defense. The Baltimore Ravens have been synonymous with bruising defenses since their inception. Their most notable former players include Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed among countless others. This season, pundits are already saying the Ravens could be among the top in the league, but there are still questions to be answered. Here are the top questions facing the defensive line.

3.) Will Derek Wolfe notch more sacks in 2021?

When the Ravens signed Derek Wolfe to a one-year, $6 million deal in the 2020 offseason, they were looking for him to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Although his 2019 season was cut short by injury, he registered seven sacks with the Broncos. In a year clearly marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, that number dropped to one last season.

The numbers do not tell the full story though as Wolfe became a leader on the defensive line. When Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams missed time, Wolfe was the one who stepped up to fill the void. He earned a three-year, $12 million deal as a result. Now more comfortable in the Ravens’ defense, they are hopeful he can up his statistics.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is a master at scheming up pressure. If Wolfe can tally five or more sacks, it would be a major boost for the defense as a whole. It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility as he has done so in four of his nine seasons.


2.) Will Justin Madubuike live up to the hype?

At nearly every press conference during training camp, someone has brought up the name Justin Madubuike. His teammates and coaches are positively raving about his ability and his performance so far. In fact, Madubuike is even receiving attention nationally from publications such as Sports Illustrated regarding his breakout potential.

As a second-year pro, things could go one of two ways for Madubuike. The first, and most preferable for the Ravens, is he makes good on the hype and has a monster season. Although he is not considered a starter at the moment, he will get his fair share of reps. By year’s end, he could be on the field for the lion’s share of snaps.

There is also the alternative possibility of a sophomore slump. Sometimes, players get too much attention, and it gets in their heads. The Ravens usually do well to nurture their young talent, but in the age of social media, you can be sure Madubuike has heard the chatter.

When the spotlight is on athletes, it brings intense scrutiny to everything they do. All eyes are on Madubuike this year, and it remains to be seen how he will handle it.

1.) Can Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams stay healthy?

The saying goes, “Age is nothing but a number,” and for some, that may be true. However, playing in the trenches in the NFL takes a toll on the body. Calais Campbell turns 35 on September 1st, and Brandon Williams is not far behind at 32.

Campbell was exceptionally healthy heading into the 2020 season. After missing just six games in 12 years, Campbell battled Covid-19 and a calf strain that cost him four games. Sitting eight sacks shy of the century mark, he has been outspoken about his desire for a big year. Campbell has hinted at possibly retiring after this year, so he would love nothing more than to finish strong.

On the other hand, Williams has missed time periodically throughout his career. Last season, he missed a total of three games, and his shoes were tough to fill. The Ravens’ run defense is noticeably worse without Williams manning the middle of the line.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints: Preseason preview (Offense)

If one or both veterans miss time, the depth behind them is shaky at best. Baltimore is relying on Justin Ellis, and second-year man Broderick Washington to plug sizeable holes. Madubuike is set to be more of a rotational player than a backup, and the Ravens hope their aging vets can stay healthy.

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 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.

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.