Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Don Martindale out as Ravens defensive coordinator: Breaking it down

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have moved on from Don Martindale. It will go down in history as the Ravens mutually part ways with their defensive coordinator. This one comes as a surprise, so let’s unpack it.

Unpacking the Don Martindale news: 

Martindale clearly had his worst season as the Ravens defensive coordinator. In each season prior to this, he had a top 10 defense. This year the defense statistically ranked in the bottom tier. The Ravens gave up a lot of big plays down the field, with blown coverage being a common trend.

The injuries of the Ravens clearly gave Martindale some excuses. Not only did he lose Marcus Peters for the whole season, but by the end of the year, he was relying on raw corners like Keyvon Seymour and Robert Jackson.

You can make the argument that Martindale’s defense relies too heavily on personnel. When he doesn’t have a Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey combo, the defense doesn’t work. He needs great cornerbacks to lean on so his defense works.

You can also point to Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon’s immediate success after leaving the Ravens. Don’t forget, Yannick Ngakoue had a comeback season with the Las Vegas Raiders. Did Martindale struggle to get the most out of his pass rushers? It’s a fair question.

Why it doesn’t feel right: 

Here is the catch. Here is why this doesn’t feel right. Martindale held the Steelers to 16 points in the finale. Martindale held down the Los Angeles Rams to just 20 points. In the back half of the schedule, only the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals scored over 24 points on the Ravens. The defense was just as hampered by injuries as the offense was and kept the Ravens competitive in games the offense didn’t do much in. 

All things considered, this wasn’t even that bad of a year for the Ravens’ defense. It could have been a lot worse. If the Ravens want to move in a different direction, this move may make some sense. In that case, it was more of a parting ways thing than a firing situation. If this is the sacrificial lamb of the Ravens missing the playoffs, the organization missed the mark. Why this happened matters more than anything else because it completely changes the context for everything. 

This feels very much like a case of “They got the wrong guy.” If the point of this was to change things up after a tough season and to add some consequence to ending the year in a six-game slump, they got the wrong coordinator. If Greg Roman was told goodbye it wouldn’t have been surprising. It’s been near the front of our minds for months; whether or not you want Roman gone, you’ve thought about it. Martindale’s exit is a shocker. 

Change is coming post Don Martindale: 

This is a great chance for the Ravens to change directions and undergo a defensive youth movement. Moving on from Don Martindale allows the Ravens to start fresh defensively. The personnel could change as much as the philosophy if you think about it. 

Brandon Williams, Justin Houston, and Calais Campbell are all unrestricted free agents. The makings of a youth movement are already there for the Ravens with Odafe Oweh, Justin Madubuike and Tyus Bowser positioned to be key players in 2022.

Calais Campbell may retire, which would honestly help the Ravens if they’re moving in the younger direction. Justin Houston is a player you could go either way with. It’s very much like it was the last offseason, the Ravens should want Houston, but at a price, they’re comfortable paying. Houston was solid for the Ravens but he only had 4.5 sacks and he’s 32 years old.

The Ravens’ run defense has always been dependent on Brandon Williams. Williams is a space-eater who doesn’t; rush the passer much. He’s always been valuable because he’s been elite at what he does well- stopping the run and anchoring the defensive line. If the Ravens think he’s losing a step or it may be time to cut him loose before it’s too late, this is their chance to do so. Like Houston, Williams is also 32 years old.

What the Ravens lacked defensively were difference makers. Oweh had moments. He’s shown enough to make the franchise think he might be the next Terrell Suggs for them. The Ravens always want to be good at stopping the run, but what if they invest more in pass rush. What if the Ravens’ goals are to find the counter punch on the other side to Oweh and a defensive line that starts getting after the quarterback.

This is the Ravens’ chance to redo how they do things. They could theoretically switch to a 4-3 defense and commit to Oweh as a defensive end. Tyus Bowser, Patrick Queen and, maybe Josh Bynes (back at a cost-effective price) could be your three linebackers. The Ravens could draft some defensive linemen who could get into the backfield and play fewer two-gap responsibilities. Justin Madubuike may fit into this kind of defense a bit better anyway.

Martindale should be held in high esteem: 

Change is coming and thinking about that change is exciting. That doesn’t mean moving on from Martindale was the right decision. It just means that if the Ravens get the right hire in at defensive coordinator, this can be a positive when it’s all said and done. The Ravens need to get better at rushing the passer. Now a new coordinator will have to work towards that progress. 

Martindale was loved by the players. I’ve always respected his authenticity. Martindale’s stock as a defensive coordinator should still be high after all of this. He was with the Ravens organization since the 2012 season and when he supplanted Dean Pees it took the defense into a much better direction.

With Pees the Ravens died slowly. Soft zone coverage, typically a cover 3, allowed good quarterbacks to come back and put the final nail in the Ravens’ coffin too many times. Martindale went for it. Martindale would take chances in the situations Pees would sit back and fold his arms. I’ll always admire him for that. 

NEXT POST: Ravens NFL Draft spotlight: Evan Neal OT, Alabama

The Ravens defense did crumble and gave up late leads in the Ravens six-game losing streak. Ben Roethlisberger sent the Pittsburgh Steelers to the playoffs with an overtime drive that couldn’t have sat well with anybody in the organization. Moving on doesn’t feel right, but change is not unwarranted. It’s a sad day, Martindale was a huge part of this franchise for a long time. Change is hard, but if the Ravens do this right, it’s an opportunity to get back to dominant defense. 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t make the playoffs. The season is over and it ended on a six-game losing streak. It was not an emotionally rewarding season and there are plenty of things to think about. The main conversation for the Ravens Flock is the fate of the coaching staff. Is John Harbaugh getting a pass? Should Greg Roman be canned? Is Don Martindale a head coaching candidate elsewhere? There’s a lot to sift through.

Greg Roman, should he stay or should he go?

Greg Roman has given the Ravens one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens actually had the sixth-most yards per game in the NFL this season. The Ravens finished the season third in rushing yards per game. Even with Lamar Jackson missing the last portion of the season, the Ravens finished 13th in passing yards per game. These are numbers that make a strong case for Roman to come back in a year without Ronnie Stanley, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins.

That being said statistics could make a compelling argument either way. 22.8 points per game isn’t exactly where you set the bar in the NFL. A 36.4 percent conversion rate on third down isn’t exactly doing the trick either. Nobody wants me to get into the red zone stuff, Baltimore is scarred from their team’s inability to punch the ball in the end zone when it matters. There are numbers for both sides of the argument, but more and more, it feels like Roman deserves an exit.

Many people want to point to the Ravens’ postseason failures as a reason to avoid giving Lamar Jackson his big payday. Roman’s predictability and lack of flexibility have more to do with the Ravens’ missteps in 2019 and 2020. You actually don’t need a complicated answer here. Does it feel like the same old thing over and over again? Does it feel like Roman is hindering progress because you can only get to a certain point with his offense? It does.

Moving on from Roman would allow the Ravens to see if Jackson could do it with another coordinator. The results could go either way for Jackson, but if he shined with another coordinator it answers some questions before a big contract extension. A fresh start for Jackson could be what he needs to get back to playing at the insane video game like display of greatness we got way too used to. Giving Roman some leeway because of injuries is fair. Roman isn’t an awful coordinator.

That doesn’t mean he’s the right coordinator for next season. The Ravens don’t need a complete overhaul. They need to take the next step when their guys are back in action. If you feel deep down that Roman isn’t taking that next step moving on makes a lot of sense. It’s not going to happen but it would be a defendable action by the team.

Don Martindale: An undervalued treasure for the Baltimore Ravens

If you hold Don Martindale’s job on the chopping block because Kevon Seymour and Robert Jackson can’t cover to save their life, that’s a bit unfair. The Ravens’ defense was in a tough spot. The biggest difference-maker was also a rookie (Odafe Oweh) finding his footing in the NFL. Once Marlon Humphrey was hurt the Ravens’ secondary was basically a poorly stacked skid of freight with no shrink-wrap, if the truck hits a speed bump it’s all falling down.

The Ravens defense had some lumps and blown coverage was a big problem all year. But look at what pundits think is the Ravens’ draft needs. The Ravens need a true free safety, they need a better defensive line and as usual more pass rush. Martindale had the toughest assignment he ever had. The Ravens only allowed 23.1 points per game. The run defense was solid and with a little tinkering of responsibilities the Ravens were able to get Patrick Queen back to a very productive place. The defense wasn’t great. It also had no chance to be.

John Harbaugh was given a lot of praise for his resilience. But Wink needs to get some praise for his work. The Ravens were in every single game down the stretch when circumstances gave them very little chance. Look at the scores for the second half of the season. The Browns scored 16 and 22 points against the Ravens. The Steelers scored 20 points in their first battle with Baltimore and 16 in the finale. The Bears scored 13. The Rams only got 20. The Bengals game was an outlier but the point is that the Ravens had done enough defensively (With very little help from the injury front and Covid-19) to win games down the stretch.

The Ravens gave their offense a chance. The offense didn’t deliver too many times. Martindale made the best-case scenario out of a bad spot. He now draws some interest for head coaching jobs with the New York Giants reportedly being his biggest chance at a promotion. That’s great to see because I’ll root for this man till the day he dies. If the Ravens lose Martindale, Ravens fans may miss what they had.

John Harbaugh: Praise him or put him on the hot seat?

If you want to fire John Harbaugh… stop, just stop. He’s been the Ravens coach since 2008. He has a Super Bowl ring and an NFL Coach of the Year award on his resume. The Ravens haven’t had the playoff success you’re looking for, I get it. Mike Tomlin is 8-8 in the playoffs and hasn’t gotten the Steelers close to a Super Bowl in a while, should the Steelers fire him?

Probably not. Andy Reid is just 17-15 in the playoffs. He took the Chiefs job in 2013 and it took him a while to get that Super Bowl ring. Sean Payton has one ring and a bunch of failures on his resume, should the New Orleans Saints fire him? Probably not. The point is great coaches have a hard time chasing the Lombardi Trophy, if you have a guy who’s proven he can do it, sticking with him is usually the right idea.

The Ravens had their chance to part with Harbaugh. 2015-2017 was about as miserable of a time in Ravens history as there ever was. The Ravens were mediocre and the Ravens missed the playoffs three years in a row. We know that Lamar Jackson saved Harbaugh’s job. It’s not a secret. It’s a widely accepted fact. Since his job got saved the Ravens’ records have been 14-2, 11-5, and 8-9. The 8-9 record came when the Ravens had the most injury-plagued year in franchise history. The Ravens were in almost every game down to the wire. Love him or hate him, he proved a lot this year and he isn’t going anywhere.

Does the question become what the bar will become for Harbaugh? What is an acceptable result in the 2022 season? Does it become Super Bowl or you’re out of here? Does it become to make a viable run at it and if you get close you’re fine? Harbaugh deserves praise this season. The franchise has a great culture. Everybody wants to be here, the fight and heart this team showed on a week-to-week basis make a strong case for Harbaugh. The Bottom Line:

At the end of the day, the Baltimore Ravens have a strong argument for bringing all three core coaches back. While it doesn’t make the big talking points, I’d like to mention that Chris Horton has proven to be a strong special teams coordinator.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

I’d like to see the Ravens move on from Roman, and see if they can build off the ideas he started here. Roman has my respect, but it’s time to find out some things we can’t know if he stays on as the offensive coordinator. A little change is needed, a full overhaul of what the Ravens are doing is not.

Posted in Complicated made simple: X's and O's and scouting for all fans

Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have lost Marlon Humphrey for the year. The Ravens secondary in general is an injury-stressed place and the offense is going to have to score more points without their Pro Bowl corner. The offense needs to score. It’s an absolute need against teams like the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Los Angeles Rams. The Ravens needed 21 points to beat the Steelers last Sunday and didn’t get it.

With that in mind let’s take a look at how the Baltimore Ravens can get the offense going. Let’s look at the problems in three segments: Lamar Jackson, Greg Roman, and the offensive line. These are the three major drivers of what is hurting the Ravens. The quarterback, the play-caller, and the offensive line are the key factors in turning everything around. So let’s start with the player who touches the football every play.

Lamar Jackson:

This may be an unpopular answer, but Lamar Jackson just needs to snap out of it. Jackson is stuck in his head and it’s affecting the way he sees the field. The Lamar Jackson from the Ravens’ thrilling wins and the Jackson of the past several weeks are effectively two different players. We’ve been over that already though. We’ve diagnosed the problems earlier this week. Now we have to look for solutions.

The first fix for Jackson is to change the metabolism of the game. The Ravens should use a high-tempo offense. They should get to the line of scrimmage quickly. The Ravens have been comeback kings, they even mounted a last-minute drive against the Steelers that would have tied up the game if John Harbaugh made a different decision. It may sound a little simplistic, but this team only seems to do well when they have a sense of desperate urgency. Simulating that with tempo isn’t a bad idea.

More importantly, it could get Jackson out of his head. The Ravens need to get him rolling out of the pocket by design a little more, play fast and encourage Jackson to take off and run the football. When Jackson is in the zone he’s a stone-cold killer of NFL defenses. Spark Jackson.

Jackson needs a mindset change. He can’t always be trying to make the big play. He has to go through his progressions and make the short pass that’s there when the deep shot isn’t available. Jackson needs to see the whole field. He needs to go back to being a point guard style of quarterback. He is responsible for creating big plays, but his ultimate responsibility is to make the right decision and distribute the football to players with green grass in front of them.

Greg Roman:

If Jackson’s job is to change his mindset and spark himself by taking what the defense gives him, Greg Roman has the responsibility of putting Jackson in the best situation. That means calling a game for tempo rather than huddling. That means calling plays with check-downs and easy completions to get up his confidence. When Jackson is struggling and frustrated, call a designed run. Running the football is the one thing Jackson can do in any state of mind. Jackson wakes up when he realizes he’s a dual-threat. Roman has to understand that fact when calling the game.

If I was Roman I would call plays that simplify things for Jackson until the rut is gone. I’d try to lean more on the ground game which would maximize the play-action passing game for Jackson. Roman also needs to avoid getting too cute with it. Think about the two-point try. T.J. Watt was a problem off the edge. Think about the overtime interception against the Vikings. Jackson couldn’t get the ball over an edge defender on a play that clearly needed him not to be there. This is actually a pattern on less prominent plays as well. Roman needs to do a better job factoring in edge rushers in his play-calling.

Any creativity that Roman has left, this is the time to pull it out. If there’s some magical vault of plays he has at the ready this is the time to go to the bag. Roman has to bring some fun into this offense. Whether that means using Devin Duvernay in creative ways out of the backfield or coming up with some trick plays, now is the time. The Ravens have been miserable to watch. Part of the reason that is true is that they’ve seemed tense and frustrated on the field. Mixing things up is a great idea right now. The status quo has become the worst part of the offense.

The offensive line:

The offensive line has to put their best forward. Lamar Jackson took seven sacks against the Steelers and it kind of felt like more than that. A good bit of that is actually on the quarterback, but excusing seven sacks from an offensive line isn’t happening in my book.

There’s only so much the Ravens can do upfront. The Ravens need Pat Mekari at right tackle. There’s just no way around it and it looks like Mekari won’t be able to suit up against the Cleveland Browns. Mekari didn’t practice on Wednesday because of his nagging ankle injury. Maybe Ja’Waun James can be the answer by the end of the season, but that’s a major question mark. If Tyre Phillips is your right tackle, you have issues.

The offensive line needs help from Pat Ricard and the second and third tight ends on the roster, mostly on the right side of the offensive line. Ricard should get more time on the field because the fullback is the best extra blocker Baltimore has. The right side is the big problem. Alejandro Villanueva is having a surprisingly decent season at left tackle. Bradley Bozeman is doing well at the center position. Helping out the right tackle has to be a part of every game plan.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

Boiled down, the keys are getting Jackson going with tempo and play-calling while helping out the right side of the offensive line with extra blockers.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Lamar Jackson and his rut is hurting the Baltimore Ravens

By Chris Schisler 

Lamar Jackson has been off his game for several weeks. It’s getting to the point where this rut has almost become the standard operating procedure for the MVP quarterback. So what’s wrong?

It leads to sacks and interceptions, bad passes. By holding on to the football too long, Jackson is ignoring his responsibility in pass protection and creating the need for improvisation in the first place. 

This offensive line isn’t good. It shouldn’t be let off the hook entirely. At one point in this season, the offensive line was the main culprit behind the problems. Jackson is playing bad football right now and it’s become the biggest problem in Baltimore.

Lamar Jackson is having too many negative plays

Jackson’s biggest strength has always been his efficiency. He’s always been on top of things. In his MVP season pressure didn’t affect him the way it is this season. The 2021 version of Lamar Jackson is getting beat with blitzes. Teams figured out that blitzing the Ravens from out wide causes a lot of problems.

Quite simply, Jackson hasn’t responded or adapted. Against the Steelers, the times he could beat them with a quick strike specifically because of the blitz, he pats the ball and then bailed out of the pocket. Jackson isn’t hitting the open receivers. Hot routes are often ignored and check-down passes almost seem forbidden from Jackson’s point of view. 

Jackson went 23-37 passing. He had an interception and was sacked seven times. The Browns picked off Jackson four times and sacked him twice. Against the Dolphins, Jackson was 26-43 and had an interception. Things have been going in a bad direction. It’s not a Ravens vs. Steelers problem. It’s a Lamar Jackson problem. 

Lamar Jackson is in his head: 

The Ravens came into this game with a clear plan and they knew what they wanted to accomplish. The proof of that is the opening march down the field. The Ravens had it put together until Jackson had what could only be described as a boneheaded interception. The best possesion of the game was a 99.5-yard touchdown drive. When the Ravens put it together it was good. 

The Ravens dominated the Browns in just about every statistical category outside of turnovers. The Ravens controlled the game in Pittsburgh until they didn’t. It’s hard to blame anybody more than Jackson right now. For two games in a row, Jackson played more than bad enough to lose. The difference is that Pittsburgh didn’t let him get away with it. 

It’s good that Jackson gets upset when things don’t go well. At a certain point patting your chest and taking the blame gets annoying. The only thing people like less than hearing sorry is hearing it constantly. Jackson needs to get out of his head. He needs to stop trying so hard and remember to have fun playing football.

He needs to know that the big play doesn’t always have to happen immediately. Checkdowns are like vegetables, you don’t like them but they’re healthy for you if used appropriately. Jackson needs to stop putting it all on himself and play with some rhythm. 

The Baltimore Ravens offense has to be better, bottom line: 

You can’t blame the defense. If your opponent only scores 20 points and you lose, it’s on the offense. The Steelers scored 20 points and 17 of them were in the fourth quarter. The Ravens spent a whole game forcing punts to have the dam break. We’ve seen the movie before. This is what happens when you possess the ball but don’t score. The offense didn’t hold its end of the bargain. 

You can say that Mark Andrews should have caught the two-point conversion. Fine. You can say the Ravens shouldn’t have even gone for the two-point conversion. Fine. You can’t blame the defense for the offense leaving points on the board, and for so many drives to give the team so little. 

The Baltimore Ravens will be in trouble until they start putting some points on the board. The loss of Marlon Humphrey for the season means that the dam is going to break sooner and more easily. The Ravens scored 10 points against the Lions. They scored 16 points against the bears. Baltimore had 16 points against the Browns and 19 in the loss to Pittsburgh. Points more specifically points left on the field are the problem. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

Lamar Jackson is in a rut. He needs to play himself out of it. The MVP quarterback is in his head. He’s trying to force it as a pocket passer. He’s not taking what’s given to him, he wants to beat defenses down the field, with his arm. Until Jackson starts throwing the ball on schedule and playing reeled in football the offense is going to sputter. Believing in Jackson isn’t ignoring the fact that he’s playing poorly. The negative plays (sacks, interceptions, missed chances) are killing the team. 


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs. Browns: Don’t make it harder than it has to be

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens have to focus on fundamentals: 

The Baltimore Ravens are taking on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football. It’s crucial that the Ravens don’t make this harder than it has to be. It sounds simple and almost too obvious but it’s the biggest lesson the Ravens can take to heart before the battle with the Browns. 

The Ravens defense needs to do the things that win football games without being noticed. It’s not about making a highlight play you’ll remember for the rest of your life; it’s about defenders being where they are supposed to be. The Browns are a team that is struggling on offense – yet they are playing a Ravens defense that gives up big plays. The Browns have playmakers. Mistakes will give the Browns life. It’s that simple. 

The Ravens are going against Nick Chubb. Chubb is one of the best running backs in the NFL and he may be this generation’s version of Jamal Lewis. Chubb is deadly when you let him get a full head of steam. Don Martindale can call all the crazy looks he wants, if the defense doesn’t win the battle at the line of scrimmage it doesn’t matter. 

The Ravens need to be in the right position in this game. The two biggest phrases of the evening are going to be gap sound defense and outside contain. Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston are crucial parts of this defense in this effort against Cleveland. They cannot allow the Browns run game to break to the outside. When Baker Mayfield tries to sell the play-action they must crash towards him with Ray Lewis-level passion. 

Don’t make it easy for them, Make it easy for you: 

Open-field tackling is crucial in this game. All it takes is a missed tackle on Jarvis Landry or Donovan Peoples-Jones for a big play to change this game in the Browns favor. If the Ravens win this game their defenders have to make use of their shoulder pads and they have to wrap up.

There can’t be big plays given up because of a bad attempt at a tackle. Blown coverages aren’t on the menu tonight, they simply can’t be. The Ravens have to communicate with each other in the backend, no matter who is out there on the field when it’s go time. 

A defensive shutout would be nice. It’s not expected. The Ravens are far more likely to have a back and forth kind of game with their division foe. What needs to be the expectation is doing the simple things. Fundamentals have lost Baltimore games this season. Defensively it’s been the biggest reason the Ravens are giving up so many big plays down the field. 

The offense has responsibility too: 

The offense has to finish drives. It’s a must. Field goals don’t win big games. The Ravens’ inept performance on third downs has been their doom too much this season. 

Lamar Jackson has the ultimate responsibility of not allowing things to go South. It’s up to him to avoid negative plays and take what the defense gives him. Jackson has to take off and run when he sees daylight. He can’t get greedy and wait for the deep routes to develop all day long. 

Greg Roman has to call a game that makes sense to the game on the field. If things aren’t going right he needs to be able to call adjustments out during the game. It can’t be like it was against the Miami Dolphins where he had the team stay a bad course. 

NEXT POST: Ravens showdown with Browns: 4 predictions and a score

You can watch all the tape in the world. You can come up with the best game plan. When you boil this all down there’s one thing that matters. The Ravens have to make a conscious choice not to do things the hard way this evening. When the Baltimore Ravens battle the Browns they must do the fundamentals. It sounds simple, but it’s true. The Ravens can make this game harder than it has to be, or they can choose to play the right way on a big night. 



Posted in Pregame Content

Ravens offense: Things we want to see against the Browns

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are about to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football. This is one of the biggest games of the season. It’s a chance to keep the Browns down and hold onto first place in the AFC North. The Ravens have to play the Browns again in Week 14 after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 13. The Browns get a bye in between their clashes with the Ravens. This one is big and it can’t be overstated.

Stars back, the quarterback protected:

The first thing you want to see for the Baltimore Ravens is the return of Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown. This isn’t a game that the Ravens can get by in without making big plays. The offense can’t leave the defense out to dry. The Browns may be as on and off as the Ravens, but when they’re on they can drop some points on the scoreboard.

The Ravens need more from their pass protection to be better. What was the problem two weeks in a row? Blitzes coming off the edge untouched and unnoticed. This is a game where the Ravens can’t leave Lamar Jackson out to dry, assuming he gets back into the action. This is where the return of Nick Boyle comes in. Protect the right tackle with extra help blocking. Put Boyle in there and have Pat Ricard at the ready.

Myles Garrett has 13 sacks to his name this year and has a case to be the Defensive Player of the Year. The Browns should absolutely send a defensive back after the Ravens’ quarterback in this game, it worked for two teams in a row. The offensive line is outmatched. What does this mean for Greg Roman?

It means it’s not okay to see a lot of looks out of an empty set, taxing your five-man protection. It means that he can’t call a ton of deep shots down the field that doesn’t include safety valves for Jackson underneath. The ball has to come out quick more often than not and that doesn’t mean 50 wide receiver screens.

Run the ball, have some fun with it:

The Ravens need to keep making progress with their run game. Let’s see Devonta Freeman keep picking up some momentum. Let’s see Latavius Murray running fearlessly up the gut as he did against Chicago. We need to see Jackson chip into the run game. The Ravens used to be promised 150 yards on the ground even on a bad day. You can run against this Browns defense. Let’s see the Ravens get back to overpowering their opponent.

This is a game where every bit of creativity from Roman will be appreciated. All season, the Ravens have been using Devin Duvernay in the run game. What if that jet sweep could be used to set up a fairly deadly play-fake? It feels like the Ravens have been setting it up all season and this could be a good game to have it pay off. The Ravens need to pull out all the stops. The last thing Ravens fans will accept is a lack of creativity and inspiration from their play-caller.

More than anything you just want to see the Ravens finish drives. Too often they are stopped to Justin Tucker field goals when the offense looks like it’s about to get going. The offense needs to hone into the moment with no little mistakes. Penalty-free football is next to impossible the way the game is called, but Baltimore can’t beat themselves with stupid things: False starts, delay of game penalties, illegal formations.

Jackson to Andrews:

Again, this article is written in the assumption that we’ll see the Ravens MVP candidate under center on Sunday evening. We have to see Lamar Jackson playing like Lamar Jackson wire to wire. He can’t be off or out of sync at the beginning of this game and look to turn on the jets as the game progresses. He needs to be the number eight that steps into his throws and fires strikes, not the one who misses low, or puts himself in a bad throw because he held the ball too long.

This is a Browns game so it’s all about Mark Andrews. Andrews has had some of his biggest games against the Browns. That needs to continue on Sunday evening. When Jackson is feeling it and the Browns don’t have a way to stop Andrews, good things happen for Baltimore.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking every crazy victory of this insane season

This is going to be a battle. The offensive focus needs to be on three things. First, the play-calls must help the offensive line. Secondly, creativity must unlock some fun in the run game. Finally, the Ravens need Lamar Jackson back and ready to do some damage. Other than one bad day in 2019, Jackson has owned the Browns. He’s their biggest nightmare. He has to be extra scary to the Browns on this game in front of a national audience.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: A full examination of the Greg Roman situation

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are in an interesting spot with Greg Roman. After a horrible outing against the Miami Dolphins, many fans are calling for him to be fired as the offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, the offense has ranked near the top of the NFL most of the season. Something doesn’t add up.

Greg Roman has been the coordinator since he was promoted after Marty Mornhinweg and the Ravens parted ways. Roman essentially built the only NFL offense Lamar Jackson has known. In his tenure, he’s led the way to record-breaking rushing numbers. Jackson has come a long way as a passer and has a realistic chance to win his second AP NFL MVP award under Roman’s tutelage. To say it’s all bad would be painting with an unfair brush.

The Dolphins game highlights one of the biggest problems with Roman. He doesn’t always see which way the wind is blowing. The Dolphins infamously tested his stubbornness by essentially running the same defense at him on repeat. Roman seemingly double-downed on his strategy and the offense went absolutely nowhere.

The Baltimore Ravens are stuck with a choice. After a season-low, do they back their coordinator or fire him midseason as they did with Cam Cameron and Marc Trestman? The Ravens probably won’t fire Roman. He has had far more success than failures, and he is not the singular problem maker the Ravens have. 

A mix of good and bad to sort through: 

The Ravens brought in Keith Williams and Tee Martin this offseason to spruce up the passing game while Roman called the plays. A lot of fans see this as having two legitimate options from within to replace Roman. Baltimore is much better off using their skills and intelligence in tandem. It’s like an offensive strategy buffet, you take what you want and you leave what you don’t. 

The passing game has improved dramatically. Marquise Brown is on his way to 1,000 yards receiving. Lamar Jackson is passing much more often and for more yards per attempt. After week 10, Jackson is just passing yards away from his 2020 totals. The influence of Williams and Martin is working. With this group of used-to-be-a-star running backs, Greg Roman may be the only coordinator who can make the run game work. The Ravens have 11 touchdowns on the ground and are still one of the best rushing teams statistically. 

The Dolphins game actually highlights John Harbaugh’s failings more than it does Roman’s. Harbaugh allowed Roman to stay the course. Harbaugh didn’t force Roman’s hand asking for him to exploit the Cover 0 looks the Ravens got on repeat. The former special teams coach, may not be a play-caller but he sees the game as well as anyone. He is responsible for guiding his coordinators to the desired outcome. It’s not the other way around. 

Harbaugh has the power to fix this and keep his staff at the same time: 

Harbaugh gives his coordinators too much leeway. The fact of the matter is that the offense has gotten off to slow starts on a nearly weekly basis. They’ve continued to look unprepared and the comebacks often result in a change from Lamar Jackson’s play more than Roman righting the ship. The Ravens either come into the game with the right plan, or they have to watch Lamar Jackson do his Superman act to get the Ravens the win. The fans are tired of it. One would think Harbaugh, the man with the ability to do something about it, would be exhausted by it as well. 

After that game, it’s easy to call for people’s jobs and be upset. Once you say the Ravens should get rid of John Harbaugh, you’ve reached a point where anger and frustration blind you from the big picture. Harbaugh and Jackson work well together. Harbaugh has always had a good sense for the pulse of the team and he always finds a way to get the train back on the tracks. The buck stops with Harbaugh, it’s on him. That doesn’t mean you fire him just because there needs to be a sacrificial lamb. 

Working together and doing some soul searching is the only fruitful way forward for the purple and black. If you terminate Roman’s contract you get rid of the bones of the offense and you dramatically hurt the run game. Roman, Williams, and Martin need to keep working together. They just need more oversight from Harbaugh. 

Baltimore Ravens bottom line: 

Harbaugh needs to sit down with his offensive coaching staff and lay out the issues. The head coach needs to tell them to build a plan to prevent slow starts. He needs to build contingency plans on a week-to-week basis. He needs to be more involved, plain and simple. Roman, Williams, and Martin make the creative team Harbaugh is the director. 

We can’t pretend that the problems on the offensive line, the injuries to Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins, and the absence of Nick Boyle haven’t impacted the product on the field. We can’t praise the Ravens for their resilience one week and call for everybody to get fired the next. They have to do what they’ve been called to do all season: Make this work the best it can. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens get sunk by Dolphins: The good, bad, downright ugly

Let’s not burn the whole bridge because we didn’t get across the other side on Thursday Night Football. Let’s make fixes and some adjustments. Don’t blow everything up in rage. The Ravens coaching staff must work together and find a way. It’s that simple. Firing Roman would only complicate things in a season where the Ravens have very little margin of error. 



Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens get sunk by Dolphins: The good, bad, downright ugly

By Chris Schisler

The Miami Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens 22-10.  This isn’t a fun game so let’s get down to the analysis right away. 

The mildly good

The Baltimore Ravens run game was on point at the very beginning. Devonta Freeman got the Ravens off to a great start. Freeman looked as spry as any running back has all season this year for the Ravens. Devin Duvernay also picked up a couple of first downs on running attempts.  The only other thing to note with the offense, for now, is how good Rashod Bateman looked. He had six receptions for 80 yards. 

Don Martindale should be proud of the way his team started this game. The Ravens forced punts on the first three drives. The flow to the football at the start of this game was about as good as it’s been all season. Odafe Oweh ended Miami’s first drive with an impressive sack.

Most of the night saw one of the best games the defensive line had this season. The linebackers were where they were supposed to be. Against an offensive line that was supposed to make them look good, they looked rock solid. Other than two blown coverages, the defense mostly looked the part for the Baltimore Ravens. The Dolphins only scored 22 points and they had a defensive touchdown. 

We’re going to skip all the way until the late portion of the fourth quarter. There’s a ton of bad and ugly to sift through. A 99-yard touchdown drive that only took three minutes and twenty-eight seconds got the Ravens back in the game. It was 15-10 with about four minutes left in the action. The Ravens got help from the officials, but they did something to make it a game. 

The bad

On the first drive of the game, the Ravens were held to a field goal. A delay of game penalty made things harder than they had to be. The Ravens went from a third and manageable to a third and long. Jackson got pressured and didn’t have time to accurately hit Sammy Watkins in the end zone. It was a frustrating three points because the drive looked like a sure six was coming.

The second drive ended in a rare missed field goal by Justin Tucker. On the third-down before the kick, Marquise Brown fumbled trying to pick up extra yards on a wide receiver screen pass. Credit Rashod Bateman for fighting to get the football back. A missed 48-yard field goal gave the Dolphins great field position. Hindsight is 20/20 but going for it there would have made some sense. The Ravens looked good and really owned the first quarter. They had three points to show for it.

The third drive continued the bad start for the offense. Lamar Jackson took an awful sack on third down for a quick three and out. He held the ball too long. The pass protection wasn’t great, yet Jackson had to get out of the pocket and get rid of the football. The offense, for the third straight game, started the game off as if it didn’t even have a plan. It was at that point you knew this was going to be that kind of an evening.

Let’s just call the rest ugly from this point. It was hard to watch. 

The downright ugly from the Baltimore Ravens: 

The Ravens didn’t have a third-down conversion in the first half. Most of the third-down were bad situations. The Ravens got behind the chains and third down was not working.

The play calling was bad. Take the call on the last drive of the first half. The Ravens called it conservatively and tossed it, Devonta Freeman. He got caught on a play that never developed and the Ravens punted.

The defense was about as good as you could get until the end of the first half. The Ravens allowed a drive that started with less than a minute in the half to get the Dolphins inside the 10-yard line. The Dolphins kicked the go-ahead field goal and led 6-3. One big play gave up the lead. That’s what happens when the offense does next to nothing for 30 minutes of action.

In a game the Ravens had to win, against a two-win team, the Ravens trailed 6-3 at halftime. Lamar Jackson had 82 passing yards. Sam Koch punted four times. It may have been the least exciting two quarters in Ravens history.

The second half started rough for Baltimore offensively. The third down play that got Miami the stop was hideous. Lamar Jackson had nowhere to go, didn’t have a quick outlet that he expected to be there, and got sacked. Words can’t express how discombobulated it looked setting up a 3rd & 15. How do you think that went?

Greg Roman was not on point: 

On the next third down failure, the Ravens needed 16 yards. On 2nd and 17, Greg Roman called a conservative run up the gut. He called plenty of screen passes to wide receivers. He called runs like this one by Le’Veon Bell. Roman didn’t seem to have a clue in this game and he failed to adjust to the Dolphins gameplan and the situations the Ravens offense was put in. However, let’s focus on that one play because it’s the whole problem in a nutshell. 

In any logical sense, the Ravens needed to get half of the needed yardage. Two yards and a cloud of dust got the Ravens in another impossible third down. The Baltimore Ravens already had been experiencing a failure to launch. Where was the sense of urgency?

The game was in reach and panic was unnecessary, however, the third quarter was more than halfway over. As a play-caller Roman had to force the issue.

The Ravens gave up a Mack Holland sack after a 14-yard completion was taken away by a Dolphins challenge. It’s hard to see what was conclusive enough to take that play away, it’s also hard to see where the blocking was off the edge on the following play.

The Baltimore Ravens defense fell apart at the end: 

The Ravens defense was called on to save the day again. They gave up a quick first down to Myles Gaskin on a screen pass. A couple of plays later Jaylen Waddle had a big catch down the field. The defense started to buckle in a game where the offense had done nothing at all. Going into the fourth quarter things were getting desperate. Baltimore knew they had to hold the Dolphins to a field goal.

Albert Wilson picked up a chunk of yards on a screen play that got Miami to the 11-yard line of the Ravens. The reverse play was a good call against an aggressive Ravens defense. The Ravens were very much on their heels.

So what followed that? Marlon Humphrey got called for pass interference in the end zone. It was a call the officials will make every time. The Dolphins had the ball at the one-yard line.

Do the Ravens deserve credit for getting the essential stop? Yes. The Dolphins got a field goal instead of a touchdown. The sequence that got the Dolphins there was some of the ugliest football ever.

This was a game filled with punts and miscues from both teams. When the Dolphins got the game 9-3, the Dolphins were outgaining the Ravens 242 yards to 154.

It wasn’t a bad dream, then it got worse too: 

Okay, let’s take a deep breath and get back to the story of this game. On another third and what seemed like forever, Sammy Watkins fumbled. Xavien Howard caused and returned the fumble for a touchdown. The Baltimore Ravens trailed the Ravens 15-3 with just over 11 minutes left in the game. Sammy Watkins was bad in this game and probably should have had a touchdown on his stat line. 

With 10:50 left in the game, Marquise Brown dropped an underneath pass forcing the Ravens to punt. The call was trying to get Brown to make a guy miss and pick up some yards after the catch. I don’t like the play call. I loathe the mental mistake by Brown.

The Ravens’ defense had a sack-fumble right after that. Patrick Queen tried to pick it up and be the hero. Instead, the Dolphins recovered the fumble and lived to pin Baltimore on their own one-yard line. Believe it or not, a delay of game got the Ravens even closer to their own end zone.

Okay, the Ravens score, and then the Ravens have a blown coverage that got the Dolphins to the 10-yard line. The following play after the big gainer by Albert Wilson the Ravens were penalized for 12 men being on the defense. That’s about as inexcusable as it gets, right? That’s losing football in a two-play presentation.

The Ravens gave up a first down and depleted their timeouts. Then the back already was broken, the last straw was already snapped and, the fat lady sang. A touchdown on the next play gave the Dolphins a 22-10 lead with 2:19 remaining.

Let’s throw away the tape and be done with this one: 

This could have been the worst showing in the Lamar Jackson era for the Baltimore Ravens. There’s not a lot of nice things to say. The third loss of the season may be the lowest point of the last three years.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking their top 10 problems

There was just the humbling truth that slow starts from the offense and big plays given up by the defense were going to cost the Ravens at some point. When you look at what happened in this game, there is nothing to be happy about. The one truth that is very apparent is that the Baltimore Ravens have no silver linings. 


Posted in Complicated made simple: X's and O's and scouting for all fans

Baltimore Ravens: How to spark run game against the Vikings

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens offense needs to spark the running game and no time is like the present. This can’t be a lingering problem when there are actionable steps to fix the run game. The Baltimore Ravens must reclaim confidence on the ground in their battle with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Ravens oddly enough are a pass-first team. It sounds odd but it’s true. Lamar Jackson has thrown for over 230 yards in every game but one. Mark Andrews at tight end and a good group of receivers are carrying the offensive box score. How can the Ravens finally achieve the balance they’ve been looking for now that their run game is struggling and their passing attack is mostly flourishing?

Open rushing lanes with the passing game:

The first part of this is to realize that the passing game has to open up the run game while subsidizing some of the production. Screen passes and a quick-firing passing game can act much like the run game. It’s a staple concept of the west coast offense. While that’s not the Ravens’ deal, there are elements of the west coast approach that would help the Ravens.

Having more of an underneath passing game would keep Lamar Jackson honest as he tends to ignore his safety valve. Jackson either keeps the football too long or he forces it down the field when a passing play breaks down. The idea however of using this approach is all about getting something extra in the offense. It’s like working at a restaurant, you scrape every extra drop out of those big plastic jars of mayonnaise.

Lamar Jackson is the key to the run game. He’s always made a huge impact on the defense. The Ravens need to use more RPO (Run pass options) and get back to more of the zone-read concepts that Jackson and company have made such a dangerous attack in the past. Surely, the lack of chemistry with the running back fill-ins has factored into everything, but these concepts are a requisite threat when Jackson is the quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens always must lean on Lamar Jackson:

More quarterback runs make sense. Jackson is going to do more damage than 30-year-old running backs seeing lesser results. Jackson is averaging 6.3 yards per rushing attempt. That’s a good way to get the run game going. The running backs are only going to get going to an extent. Accepting that is a key component to understanding the run game as it is.

Jackson had 16 rushing attempts against the Chiefs. That may have been the best the offense functioned the entire season. Winning that game without those rushing attempts would have been a tall order. Jackson won’t always have to tuck the football. He didn’t really have to do much against the Broncos the way his passing was torching Denver. The Detroit Lions got beat by his arm, and the Chargers got beat by the most complete team win of the Ravens’ season.

When Jackson has to turn on the run game by himself, he has to realize it. He also needs to take off more rather than taking sacks he doesn’t need to take. Improvised run plays may be the single greatest danger to the defense, and Jackson is forcing it sometimes as a pocket passer to prove that he can do it. Mr. Jackson – it’s proven, you can take off and make something magical happen with your legs.

Other Factors:

The offensive line is a huge part of this. Say what you want about Tyre Phillips, he may be the answer at left guard. At right tackle, Phillips looks abysmal his heavy footwork is his undoing and he loses leverage a lot. Remember he was the Ravens’ first choice at left guard. He clearly struggles at tackle but if we just accept that he’s a guard he could give the offensive line a boost next to Bradley Bozeman. Down the line, Phillips can move back to guard if the Ravens can find anything better at tackle (Cedric Ogbuehi is that anything better).

Greg Roman needs to be less predictable with his play-calling. The Ravens need to stop with a simple dive play to a running back who doesn’t have much burst in short-yardage situations where the middle of the offensive line is closed for business. Creativity has always been Roman’s calling card. I’m going to go back to the Chiefs game again… What happened to the offensive coordinator who bragged about how many running plays he didn’t even use yet?

The Vikings won’t see Latavius Murray, who is listed as doubtful for the game. This is a good chance to let Devonta Freeman audition for the main spot. How much does he have in him? Go find out already. When the Ravens have had big plays it’s either been Freeman or Ty’Son Williams and Williams has been stuck in John Harbaugh’s doghouse.

Speaking of young running backs, Nate McCrary is sitting on the practice squad. The running back one job was Ty’Son Williams’s job to win at the time the season kicked off. He lost the job, why not see if McCrary, a player who was neck and neck with Williams this preseason, can win the job this year?

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens defense: 3 keys against the Vikings

The run game has to get going. It’s an essential part of the Ravens’ identity and the offense needs to reclaim it. This was an exercise of throwing ideas against the wall to see what could be done. The Vikings and Dolphins present a perfect chance for the Ravens to spark the run game and get back to something they love to do.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

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

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a need at the running back position. Furthermore there’s only so much the team can do for the offensive line at this point in the season. The team did sign Cedric Ogbuehi to the practice squad- it’s possible that he could give a passing grade performance at right tackle. It does however seem that if the Ravens don’t trade for a running back, they’re going to have to lean on their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, for rushing yards.

Marlon Mack is an interesting option. He doesn’t cost much from a salary cap perspective. That alone could get the Ravens to play ball. A cost-effective move that gives the Ravens more at the running back position could be interesting. This is a what could it hurt kind of thing.

The upside is easy to see. In 2019 he rushed for over 1,000 yards. The year before that he was close to the 1,000-yard mark with healthy yards per attempt. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and he’s only 25 years old. If Jonathan Taylor never burst onto the scene for the Colts, Mack might have gotten back to being their feature back.

While Mack is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry this season, it’s in a very limited role. If the Ravens traded for him it is likely that he would be the best athlete in the running back room. Remember, Latavius Murray is 31 years old and Devonta Freeman is 29. At the running back position youth matters. Bell is also 29 years old and he had a year without football, and a couple of teams it didn’t work out with – it’s been a long road back to this chance with the Ravens.

The Baltimore Ravens have to do something:

Mack runs very similarly to Justin Forsett. I know that Gary Kubiak is far removed as the offensive coordinator, but let’s not act like Greg Roman couldn’t have gotten something out of Forsett. Mack is a bit bigger than Forsett, though their style of play is nearly identical. Mack would fit in the Ravens’ offense. He’s not going to waste time, he’s going to get downhill, make a cut and go.

It’s not all on the running back position… fine, nobody is saying that it is. The Baltimore Ravens can’t run the football though, and if the move isn’t costly, and I’m Eric DeCosta, I’m going for it. I’m sending a fifth or a sixth-round pick to Indianapolis and I’m seeing what a change at running back can tangibly do for this offense.

With Mack’s current spot with the Colts, we don’t know how much he can provide for the offense. The ceiling is hidden within the context of being a third-down back and the guy who gives Taylor a breather. What we do know is that the Baltimore Ravens running backs aren’t cutting it.

Ty’Son Williams got the first crack at being the guy. He had pass protection issues and fumbled the football. Latavius Murray averages 3.6 yards per rushing attempt and lacks the burst to get around the edge. Bell has positives to speak of, especially in pass protection. Still, Bell isn’t the spark the offense has needed. Baltimore doesn’t have a running back number one.

While the Ravens would be wise to promote Nate McCrary from the practice squad, it may not be enough. Remember, the Ravens chose Ty’Son Williams over McCrary after the preseason. McCrary ended up with the Denver Broncos for a short time before winding his way back on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. It’s very likely that McCrary wouldn’t be enough to change the fortune in the backfield.

The Bottom Line:

Mack is a player that could get the Ravens through their running back struggles. Next year the Ravens are going to have Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins back. They don’t need Mack to have a complete renaissance of his career. They need him to be better than what they currently have on the roster.

Look at the situation the Ravens are in. Lamar Jackson has 46 percent of the rushing yards. Devonta Freeman has had some big runs, though he only has 20 attempts this season. If the Ravens were going to add a flashy and expensive running back it would be foolish. The offensive line is going to make this a struggle all year and they’d never get the full return on their investment. Mack doesn’t cost that much and may give them an upgrade.

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

The Baltimore Ravens need a running back to step up so they can keep their identity as a football team. The idea was to get more out of the passing game, not to lean entirely on the quarterback for everything. Would Mack light it up in Baltimore? Who knows. What we do know is that the current running back group isn’t getting the job done. If things are going to be a struggle for the run game you must change the pieces around where you can and see what improvements can be had.