Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

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

By: Ashley Anderson

It has been a crazy week in Charm City. The Ravens came away with a major win over the Chiefs on Sunday night and quickly got back to business. Lamar Jackson missed some time with a stomach bug, then Covid-19 struck again. Most experts have penciled in a win for Baltimore, but there are plenty of lingering questions.

3.) Will the Ravens suffer an emotional letdown coming off a big win?

Sometimes, when teams win a huge game and emotions are super high, they have a tendency to overlook their next opponent. The Detroit Lions are in a different conference, rarely face the Ravens, and are currently 0-2. This has the makings of a perfect trap game.

Baltimore faced Lions quarterback Jared Goff in 2019 when he was with the Rams. Under the lights of Monday Night Football, the Ravens shellacked the Rams 45-6. Goff is in a much different situation now, although it hardly seems much better.

This is the type of game where the Ravens are heavily favored, and pundits are giving them a big edge. However, Detroit has plenty of solid weapons. In the NFL, and team can truly beat any other if conditions are favorable.

All season long, the Ravens have been battling injuries, and now Covid-19 reared its ugly head again. With their emotions on a rollercoaster, it would be understandable if Baltimore suffered a letdown Sunday. If that happens though, they could be in for a surprise defeat.

Since taking over as the starting quarterback, these are the types of games Lamar Jackson has rarely lost. Head Coach John Harbaugh preaches celebrating for 24 hours then turning focus back to the upcoming game. Few teams are as well-coached and built to withstand adversity as well as Baltimore, but they will be put to the test Sunday.

2.) Will Jimmy Smith Finally Return?

When Jimmy Smith initially went down with an injury in training camp, his season seemed to be in jeopardy. Fortunately, team doctors diagnosed him with an ankle sprain rather than any breaks or tears. It looked as though he would be able to return prior to the start of the season, or very early on.

Smith has continued to be limited at practice as his injury proved to be more serious than it seemed. As a result, he has yet to play in a game. In his absence, opposing tight ends have been eating the secondary alive. First, Darren Waller had his way, picking on Chuck Clark in particular, then Travis Kelce was a one-man, tackle-breaking wrecking crew.

This week, the Ravens are tasked with stopping T.J. Hockenson, who is arguably one of the top tight ends in the league. Smith finally got in a full practice on Friday and appears primed to make his season debut. His return would be a huge boost for the secondary who are already missing Marcus Peters and Chris Westry. It would also benefit DeShon Elliott, who suffered a concussion last week.

Fans have been anxiously awaiting Smith’s return. The Ravens officially listed him as questionable, and the full practice is a positive sign.

1.) Can the Ravens survive the latest battle with Covid-19?

The Ravens are a team that has faced issues with Covid-19 multiple times. Last season, the NFL postponed the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers twice due to an outbreak. Pittsburgh dealt Baltimore a close loss that ultimately affected playoff seeding. At full strength, the Ravens would likely have won that matchup.

Before the start of this season, Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards both missed time after testing positive. Ultimately, it did not matter for Edwards, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury. For Jackson, however, it cost him valuable reps with a new receiver group. In particular, Jackson had precious little time to develop chemistry with rookie Rashod Bateman before Bateman was injured.

Now, just three weeks into the season, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson has tested positive. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale employed Ferguson sparingly the first two weeks. However, losing Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg.

Justin Houston, Justin Madubuike, and Brandon Williams will all miss Sunday’s game as the Ravens deemed them to be close contacts. We can infer that they are all unvaccinated based on the team’s response. If any of them end up testing positive, it could cause them to miss even more time.

Next Post: NFL Picks: Predictions for the whole week 3 slate of games

This is simply not a good scenario for the Ravens. It leaves them thin along the defensive line for this game and potentially even longer. Although the Lions are 0-2, Baltimore can hardly take a win for granted. Already ravaged by injuries, the hits just keep on coming.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: Three Big Questions About the Linebackers

By: Ashley Anderson

Linebacker has always been a position of pride for the Baltimore Ravens. After the Hall of Fame career, Ray Lewis put together, every inside linebacker to don the purple and black has inevitably had huge shoes to fill. On the outside, names like Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs immediately come to mind. This year’s group has a ton of potential, but there are a few big questions.

3.) How will Justin Houston fit into the Baltimore Ravens rotation?

Cheers of applause rang out in Baltimore when Justin Houston finally agreed to a one-year deal to become a Raven. He was linked to them from the start of free agency and looks to fill the only major hole on the defense. After initially selecting number 48, Houston pulled a jersey swap with Otaro Alaka and now rocks his usual 50. While Houston looks great in photos, it remains to be seen how he will fit on the field.

With much of the training camp focus falling on the performance of Lamar Jackson and his receivers, there has not been much mention of Houston. Since he did not suit up against the New Orleans Saints, fans have yet to get a taste of what he brings to the table. There is a possibility he plays against the Carolina Panthers, but it will likely be a short appearance. Likely, it will be until Week 1 before Houston is unleashed full force.

Houston is a proven veteran with 97.5 career sacks including eight in 2020. Those eight sacks matched former Raven Yannick Ngakoue’s total, although only three of his came in a Ravens uniform. Baltimore’s sack leader was technically Matthew Judon with six. There has recently been some criticism of Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale regarding his usage of outside linebackers. As such, fans will be paying close attention to how Martindale utilizes his new weapon.

2.) Can Jaylon Ferguson make the leap and become a presence at outside linebacker?

When the Ravens snagged Jaylon Ferguson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, they felt they were getting a steal. Although he was coming from a smaller school in Louisiana Tech, some saw him as the next Suggs. After all, his nickname was Sack Daddy.

To date, he has not lived up to the moniker. After logging two-and-a-half sacks in his rookie season, that number dipped to two last year. However, it often takes smaller school prospects a little longer to adjust to the NFL. Now entering his third year, the Baltimore Ravens are looking for a breakout from Ferguson.

Reports indicated Ferguson showed up to training camp in excellent shape. He did not do much early on before players were in pads, but it seems like his performance has improved as camp continued. In the first preseason game against the Saints, Ferguson logged three tackles and half a sack.

The Ravens clearly felt they needed more help in the pass rush department. After drafting Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes, they still went out and signed Justin Houston. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement for Ferguson, so he needs a big season to continue his career in Baltimore.

1.) Will Malik Harrison and Patrick Queen take their game to the next level?

When Baltimore selected Patrick Queen in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the usual Ray Lewis comparisons began. Some, including Lamar Jackson, referred to him as Ray Lewis Jr., which definitely upped the hype surrounding the young linebacker. His rookie season went mostly as expected with the usual ups and downs.

Queen finished tops on the team with 106 total tackles, and he added three sacks and two forced fumbles. Although he looked confident, there were times he got beat badly in coverage. He was still a relatively raw prospect coming out of LSU, so his coverage was an area of concern. Now, with a full, normal offseason to improve, Queen says he feels two steps faster.

Opposite him is former third-round pick Malik Harrison, who was used in a rotation last season. Harrison is currently penciled in as a starter, although the Ravens retained LJ Fort. Known for being a thumper, Harrison also needed to polish his overall game. Without a doubt, practicing against Baltimore’s excellent running backs and tight ends is helping him gain an edge.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers: Video preseason preview

The Ravens are counting on their dynamic linebacker duo to be a force for years to come. If they can both improve on their rookie outputs, the defense will be in excellent shape. On the flip side, they must avoid sophomore slumps, or the whole unit will feel the negative effect.




Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Ferguson or Boykin who steps up?

The Baltimore Ravens have a few players that need to start holding up their end of the bargain. Two players in particular are Jaylon Ferguson and Miles Boykin. Which one steps up in 2021?

The Case for Ferguson

The Baltimore Ravens have seen that with outside linebackers, it often takes a while before the lights fully come on. Za’Darius Smith is a great example of this. Raw edge rushers have to develop at the NFL level. It’s not instant ramen soup at this position; you actually have to do the work and boil the water.

Ferguson is 6-5 and has traits that got him his shot with the Ravens. At Louisiana Tech he earned the nickname of “Sack Daddy.” In fact, he was the NCAA sack leader when he jumped into the NFL.

In the NFL, Ferguson couldn’t bully his way to the quarterback. He was no longer the big, bad wolf. He went from Superman under a yellow sun to Superman with a red sun. Ferguson was no longer the best athlete on the field, his big advantage was taken away.

Ferguson has a shot out of pure opportunity. The Ravens still haven’t added a veteran pass rusher. If the Baltimore Ravens don’t bring in Justin Houston or Melvin Ingram, Ferguson should be able to carve out playing time if he earns it.

Odafe Oweh is a rookie who has to compete in a 17 game regular season. When you’re used to playing 13 or 14 games a year, that’s going to take some getting used to.

Tyus Bowser can’t play every down on the field. Pernell McPhee is probably on a snap count. If the Ravens add the veteran pass rusher it would put Ferguson on the roster bubble. Without a move in free agency, Ferguson should be part of the rotation.

There’s a lot of buzz about Ferguson right now. If the light comes on and his pass rush moves feature an improved menu, that buzz could come into fruition. Ferguson has to prove it, but it’s possible. At the bare minimum, he has to stay ahead of Daelin Hayes, a fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame.

The Case For Miles Boykin

Miles Boykin has size that didn’t go away just because he was an unproductive wide receiver. Boykin is only entering his third season in the NFL. Being a 6-4 wide receiver with decent speed isn’t going to go out of style in the league.

Boykin is going to get a chance to put it all together. Remember, even Breshad Perriman got another couple of shots after his forgettable time with the Ravens. As long as you show some flashes and have the things that you can’t coach you have a little bit of staying power. Boykin wasn’t a first round pick, so the Ravens may be willing to work with him a little bit more.

Boykin has had some nice moments with the Ravens. In the Seattle Seahawks game in 2019, Lamar Jackson found him for a deep shot on the first drive. He had a nice touchdown grab against the Dallas Cowboys this past season, and he’s found the end zone seven times in his career.

Boykin hasn’t exactly been in a high-flying passing offense. The Ravens had the fewest passing yards in the NFL in the 2020 season. Boykin may have only gotten 32 receptions over the past two seasons, but it’s not like there was a surplus of receptions to go around. Boykin’s career average gain per reception is 14.5 yards.

Boykin hasn’t been overly impressive, but he hasn’t been egregiously bad either. You can argue that Boykin needs to do more with his chances, yet you can’t say he’s been in an ideal spot as a receiver. The Ravens adding Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman, and Tylan Wallace this offseason didn’t help his chances.

The Bottom Line for the Baltimore Ravens

It’s too early to write either player off. This is the time of year where everybody seemingly gets the coaching staff excited. That’s why it’s important to remember that no matter what you hear, these two players have to make it happen quickly.

NEXT POST: What’s changed when Lamar Jackson drops back to pass

The one thing that is for sure is that the Ravens aren’t going to hopelessly wait for it. The Ravens added three wide receivers to the roster this offseason. They drafted two players for the edge positions. This is a make or break year for both players.