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 3 Big Questions About the Secondary

By: Ashley Anderson

Baltimore Ravens blog

There is no position group more stacked for the Baltimore Ravens than their secondary. Following along with Ozzie Newsome‘s belief that you can never have too many corners, Baltimore loaded up on talent in recent years. Now, there are some pressing questions about the group.

 

Will Tavon Young (Finally) Stay Healthy for the Baltimore Ravens?

When he is healthy, Tavon Young is among the best nickel corners in the NFL. The Ravens invested heavily in Young with a then record-breaking 3-year, $25.8 million deal in 2019. Since then, he has only played in two games. Young restructured his deal last November to give Baltimore some cap relief, but they are still seeking a return on their investment.

Young’s 2019 season was over before it started due to a neck injury that happened in training camp. After working his way back from that, Baltimore was hopeful for a productive 2020. Unfortunately, only two weeks into the season, Young suffered a season-ending knee injury. Prior to that streak of bad luck, Young missed all of 2017 with a knee injury.

Reports out of training camp indicate Young is back up to speed and playing like his old self. Baltimore has become less reliant on him in recent years, but they would love to play Marlon Humphrey at his natural outside position. In a surprise move, the Ravens traded Young’s most likely replacement, Shaun Wade, so they appear confident in his ability to stay healthy.

Although he is not a free agent till, after the 2022 season, Young needs to stack games this year. His return gives a major boost to the secondary, but only if it does not flame out early in the year. Certainly, no one is hoping for a healthy season more than Young himself.

When Will Jimmy Smith Return?

Seeing Jimmy Smith get carted off the practice field gave many fans a touch of PTSD. Like the aforementioned Young, Smith has been dogged by injuries throughout his career. He is a classic example of a player who could have been a Hall of Famer if only he stayed healthy.

Initially, the injury looked pretty serious. Reports quickly came out indicating otherwise, and Baltimore released a collective sigh of relief. Rather than something season-ending, Smith is dealing with a low ankle sprain. At the time, Head Coach John Harbaugh said Smith could return in, “a week or two is what I was told.” That was on August 8th.

Since then, Smith has yet to return to practice. It is possible the Ravens are simply being cautious. Smith is entering his 11th season, and he would benefit more from rest than strenuous practice. Having only played a full season twice in his career, a conservative approach is understandable.

At this point in his career, Baltimore will take what they can get from the oft-injured corner. He still plays at an extremely high level when healthy, and it is a matter of when, not if, he returns.

Who Makes the Cut?

To get to 53, the Ravens have some excruciatingly tough decisions to make. With such a strong secondary, there are bound to be players who are highly capable that simply do not work out numbers-wise. There are definitely some locks, but there may also be some surprises.

Baltimore has already jettisoned their rookie 5th round pick, Shaun Wade, to New England because he was on the roster bubble. In return, they got New England’s seventh-round selection in 2022, and their 2023 fifth-round pick. The seventh-round pick should actually be high in the round because it originally belonged to the Houston Texans.

In their first round of cuts, the Ravens also placed Iman Marshall and Khalil Dorsey on Injured Reserve. Marshall has struggled to stay on the field since Baltimore took him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Dorsey, an undrafted free agent acquisition in 2020, also suffered season-ending injuries in his first two years.

Roster locks include Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, and Anthony Averett at corner. At safety, Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are also safe, no pun intended. For those keeping score, that is already seven players.

That leaves corner, Chris Westry, hybrid players Brandon Stephens, Anthony Levine, and Nigel Warrior, and safeties Ar’Darius Washington and Geno Stone fighting for their jobs.

Of that group, Stephens is the most likely to be safe. As a 2021 third-round pick, it is highly unlikely the Ravens would part with him, especially since he probably would not clear waivers. Westry has also drawn a great deal of praise during training camp, and his size makes him ideal to provide outside depth. Like Westry, Warrior has put together a strong preseason, and he spent the 2020 season on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, so he knows the system.

An undrafted free agent out of TCU, Baltimore felt so strongly about Washington that they guaranteed him $100,000. Surely, they want to see what he can do going forward. Stone was a seventh-round pick in 2020 who spent most of 2020 in Baltimore before being waived in December. After a brief stint in Houston, the Texans cut Stone free, and he returned to Baltimore. If the front office lacked faith in him, it seems unlikely they would have brought him back.

That leaves Anthony Levine, aka CoCap. A fan favorite and special teams ace, Levine could find himself on the outside looking in on cut day. Hearts will break around Baltimore if that happens, but football is a business. Levine is an older player whose departure would make way for young, up-and-coming talent.

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

Bottom line, the Ravens have to do what is best for the team. They created a good problem for themselves in stockpiling their secondary, and now they will have to make some unpleasant decisions. Tonight’s final preseason game against the Washington Football Team will go a long way in helping with those decisions.

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Going for it on 4th: Talking Lamar Jackson and Ravens pass rushers

By Chris Schisler 

First down: Does Josh Allen’s contract extension with the Buffalo Bills impact Lamar Jackson and the Ravens?

The Ravens have already made up their minds that they’re going to pay Lamar Jackson. The how still must be determined, but I am 100 percent confident that the Ravens know they have to pay their quarterback. The Bills beat the Ravens to the punch. They locked in Josh Allen to a long-term contract worth a boatload of money. While it certainly doesn’t help the Ravens with Jackson, or the Cleveland Browns with Baker Mayfield, it really doesn’t change much. 

The quarterback market is what the quarterback market is. Before this deal, Jackson had the task of sandwiching himself between the figures of the Patrick Mahomes contract and the Dak Prescott contract. All that changed is that there is another deal to use as a point of reference.

Jackson is a former MVP, and the Ravens went so fully in with him that they know they have to make it work. Jackson was going to get a big contract one way or the other. Look for the MVP to get somewhere in the range of $40-45 million per season. The only variables are how the contract will break down and the length of the deal.

2nd down: Is the Ravens’ secondary depth too dependent on injury-prone players?

This is a fair question. Jimmy Smith had an ankle sprain that will reportedly keep him out one to two weeks. This is the best-case scenario for an injury that looked like it would be a lot worse. Smith is a very injury-prone player. Tavon Young has basically missed three full seasons now. The Ravens have a ton of depth at cornerback. The issue is that they are a much better team with Smith and Young as part of the equation. 

Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, and Tavon Young are the best grouping of cornerbacks in football. That’s not up for debate. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Anthony Averett and Shaun Wade are surely the lite version of the top cornerbacks. While the Ravens would like to use their backend guys in some sub-packages, their most common defensive formations are better with Smith and/or Young. 

There is a cliff after the top four. There is plenty of talent. That doesn’t mean it’s talent that’s ripe and ready to be leaned on. If Smith and Young can be available all year it could boost the Ravens win total by two or three games. It’s that important to have the best passing defense the Ravens can have. It remains a major question mark whether Smith and Young can stay on the field this season. 

3rd down: Lamar Jackson is back in camp and the offense can start catching up: 

Lamar Jackson is back to practice and now the game of catch-up has begun. It will be interesting to see if Jackson gets a drive or two in the first preseason game on Saturday evening. Ideally, with three preseason games, the starters would get some work in the first two games then let the roster bubble players compete in game three. 

Jackson needs to get on track with this offense and he needs to build some momentum going into the regular-season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. There are a lot of new faces for the offense. The buzz coming from Ravens’ camp is that the defense is ahead of the offense.

That of course isn’t all on Jackson. Ronnie Stanley missed practice until he returned today. The offensive line is still feeling this whole thing out. According to reports, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are fighting hamstring injuries, and Rashod Bateman had a quick bout with muscle tightness. 

The defense started ahead of the offense. No duh. The writing was on the wall for that. The situation has unfolded the way it obviously would without key starters not being involved for patches of practice. The most important starter is number eight. While Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are doing okay, neither gets the kind of work done that happens with the MVP in the lineup. 

4th down: The Baltimore Ravens actually upgraded at outside linebacker 

The Baltimore Ravens lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. That being said the outside linebacker position is upgraded this season. Justin Houston is now the new leader of the outside linebacker unit. The veteran leadership from Houston will be more impactful than it was with Judon. Houston can legitimately go for a double-digit number of sacks. Judon only had six sacks in the 2020 season. That’s not good enough. Judon was supposed to be the big star of the defense, however his numbers were going in the wrong direction. 

Yannick Ngakoue was a big get for Eric DeCosta, though it didn’t work out the way he hoped it would. Ngakoue wasn’t terribly productive despite getting some good pressures on the quarterback. He may retake his elite pass rusher form, but Odafe Oweh has every bit the talent that Ngakoue has. Ngakoue got three sacks in eight games. If Oweh has four sacks after eight games, he tops that pace. I’m taking that bet for a very exciting rookie. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 10 predictions for the preseason

I hope you like this new Going for it on 4th series. This is still a young blog so we’re trying things out. Keep it locked into PBN. We have football on Saturday Ravens fans! 

 

 

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Baltimore Ravens: The best is yet to come for Anthony Averett

By Ronald Toothe

Coming into the 2021 season, the Baltimore Ravens secondary unit is one that is the envy of almost every other team across the league. With elite starting corners like Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters manning the outside, and young up-and-comers like Brandon Stephens and Shaun Wade looking to make their mark from the jump, there’s sure to be plenty of energy and excitement around this bunch. However, one man who you could say has been lost in the fold, however, could also be primed for his best season yet, is Anthony Averett.

Averett is coming off his most productive season yet for the Ravens, in which he started four games and accrued seven pass deflections. The prior two seasons in much more limited playing time he only combined for four total, which shows that he’s more than ready to take on an even bigger share of the workload, as he began to in 2020.

He’s yet to secure that first career interception, which is likely high up on his list of goals for this season as he continues to look for ways to make an impact. Averett also came close to doubling his number of tackles in 2020 as compared to 2019, which shows that he’s also no stranger to the physicality the Ravens love to have in their defensive backfield.

Breaking down the dollars

On top of his desire to help the Ravens win football games, the biggest factor that points to Anthony Averett gunning to be a strong defensive presence comes in the form of contracts, on numerous fronts. For starters, Averett is coming into the last year of his rookie deal with the team.

The Ravens drafted the aforementioned Stephens and Wade in April, which could be seen as them at least having a contingency in place should Averett be gone in 2022. The truth of the matter is though, Wink Martindale and company love having as much depth as possible in this facet of the team. A strong campaign in which he builds on the success we saw in 2020 could very well lead to the Ravens having no choice but to bring Averett back for a second, more lucrative deal.

The other contract aspect to keep an eye on in terms of Averett’s future is that of Jimmy Smith, who signed a one-year extension back in January and recently made it known that he won’t play anywhere else but Baltimore in his career. Smith has been one of the mainstays for the Ravens defense for almost a decade, but unfortunately, the injury bug is one he’s been unable to avoid for the majority of that tenure.

With 2021 potentially being his last year on the team, the Ravens would be smart to start planning who his successor will be at the third corner spot now. Giving Averett more consistent playing time in that role will show Martindale exactly what he has to offer, and whether or not he’s worthy of taking the said role.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

2021 is undoubtedly going to be the most important year of Anthony Averett’s career. In terms of the team respecting Jimmy Smith enough to give him every chance to lead the pack behind Humphrey and Peters, some aspects are entirely out of his control. However, what is in his control is how he performs in camp and how undeniable he makes himself in the eyes of the coaching staff and front office.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking Depth at each position group

There’s no question that Averett will receive a second contract in the league but in terms of where and for how much, well, that could be entirely up to him and his play. He can make a strong case for that to be in Baltimore, for much more money, if he takes another step forward in 2021.