Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens fall to Rams: Good, bad, ugly

By Chris Schisler

A quick recap of a painful loss for the Baltimore Ravens

The Good

Most of the first half went the Baltimore Ravens way. Chuck Clark has two interceptions for the Ravens’ defense including a pick-six for the first score of the contest. Mark Andrews set the franchise record for receding yards in a season.

Outside of one bad decision, Tyler Huntley was incredibly efficient. The end of the first half was excellent. The Ravens managed the game well and therefore had all three-time outs. Huntley led an impressive march to get Justin Tucker a big field goal to make it 13-7 at the half.

The second half could have started disastrously for the Ravens. While they sure would have liked a 3rd & 7 stop on the initial set of downs, things worked out. Matthew Stafford fumbled under duress in the red zone and Justin Houston got the ball for Baltimore. That was huge and it kept things on track for the Ravens.

One thing that went according to the script was the time of possession battle. The Ravens shortened the game, limited possessions for Stafford, and the defense gave their offense a couple of extra possessions. The Ravens held the ball for over 33 minutes of the game clock. They only got 19 points with it, but it was there for the taking. This game in so many ways went the Ravens’ way… Oh, man. What can you say? 

The Bad

The Ravens were up 10-0 when Tyler Huntley got greedy and forced the ball downfield. Instead of setting up a lead-extending score before halftime, Huntley put the Rams back into the game.  It didn’t take long for Cooper Kupp to get the Rams on the board with a touchdown reception. The Ravens could have been in full command. A self-imposed error put the pressure back on the purple and black.

The Baltimore Ravens ended up with field goals on two drives in which they picked up a fourth-down conversion. The lack of finishing drives was the biggest eyesore for the offense. The Ravens could’ve closed the door in this game before they did. The outcome doesn’t change that fact.

The offensive line had some struggles. In fact, Ben Cleveland‘s red zone poor pass protection probably prevented a Tyler Huntley touchdown pass in the first half. The Ravens left points on the field and theirs no way around it. Change one field goal for a touchdown and this is a completely different outcome.

Stats that killed the Ravens:

  • Cooper Kupp had six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown.
  • Huntley was sacked five times.
  • The Ravens went 3/14 on third downs. The Rams got the fourth down conversion that mattered.

The Ugly

Run defense was bad in this game. Linebackers we’re getting caught in the trash. Tacking was suspect at times and the defensive line was getting pushed off the ball. Sony Michel‘s average per carry was way to healthy.

Up 16-7 in the third quarter, the Ravens had pass protection cost them. A quick stop by the Rams was helped by a second-down sack and a hopeless third-down play where Huntley just had to make an escape and protect the football. Roman’s play-calling was frustrating. It put a ton of pressure on the five offensive linemen. Too much for this unit against Von Miller and Aaron Donald.

Open-field tackling was awful. A lot of the plays that Cooper Kupp and Sony Michel made early were too easy.

The Ravens’ lack of killer instinct was potentially murderous in this game. Baltimore had a chance to put the game away. With a 1st and goal opportunity, the Ravens ended up with a late fourth-quarter field goal. The Ravens were up five with about five minutes left in the game.

It was a bad spot to be in. The Ravens needed a stop. The Rams got to the red zone with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. The absolute inability to stop Cooper Kupp loomed large, as it got the Rams in a dangerously close position.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vent session: A tough month

The Ravens had a fourth-down situation on defense. Odell Beckham Jr. caught a first down reception with 1:01 left on the clock. Baltimore had to use a timeout. It didn’t matter. The Rams scored with 57 seconds left. The Ravens stopped the two-point conversion, but they knew they may have lost the hard-fought game. And they did.

 

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens defense: 3 keys against the Vikings

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens had a lot of problems against the Cincinnati Bengals. Some of those problems are coachable mistakes and some of them felt more like broken spirit. Today, we’re going to give the defense the benefit of the doubt and expect a “Play Like a Raven” effort. Let’s focus on the coachable aspects of it all. What are the keys to beating the Minnesota Vikings you ask? Here’s three big ones.

1. Baltimore Ravens must prevent the big play

The Minnesota Vikings have some big-time playmakers on their roster. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thelin, and Dalvin Cook offer the same challenges that the weapons of the Bengals did. The cornerbacks need to show up for this game. In the last outing for the Ravens, the cornerbacks lost the battle for the ball to the opposing receivers. They often were out of position and they got beat from the snap of the football. I don’t know what that was on October 24th, but it wasn’t a typical Marlon Humphrey performance.

Communication in the backend has to be better than it was against the Bengals. Remember three Ravens going to the flat and leaving C.J. Uzomah wide open for a touchdown? The Ravens have to be on the same page and the safety play has to be better. The Ravens are giving up more big plays through the air than any team in the NFL. Is some of that on a lack of pass rush? Sure. Is some of that just life being harder without Marcus Peters? To an extent. The thing is that Chuck Clark and De’Shon Elliott have to be extra diligent in taking away big plays.

Don Martindale’s positionless defense concept is cool. Creating a little extra chaos with the looks you present is a great idea. This defense is lacking all the fundamentals. Martindale can’t dumb the defense down to the point of oversimplification, yet he’s got to dial some things back. The Ravens need to play gap sound upfront. Linebackers have to read keys, fill gaps and run through the football. It sounds simple though that’s exactly what this defense needs.

2. Open-Field Tackling:

Look, guys, I’m harping on the simple things for a reason. The Ravens defense is making mistakes this season that you expect from high school football teams. Key one is basically about being in the right place and not making things easy by making mental errors. Key number two is about doing the basic thing when you’re in the right position. How many times have the Ravens given up points just because they couldn’t tackle a player in the open field?

The Ravens need to learn to take the right angles, wrap up and run through. There’s too much throwing of arms. There’s too much going exclusively for the fumble, The Ravens have to start using their shoulder pads much more on defensively. They are there for a reason and long runs in the open field against Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook sounds like a recipe for losing a winnable football game.

3. Baltimore Ravens winning matchups upfront

We can dog Don Martindale all we want but the players have to play. Did Martindale call the right game against the Bengals? Probably not. He backed off when the pressure was making Burrow get tough completions. It led to it all being too easy. At the end of the day though, the last defensive effort we saw from the Ravens falls much more on the players. The Ravens need to play better football. Football is about matchups to a large extent. Getting to Kirk Cousins is about beating the man across from you if you play in the Ravens’ front seven.

Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston have to create pressure by winning off the edge. The Ravens need some interior pass rush. This would be a good day for Justin Madubuike to take a step forward on that front. Martindale should send Patrick Queen on the occasional blitz. This game is going to be won or lost by the front seven. If the Vikings can run the ball and Cousins has all day to throw, you know bad things are on the way.

A Ravens win means bottling up Dalvin Cook. That doesn’t just mean tackling him in the open field, it means making sure he barely sees daylight, to begin with. By winning the line of scrimmage the Ravens can prevent Cook from having a full head of steam.

NEXT POST: The Aaron Rodgers situation: And why the NFL has to do something

A Ravens win means sacking Cousins three to five times and forcing a turnover or two. The Ravens secondary needs all the help it can get and it needs to be allowed to focus on creating a no-fly zone. Baltimore has to win the battle with the players six inches in front of their face. The Ravens must win the battle of the line of scrimmage.

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

Baltimore Ravens: Grading the 53 man roster by position groups

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have their 53 man roster set. Kind of. There are some things that could be in flux, but let’s look at what Baltimore has on its hands at the moment. Position by position let’s grade this roster.

Let’s start with the Baltimore Ravens’ Quarterbacks: A

Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley are all that the Ravens need. They have a perennial MVP candidate in Jackson and a backup that can run the same style of offense. There was no room on the 53 man roster for Trace McSorley.

The Ravens could end up with McSorley on the practice squad and therefore available at a moment’s notice. Unpopular opinion: The Ravens would be justified in moving on from the McSorley business altogether. Huntley looked so good in the preseason he kind of made McSorley look bad. At the most important position group, the Ravens have their guys.

Running back: B +

I can hear you. You’re wondering why this grade is still so high without J.K. Dobbins for the whole season. The Ravens were at an A + before Dobbins got hurt. His injury is surely noticed and it knocked the team down a whole letter grade in this category. It’s not going to all the sudden turn to doom and gloom for the Ravens run game. Edwards is indeed a bus and I’ve bought into Ty’Son Williams as a solid number two.

Wide Receiver: (When healthy) B

When Rashod Bateman is ready and gets into the thick of things the Ravens receiving corps are solid. Whether or not Marquise Brown is a number one receiver, the Ravens have put enough around him. Brown is reliable and a Jackson-favored receiver.

Sammy Watkins could be the most underrated pickup of the offseason. James Proche, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace all have a chance to show up more than many pundits and fans are expecting them to. With Bateman in, the wide receiver group is a solid and secure B.

Tight End: A

Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle are really good at their respective jobs. When Boyle is ready the Ravens have one of the best blocking tight ends the NFL has had in this generation. Andrews is a Pro Bowl-caliber superstar who has a next-level connection with his quarterback. Josh Oliver should give the Ravens just enough as a third tight end to be a valued member of the group. If Miles Boykin does indeed stick around his value is mostly as a blocker anyway, so you can almost add him to the tight end discussion.

Offensive Line: Forced to give a grade I’ll say a B –

The offensive line has a lot of good. Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Kevin Zeitler, and Alejandro Villanueva. The left guard spot remains a question mark heading into the regular season and the depth on the inside is much greater than the depth at tackle.

Tyre Phillips is the swing tackle. Take that for what you will. The Baltimore Ravens should get credit for keeping the right nine-player mix along the offensive line. Still, you want to see somebody take command at left guard. You want to see Villanueva prove it. This grade has the right to move up during the season. I’ll give it a B – for now.

The Baltimore Ravens defense

Defensive Line:  B –

Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams aren’t spring chickens and injuries were a problem for both players last season. There isn’t a ton of depth. I don’t think there is a bad player in the mix here. Campbell and Justin Madubuike in particular could exceed expectations this season. This unit should stuff the run. I need to see that the depth won’t be a problem and a little more pass rush before I raise the grade.

Inside linebackers: A –

The only problem with this group is that the members are too young to know any better. That’s a strength and a potential limitation as Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison enter their second season. Harrison looked great in the preseason. If he keeps playing this sound and reading his keys this well, he’ll have a big year. Patrick Queen’s athleticism is uncontainable and he could be set for a big year two jump. With Chris Board, there is nothing not to like.

Outside Linebackers: B

Justin Houston gives the Ravens enough of a veteran presence and enough pass rush to make this thing work. Solid play from Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, and Daelin Hayes should get the Ravens what they absolutely need from this group. Jaylon Ferguson looks better than ever. If the light is starting to come on for him that could change the outlook of this position.

Young talent with a strong leader like Houston equals the definition of solid. Outside linebackers feel free to overdo it this season. If this unit plays at an A level the Ravens will be unstoppable.

Defensive Backs: A +

We’re counting cornerbacks and safeties together because these positions are filled with defensive backs who can serve many exciting purposes for Don Martindale. The Ravens have an elite group of starting cornerbacks. At this point, Chuck Clark and De’Shon Elliott are savvy veterans (They grow up so fast). Sub-packages are going to be fast -Brandon Stephens, Geno Stone, and Ar’Darius Washington can all cover a lot of ground quickly and have ball skills. This group is crazy good.

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens 53 man roster: Key observations on cut day

Specialists: A +

It’s hard to have anything but trust for Justin Tucker and Sam Koch. Nick Moore hasn’t made me miss Morgan Cox yet. As long as that remains true this trio is as good as it gets.

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

Baltimore Ravens: Projecting 53 man roster after 2 preseason games

By Chris Schisler

  • Editor’s Note: This article has been updated

The Baltimore Ravens are undefeated in the preseason so far, and it’s a testament to their roster’s depth. Let’s take a look at what I project to be the 53 man roster. Evaluation is a subjective thing. This is a blend of what I would do and what I think the Ravens will do. With that in mind, this is my first crack at making the 53 man roster.

Quarterback:

  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Tyler Huntley

This is a two-quarterback kind of year for the  Baltimore Ravens. They have been keeping three quarterbacks. Once Trace McSorley gets healthy they can call him up from the practice squad if they absolutely must. Here you have an MVP quarterback and a backup who can run the same style of offense. This is a good situation, especially considering that Huntley will only get better with experience.

Running back/Fullback

  1. J.K. Dobbins
  2. Gus Edwards
  3. Ty’Son Williams
  4. Pat Ricard

You may be surprised that Ben Mason isn’t on here. The Ravens can probably stash him away on the practice squad. That pick seems like a contingency if the Ravens can’t re-sign Ricard. I have Ty’Son Williams stealing Justice Hill‘s job here. Williams has been the most impressive back in the preseason. Hill is dealing with an ankle injury. Everything lined up for Williams to be the third running back.

Tight End:

  1. Mark Andrews
  2. Nick Boyle
  3. Josh Oliver

This is a self-explanatory position. Mark Andrews is a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. Once he returns, Nick Boyle is the most elite blocking tight end in the NFL. Josh Oliver gets the nod at the third tight end spot in my estimation. The fact is that he’s gotten the most work in the preseason from the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens want to test him because they want him to win the job. Oliver has prototypical size and athleticism. I think he gives you enough blocking to beat out Eric Tomlinson for the third tight-end spot. Eli Wolfe is a great candidate for the practice squad.

Wide Receiver:

  1. Marquise Brown
  2. Sammy Watkins
  3. Rashod Bateman
  4. Devin Duvernay
  5. Tylan Wallace
  6. James Proche

Most of the preseason talk was about Miles Boykin. Boykin hasn’t played in the preseason due to a hamstring injury. The Ravens are probably best off putting him on injured reserve. It’s almost a deferment of a decision. I decided to keep Bateman on the week 1 roster. Assuming the Ravens want him back as soon as possible, IR may be something the Ravens try to avoid with him.

We all kind of knew that the Ravens weren’t going to keep Binjamen Victor or Jaylon Moore. The question all along was if the Ravens keep six or seven receivers. With the surplus of talent the Ravens have at defensive back, they needed the room and seven was out of the question. In the scenario where you can basically take Miles Boykin out of the decision, these are the clear six.

We haven’t seen a ton from James Proche in the preseason. He’s had a strong training camp though. He offers some special teams versatility and he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. That’s enough to get him a job in the regular season.

Offensive Line

  1. Ronnie Stanley
  2. Ben Cleveland
  3. Bradley Bozeman
  4. Kevin Zeitler
  5. Alejandro Villanueva
  6. Tyre Phillips
  7. Ben Powers
  8. Ben Bredeson
  9. Patrick Mekari

Offensive tackle depth is bleak here. The Ravens knew that was going to be a problem one way or the other. If the Ravens kept Michael Scolfield or Adrian Ealy, they aren’t fixing that problem. The nine offensive linemen here are your best players. This was one of the hardest position groups to project. We’ve seen so many combinations along the offensive line throughout camp, and a lot of the competition at guard and center is pretty even.

Trystan Colon was the odd man out here. I originally had 10 offensive linemen, but I couldn’t make the roster math work. The Ravens have multiple options at center even without Colon. This is why roster math is a cruel practice.

Defensive Line

  1. Brandon Williams
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Derek Wolfe
  4. Justin Madubuike
  5. Broderick Washington
  6. Justin Ellis

I don’t really have to write about the starting three right? You know what they bring to the table and there was no decision to be made there. Justin Madubuike was a lock as well, Broderick Washington and Justin Ellis are fairly interchangeable, however, Washington is more of a nose guard than a defensive end. Washington could play a role very similar to a young Michael Pierce.

Ellis is a solid veteran. With Ellis, you probably aren’t getting big plays but he’ll have some tackles and he’ll chew up some space. Overall this is a good group for a 3-4 team. If Madubuike and Washington have breakout seasons, this could be a great group.

Outside Linebacker

  1. Justin Houston
  2. Tyus Bowser
  3. Odafe Oweh
  4. Daelin Hayes
  5. Jaylon Ferguson
  6. Pernell McPhee

Jaylon Ferguson makes the cut here. Ferguson has been impressive in the preseason. He’s always looked the part, but he’s shown growth as an outside linebacker. It’s too early to give up on him and the Ravens need three players who can rotate on the edge. Pernell McPhee adds to the run defense.  Houston and Bowser should be your starters. They’re the most versatile and experienced. Oweh and Hayes have looked great in the preseason. They’re surely rookies to be excited for.

Inside Linebacker

  1. Patrick Queen
  2. Malik Harrison
  3. Chris Board

With L.J. Fort being injured in the preseason battle against the Panthers, it leaves the Baltimore Ravens a little short at this position. At linebacker, it really boiled down to Kristian Welch vs. Jaylon Ferguson. The Ravens have a nice young nucleus at inside linebacker. The Ravens’ extra defensive backs will allow them to have almost an extra linebacker in sub-packages.

The team can get by with three inside linebackers. Fort would have made the roster if he was healthy and he could always return. It’s important to remember the 53 man roster is something you can edit over the season. The goal is to go into the season opener with the best combination of 53 players for the Baltimore Ravens.

Cornerback

  1. Marlon Humphrey
  2. Marcus Peters
  3. Jimmy Smith
  4. Tavon Young
  5. Anthony Averett
  6. Shaun Wade
  7. Chris Westry

This was the one preseason where the Ravens should be reluctant to cut any of their defensive backs. While some are better than others, there isn’t a bad player in the group. It’s kind of amazing. You can never have enough good defensive backs and the Ravens almost kind of do.

If you would have told me at the beginning of camp I would have Chris Westry on this list, I wouldn’t have believed you. This is the value of getting to see preseason games. Players stand out and impress you, pass the eye test and give themselves a chance. That’s what Westry has done. He’s a good cover corner and I couldn’t cut him.

Safety

  1. DeShon Elliott
  2. Chuck Clark
  3. Brandon Stephens
  4. Geno Stone

Everything I just said about cornerbacks I could say about safeties. Defensive back-wise, this team is loaded. Geno Stone had two interceptions in the first preseason game and has impressed all through camp. His advantage is that the Ravens saw potential in him, drafted him, and now they’re starting to see that they were right. Teams love being right and that helps his cause.

Washington is an undrafted free agent. He’s a player I ended up with on the cutting block. If that’s the case the Ravens better get him on the practice squad. Washington is such a fast and twitchy player. I love the way he plays and I want to see him get a chance to grow up with the Ravens. I listed Stephens as a safety, he can play either position.

Cutting Nigel Warrior was a tough call. It’s not a cut I was happy about. Roster math is rough. Warrior played fantastic football against the Panthers. Anthony Levine Sr. has been with the Ravens since 2012. Cutting him hurts the heart. There is just such a powerful youth movement at the defensive back positions. Levine offers value mostly on special teams and being a wise veteran. There’s too much talent in front of him this year.

Specialists

  1. Justin Tucker
  2. Sam Koch
  3. Nick Moore

The best kicker of all time, the longest-tenured Raven, and a new long snapper walk onto the field… the kick is up, the kick is good.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers: The good, bad and ugly

When the Ravens make their final cuts, it will be interesting to see how accurate this projection is. It’s subjective because we’re talking about evaluation. My evaluations may differ from the coaching staff at a couple of points.

 

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 Uncategorized

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! 

 

 

Posted in NFL News

Baltimore Ravens (Finally!) Ink Justin Houston

By: Ashley Anderson

Good morning, and happy Saturday, Ravens fans! This is not a drill. I repeat this is not a drill! Justin Houston is on his way to Baltimore.

After being linked to the Ravens since the start of free agency, Adam Schefter reported this morning that veteran edge rusher Justin Houston has agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal. This is the news we have all been waiting for, as pass rush seemed to be the only area of glaring weakness on the roster. Schefter also noted that Houston took significantly less money than he was offered from other clubs due to his preference to play for the purple and black.

Immediate Impact

Although the Ravens repeatedly stated they felt good about the guys they had, Houston represents at least a moderate upgrade. Tyus Bowser recently re-signed with Baltimore on a four-year, $22 million deal, but he is more of a coverage linebacker than a pass rusher. His versatility is extremely useful, but he only has 10.5 career sacks. Wily veteran Pernell McPhee is much the same, with a career high 7.5 sacks coming back in 2014 during his first stint in Baltimore.

Beyond them, the Ravens were counting on a breakout from third-year man Jaylon Ferguson. Although he holds the FBS record for sacks, he has yet to emerge in the NFL. Baltimore also drafted Odafe Oweh and Daelin Hayes to bolster the unit. Unfortunately, relying on rookies can be dangerous. Oweh has all the talent and athleticism in the world yet failed to record a sack in 2020. Hayes, although he has flashed in practice, lasted till the fifth round for a reason.

Bottom line, the Ravens pass rush group was a mix of versatile, talented guys, but not one of them is known for being a sack artist. That is where Houston makes a difference.

Career Stats

Justin Houston was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He played in all 16 games his rookie season, starting ten, and recorded 5.5 sacks. His best season came in 2014 when he racked up an astonishing 22 QB takedowns with the Chiefs.

Twice in his career, including recently in 2019, Houston recorded 11 sacks in a season. His lowest output came in 2016 when he was limited to five games and had just one sack. However, Houston has been fairly healthy for the most part, and the Ravens are hoping that using him as part of a rotation will keep his tank full this year.

A four-time Pro Bowler and 2014 All-Pro selection, Houston is looking to win a Super Bowl before he calls it a career. He may have been considering a return to Kansas City, recently teasing fans by working out in a Chiefs helmet. However, he ultimately decided on Baltimore.

Low Risk, High Reward

For the Ravens, this scenario could not be more perfect. Houston’s deal only carries a base salary of $1.075 million with a signing bonus of $1 million. To get to the possible $4 million total, Houston will have to hit other incentives.

If Houston does indeed hit those incentives, it can only be good news for Baltimore. That means he is doing his job by recording sacks and reaching the Pro Bowl. If not, the team saves money, and they are not on the hook heading into 2022.

Given the fact that Houston will turn 33 during the season, Baltimore was wise to limit the deal to a single season. That way, if he falls off in production, they can let him walk without a financial burden. If he plays great, they will have the option to try to re-sign him during the year, or let him test the open market and attempt to keep him in free agency.

Final Thoughts

It was a rough week for Ravens fans seeing Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson land on the Covid-19 list. Many of us were looking for good news, and it was finally delivered to us this morning.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Looking at offensive line depth

Houston could be the missing piece to win a Super Bowl, which is the ultimate goal every year. After what feels like an eternity, it is finally Houston to Baltimore!

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Ask the Nest: Are the Ravens done building the blueprint for 2021?

By Chris Schisler

Welcome to Ask the Nest! This is where Ravens fans submit questions via Twitter, and I do my best to answer. Let’s get into it.

@ravensfan86 asks: Will the Ravens put in a flyer on Sheldon Richardson or go with an EDGE? Or Zach Ertz?

Answer: Taking a flyer on Sheldon Richardson makes a ton of sense. It makes sense for two reasons. One, the Ravens could use more penetration from the defensive line. Secondly, he comes from a division rival so there’s no chance the Ravens aren’t aware of what they’d be signing up for.

The Browns released Richardson because of financials, they never cut him because he wasn’t working out for them. In fact, the Browns Wire has written an article talking about how the Brownd could still bring him back. In the article by Jared Mueller, there is this quote from Mary Kay Kabott

The Browns parted ways on good terms with Richardson, with the agreement that he could be re-signed later in the offseason. There’s been interest from other teams in the ninth-year pro, but he enjoyed his two seasons here, and might prefer Cleveland to starting over again elsewhere.

In Ravens terms, this is a lot like what happened with Jimmy Smith. The Ravens let Smith test the market and got him back for a price that worked. Richardson would give a boost to the defensive line. The Ravens don’t know how much they can bank on their defensive line outside of the main three guys.

Richardson could have an impact similar to a good sixth man in basketball. He could rotate into the game for Brandon Williams or Derek Wolfe and the Ravens wouldn’t skip a beat. He could add to the rotation and provide a few sacks, a good number of tackles and make an impact by gaining ground in the backfield. If the Ravens aren’t going after Justin Houston (they should) then Richardson is a good idea.

Let’s talk about Justin Houston

You know how I feel about the whole Justin Houston thing. The Ravens really should sign him. Now that the Julio Jones talk is done, I’d love to see a little smoke coming from this direction. If the Ravens have quietly been waiting to work it out with Houston, Eric DeCosta played the game to win again.

Houston would give the Ravens the legitimacy they need at the outside linebacker position. It’s the production you can count on, they should go get it. I also don’t want to hear about how the Ravens can’t afford Houston. We just entertained a bunch of talk about Julio Jones in which some fans (and even some pundits) would have you believe the salary cap was like the spoon in The Matrix. If we can magically find it in the financials to even think about Jones, Houston is an easy get.

The market didn’t play out the way Houston had hoped. It’s what happened to Jadeveon Clowney last year all over again. Sign him to a deal that’s sweet for both sides and you make everybody happy. I’m not convinced it’s going to happen, but the only excuse for it not happening is Houston feeling more comfortable in another situation. The Ravens have to do their part though, and if they don’t then shame on them.

The only way I am interested in Ertz is if he gets released and he can come at a contract that makes sense. I don’t see Ertz as much of a game-changer for the Ravens. Think about it, the Ravens have Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle and just added three wide receivers this offseason. There isn’t room in the passing game for much more is there?

Call me Boyle loyal, but I’m fine with Andrews and Boyle at the tight end position. Also, Jacob Breeland or Tony Poljan would cost next to nothing to stay on the roster as an undrafted free agent. I’m not against working the cap a little bit, but Ertz probably isn’t it.

Question 2: A Super Lesson?

@briski715 asks: What kind of impact will Tampa’s success in the SB have on the Ravens Defensive scheme for the upcoming season?

Answer: Well I think the Ravens are trying to move in that direction already. Patrick Queen is supposed to be their version of Devin White. Odafe Oweh hopefully can become the Shaq Barrett type pass rusher. Justin Madubuike could be a lot like Vita Vea if he turns on the jets. You see the Ravens looking for a lot of the same things from their young defensive talent as the Buccaneers are.

Then you think about the Super Bowl we just saw a handful of months ago and you think about the pressure they put on Patrick Mahomes. You forget how organically the pressure came. The Buccaneers depend on their athletes to make life easier for them. They have a ton of range from their linebackers. They have a more than decent secondary. The Buccaneers were never a blitz-happy team defensively.

It may not totally be inspired by the Buccaneers because the plan was in progress before their Super Bowl win. That being said, I think the Ravens are moving in a very similar direction. They’re looking to get pressure more organically, and less created by Don Martindale sending blitzes.

They drafted Oweh for his traits. He has the things that you can’t coach, the things that make it easier. Madubuike was drafted to end up giving what they wanted when they were interested in Gerald McCoy. He’s here to generate an interior pass rush. So if you look at the way the teams are building, you see similarities.

Question 3: Regarding a Ravens rookie

@Charlesharsha23 asks: Do you think Oweh will struggle with his lack of pass rush moves against NFL offensive linemen? He basically bullied college offensive linemen, gonna be hard to translate that to NFL. Or is Wink’s system going to drastically benefit him by creative designs?

Answer: Oweh is a player that’s going to win some battles just because he has the tools to do it. Here’s what that means for Oweh in his rookie season. It means, he will have moments where he looks like Terrell Suggs. It also means we will have moments where he will look like Jaylon Ferguson. That’s the difference here between Oweh and Ferguson though.

With Ferguson if it was going to happen it would have. He’s probably gone backwards, not forwards. Ferguson was from Louisiana Tech. He was a big fish in a small pond and it’s looking like he may not be a shark.

Oweh has a chance to be a shark. He has a chance to be Suggs. The ceiling for Oweh is through the roof. He’s raw but because he is such a good athlete he’ll have a strong rookie season. The consistency will come when he has a full repertoire.

Stunts are the way to get him going. Don Martindale already knows this, I am sure. The thing is if you get Oweh moving across a lineman’s face, and it either becomes a foot race or Oweh has the lineman off balanced, it’s a going to work a good percentage of the time.

Last Call Ravens fans

@DJ_BMORE asks: Do you see more under-center snaps leading to more offensive output in the passing game?

Yeah, I can totally see that. I think the offense is going to change an awful lot. The passing game is going to change a lot this season. The thing you have to remember is that Greg Roman isn’t really designing the whole offense anymore. Kieth Williams is the passing game coordinator.

He and quarterback coach, James Urban, will probably have a vested interest in making rhythm, timing, and mechanics work better for Lamar Jackson. When you’re dropping back from under center it forces a more typical dropback and maybe fewer scrambles.

NEXT POST: Everything to know about the Ja’Wuan James signing

This is a really great question. I’m kind of waiting to see how the adjustment will go. We know it will be different, the question really is how different will it be?