Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vs Steelers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

1. Ravens score a special teams touchdown:

 

I’m going to speak this info existence. Every week, I think Devin Duvernay is due for a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Texas product has been close to breaking one and is statistically an elite return man. We’re talking about a Pro Bowl return specialist here. For the last week of the season, I say it’s time Duvernay scores.

The Baltimore Ravens special teams have quietly been string all season. Duvernay, who had a lengthy return in the first battle with the Steelers, is just one example of special teams excellence. I’m calling a Duvernay touchdown, but don’t rule out a fake kick leading or resulting in a score. John Harbaugh is going to be aggressive in this game, because he knows this team needs to get points anyway they can take it.

2. Baltimore Ravens say goodbye to Big Ben with 4 sacks

Terrell Suggs is rightfully the legend of the game at M&T Bank Stadium, and he’ll get the crowd hyped. While you kind of wish he could play one more game against Ben Roethlisberger, the current Ravens will get the job done. A chance to say goodbye to Ben is a chance to get as many hits on him as possible. That’s how Don Martindale is going to look at this.

You may say that with a team spread thinly on defense Wink can only be so aggressive. Here’s the thing, it may be the only path to victory. The Steelers are going to attempt what they did in Pittsburgh. They want to tire out the defense and have the dam break in the critical moments. Martindale has to blitz. He has to force the issue. Put Patrick Queen and Tyus Bowser down for a sack each. Give Justin Houston one and Chuck Clark one as well. In the spirit of Sizzle, the sacks will come. 

3. Justin Tucker will make five field goals 

Sometimes predictions are formed by following the trends. The Ravens aren’t scoring a lot of points. In their five-game skid, they averaged 22,2 points per game. Last week, Tucker hit four field goals for 12 of the 19 points the Ravens scored. The Ravens keep moving the ball down the field and collapsing in the red zone. The inability to finish drives is arguably the most costly problem for the Ravens other than injuries. It’s hard to see the Ravens becoming a touchdown scoring machine all of the sudden. The Ravens could move the ball the last time they played the Steelers, they just didn’t score when they had their chances. The Ravens will take the points they can get in this game, meaning Tucker should be a busy man. 

4. Ravens win but don’t get the help they need

Winning is just one of four things the Ravens need in this finale weekend. Ultimately they’ll leave the 1:00 pm slate of games out of the playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars have to beat the Indianapolis Colts. Half the fun of being a sports fan is getting your hopes up. That being said that’s a lot not in the Ravens’ control to ask for. I’ll give the Ravens a win in a rainy slop fest of a game, but it may have to be solely for pride, not keeping the season alive. 

And now a score: Baltimore Ravens win 22-17 

Give me five Justin Tucker field goals that I predicted and a touchdown. Give me the Ravens defense making this finale for Roethlisberger a personal matter and stepping up to the plate. If you can keep the Rams down to 20 points, you can keep this Steelers team under 20. I’ll go with a win in the finale. What the heck. But help is needed and the Ravens don’t want to know the odds. 

 

Posted in The good bad and ugly

Ravens Edge the Bears: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

By: Ashley Anderson

With a 16-13 win over the Chicago Bears, the Ravens now stand at 7-3. It was an odd day for Baltimore that required a miracle comeback for them to escape with a victory. Here is a recap of the good, bad, and ugly for the purple and black.

The Good:

Tyler Huntley found out Sunday morning that he would be making his first career start. It was far from a perfect performance, but Huntley played his heart out. Although he was sacked six times, Huntley went 26/36 for 219-yards and an interception. On the ground, he recorded 40-yards on seven carries. Most importantly, Huntley stayed cool under pressure, leading Baltimore on a game-winning drive with under two minutes in the game.

Running back Devonta Freeman was ultimately responsible for the go-ahead score. His day was good enough on the ground, as he led the team with 49-yards on 16 carries. Freeman has also shown a knack for contributing in the passing game. He notched six receptions for 37-yards.

It was also nice to see Sammy Watkins have a bounce-back performance. His return from injury was less-than-stellar against the Miami Dolphins. Against the Bears, however, he had three catches for 48-yards, including the 29-yard catch that set the Ravens up for the game-winning touchdown.

Defensively, Tyus Bowser finally has the breakout game everyone has been waiting for. He was responsible for five tackles, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, two sacks, and a fumble. When Bowser bulldozed his way into the backfield to prevent a Hail Mary try by Andy Dalton, fans let out an audible sigh of relief.

On his 32nd birthday, Justin Tucker was a perfect 3/3 on field goals and 1/1 on extra-point tries.

The best part of this game was that the Ravens found a way to win. Plenty of things went wrong for Baltimore, with a number of key players ruled out Sunday morning. However, they dug deep and pulled out a crucial win. It proved even more important as both the Browns and Bengals won as well. With Pittsburgh losing on Sunday night, Baltimore now leads the Bengals by one game in the AFC North.

The Bad:

Again, the Ravens allowed a big passing play moments after Dalton took over at quarterback. It seems Baltimore is allergic to defending screen passes, allowing a 60-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney as a result of over-pursuit. Poor tackling was an issue as well as Chuck Clark had a clear whiff on the play.

Baltimore’s aggressive play-calling was as head-scratching as it was unsuccessful. On a fourth-and-11 late in the fourth quarter, Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale called for a Cover 0, all-out blitz. When no one got home, Dalton found Marquise Goodwin wide open for a 49-yard score to give Chicago a late lead. Baltimore’s defense was down to three healthy cornerbacks against the Bears, and it showed on the stat sheet with two Bears receivers going over 100-yards.

The offensive line had another poor showing despite the return of Nick Boyle and Patrick Mekari. Huntley was under constant pressure, and he was sacked six times. The running backs barely found room to run, and Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray both averaged under four yards per carry. Although the unit has undergone an insane amount of change, it is time for everyone to step up and protect the guy under center.

The Ugly:

Oh my goodness, was the injury list ugly this week. Lamar Jackson was unable to play as he continued to battle an illness. He traveled with the team but was ultimately ruled out Sunday morning.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Anthony Averett were both scratched as well. Neither seemed to have an issue during the week, but they developed mysterious injuries somewhere after Friday’s practice. That left Baltimore painfully short-handed in the secondary, with Chris Westry making his first start.

Starting wide receiver Marquise Brown is dealing with a thigh injury, and he was surprisingly ruled out after a limited practice Friday.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens sneak past Bears: 7 lessons on victory Monday

If Jackson is unable to play against Cleveland, it will be a massive blow for Baltimore. The Ravens will also be keeping their fingers crossed that Smith and/or Averett find a way to get healthy. It was a minor miracle that the 49-yard score late in the fourth quarter did not sink Baltimore’s ship. They will likely not get that lucky when the Browns come to town.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Ranking every crazy victory of this insane season

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens beat the Denver Broncos and the Los Angles Chargers convincingly. The rest of their wins have come in the most insane ways imaginable. In some of these games, I still can’t believe they actually pulled out the win. So in the spirit of having some fun, let’s rank each of the Ravens five miracles this season.

Baltimore Ravens crazy wins:

5. Erasing a 14 point deficit to the Vikings:

The Baltimore Ravens started the Vikings game about as poorly as they could have. Baltimore trailed 17-10 at the end of the first half. The second half started with a touchdown return for the Vikings. The score was 24-10 and the way Baltimore was playing, this game felt over.

The Ravens outscored the Vikings 21-14 in the second half to take the game to overtime. In overtime, Lamar Jackson threw an interception trying to get the ball over a defensive end and into the flat. The Ravens defense found a way to get the stop and Justin Tucker found the win with his leg.

In the second half, you got a completely different Lamar Jackson. It was a completely different Ravens team. When this team gets rolling they are unstoppable. This was fun to watch.

4. Oh my Justin Tucker

If you would have told me after Tucker hit this field goal in week three, that there would be three finishes in front of this one, I would have been shocked. Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal to win the game against the Detroit Lions. Tucker hit a 61-yard field goal in 2013 to beat the Lions. Ford Field is kind to number nine. Until the 66-yard field goal that was his career-long. The football hit the crossbar and then bounced in between the uprights and made Tucker the record holder for the longest field goal in NFL history.

This game probably gets pushed down on my list because of how frustrating the game was. The Ravens had an irredeemable mess on their hands. Dropped passes took a lot of points off the board. The defense buckled eventually. The offense came up short time and time again. If there is a Ravens game I have no interest in rewatching (outside of the crazy finish where Lamar Jackson launched a prayer to get Tucker the chance for that miracle kick) it’s this one. This game was hell to watch. The finish was pure euphoria though.

3. Chicago still can’t believe it:

This game has the benefit of recency bias. At the time of this writing, less than 24 hours have passed since the incredible win. The Bears probably thought they had gotten away with one. Lamar Jackson didn’t play due to a non-Covid illness that sounds about as fun as eating nails and screws. The Bears found themselves up 13-9 with very little time left in an ugly game on a windy Chicago day.

Then a backup quarterback went down the field and got the Ravens a win. This was a day where the Ravens just had to find a way. They were without so many players. They didn’t have Lamar Jackson or Marquise Brown. The defense was more depleted than usual. It was a situation and the Ravens found a way to get the win. If this doesn’t show the resolve of this team when they band together to get something done, I don’t know what does. Congratulations Ravens, you showed you had the heart needed to attack a tough backend of the season.

2. Comeback against the Colts:

Lamar Jackson broke a franchise record for the most passing yards in a game. He found 442 yards in the air and his rushing yards put him over 500 total yards. The Baltimore Ravens were down 22-3. How did they win this game? Even with Lamar Jackson stepping up like Superman to save the day, the Ravens needed a lot of things to go right here.

They needed a blocked field goal by Calais Campbell. They needed a little luck after Tavon Young set up the game-winning field goal with a personal foul. The long and short of it, they needed a magical evening that couldn’t possibly be topped. The Ravens’ comeback against the Colts will go down as one of the most improbable wins ever in sports. Not just football, but sports in general.

Jackson put on one of the biggest displays of leadership I have ever seen with this performance. He willed his team to win. His generals stepped up at the moment. Mark Andrews had the game of his life with 11 receptions, 147 yards, and two touchdowns. Marquise Brown had nine catches for 126 yards and two scores. I pity the fools who went to bed angry and frustrated with the purple and black. They missed a show for the ages.

1. Baltimore Ravens top the Chiefs 36-35

The Baltimore Ravens hosted their kryptonite on Sunday Night Football. In front of a national audience, Lamar Jackson showed he could beat the Chiefs and make an amazing comeback all in one night. Jackson officially crossed off two things on the haters’ go-to list of things he couldn’t achieve. Ultimately, that is why this game gets the top billing.

The Ravens were down 35-24 at the end of the third quarter. It looked like the Ravens couldn’t stop the Chiefs’ offense. It looked like hope was officially lost. Jackson, who had two interceptions in the first half showed up.

He would not be denied. He put the team on his back and he screamed “Let’s go” with his play and his demeanor. Jackson put up 239 yards passing and had the best jump pass you’ll ever see in the process. He rushed for 107 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. No matter what happened, Jackson was walking away with a win. It was written, he decided it.

The defense joined in on the no matter what spirit of that majestic comeback. Odafe Oweh forced Patrick Mahomes to throw an interception, that gave the Ravens a boost late in the game. When a Chiefs’ game-winning field goal seemed imminent, Oweh forced Clyde Edwards-Helaire to fumble. Jackson would pick up the game-winning first down on a fourth-down attempt.

On that night the Baltimore Ravens knew they couldn’t give Mahomes the ball back. It was poetic justice, it was a feeling that couldn’t be matched in that stadium on that night. Jackson picked up the first down and the Ravens sent a statement to the league. Words can’t do that comeback justice.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens sneak past Bears: 7 lessons on victory Monday

As a guy who covers the team I’m trying to keep some of the emotion from bleeding through the screen you’ll read this on. As a Ravens fan since I was 10 years old, nothing could have meant more than being there at that emotional roller-coaster of a game. The reason it’s number one for me is that the emotion was going to sneak through no matter what my fingers did on this keyboard. This game means the entire world to me.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions Versus the Broncos

By: Ashley Anderson

With a little luck and some star-kicking power, the Ravens found themselves at 2-1 after three weeks. This week, they travel to Denver to take on the undefeated Broncos. Here are some pressing questions heading into the game.

3.) Will Justin Tucker break his own kicking record?

Okay, this is a bit facetious, but even the Ravens have commented on the possibility this week. When Tucker lined up for his 66-yard try against Detroit, it had a 10% chance of being good. With a kiss off the crossbar, it ended up going through the uprights to send Baltimore to a huge win. Tucker now holds the record for the longest kick in NFL history by a two-yard margin.

Now, with the thin air in Denver, there is speculation Tucker could hit from around 70-yards. Long snapper Nick Moore said Tucker often hits 65 to 70 yarders at practice. However, there is a big difference between practice and a real game. For a kick of that distance to have any chance of success, every aspect needs to be perfect.

During the 66-yard attempt, Tucker initially set his feet before deciding to take a step backward. That single step had the potential to disrupt the timing of everything. Moore had to get the perfect snap to Sam Koch, Koch had to hold it a fraction of a second longer, and the blockers had to keep Tucker clean and avoid costly holding or false start penalties. Oh, and Tucker still had to kick the ball so violently that it would have the distance to clear the bar.

Considering the minutiae of the whole operation, conditions would have to be pristine to even make the attempt. Given the ability for the opposing team to return a miss, the whole team would have to be on alert to avoid points going the other way. Chances are, the Ravens would only try for a kick that long if it were at the end of a half. In fairness, there is no better kicker in the league to try it.

2.) Can the Baltimore Ravens make Teddy Bridgewater uncomfortable?

Through three games, Teddy Bridgewater has only been sacked seven times. He has been able to stay comfortable in the pocket and is currently second in the league with a 76.8% completion rate. This week, however, he will be without his starting right guard, and his left guard is questionable.

Baltimore has struggled to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks so far. As a team, they only have five sacks, and no player has more than one. What was an area of concern prior to the start of the season has continued to be worrisome.

It also hurts that the Ravens’ secondary is not at full strength. After losing Marcus Peters near the end of training camp, they were also without Jimmy Smith for the first two weeks of the season. Chris Westry got hurt in Week 1, DeShon Elliott has been banged up and missed time, and now Anthony Averett is questionable.

Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale can usually scheme pressure with a variety of personnel, and he may need to start getting more creative. At this point, the Ravens are not winning many of their one-on-one assignments, and tackling is an issue that has continued to rear its ugly head. If Bridgewater has time to work, he will dissect Baltimore’s secondary.

1.) Will the Baltimore Ravens end Denver’s Undefeated Streak?

Of course, the biggest question heading into this game is whether Baltimore can snap Denver’s three-game win streak. The Broncos are one of only five undefeated teams in the NFL, and they are trying to keep pace with the Las Vegas Raiders. Baltimore has had a very uneven season so far, and they could as easily be winless as they are 2-1.

The “real” Ravens have likely yet to emerge as they deal with a plethora of injuries. For the first time this season, their opponent is also greatly hampered by injuries, which levels the playing field. Still, Baltimore has to take advantage of the situation by exploiting mismatches, or that will not matter.

Next Post: Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos: 4 predictions and a score

Denver’s three wins came against two rookie quarterbacks and Daniel Jones of the Giants. The Ravens boast a much more talented roster, but they cannot afford to play sloppy. If they have drops and penalties like they did in Detroit, the Broncos will send them home with a loss.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens should not feel bad for getting away with one

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens escaped Detroit with what can only be described as a lucky win. After a game that gave Ravens fans a lot to be frustrated by, a perspective check could be in order. How should you be feeling today as a member of the Ravens Flock?

First things first, a win is a win. Getting away with one is standard fare in NFL football. It happens in every good season and it happens during long years too. Take the win. Stacking wins in the easier half of the season is essential. How wins come doesn’t matter as long as the Ravens internalize the lessons from each game.

The Ravens have a relatively good schedule moving forward. The Denver Broncos could be tough but Baltimore should win it. The Indianapolis Colts shouldn’t be a huge roadblock. The Chargers are tough, but thankfully it’s in Baltimore. The Bengals, Vikings, and Dolphins all have talent but are beatable teams. The Bears have struggled.

The Ravens have a good chance to create the bulk of their playoff requisite wins in the first half of the season. The one thing you know about the Ravens is that they’re going to be competitive. A John Harbaugh-coached team rarely gets blown out of the water. It happens, but very rarely. The Ravens have shown they can win tough games and the team will get better when the injuries clear up a bit more.

By the time the Ravens take on the Cleveland Browns in week 12, the Ravens shouldn’t have more than three losses. They likely will only have two losses. That reality is huge. The chance the Ravens have at 2-1 is incredible. The Chiefs win opened the door to a monster season. Getting away with one kept that door open.

A little luck is nothing to feel bad about: 

Baltimore got away with a delay of game. They got lucky. Justin Tucker is the greatest kicker of all time, but that kick could have easily bounced the other way. They got lucky.  I’m sure it won’t comfort any Detroit fans, however, it’s about time the Ravens found some luck. Don’t make a team that lost all three of its original running backs, Marcus Peters, and L.J. Fort to season-ending injuries before the first kickoff, feel bad about getting some good fortune.

Don’t make a team that had four guys out on their defensive front because of one Covid-19 positive test feel bad about luck. The Ravens still haven’t seen Nick Boyle return to action and their first-round pick, Rashod Bateman missed his first three games and is just returning to practice. Baltimore shouldn’t feel bad for a lucky break, they should feel relieved for finally having something outside of their control roll their way.

The Ravens have their issues, but they’re 2-1 after three games. Effort and heart have not been among the problems John Harbaugh has had to deal with as head coach of the team. The Lions game went the exact way it couldn’t and they still walked out with a win. There is something to be said about that. Luck was surely a part of it, but their resolve was a big factor as well. 

The Bottom Line: 

The Lions game required some venting. I get it. We’re about halfway through the week and it’s time to be focused on beating the Denver Broncos. The Ravens have found a way two weeks in a row. That’s what good teams do. Considering how much adversity the Baltimore Ravens have gone through, I’d say this is a reason to be impressed. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 8 lessons from tight win over Lions

One thing is for sure, no Ravens fan should feel guilty for some good luck, especially from NFL officials. Remember the Ravens have been on the other side of NFL officiating being wrong. The Ravens feel like a tested 2-1 team. It doesn’t have to be pretty, they just have to come away with a win. 

Posted in The good bad and ugly

Justin Tucker saves Baltimore Ravens win: Good, bad and the ugly

By Chris Schisler 

The good

The Baltimore Ravens offense finally got a scoring drive near the end of the first half. Devin Duvernay scored the touchdown and that’s how long it took to find a positive at the end of a Ravens offensive drive.

The defense looked fantastic in this game. The expectations dropped a bit when a Covid-19 situation depleted the defensive front. The players that needed to step up did. Broderick Washington played well. He won the battle in the middle of the defensive line. Calais Campbell was great as well.

Don Martindale called another great game as the defensive coordinator of the Ravens. The blitzing was on point. The pressure bothered Lions quarterback, Jared Goff. Every time Goff had to pass and the Ravens knew it, the defense was ready to rock.

Lamar Jackson looked sharp. Drops really hurt his stat line. He had decent numbers in the game even though the box score doesn’t do the MVP quarterback justice. 

Justin Tucker saved the day. The 66-yard field goal was the longest kick in NFL history and it gave the Ravens a win. Okay, now it gets iffy. There is a little bad and then a whole lot of ugly.

The Bad for the Baltimore Ravens

On the first Ravens drive, they were backed up inside their own three-yard line. They ended up with a 3rd & 2. The Ravens ran a play everyone in the stadium was waiting for. The Ravens may be run-oriented but they really had to put the ball in the air there. It was an uninspired call by Greg Roman that took the ball out of Lamar Jackson’s hands on a key play.

The offense got off to a slow start. They wasted good stops by the defense. The first time the offense got going Justin Tucker uncharacteristically missed a field goal. The Ravens couldn’t stay on the field in the first quarter. That was the opposite of what they needed with their depth-strapped defense.

The offense was unflattering. On the last drive of the first quarter, you had a Mark Andrews drop, a play with two penalties, and a very timid call on 2nd & 15 that set up a 3rd and long. Jackson ran for a couple of yards and the Ravens punted. The first quarter was the opposite of fun.

In the second quarter, the offense started throwing it down the field. Jackson missed on a couple of deep shots though Marquise Brown arguably should have caught one of them in the end zone. Tucker got a field goal but the Ravens kept their streak of not picking up first downs on third down.

The Ugly

Marquise Brown was absolutely and unequivocally bad in this game. He had multiple drops with perfect passes hitting him in both hands. This may have been the worst game of his career, a sentiment that could have been rightfully believed before the halftime intermission. Brown has no excuse, these drops were all the way on the awful meter.

The offensive line was poor for much of the game. The Ravens offensive line forced Greg Roman’s play calls in this game. An expected run-heavy game turned into more of a passing day.

When the Lions finally scored the offense revisited the running game. It must have made you wonder why did they get so removed from it in the first place?

Jackson got bottled up a handful of times in the pocket. On one deep pass that could have been a touchdown in the third quarter, Jackson missed Andrews. Pressure may have knocked his accuracy off course.

The Ravens got out to a 13 point lead in this game. They failed to put Detroit away. The Lions put together a touchdown drive in the middle of the third quarter. Open field tackling became an issue. It’s a reoccurring problem. 13-7 was a nervous spot for the Ravens, especially when they controlled most of the action to that point.

The very ugly:

To be fair this was expected because of the circumstances, but the running game of the Lions got harder to stop as the game went on. There were a few moments where the Ravens were simply getting gashed. De’Andre Swift was the main problem, but Jamaal Williams also had some nice runs against Baltimore.

A gassed and exhausted defense gave the Lions another touchdown. All of a sudden it was a two-point game. All of the sudden a win was on a nervous footing for the Ravens. The defense gave up the score. The offense created this situation by squandering perfect chances and putting the defense in tough spots all game long.

Jackson forced a pass on third and long after the Lions score. It was a bad throw, forced in the direction of Marquise Brown. He wasn’t open and the pass was hopeless.

It was a throw that continued Jackson’s three-game run with an awful and unforgivable turnover. The stretched-thin defense had to try to save the day. Take a moment, throw something before we continue.

The defense gave up two wide-open passes that cut the Lions’ distance to a glorious win in half. This thing was just going that way. The Ravens were looking at a loss to Detroit of a win that didn’t make anyone in the Charm City feel good.

John Harbaugh inexplicably challenged a catch. The Ravens wasted a timeout. Then the Lions quickly got into scoring position. Again, if you need to throw something I totally understand, take a second if you must. Spoiler alert, the Lions scored the field goal with 1:04 left on the clock. You have to be kidding me!

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 tight ends in franchise history

The Baltimore Ravens took two sacks and faced a 4th and long. That’s it for the ugly, it got glorious for a second and the Ravens got away with one.

 

 

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens Three Big Questions About The Special Teams

By: Ashley Anderson

It’s time for 3 Baltimore Ravens questions about special teams. As a former special teams coordinator, Head Coach John Harbaugh has always put a huge emphasis on having a well-rounded special teams unit. Although some players prefer to be divas or stars, Ravens players seem to embrace the grind of the “other third” of football. With the best kicker and arguably top punter in the NFL, it may seem like this is a group without any lingering questions. However, there are a few areas of intrigue.

3.) Will Justin Tucker continue to lead the NFL in all-time accuracy?

What Justin Tucker has done in his nine seasons is nothing short of remarkable. Year after year while other kickers struggle, the Ravens have been able to rest easy knowing they have the NFL’s all-time leader in field goal accuracy. With a current success rate of 90.65%, the bar is high for Tucker.

It is tough to imagine a time when Tucker somehow went undrafted out of the University of Texas. The opera singing, Royal Farms commercial star came to Baltimore in 2012, and he quickly became a fan favorite. Winning the fan base over was easy considering Billy Cundiff broke hearts all around Baltimore few months prior. No one will ever forget Cundiff’s shanked 32-yard field goal try that squashed the Ravens’ last opportunity in the 2011-2012 season AFC Championship game. Just saying “Cundiff” is enough to trigger PTSD in Baltimore.

Tucker helped erase most of those memories, however. He has been the model of consistency, and his work ethic is unmatched. Year after year as kickers join the Ravens for training camp, he provides an example of what it takes to make it in the NFL. As such, Baltimore has churned out numerous prolific kickers since his arrival, although none have challenged his roster spot.

During training camp this year, Tucker said he feels like he is just hitting his prime. Kickers can theoretically play much longer than most other guys, and at age 31, he still has plenty of gas in the tank. The Baltimore Ravens are surely confident Tucker will continue to be the gold standard among kickers, and he will accept nothing less from himself.

2.) Who will step up to provide leadership for the Baltimore Ravens?

The Ravens took a gamble when they chose to part ways with long-time special teams ace Anthony Levine. Better known as Co Cap around Baltimore, Levine provided a great deal of leadership on the special teams unit. Although the Ravens added him back to their practice squad, there may be weeks where he does not receive a call-up due to more pressing needs. 

Also known for their special teams contributions, Justice Hill and LJ Fort are out for the season with a ruptured Achilles and torn ACL respectively. In addition, Baltimore waived veteran Jordan Richards from the practice squad to make room for Le’Veon Bell. At this point, this is a unit lacking a big-name veteran presence.

As previously mentioned, head coach John Harbaugh expects everyone to be prepared to play special teams. Veteran linebacker Josh Bynes was recently added to the practice squad, and fellow linebackers Chris Board and Kristian Welch will likely be heavily relied upon as well. In addition, the younger players Baltimore kept due to their high ceilings will earn more playing time by embracing and excelling on special teams. Though there is not one clear leader like Levine on the 53-man roster, Baltimore is counting on someone to emerge from the pack. 

1.) How will the Wolfpack look with Nick Moore at long snapper?

Since 2012, the Ravens relied on the well-oiled machine known as the Wolfpack on field goal and extra-point attempts. Long snapper Morgan Cox got the ball to punter Sam Koch, and Koch promptly faced the laces out for Tucker to put the ball through the uprights. Save for nine games in 2014 when Cox was injured, that was simply the Raven way.

The trio became so close, no one could imagine one without the other. Even as Koch approaches age 40, it seemed like they would be a unit forever. However, in one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, Baltimore parted ways with Cox in favor of Nick Moore.

Moore, a former Georgia Bulldog, spent most of the 2020 season on the Ravens practice squad. When Cox was placed on the Covid-19 list, Moore was activated for one game on December 2nd versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was no noticeable drop-off in production, and he did not commit any major gaffes. As a result, the Ravens felt comfortable moving forward with a younger, cheaper option.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 3 keys for the defense vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Cox is more well-known than most long snappers in the NFL, and he deserves a round of applause for a stellar career in Baltimore. For Moore, the best thing he could do is fly under the radar. When people are not hearing your name as a long snapper, it usually means you are doing your job well. While they rarely get much credit, long snappers are crucial to the field goal and punting units, and the focus will be on Moore until he proves to be as reliable as Cox.

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Special teams must be special

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are going into the 2021 season without “The Wolfpack.” Morgan Cox is no longer the long snapper for Sam Koch and Justin Tucker.

This isn’t necessarily a concern, but Nick Moore has to earn the Ravens’ piece of mind here. The job of a long snapper is to do your job so smoothly that the fans never even learn your name. There’s plenty of Ravens fans that have no clue who Moore is. That has to remain the same.

The Baltimore Ravens have to get the job done on special teams. It could be a real difference-maker for them. Close games are determined by the little things. Mistakes on special teams are costly.

Many mistakes you don’t really see. A punt returner calling a fair catch with plenty of green grass in front of him is probably giving up 10-12 yards of field position. A special teamer gets out of his lane and the opponent gets 20 more yards on a return. It’s not just missed kicks, bad snaps, and fumbles that hurt you when you don’t have special teams that are special.

Things to think about:

The first issue is life without Morgan Cox. That will most likely be a seamless transition. The Ravens wouldn’t make the change if they weren’t confident in Moore. Still, Koch was really used to handling one person’s snaps for a long time. I’m not staying up at night worried about the Ravens long snapper, but I’m not taking it for granted either.

The Ravens are also without Chris Moore. Now, Moore was quite frankly a bad wide receiver. That said he was a stud on special teams. He was a gunner on punt team. He lined up outside, turned on the jets, and made plays down the field. Moore was also handy for fake punts (It’s about the only passes he caught, or at least it feels like it).

The Ravens may want to figure out the punt returner job. The one thing we do know is that Devin Duvernay is the best option at kickoff returner. If Duvernay gets an increased workload in the offense, having somebody else do punt returns is a good idea.

As a kickoff return specialist, Duvernay got the job done. Duvernay averaged 27.5 yards a return and scored a touchdown. Duvernay finished 10th in the NFL for kickoff return yards. There should be no competition here. Duvernay did that in his rookie season. He’s only going to get better and it’s important to remember that he had only 21 kickoff return attempts.

The Ravens get a special teams boost from Justin Tucker being the greatest kicker of all time. Statistically, there has never been a more reliable kicker in the NFL. Sam Koch is the longest-tenured Ravens player. He’s been the punter in Baltimore since Brian Billick was the head coach. That’s a fact that is almost hard to believe.

The Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

The boost the Ravens should get from their specialists is substantial. If the Ravens can fill the units around these specialists with strong play, the special teams could be a great advantage for Baltimore. Strong special teams will add up over the season. When it’s going right, you don’t always realize how much it matters.

The Ravens have a very stacked roster. This is exactly what every special teams coordinator wants to see. The back-end of the roster makes it largely on special teams. Chris Horton, the Ravens special teams coordinator has some talented players to put on his unit.

NEXT POST: Lamar Jackson: 3 Common misconceptions about the MVP quarterback

The Ravens have a chance to be one of the best teams in the NFL. Special teams have to live up to the talent on this roster for the Ravens to win it all. It’s not something to overlook when you’re getting ready for the season.

Posted in Nest Talks

Nest Talk: Top 10 Baltimore Ravens of all-time (Video)

By Chris Schisler

Chris Schisler

The Top 10 Baltimore Ravens of all time, huh? The Ravens have had an absolutely incredible history. Sure, it’s less than 30 years old but Ravens football has been full of amazing players. Making this list was fun. It was also kind of brutal. Imagine getting to Todd Heap‘s name and having to put him in the honorable mention section. That’s hard to do.

One of the guiding concepts to this list was that a player almost had to be the best player at his position group. There’s only one position with multiple players in the top 10, and you’ll get why. Knowing full well that you know who’s at the top of the list, I started at number one. I made it a 1. and 1A. kind of thing with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. For the sake of sticking to a top 10, Reed got the number two spot. I’m sure this is the part of the list where the order will get most tightly debated.

Watch: The Baltimore Ravens top 10 players ever

The point of a nest talk is to let the video do the talking. It’s to give you another form of the Purple and Black Nest. We want to hear from you though. What do you think about our top 10 Ravens of all time? Did we get it right? What would you change? The entire point of these conversations is to have fun with the debate. It’s the offseason, a football man has to do something to keep sane.

NEXT POST: Ravens roster camp battles to watch out for

More articles and nest talks are on the way. We’re even working on bringing you a brand new podcast for our brand new site.