Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: A full examination of the Greg Roman situation

By Chris Schisler

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

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

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

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

A mix of good and bad to sort through: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Ravens bottom line: 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Lamar Jackson: Looking at his crazy start to the 2021 season

By Chris Schisler

Lamar Jackson is such an important player for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s lifted the offense up for the first three weeks of the season. Statistically, it’s been a mixed bag. Jackson has as many total turnovers as he does total touchdowns. The turnovers can easily distract you from the amazing things he’s done to start this season.

Jackson looks like a different passer in the 2021 season. He’s throwing the ball more. His yards per attempt has shot up as well, all the way up to 8.8. The Ravens are seeing a more aggressive Jackson in the air. At this point last season, Jackson had 576 yards passing. This year he’s at 761 yards.

Crazy totals for Lamar Jackson

Jackson has had some horrible mistakes that mute the change to this offense. He had two fumbles that sunk the Ravens in the season opener against the Raiders. He had a horrible interception into trople coverage against the Chiefs, and he almost tossed the game away in Detroit. These plays help Jackson’s critics and allow people to be distracted by the negatives.

Against the Raiders Jackson was the only reason the team was in the game. Jackson had 235 yards in the air and 86 on the ground. 321 total yards is a solid day for any quarterback espescially when the offensive line is getting rocked and the running game has some hitches to work out.

In the Chiefs game Jackson had 239 passing yards and 107 rushing yards. That’s 346 total yards. That’s a huge game and it helped deliver a comeback victory for the ages. Against the Lions, Jackson had 287 yards passing and 58 yards rushing. That’s 345 yards of total offense that the MVP quarterback generated. It’s hard to fathom how big Jackson’s numbers could have been without a handful of costly drops in Detroit.

Jackson has put up 1,012 total yards this season. That’s a three game average of 335 yards per game. If Jackson cleans up the mistakes and keeps producing at this rate, it could be the most prolific season a quarterback has ever had. The combination of passing and rushing yards has been wowing. Jackson is on pace to have his best year and he was the unanimous 2019 NFL MVP.

Being the hero:

The positives far outweigh the negatives, and Jackson can clean up his ball security. Jackson has 71 career touchdowns and 21 career interceptions. He has never thrown for more than nine picks in a season. Jackson gets a lot of flack for his propensity to turn the ball over. He”s made costly mistakes in the first three games. While that can’t be ignored, his track record should calm you down a bit. The rate at which his turnovers come should slow down.

Jackson has had virtually no help from the offensive line in two out of three games. His running back rotation is completley new, with most of the backs past their prime and just happy to extend their NFL career. In the game agaisnt Detroit drops crushed the Ravens chance for a blowout. Jackson had to go into Superman mode. Jackson passed the ball 31 times. You’ll see few examples of a quarterback slingling that many dimes and walking away with that little of a reward on the scoreboard and in the box score.

The thing that amazes me about this season isn’t how much the Ravens have put on to the shoulders of their quarterback, but how their quarterback is dealing with that kind of a workload. Jackson never seems to let anything get to him. He doesn’t seem to be rattled and when he makes a mistake he doesn’t recoil into a game manager. More importantly, when he makes a mistake Greg Roman doesn’t recoil as a play-caller.

Pushing the limits:

It’s almost as if the Ravens know they need every little bit out of Jackson. They’re essentially saying as a coaching staff that Jackson has free reign to push the boundaries of his performance as much as possible. The Ravens offense does have a better design in the pass game (Kieth Williams presence is felt). Scheme isn’t doing all this though, Jackson is. The MVP quarterback is playing free of fear and limits. Basically, he’s Neo in the Matrix and he understands that “There is no spoon.”

Jackson now has to keep playing with this spirit- this obvious attack mode and add some polish and control. Continuing the Matrix comparrison, the Chiefs game was his Subway batlte with the agent- he’s figured it out but is just starting to scratch the surface of his full potential. He can beat anyone now. He knows it, the world knows it.

You can see it:

The types of throws Jackson is throwing give the biggest sign of his improvement. There’s more to the outside. The passing game features more shots down the field, while his passes seem to zip right in there. The days of Jackson being critiqued for his shortcomings as a passer should be fading away. He’s shown he can make all the throws.

The true mark of Jackson’s progress is that this doesn’t seem forced. The Ravens were essentially forced to throw the ball 31 times agains tthe Lions. The Ravens are averaging 29 passing attempts per game and it doesn’t seem like a unfair ask of the passing game. It’s not a stretch too far out of Baltimore’s offensive comfort zone. Remember, the Ravens were the team with the fewest passing attempts per season last year.

When we left last season  we were asking if the Ravens could do better in the passing game. What we really needed to see was more volume, because the efficiency was already there.

If you’re watching the game you can tell that there is a difference. We’ve talked a lot about the numbers. In some key ways their up and there are some stats you can cherry pick to rebut those statistical gains. The stats aren’t the argument though.

Jackson has always done things as a runner at the quarteback position that we’ve never seen before. His pop passes against the Chiefs- one which really went down the field as a real shot play- was something I haven’t seen from anybody. I haven’t seen that from Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Patrick Mahomes. As a long-time defender of Jackson’s arm talent, I can stop beating the drum. The arm talent of Lamar Jackson is undeniable at this point.

The Bottom Line:

The Ravens are 2-1 and each game has been an absolute battle. The one game in which Jackson got help from his offensive line and his pass-catchers was the amazing week 2 win against the Chiefs. Things aren’t going overwhelmingly well. Offensively, Jackson is the entire show at this point. He’s the enzyme that creates all good things for the unit.

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

If some frustrating mistakes is the cost of Jackson figuring out how to play to his full potential, Ravens fans should take it. That’s a fair deal. Jackson has shown evidence that he can carry the team on his back in the air and on the ground. The best dual-threat quarterback in NFL history could be on his way to being the best quarterback in the league right now. The sky is the limit and Jackson is figuring out how to avoid anything holding him back.

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: 10 predictions for the preseason

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens start the three-game preseason next Saturday on the 14th. They host the New Orleans Saints for their first preseason bout. Here is a look at what I see going down in the three preseason games:

1. A slow start for the offense: 

The Baltimore Ravens offense hasn’t had a great start to training camp. There have been some injuries hampering their receivers, while Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards haven’t been able to practice due to Covid-19. Getting everything going isn’t an instant thing. With very limited practice time with the starting quarterback, if we see the starting offense against the Saints it may be a little less sharp than fans want to see.

2. Ben Cleveland is going to make an obvious push for being a starter:

The Baltimore Ravens need the offensive line to be a strength in the 2021 season. Ben Cleveland literally a huge addition to the unit. His massive size and power will shine through. The preseason is a good chance to develop Cleveland. Cleveland has some on-the-job training ahead of him. I could see him getting preseason reps against starters and backups. It’s going to be the most game-like scenario the Ravens will see Cleveland in. Expect him to work out some rookie kinks and to win a starting job.

3. At least one receiver on the back-end of the depth chart will get the Baltimore Ravens Flock way too excited:

I’m not talking about the receivers we keep talking about here. I’m talking about the players like Deon Cain and Binjimen Victor. There will be at least one wide receiver who doesn’t have a realistic chance at a roster spot, that will make plays. It happens on a yearly basis. One of these receivers will make plays against backups. The fans will fall in love with him and the Ravens will cut him. I’m not talking about a Miles Boykin or a James Proche here. I’m talking about the camp bodies who will have to look for chances elsewhere unless maybe, they impress enough on special teams. It happens every year, especially in a receiver starved city.

4. Odafe Oweh gets two sacks in the preseason:

Oweh is in an interesting position going into the preseason. He’s supposed to be a raw player with the goods athletically. Most first-round picks are protected and reserved for most of the preseason action. I could see Oweh getting more playing time than you might expect. If Oweh plays against backups he’s going to win the battle. I think he may be able to beat some starters off the edge just because he’s so explosive. Give Oweh two preseason sacks that will get Baltimore going.

5. Jaylon Ferguson will come on strong:

Jaylon Ferguson is on the roster bubble. When the Ravens signed Justin Houston, that bubble became just a little bit more uncomfortable. Ferguson is going to be hungry. The good news for Ferguson is that he looks like a lean machine. He had the traits that you look for when he was drafted and this could be Ferguson in his best shape. I expect a strong showing from the former Louisiana Tech product. We’ll have to see if it’s too little too late though.

6. The Ravens will go 3-0 this preseason

Do the Ravens ever lose in the preseason anymore? They’ve won 17 straight games in the preseason. These games don’t matter from a results perspective, but you have to think the Ravens put emphasis on winning these games.

The Ravens never treat these as throwaway games, they treat them as work in a game setting. After years of watching John Harbaugh coached Ravens teams in the preseason, the biggest compliment I can give is that they almost make the preseason fun football.

More importantly, the Ravens have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. The Ravens have role players and backups that are better than what’s out there on most NFL rosters. The Ravens have a tendency to win preseason games and one of the most stacked rosters. This makes me see three meaningless wins coming right up.

7. The Ravens won’t give much away about their new passing game:

One of the big advantages of the Ravens is that nobody knows what to expect from their new passing game. The Ravens have Keith Williams and Tee Martin as the new passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. It’s a given that the passing attack will change. Expect the Ravens’ offense to be very vanilla in the preseason. They probably have no motivation to give things away. Much like Eric DeCosta played us when he talked up his comfort level at wide receiver before the draft, I expect the coaching staff to keep their secrets.

One thing I do expect though is you will see a higher level of quality out of the wide receiver group as a whole. This is a position group that needed a coaching update. With mostly young receivers the coaching should take incredibly well and show its impact in the games.

8. Rashod Bateman will shine:

Sticking with the wide receivers, Rashod Bateman will have a nice preseason. I’m done saying that Bateman will be good because football season is here and he obviously is good. The Ravens have never had a rookie wide receiver with more talent. Bateman will become one of the best receivers in the NFL soon enough. For now, he’ll have a nice little highlight reel in the preseason.

9. Tyler Huntley will earn QB2:

My expectations for Tyler Huntley are high. In a year where there is no promise that the Ravens hold on to three quarterbacks, Huntley has a chance to earn the second spot at quarterback. Arm talent is what I believe to be the biggest separator between Huntley and McSorley. Huntley has a more powerful arm. He has a lot of skills in common with Lamar Jackson and he makes the most sense as the backup.

Is he ever going to be a Jackson-level quarterback? Probably not. I could see him becoming the best backup in the league and earning a starting spot elsewhere eventually. That’s on the table. Huntley is talented.

10. Nate McCrary makes a legitimate run for the third running back spot:

Justice Hill hasn’t been the player I was expecting him to be. To be fair, the Oklahoma State product hasn’t had much of a chance behind Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards in 2019 and Edwards and Dobbins in 2020. The third running back spot is arguably up for grabs. The player that Justice Hill has to worry about is Nate McCrary, an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw State.

McCrary looks the part with a 6-1 and 225-pound build. He had 1060 yards in the 2019 season and he scored 10 touchdowns. It may just be at Saginaw State, but McCrary is an interesting player to watch. That’s my only promise here, that McCrary makes it interesting. He may not make the roster, but he’s going to make a strong argument for himself that will be worth the price of admission.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens training camp: What to be excited about

Doesn’t it feel good to start thinking about football games again? We’ll be here all season. Let’s go!

Posted in Nest Talks, Uncategorized

Nest Talk: Keep underselling the Ravens offense, it’s working

A video message for Ravens fans by Chris Schisler

Welcome Ravens fans, to Nest Talk 1,0. Nest talks are going to be short videos explaining things that have to be said. In today’s talk I am joined by Goose. It’s the only way I could keep her from begging for attention. She basically enlisted herself as the Purple and Black Nest mascot! I may be biased, but you’re not going to find a cooler mascot.

The Ravens offense is something that I have been thinking about all day. I clocked into work and it was on my mind. By the end of my shift, I figured out what I wanted to say. Talking football with you is what makes all the hard work in the real world worth it. So there’s a lot to dive into.

Today’s topic was the passing game. More specifically, I dive into the Ravens commitment to the passing game. The Ravens are here to show you something that you’re not expecting. Everything the Ravens have done this offseason points to a team that understands where they left off last year. The Ravens get it. The passing game is going to take a step up in the 2021 season.

Today’s topic is the big picture look at everything going for this offense. The addition of Rashod Bateman is going to be bigger than you think it is. The addition of Kieth Williams as the passing game coordinator is going to be bigger than you think it is. Sammy Watkins isn’t a bad pick up to help Lamar Jackson. I have some things to say, I guess.

Enjoy the video. More blog posts are on the way!

I will let the video do most of the talking. I just want to remind you that the Purple and Black Nest is just getting going. We’re trying to build a community of Ravens fans.

NEXT POST: Ravens are going to get massive season from Mark Andrews

The goal is to have a site that is for Baltimore and by Baltimore. Every share of this video helps! Every like helps.