Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens didn’t make the playoffs. The season is over and it ended on a six-game losing streak. It was not an emotionally rewarding season and there are plenty of things to think about. The main conversation for the Ravens Flock is the fate of the coaching staff. Is John Harbaugh getting a pass? Should Greg Roman be canned? Is Don Martindale a head coaching candidate elsewhere? There’s a lot to sift through.

Greg Roman, should he stay or should he go?

Greg Roman has given the Ravens one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens actually had the sixth-most yards per game in the NFL this season. The Ravens finished the season third in rushing yards per game. Even with Lamar Jackson missing the last portion of the season, the Ravens finished 13th in passing yards per game. These are numbers that make a strong case for Roman to come back in a year without Ronnie Stanley, Gus Edwards, and J.K. Dobbins.

That being said statistics could make a compelling argument either way. 22.8 points per game isn’t exactly where you set the bar in the NFL. A 36.4 percent conversion rate on third down isn’t exactly doing the trick either. Nobody wants me to get into the red zone stuff, Baltimore is scarred from their team’s inability to punch the ball in the end zone when it matters. There are numbers for both sides of the argument, but more and more, it feels like Roman deserves an exit.

Many people want to point to the Ravens’ postseason failures as a reason to avoid giving Lamar Jackson his big payday. Roman’s predictability and lack of flexibility have more to do with the Ravens’ missteps in 2019 and 2020. You actually don’t need a complicated answer here. Does it feel like the same old thing over and over again? Does it feel like Roman is hindering progress because you can only get to a certain point with his offense? It does.

Moving on from Roman would allow the Ravens to see if Jackson could do it with another coordinator. The results could go either way for Jackson, but if he shined with another coordinator it answers some questions before a big contract extension. A fresh start for Jackson could be what he needs to get back to playing at the insane video game like display of greatness we got way too used to. Giving Roman some leeway because of injuries is fair. Roman isn’t an awful coordinator.

That doesn’t mean he’s the right coordinator for next season. The Ravens don’t need a complete overhaul. They need to take the next step when their guys are back in action. If you feel deep down that Roman isn’t taking that next step moving on makes a lot of sense. It’s not going to happen but it would be a defendable action by the team.

Don Martindale: An undervalued treasure for the Baltimore Ravens

If you hold Don Martindale’s job on the chopping block because Kevon Seymour and Robert Jackson can’t cover to save their life, that’s a bit unfair. The Ravens’ defense was in a tough spot. The biggest difference-maker was also a rookie (Odafe Oweh) finding his footing in the NFL. Once Marlon Humphrey was hurt the Ravens’ secondary was basically a poorly stacked skid of freight with no shrink-wrap, if the truck hits a speed bump it’s all falling down.

The Ravens defense had some lumps and blown coverage was a big problem all year. But look at what pundits think is the Ravens’ draft needs. The Ravens need a true free safety, they need a better defensive line and as usual more pass rush. Martindale had the toughest assignment he ever had. The Ravens only allowed 23.1 points per game. The run defense was solid and with a little tinkering of responsibilities the Ravens were able to get Patrick Queen back to a very productive place. The defense wasn’t great. It also had no chance to be.

John Harbaugh was given a lot of praise for his resilience. But Wink needs to get some praise for his work. The Ravens were in every single game down the stretch when circumstances gave them very little chance. Look at the scores for the second half of the season. The Browns scored 16 and 22 points against the Ravens. The Steelers scored 20 points in their first battle with Baltimore and 16 in the finale. The Bears scored 13. The Rams only got 20. The Bengals game was an outlier but the point is that the Ravens had done enough defensively (With very little help from the injury front and Covid-19) to win games down the stretch.

The Ravens gave their offense a chance. The offense didn’t deliver too many times. Martindale made the best-case scenario out of a bad spot. He now draws some interest for head coaching jobs with the New York Giants reportedly being his biggest chance at a promotion. That’s great to see because I’ll root for this man till the day he dies. If the Ravens lose Martindale, Ravens fans may miss what they had.

John Harbaugh: Praise him or put him on the hot seat?

If you want to fire John Harbaugh… stop, just stop. He’s been the Ravens coach since 2008. He has a Super Bowl ring and an NFL Coach of the Year award on his resume. The Ravens haven’t had the playoff success you’re looking for, I get it. Mike Tomlin is 8-8 in the playoffs and hasn’t gotten the Steelers close to a Super Bowl in a while, should the Steelers fire him?

Probably not. Andy Reid is just 17-15 in the playoffs. He took the Chiefs job in 2013 and it took him a while to get that Super Bowl ring. Sean Payton has one ring and a bunch of failures on his resume, should the New Orleans Saints fire him? Probably not. The point is great coaches have a hard time chasing the Lombardi Trophy, if you have a guy who’s proven he can do it, sticking with him is usually the right idea.

The Ravens had their chance to part with Harbaugh. 2015-2017 was about as miserable of a time in Ravens history as there ever was. The Ravens were mediocre and the Ravens missed the playoffs three years in a row. We know that Lamar Jackson saved Harbaugh’s job. It’s not a secret. It’s a widely accepted fact. Since his job got saved the Ravens’ records have been 14-2, 11-5, and 8-9. The 8-9 record came when the Ravens had the most injury-plagued year in franchise history. The Ravens were in almost every game down to the wire. Love him or hate him, he proved a lot this year and he isn’t going anywhere.

Does the question become what the bar will become for Harbaugh? What is an acceptable result in the 2022 season? Does it become Super Bowl or you’re out of here? Does it become to make a viable run at it and if you get close you’re fine? Harbaugh deserves praise this season. The franchise has a great culture. Everybody wants to be here, the fight and heart this team showed on a week-to-week basis make a strong case for Harbaugh. The Bottom Line:

At the end of the day, the Baltimore Ravens have a strong argument for bringing all three core coaches back. While it doesn’t make the big talking points, I’d like to mention that Chris Horton has proven to be a strong special teams coordinator.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

I’d like to see the Ravens move on from Roman, and see if they can build off the ideas he started here. Roman has my respect, but it’s time to find out some things we can’t know if he stays on as the offensive coordinator. A little change is needed, a full overhaul of what the Ravens are doing is not.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Top 3 offseason needs ranked

By Chris Schisler

Technically, the Baltimore Ravens season isn’t over. If you can’t start looking to the offseason and turn a bit to free agency and the NFL Draft though, you’re not living in reality. The Ravens are in a better situation than many teams faced with a likely elimination from a postseason berth. They have their quarterback (stay off the dark corners of Ravens Facebook – they have their quarterback and he wears number eight). The Ravens have their head coach and are looking at a 2022 season where they’ll get back key pieces to the puzzle.

The Ravens are going to miss the playoffs in all likelihood though, so let’s get ready. The first step for any problem solving is admitting you have a problem. What are the Ravens’ team-building problems? Let’s talk about where they need to get better.

1. The Baltimore Ravens need the offensive line fixed

One could say that the secondary is the biggest area of need. It’s a close second. But when the ravens get Marcus Peters back (assuming he returns next season), and Marlon Humphrey is back, a lot of the secondary problems will go away or at least be severely muted. There is no quick fix to the offensive line. The return of Ronnie Stanley will be a great boost, but the unit isn’t set the second he returns.

In the 2020 season, the Ravens were plagued by that awful combination that is Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker. In 2021, the offensive tackle was a mess for the Ravens. Alejandro Villanueva made it pretty clear that he’s only comfortable on the left side and he’s not a great left tackle. Villanueva was somewhat solid and on the offensive line’s most important position group that will never fly for long.

The real problem was on the right side though. Patrick Mekari did admirably in fill-in duty but he’s not who you want starting at tackle. Mekari will be back, rightfully so after signing a nice extension with the team. Ideally, he’s your most valuable fill-in who can play every offensive line position.

When Mekari wasn’t at right tackle it was ugly. One goal of the offseason has to be never seeing Tyre Phillips play right tackle again. The Ravens can’t go into next season with Phillips even a plan B at right tackle. The Ravens would be wise to load up on tackles. Maybe Villanueva stays as a backup to Stanley- there are worse situations in the world – but the Ravens need to address this position. From the NFL Draft or maybe even free agency, they need a starting right tackle and a plan B, that doesn’t make Ravens fans cover their eyes.

The Ravens have Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, and Kevin Zeitler. That’s what works for the starting offensive line for next season as of now. Adding two starters and filling out the depth chart for the big guys up front is essential. The Ravens have to win the line of scrimmage before they can worry about anything else. It’s that simple.

2. The Secondary

What the Baltimore Ravens need more than anything is a free safety. The Ravens need a defensive back who can play the middle of the field, who has the range to take away big plays and make some in the process. Think about how different this defense would be with a player like Ed Reed. Then find a player who gives you the closest possible match to that. You’ll never find another Reed but the idea is getting a ballhawk, with range and football instincts you can’t coach. A play-making free safety who takes the ball away would make Don Martindale a more dangerous defensive coordinator.

If this season taught us anything it’s that you can never have enough cornerbacks. Anthony Averett is a free agent and I could see him getting paid elsewhere more than the Ravens should pay him. The Ravens have to add a bit to the cornerback position. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young, and Brandon Stephens make a nice start. You need to draft a guy who can chip in right away and has a chance to develop. You could make an argument that the Ravens should go with a defensive back in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but with many picks, they need to address the secondary with a couple of players.

3. Defensive Line/ Pass Rushers:

The Ravens added a piece to the puzzle with Odafe Oweh in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Ravens need to add another young edge rusher to the mix. They need to find a complementary talent that will grow up with Oweh in this defense. You always need pass rushers. You always need more pass rushers. We already know that. With Justin Houston being a free agent, an edge rusher could be a bigger need.

Let’s look at this defensive line though. Calais Campbell may call it quits after this season, and if he does continue his career he’s a free agent. Brandon Williams is getting up there and even if he’s solid we’re seeing diminishing returns. Justin Madubuike’s okay but he didn’t have the year two breakout we were looking for. The defensive line is not a high-impact group right now. The Ravens may have needs in front of this one, but they have to fix that.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens fall to Rams: Good, bad, ugly



Posted in Pregame Content

Why the Baltimore Ravens can’t be taken lightly by the Rams

By Chris Schisler

The title of this article may be grabbing your attention, so let’s talk about it. Is it ridiculous that the Baltimore Ravens pose a legitimate threat to the 11-4 Los Angeles Rams? The Ravens have lost four straight games. The Cincinnati Bengals destroyed them 41-21 last Sunday. The Rams didn’t lose a game in December, and the new year is an exciting thought for Sean McVay and company. The title is bonkers right?

Here’s the thing, it’s not. The Baltimore Ravens can beat the Rams. This doesn’t mean they will, it should just be noted that it’s very possible. The Baltimore Ravens were a shell of themselves last week because the Covid reserve list and injuries put them over 30 players down. The Ravens won’t be healthy against the Rams, but they’ll be much more equipped than they were against the Bengals. Basing anything on that game is a dangerous practice, but I’m not your typical talking head so what do I know… right?

Look this is a game in Baltimore. The Green Bay Packers thought the game was going to be an easy breeze through the Charm City. They got an amped-up crowd and a game that went down to the two-point conversion. John Harbaugh has gotten the Ravens to fight their wings off this season, and if you think the purple and black are just going to lick their wounds and get the Rams a cupcake before the playoffs you don’t know this team.

The Ravens have reportedly been getting a lot of players back from the Covid Reserve list. Most recently, it’s been Tyler Huntley, Justin Madubuike, and newly rejoined with the Ravens, Tony Jefferson, Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston, Geno Stone, Chris Board, and Kristian Welch are back from the Covid list. Defensively, this team has a lot more working for it. Are they still a bit strapped at cornerback? Yes. But the Ravens are in a much better position going into this game.

The Ravens have been close in desperate situations on a weekly basis. The Bengals game was the exception, and the situation dictated that. Does anybody want to realize that the Ravens went to Josh Johnson at quarterback and still had a productive day on offense? The Ravens game against the Bengals went the way it did because the defense couldn’t get one stop. We saw against the Packers that the defense doesn’t have to be immaculate, it just has to get a few key stops.

Nobody expects Don Martindale’s unit to hold the Rams under 20 points. They don’t really have to, though it is worth noting that the Rams have scored 20 or fewer points four times this season. If the Ravens can keep the Rams under 30 points they can win the game. Remember the Packers got 31 points on a day where Aaron Rodgers could do almost no wrong. This is in the realm of possibility.

Lamar Jackson returned to practice on Wednesday, but it;’s looking more and more like Tyler Huntley. Well, that’ll work. Huntley made things interesting against the Browns and Packers. If nothing else, Huntley is a fun quarterback to watch. Having either Jackson or (most likely) Huntley back is a huge boost to this offense. This offense is also designed well to frustrate the Rams.

The Rams’ run defense isn’t their strength. When teams can run the ball on the Rams, they have a lot of success. It’s why the Rams struggled so much against the San Francisco 49ers, In that NFC West clash, the 49ers provided a decent blueprint to stopping the Rams. The Rams gave up 159 yards on the ground, and dominated the time of possesion. This tired out the Rams defense, nullifying Aaron Donald and Von Miller. It also prevented Matthew Stafford from finding a rhythm. Stafford is a player that needs to find his groove to have a big day and the 49ers said no.

While the Ravens offense called by Greg Roman isn’t exactly like Kyle Shanahan’s offense is in San Fransico, the Ravens can provide similar challenges for Los Angeles. On so many levels this is expected to be another bad week for the Baltimore Ravens. It doesn’t have to be. Some of the key ingredients are there for an upset.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vent session: A tough month

So Baltimore has a chance. The game got moved back from 4:25 to 1:00. The joke will be on Fox if they televise the top upset of the NFL season. Will it happen? We’ll see. The moral of the story is that there is a reason to watch this game, there is hope.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens vent session: A tough month

By Chris Schisler 

Perhaps the hardest part of the Baltimore Ravens four-game skid is how much has been out of their control. Weekly injury reports, the Covid-19 reserve list, and in-game injuries have held down a team that has shown incredible spirit.

The Ravens lost 41-21 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a game you couldn’t even get angry about. What adjustments could have been made that would have changed the outcome? It went beyond calling on the newly anointed plan C at quarterback Josh Johnson. The Ravens had practice squad corners going against Tee Higgins and Ja’Mar Chase. That could only go one way, and when Anthony Averett left the game hurt, it went that way even quicker.

The Ravens were decimated. Circumstances they couldn’t have prepared for and they couldn’t have any control over forced them into a farce of a contest. The Bengals were awarded their ninth win and the inside track to the AFC North crown.

The Ravens were essentially like Superman tied down by Kryptonite under a red sun projector. They were powerless and stuck in a bad spot. Let me indulge in a nerdy reference, it’s been a bad month.

The first stab of the heart:  

Things started with the slow and painful fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Heinz Field crowd relished when the Ravens defense tired out and the Steelers took complete control of the game. After the worst fourth quarter in recent memory was almost in the books Lamar Jackson fought back.

The Ravens were able to match down for the last-minute score. Instead of kicking the extra point and going into overtime, John Harbaugh elected to go for two. It didn’t work out and the Ravens lost by one point. Marlon Humphrey, by the way, sustained a season-ending injury. That night felt like a heavy death blow for the Ravens.

Then the Ravens got a rematch with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns got out to a commanding lead. Lamar Jackson got hurt (on a passing play). Tyler Huntley was able to lead a remarkable comeback. Justin Tucker even got his first successful onside kick. Then the Ravens fell short on a fourth down. The Ravens lost by two points, 24-22.

This is when Covid-19 decided to be a problem for the purple and black. The Ravens went into a game against the Green Bay Packers without much help at all in the secondary. The Ravens’ chances were severely hampered with that and a torn through the offensive line.

Tyler Huntley didn’t care about the odds and the Ravens went for it. Huntley led the Ravens to 30 points. For the second time in three weeks, Baltimore lost on a failed two-point conversion attempt instead of chancing overtime.

The knife turning: 

Then the Ravens had to play the Bengals with the most outmatched secondary the league has ever seen. That’s not a hyperbolic statement. Joe Burrow had over 500 yards passing for a reason. The Ravens’ only healthy starting corner was Tavon Young. The rest of the corners were replacements of replacements. If you told me the Ravens were filming the sequel to The Replacements I might have believed you. The Ravens were stuck playing guys who only get on the field in the preseason.

The Ravens managed to get eight wins despite being the most banged-up team in the NFL. Down went Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Ronnie Stanley, and the Ravens won five of their first six games. There was no point of the season where the Ravens weren’t without a handful of key players.

The four-game losing streak is simply everything catching up to them. The Ravens were out in a position where they couldn’t survive many more hits to their roster.

The hits came and came and came. The big bad wolf essentially huffed and puffed until the 53 man roster was almost unrecognizable from the one that battled the Las Vegas Raiders in week 1.

Every hit that came changed the roster. The Ravens have had to constantly adapt. The Ravens are a much different team than the one that started 6-1. The team that beat the Chiefs and came back against the Colts doesn’t exist anymore. That team needed luck with injuries and Covid to stay away. To no fault of their own, the Ravens have crumbled.

A search for a perspective beyond emotional pain: 

It’s both remarkable and frustrating that the Ravens aren’t even out of playoff contention. There’s a part of every Ravens fan that’s just waiting for next season. There’s a part of every Ravens fan that wants to see their team pull through, win out and see if they can steal a game or two in the postseason.

The Ravens went down to the wire against the Steelers, Browns and, Packers. If the Ravens just won two of those games they’d have 10 wins and would be in a much different situation. That’s three games settled by a total of four points. That’s brutal. Those were games a healthier Ravens team found a way to win early I’m the season. It’s just too much now. The last straw was had and for some reason, the Ravens still fight and still have a heartbeat.

What’s been missed in the four-game losing streak is how much there is to be positive about. The Ravens don’t have to rebuild – they have to get healthy and regroup for next season. They don’t need a new coach – if anything John Harbaugh’s proven himself with this season. The Ravens are going to be good next year if they simply get any luck at all on the injury front. 

Positives to keep you going Baltimore Ravens fans: 

Mark Andrews is having the best season a Baltimore Ravens tight end ever has. Andrews is dangerously close to breaking receiving records for the Baltimore Ravens. Marquise Brown isn’t far behind him. Could you imagine this offense with a healthy Lamar Jackson and J.K. Dobbins back in the fold?

We asked all offseason for growth in the passing game and the Ravens receiving options are about the only thing going for this team. The very fact that the Ravens don’t need a receiver with great desperation should be something to applaud, even when we’re hurting here in Maryland. 

The Ravens lost core players. Imagine though how much greater the impact of the young talent on this team would be with that core talent back. Odafe Oweh, Brandon Stephens, Rashod Bateman… guys Baltimore has some players for the future. 

NEXT POST: Ravens Flock: Can we just give John Harbaugh a break?

This has been the worst month of Baltimore Ravens football in quite some time. Nothing has gone right, the team has a million built-in excuses, and talking heads still want to use the last game to prop up Joe Burrow as the next big thing (…cool). This is the season that nobody signed up for. This is the season where the Ravens have a chance when injuries and Covid never gave them a fair shot. While there’s always next year – and that’s the focus if you are not a masochistic fan, this season isn’t over. 





Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens must beat Bengals: Subtle reasons for optimism

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, If the Ravens lose to the Bengals it could be the final blow that knocks them out of the playoffs. It’s an AFC North opponent, with the division up for grabs. If the Ravens fall out of their chance to win the division, losing to another AFC team won’t help them in the Wild Card logjam. This is a must-win game.

The Ravens are facing their usual amount of 2021 season adversity. Covid-19 casts a fairly large shadow on this game. The Ravens have about 15 players on the Covid/Reserve list, it seems to get worse on that front, not better. Injuries are still a major problem. This won’t be a full-strength team. They’re on the road and the season is on the line. Where’s the hope? Let’s go over some subtle reasons for optimism.

Defensive turnaround despite injuries/Covid

The Ravens defense has been playing better than you’d expect. Marlon Humphrey went down against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns didn’t torch the Ravens through the air. Aaron Rodgers had some fun last week, but come on, you thought that was going to be worse. This defense has been playing well and it almost defies common sense.

In the Bengals’ earlier 41-17 win over Baltimore they played a healthier defense. The Ravens are a changed team defensively and their front seven especially has stepped up. It was a bad October day for the Ravens, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine made sure of that averaging over 4.5 yards per attempt and picking up over 50 yards apiece. Burrow was hot and the Bengals could do whatever they wanted. The story could change in Ohio this Sunday.

Think about it. Nick Chubb failed to launch in both of the Ravens’ battles with the Browns. The Ravens have been one of the best teams in terms of points allowed. The Ravens have been formidable on third downs and the quality of tackling has improved dramatically in the back half of the season. At the beginning of the year, it was about Lamar Jackson carrying the team. Now Jackson is out and the defense is giving this team a shot. Somehow, someway the defense has made things competitive.

Matchups that could work for the Baltimore Ravens on offense:

Lamar Jackson hasn’t practiced this week. Let’s cut to the chase, you’re going to see Tyler Huntley again. Huntley has looked incredibly sharp. He orchestrated a game-winning drive in the windy city against the Chicago Bears. He played well enough for the Ravens to come back and almost beat the Browns. The Ravens just dropped 30 points on the Green Bay Packers. Going with the guy who is in rhythm, who’s healthy, and working with some fresh new confidence doesn’t sound all that bad.

The Baltimore receivers were accomplished in the last outing against the Bengals. Both Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman had 80 yards receiving in the game. Brown and tight end, Mark Andrews, scored a touchdown. The matchups weren’t bad last time, Jackson was just a bit off and the Bengals had the right game plan. Look for the Ravens to be unafraid of taking shots with their backup quarterback.

The run game can’t be as bad as it was last time. Last time Lamar Jackson ran for 88 rushing yards and there wasn’t much else to speak about on the ground. Both Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray have been picking up some steam at the running back position. The Ravens just have to avoid playing catchup and their rushing attack is very much in play. Huntley can have the same impact on the ground that Jackson had. The Ravens could get 150-200 yards rushing on Sunday.

The Bottom Line:

The Bengals are a good team. They also lost to the New York Jets. Both teams are quite capable of defeating themselves; you never know what you’re getting from Cincinnati. The Ravens should count on nothing and take every bit of effort they have to Paul Brown Stadium. This game is a pressure cooker for Cincinnati too. John Harbaugh has more experience than Zac Taylor, and until the last game, Harbaugh has had Taylor’s team pegged.

NEXT POST: Ravens Flock: Can we just give John Harbaugh a break?

The reasons to worry smack you in the face. You don’t need the negative highlighted for you. Here are the reasons the Ravens can win. That doesn’t mean they will, it means they can. The fight is on.


Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Ravens Flock: Can we just give John Harbaugh a break?

By Chris Schisler

The Ravens Flock needs to appreciate what John Harbaugh has accomplished this season. There’s no coach in the NFL that would have the Baltimore Ravens in contention of the AFC North crown with what he’s had to deal with. Bill Belichick may not even be able to make this work.

Don’t get me wrong, Harbaugh drives me crazy. I wasn’t in love with either two-point conversion attempt. He makes decisions that get me throwing my Ravens hat on Sundays. It’s the amount of vitriol that Harbaugh gets from pockets of this fanbase that I don’t get. I’m not talking about irrational anger at the moment – every Ravens fan felt that when a two-point try was unsuccessful against the Packers. Some fans just don’t appreciate what we have and social media can become ugly.

Think about what went wrong this season. All of it. Ronnie Stanley missed all but one game after coming back too quickly from his injury last season. Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and L.J. Fort didn’t get to play a regular-season snap before they went down to injury. During the season, the Ravens have had to shuffle their offensive line due to injuries and it’s never been a strength. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Marlon Humphrey suffered a torn pectoral muscle. The Ravens lost Deshon Elliott about halfway through the season. Nick Boyle has missed most of the season, and now Pat Ricard is missing time hurt. Forgive the long paragraph but you can’t fit every bit of adversity the Ravens have faced in a normal chunk of words, not even this one.

The Big Picture vs. the Ravens three-game losing streak:

The fact that the Ravens have had 21 players on injured reserve is astounding. The fact that this isn’t a miserable and hopeless repeat of the 2015 season (The only season with comparable injuries) is astonishing. This should have been a losing season from the jump. We just watched Browns fans complain about being shorthanded against the Raiders – when it pales in comparison to the pressure that bad fortune has inflicted on the Ravens.

John Harbaugh went for two against the Packers. Don’t let the outcome sully the actual story here. The fact that the Ravens were in a position to either tie or take the lead at the end of this game is incredible. Against Aaron Rodgers, who arguably is the best quarterback in football, the Ravens were as strapped for corners as they’ve ever been. The 2014 secondary that gave up two 14 point leads to the New England Patriots, almost felt sorry for this unit.

Every pundit under the sun predicted a Ravens loss. Almost every pundit under the sun thought it would be a blowout or at least a 10 point win for the Ravens. A significant Covid reserve list + an extensive amount of injuries created an insurmountable mountain for Baltimore… Harbaugh had his team scale the dang mountain. The Ravens were right there. I didn’t love going for two there. I admit it. That being said, Harbaugh was one play away from the greatest regular season upset in Ravens history.

2021 Ravens: Making the best out of the worst

When you consider the fact that almost every game has been decided by a razor-thin margin, you have to be impressed with the grit of this team. In the Ravens’ three-game losing streak, the Ravens haven’t lost by more than two points. The Ravens have only been blown out of the water once. The Cincinnati Bengals dominated the Ravens. That’s it. End of list. Every other game has been a brutal fight worthy of at least a little admiration. Harbaugh has his team bought in.

The 2021 season feels like the best possible worst-case scenario. Harbaugh has built-in excuses. His energy level hasn’t dipped. His effort on a weekly basis hasn’t dipped. In fact, it looks like he’s getting more involved with his coordinators -eschewing one of his biggest faults, his unwavering trust in the play-caller. If Harbaugh’s biggest crime is letting two games come down to one final play – and both times it didn’t work out – fine. He’s earned a little latitude.

I remind you that this isn’t a moratorium of the 2021 season. John Harbaugh has a lot of work to do. The goal is to get his franchise quarterback back up and running for the all-important game against the Cincinnati Bengals. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, this season is back on track. If Lamar Jackson can return to the MVP style of play from the first half of the season, the Ravens can become dangerous once again.

The Bottom Line:

The AFC North doesn’t know a team with more adversity faced than this version of the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns are a distant second in the bad luck department. Still, the Ravens are right in the thick of things. Give this pile of adversity to Mike Tomlin, Zac Taylor, or Kevin Stefanski and their teams would have worked themselves out of the mix.

I’ve heard so many times this season that the Ravens are lucky. They won their eight games in unbelievable fashion. Five comebacks in the fourth quarter were tallied. Justin Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal. There was a bit of magic earlier this season, but calling this team lucky would be like calling a giant a dwarf. The Ravens have created their own luck by fighting through a frustrating pile-up of injuries.

If you are able to see the problems the Baltimore Ravens have had as inevitable… dominoes falling, a chain reaction that you can’t quite control, a video game set on extreme difficulty… whatever your metaphor of choice is, you can’t see Harbaugh as part of the problem. Harbaugh came into the season with a powerful sportscar right off the lot. He’s ended up with a nearly totaled ride that he’s had to completely rework.

NEXT POST: Ravens 30 Packers 31: The Good, bad and the ugly

Harbaugh would probably say “It isn’t pretty, but it’s us.” It’s odd that I feel a surge of pride in this team after a painful three-game losing streak, but I’d say this is a season that reaffirms what “Play like a Raven” means.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions as Ravens Host the Packers

By Ashley Anderson

Although the Baltimore Ravens Ravens lead the AFC North with an 8-5 record, it feels like the sky is falling in Baltimore. Back-to-back divisional losses and more major injuries are threatening to derail this season. Getting on track will not be easy against the visiting Green Bay Packers. Here are the biggest questions facing Baltimore as they head into Sunday’s matchup.

3.) Is there any way the Ravens can slow down Aaron Rodgers?

On paper, the Ravens are badly overmatched against Aaron Rodgers. Already, their secondary was without Marcus Peters, DeShon Elliott, and Marlon Humphrey due to injury. Then, Chuck Clark, the defensive signal caller, landed on the Covid-19 list. Clark could still play if he tests negative Saturday, but the secondary will be painfully thin if he does not.

Baltimore brought fan favorite Tony Jefferson back into the fold, signing him to the practice squad. So far, he seems to look good in practice. Unfortunately, he likely has not had enough time to get back up to speed to make the calls.

Communication issues have reared their ugly heads periodically throughout this season. Forcing a less experienced player to relay Wink Martindale’s notoriously challenging calls could prove disastrous. Martindale indicated he wants a full-time player to wear the communication helmet, so it would not be a surprise if Anthony Averett takes on that responsibility.

Averett has committed his fair share of gaffes this season. Injuries forced him into a much larger role than initially expected, but Martindale said he believes Averett could be an All-Pro player. At this point, he has enough experience to thrive, but his performance is still uneven. He will already have his hands full with Davante Adams, so the added pressure may not be a solid plan. Could rookie Brandon Stephens get the call?

Another major issue is Baltimore’s lack of a pass rush. The Ravens have only registered 26 sacks on the year, and failing to pressure Rodgers is untenable.  While players have expressed confidence in their ability to get home, the stats are not in their favor. If Baltimore has any chance of containing beating the Pack, containing Rodgers to some degree is a must.

2.) Can a ground and pound approach help Baltimore stay competitive offensively?

As the season wears on and the weather turns cold, the run game becomes more crucial. In recent weeks, Devonta Freeman has taken hold of a more lead-back role with Latavius Murray getting goal line carries. Since late November, Freeman is averaging about 15 carries per game.

Freeman put up 64-yards against the Browns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He has shown the ability to pick up tough yards, and the vision to make the most of a small crease. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman would be well served to give Freeman additional touches.

One thing that has flown a bit under the radar is Freeman’s impact on the passing game. Quietly, he has amassed 28 receptions for 178-yards and a touchdown. Whoever ends up under center for Baltimore would benefit from getting Freeman more involved in the quick passing game.

Controlling the clock is going to be a huge factor against Green Bay. Their offense is too explosive and high-powered to allow them the edge in time of possession. The Baltimore Ravens need to get back to their roots and employ a complex running attack that will keep pressure off their quarterback while keeping the Packers off the field. Now, the only question is whether Roman will get the memo.

1.) Will Lamar Jackson play?

After seeing Lamar Jackson go down with a sprained ankle, many Baltimore Ravens fans felt that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tyler Huntley very nearly pulled off a miracle comeback, but his two fumbles proved to be the difference. With Jackson not practicing all week, Huntley could very well be starting on Sunday.

A decision on Jackson’s official status will be made Sunday morning, but the Baltimore Ravens likely already know which direction they are headed. Baltimore’s coaches and players have voiced their confidence and support for Huntley throughout the week, and he seems poised to take the reins. A full week of practice with the ones could be the difference from a near comeback to a massive victory.

Huntley operates much in the same way as Jackson. Although he lacks a little bit of the speed Jackson possesses, Huntley is still a dangerous runner. Against the Browns, Huntley had such an impressive run at one point that you almost had to double check his jersey number.

What Huntley does not have is big game experience. Yes, he played for a bit in Baltimore’s playoff loss to Buffalo, and he started against the Bears this season. Still, he is not a former MVP, and he is essentially a rookie based on the amount of time he has played.

One thing going in Huntley’s favor, however, is the fact that Jackson had been in a month-long slump heading into last week. When Huntley came into the game, Baltimore actually looked better on offense. That is not to say Huntley is the better long-term answer, but he may be better for now.

Baltimore’s offensive line has resembled a turnstile at Disney Land this year. Jackson is seeing ghost, and he is constantly trying to hit the home run to cover for the stale offensive game plans being employed by Greg Roman. It has not been working, and maybe a break is exactly what he needs to hit reset. Allowing him to play on a bum ankle behind that line is akin to criminal negligence.

Next post Ravens host Green Bay Packers: 4 predictions and a score

All that said, if Jackson can play, he will. Regardless of his recent performance, Jackson is Baltimore’s best hope of a deep playoff run. He is a former unanimous MVP, generational talent, and the emotional leader of the team. Now we just have to wait and see what happens on Sunday.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens host Green Bay Packers: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the late afternoon window. The Packers are fighting for the number one seed while the purple and black are just trying to stop the bleeding. Who wins? How does it happen? Here are four predictions and a score:

1. The Ravens rush for 200 yards

The Baltimore Ravens will probably be without Lamar Jackson. Jackson’s backup also has the ability to impact the run game, so expect Tyler Huntley to operate a ground and pound offense. Last week, Huntley passed for 270 yards but had to play catchup from the very beginning. This week, the entire point of the offensive attack is to prevent this game from getting out of hand.

Huntley had 45 yards on the ground last week. That number will go up this week with some designed quarterback runs being sprinkled in. Give Huntley an even 100 yards on the ground. Devonta Freeman had 64 yards last week. He had 52 yards the two games before that and had 49 rushing yards against the Chicago Bears. 50-60 yards can be seen as Freeman’s standard output. Let’s say he has a good week and it’s 65 yards for the veteran back. That gets the Ravens to 165 yards rushing and, Devin Duvernay and Latavius Murray will get that number to 200.

2. Aaron Rodgers will have 300 yards in the air:

The contreversy making Packers quarterback that is Aaron Rodgers is on fire. Rodgers has four games this year with 300 yards or more passing. The last three games make three of those four tallies. Guys, he’s hitting the 300 yard mark. Against a fairly depleted secondary this seems like an inevitablity. The Ravens run defense will also factor into this equation. Aaron Jones likely won’t play in this game which means if the Ravens stop A.J. Dillon on the ground, Rodgers will have to be the big play-maker. The Ravens face a lot of challenges in this game. Rodgers is problem numero uno.

3. Ravens get out to a fast start for a change of pace:

The Ravens have nothing to lose. Nobody expects them to win. There’s pressure in the sense that a loss hurts the teams chances a bit. For the most part though, the pressure isn’t there because the expectatons are lower than usual. At this point losing the game is thought of as a formality. The Ravens can put a ton of pressure on the Packers. The Packers are expected to win – scratch that – they expect to get the win. The more of a fight this becomes, the more pressure the Packers will feel.

Assuming it’s Tyler Huntley starting for the injured Lamar Jackson, I actually love the idea of a fast start. The young and unproven quarterback has nothing to lose and a huge stage to show his worth. For the first time in weeks the effects of expectations don’t work against this team. I think you’re going to see John Harbaugh gear up for a crazy game. I think the Ravens will get up 10-0 to start this game. A touchdown drive and an early stop will boost this team into having a chance.

4. Reality will set in:

The Ravens situation will eventually catch up to them. They’re the most injured team in football. A backup quarterback is the field general for the Ravens’ offense. It looks like Chuck Clark (The field general of the defense) will miss the game. Eventually the reality of being outmatched will sink in and solidify. The Ravens will get outgunned by the Packers offense. The second half of this game, in particular the fourth quarter will be a bad thing for Ravens fans to watch. A tired and exhausted Rvens defense will start to crack. The dam will break and the Packers will prevail.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers: 5 early thoughts on the game

And now a score: Packers win 31-20

The Ravens haven’t put up more than 20 points in a long while. They need too much to go right for them to win a game with this hand they’re dealt. I think you need 30 points to win this game and I just can’t see the Ravens getting there.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers: 5 early thoughts on the game

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a battle with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The Ravens have lost two straight games. They as banged up as ever and the Green Bay Packers are fighting for the number one seed in the NFC. Is there any hope to be had? What should we think about this game? Here are eight thoughts I have for Sunday.

1. The Ravens shouldn’t rush back Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens would be very much behooved by winning the game against Green Bay. Things are getting tight and the AFC North is up for grabs. As silly as it sounds, this isn’t a must-win game. The Ravens have to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. They have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ideally, the Ravens beat the Packers, though the season isn’t over if they don’t.

Rushing Lamar Jackson back if he’s not 100 percent is a bad idea. Jackson has been struggling. The cure for being stuck in your head isn’t playing with limited mobility. Tyler Huntley just passed for 270 yards against the Cleveland Browns. He’s a good backup. A healthy Huntley is going to do better than a forcing it Jackson. The Ravens need Jackson for the three crucial games after this. They need him to be healthy, they need him to be back at his best. Give him a week off if he’s not ready.

2. Don Martindale is the X-Factor here

The Baltimore Ravens do not have a one-man answer for Devante Adams. The Ravens are stretched thin and when Marlon Humphrey went down it was easy to see it as the death blow. The Browns only put up 24 points and their offense only had 17 last week. The Ravens defense hasn’t had a bad game in weeks. Did it collapse when the dam broke against Pittsburgh? Yes, but the team needed more than 19 points at Heinz Field. In the last handful of games, the Ravens have given up 24, 20, 10, 13 and, 22 points. Martindale has his team unit playing well. He’s figured something out. It’s a 4:25 pm kickoff, so it will be under the lights at M&T Bank Stadium. Don’t be shocked if the Ravens defense makes this a game against Rodgers and company.

3. Ravens must win the time of possession battle:

If the Ravens are going to go with Tyler Huntley, they must think of this as a game in 2018 post-Joe Flacco. Don’t be afraid to run it with Huntley. Don’t be afraid to give 13 carries to Devonta Freeman and another 13 to Latavius Murray. Use Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews for high percentage completions and keep the offense on the field. The best way to beat Rodgers is to have long possessions that keep him off the field. It’s a 60-minute game. If the Ravens can keep it anywhere from 36-41 minutes of the game clock, they’ll have their optimal chance of winning.

4. The Ravens really need Nick Boyle and Pat Ricard to be active:

With Patrick Mekari unavailable for the game, and Alejandro Villanueva coming off a tough game, we know exactly what kinds of problems the Packers can present to the Ravens upfront. The Ravens need to win the line of scrimmage in this game with Tyre Phillips at right tackle. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary could live in the backfield if the Ravens don’t have the best blocking tight end and the best fullback available for this game.

5. A great chance for a rallying moment:

Should the Ravens win this game? Absolutely not. They’re going against a 10 win team with an MVP candidate at QB. The Packers do a lot of things right. They’re solid on defense and are a wowing +12 in the turnover ratio. When you look at the Packers you’re looking at a team with all the pieces, one that can win the Super Bowl. When you look at the Ravens you see them at their lowest point of the season. The adversity they overcame is starting to get to the team.

It’s a weird season though. It’s a really weird season. Could there be a better “Us against the world” pitch for John Harbaugh? Could there be a better chance to rally around the impossible and get the win pundits don’t see coming? Don’t go into this game expecting a win for the purple and black. That said, don’t expect Baltimore to lay down and die. It would be great to see how much fight this team has in them against a Super Bowl contender.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

Plenty more is on the way. Keep tuned in Ravens Flock.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are 8-5 heading into a battle with the Green Bay Packers. Let’s take a glance out of the moment and have some fun. Let’s talk about the Ravens who belong in the NFL Pro Bowl.

Mark Andrews – Tight End

Mark Andrews is one of the best weapons in football. Statistically, there’s no leaving him out of the conversation. He has 75 receptions for 926 yards and six touchdowns with four games left to go. Andrews has been a matchup nightmare and he’s made some of the most important plays of the Ravens season. Andrews is the leading NFL receiver among tight ends. The only tight end all that close to him is Travis Kelce, who is 51 receptions behind Andrews.

Andrews has stepped up his game. He’s always been a good player and in 2020, he was a top-five tight end. Now, he may be the best tight end. His career highs coming into the season were 64 receptions and 852 yards. Andrews has smashed past those numbers. While he’s scored fewer touchdowns so far, that’s more of a side effect of how the Ravens are doing in the red zone in general than a knock on the former Oklahoma Sooner tight end.

Marquise Brown – Wide Receiver

Speaking of career highs, Marquise Brown has had the best year of his short NFL career. He has 70 receptions and 866 yards. Brown had a bad game against the Detroit Lions. In just about every other game he’s been rock solid. He’s averaging almost six receptions per game. He’s had three games with over 100 receiving yards. Brown has been a game-changer at times this season. The Ravens wouldn’t;t have eight wins without him.

Pat Ricard:

Is there a better fullback in the NFL? The answer is no. Ricard has proven to be more of a weapon this season, but his blocking is the main attraction to his game. In a league without many smashmouth fullbacks, Ricard is the toughest of them all.

Bradley Bozeman – Center

The Baltimore Ravens offensive line isn’t all that great this season, but most of their problems come from the offensive tackle positions. At center, Bradley Bozeman is the strongest player in the unit. Bozeman is the only reason the offensive line is somewhat functional.

If you took him out of the equation, nothing would work for the offense. Bozeman has had problems all around him and yet he’s been the most consistent presence for the offensive line. His improvement as a pass protector is really starting to shine. Bozeman has something to be proud about even if he doesn’t get the Pro Bowl nod. He’s the Ravens’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Justin Tucker – Kicker

Duh. He set the NFL record for the longest field goal to beat the Detroit Lions. He’s the most accurate kicker in NFL history and he’s having another almost flawless year. There should never be a season where Justin Tucker isn’t in the Pro Bowl. Believe it or not, though, he’s only been to the Pro Bowl four times in his career. Tucker better get his fifth Pro Bowl trip because he 100 percent deserves it. He’s the most consistent Ravens player; he may be the most consistent Ravens player ever.

Devin Duvernay – Kick Returner

Duvernay has led the way as a return specialist. One of the crazy things about his season is how close he’s been to breaking a big return for a touchdown. Nobody averages more for a punt return than Duvernay. He has six punt returns over 20 yards. He’s also one of the best kickoff returners in the NFL. The Ravens’ special teams have been a strength this season. The yards Duvernay preserves and creates by making the right decisions as a returner are crucial to Baltimore’s eight wins.

Players who have a case: Lamar Jackson, Nick Moore, Sam Koch

Lamar Jackson was the MVP frontrunner until his season started to spiral out of control. Now Jackson is hurt. Jackson had an incredible first half of the season. He led the Ravens on comebacks against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts and was arguably playing the best football of his career. If he returns from injury and starts playing like he did earlier in the season, he can salvage his Pro Bowl status.

The Ravens’ long snapper and punter have a case for the Pro Bowl. Special teams has been a strength. If Tucker and Sam Koch are both in the Pro Bowl conversation, the player who snaps them the football should be as well.

NEXT POST: State of the Baltimore Ravens: 13 thoughts after loss to Browns