Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens 3 Big Questions About the Secondary

By: Ashley Anderson

Baltimore Ravens blog

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

When Will Jimmy Smith Return?

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

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

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

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

Who Makes the Cut?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

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

Posted in Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens: The meaning of their preseason game win streak

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have won 19 preseason games in a row. The streak dates back to 2015, The question is does winning meaningless games matter? From a player-personnel perspective, I’d say this is a mark of an outstanding front office.

The preseason doesn’t show the merit of your starters. The Ravens have played this preseason even more conservatively with some of their key starters than they usually do. We still haven’t seen the 2021 edition of Lamar Jackson football. The preseason measures the quality of your overall roster during training camp.

The idea that the games are meaningless is fair. The Baltimore Ravens get no advantage from winning these games, they don’t even get a cookie. Do they like winning them? Sure. Is winning preseason games why they operate the way they do? Absolutely not.

What have the Ravens always been known for other than dominant defense, The Ray Lewis Squirell Dance, and running the football? The answer is finding gems late in the draft process including during undrafted free agents. It’s no surprise that the Ravens had a streak of undrafted free agents making the week one roster that went on throughout this preseason winning streak.

A Baltimore Ravens tradition

Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta are great team-building general managers. People severely underestimated how helpful it was to have the two of them acting as a pair of decision-makers near the end of Newsome’s tenure. Newsome always cared about depth.

He was great at finding underappreciated players. Adalius Thomas was a sixth-round pick. Players like Jameel McClain and Gus Edwards were undrafted free agents. This thing has been going on for quite some time.

DeCosta seems obsessive about stacking the roster. This doesn’t just mean finding depth, this means finding the players of the future early. This means the secondary doesn’t just have backups they have the next in line helping now. Brandon Stephens is a perfect example of that.

The Ravens have more defensive back talent than any team ever does. DeCosta built that. The only high draft pick he used was on Marlon Humphrey. Heck, he got Marcus Peters with a fifth-round pick and then signed him to a team-friendly extension.

The winning streak in the preseason coincides with the time the Ravens got back to drafting well. Take out the 2015 and the 2017 NFL Draft (other than their first pick- Marlon Humphrey) and the Ravens have been knocking it out of the park. 2018 may have been the Ravens’ best draft since the 1996 masterpiece that gave them Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis.

The stars of this preseason have come through some of that great drafting. Jaylon Ferguson is starting to look the part, Stephens and Shaun Wade are impressive rookies and all the competition on the offensive line comes from drafted players. Ty’Son Williams and Nate McCrary have been impressive running backs as undrafted free agents. Speaking of undrafted players, Ar’Darius Washington has made a name for himself in camp.

The bottom line:

Another example is the Ravens pro-personnel department. It’s not all about plucking guys out of college. Chris Westry is an example of a player who is making his second career NFL stop that has performed well in preseason play. The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to make Westry their undrafted free agent success story, now he has a real chance to stick around with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs in 2014, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The streak started in a 2015 season that was dreadful because of injuries more than anything else. Even in 2016 and 2017, the Ravens were in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Ravens’ principles of team building have been consistent and the back end of their depth chart is better than most organizations can compete with.

When you have a head coach who thinks of winning like a good habit and has a Harbaugh family enthusiasm most can’t reach in exhibition games, it’s also going to chip into winning in the preseason. The Ravens have tied Vince Lombardi’s record.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ty’Son Williams deserves a roster spot

On Saturday against the Washington Football Team, the Baltimore Ravens have a chance to break that record. Lombardi was the coach to come up with the idea that winning is a habit. It seems fitting that the Ravens, an organization that obviously agrees with that idea can break the record.

 

 

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

Baltimore Ravens: Projecting 53 man roster after 2 preseason games

By Chris Schisler

  • Editor’s Note: This article has been updated

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

Quarterback:

  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Tyler Huntley

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

Running back/Fullback

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

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

Tight End:

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

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

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

Wide Receiver:

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

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

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

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

Offensive Line

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

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

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

Outside Linebacker

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

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

Inside Linebacker

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

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

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

Cornerback

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

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

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

Safety

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

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

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

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

Specialists

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Nest Talks, Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Carolina Panthers: Video preseason preview

By Chris Schisler

A preview of the Baltimore Ravens preseason game number two:

In the Purple and Black Nest Talk, I discuss the three Baltimore Ravens I want to see shine in the second preseason game on both sides of the football. The video is a dose of football talk to get you ready for the game. If nothing else, it gives you something to look for as roster spots are on the line and the Ravens get into shape for the regular season.

The purple and black take on the Carolina Panthers on the road, for the second preseason game of the year. This game should be interesting because it’s on the heels of joint practices between the Ravens and the Panthers, practices which may have actually been more beneficial than the preseason game.

One thing I didn’t have to talk about much in the video was the backup quarterback position. Tyler Huntley basically becomes the backup quarterback by default, because of Trace McSorley’s reported back injury. This allows us to focus on three players on the offense other than quarterbacks.

At the end of the video, you’ll hear that I wasn’t the only one getting ready for the exhibition game action. My dog Goose must have gotten pumped up and in the final seconds, she decided to squeak her toys to show it. To be honest, it only made me like my video more. Seeing as my dog Goose (named after Tony Siragusa) is the official mascot of the Purple and Black Nest, it’s only fitting.

NEXT POST: Ravens vs. Panthers: 4 things we want to see in preseason game 2

You may have noticed that we’ve got our brand new logo on T-Shirts now. If you love PBN, this is a perfect way to support the blog. This is blog is still only a few months old. Every little bit helps us. Our mission is to give you a quality Ravens blog that you can be proud of. We’re only getting started, so if we’ve met that mission I encourage you to get some merchandise that helps spread the word. Click the following link for the PBN store.

https://the-nest-13.creator-spring.com/listing/pbn-for-baltimore-by-baltimore

Posted in Uncategorized

Ravens vs. Panthers: 4 things we want to see in preseason game 2

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are about to take on the Carolina Panthers in preseason game number two. Now that the preseason is only three games, this is the most likely game for the Ravens to use as a dress rehearsal game. Considering that the Ravens have been dealing with numerous injuries and Lamar Jackson didn’t suit up for the preseason opener, don’t count on that. It’s a work night for the purple and black however it’s an exhibition game.

What can we expect to see and what should we want to see? Let’s get on those questions. Here are four things that the Baltimore Ravens ideally put on display in this preseason bout:

1. As much of the starting offense as possible, even if it’s only one drive:

The Ravens’ biggest problem for the 2021 training camp has been continuity on offense. To say that the offense hasn’t been able to gel together during practice and one preseason game is an understatement. When the Ravens came into the first game last Saturday, the projected starting offensive linemen hadn’t even been on the field together. Lamar Jackson’s positive Covid-19 test and the wide receivers’ injuries were unhelpful.

Now, we’re not on Dan-Orlovsky levels of panic time. Still, the Ravens have to start getting this thing together. It’s time to build some momentum towards the regular season. A couple of drives with the offensive line not looking lost, with Lamar Jackson looking sharp, and a little bit of fun with J.K. Dobbins could seriously calm some nerves. On the flip side, if the offense has some hitches, the preseason is a consequence-free chance to work on things in a game situation as long as the team stays healthy.

John Harbaugh has to feel this one out. If the offensive line is going to perform the way it did against the Saints, he probably won’t want to risk it with his MVP quarterback. If the Ravens have a chance to take a step forward and flip the script from this frustrating camp (at least for the offense) Harbaugh should let the offense get some work in.

2. Can somebody win the TE3 job already?

The Ravens got Josh Oliver plenty of playing time against the Saints. Oliver is probably leading the battle for the third tight-end spot. It still would be nice for Oliver to make it obvious on the field. Josh Oliver had four grabs in the past game for 22 yards. It would be nice to see if Oliver can stretch the field a bit with his athleticism. In practice, he’s made some eye-opening plays down the field, it would be good to see that in the game.

The number three tight end spot could very well be the number two spot at the beginning of the season, as the Ravens await the return of Nick Boyle. With Mark Andrews being the big playmaker of the position, blocking is the most important thing on display. Eric Wolfe has also shown himself to be a solid blocker. Ben Mason is listed as a tight end, despite looking and walking and playing like a fullback. Does he factor into the equation? In a perfect world, the second preseason game makes obvious answers for these questions.

3. Continued success for young defensive backs:

You can never have enough young talent at cornerback and the safety positions. With that in mind can the young defensive backs of the Ravens continue to impress. Against the New Orleans Saints, it was hard to find a single defensive back to put on the chopping block. Chris Westry made a solid impression as a cover corner despite a cringe-worthy taunting penalty.

Shaun Wade looked sealed the game with a nice interception. Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington were true speedsters doing a bit of everything and Geno Stone may have been the player of the game with two picks. Let’s see if the defensive backs can keep making roster cuts next to impossible in the backend of the defense.

4. Odafe to get his Oweh

If you thought I could resist that play on words you don’t know me. Odafe Oweh looked really exciting in his first preseason action with the Ravens. Oweh is a very important player to the Ravens’ defense. The better Oweh performs, the better that Eric DeCosta’s plan looks.

I keep stressing that we don’t need to see Oweh be a sack master in his rookie season. Still, any pass rush the Ravens get from Oweh is a flash of what could be on the way. The Ravens Flock can’t get enough of that from their first-round pick.

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

That’s what we should be hoping to see on Saturday night. These are the four things to keep a lookout for. Just get through two more preseason games and the regular season is here.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Odafe Oweh’s ability is exciting to see on the field

By Chris Schisler

When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Rashod Bateman with the 27th pick, it felt for many Ravens fans like a monumental moment. When the Ravens drafted Odafe Oweh, it was more of a moment of cautious optimism. Oweh is a pick that grew on fans and pundits over the offseason and was always a boom or bust kind of a pick.

One preseason game in and Oweh’s athleticism and competence against the run stands out as one of the top two or three things to be excited about at Baltimore Ravens training camp. Officially, Oweh walked away with just one tackle, though he showed a ton of positives against the New Orleans Saints.

Oweh’s athleticism makes him a very versatile player. This versatility was even used on special teams. Oweh was used as a gunner on the punt team, a role typically reserved for wide receivers and defensive backs. Does this seem like something Oweh will do a lot? No. The idea though that a 6-5 outside linebacker would even be asked to do that is an eye-opener.

It almost reminds me of Adalius Thomas, a legendary outside linebacker from the Ravens’ past. Thomas had a different build, but he was the kind of outside linebacker who the Ravens would be able to put just about anywhere on their defensive front. For first impressions of a Baltimore first-round pick, being compared to Thomas is about as good as it gets. Other pundits have drawn the comparison as well including WNST’s Luke Jones. 

Realistic expectations with obvious excitement:

Oweh almost had a sack in the game against the Saints. Brandon Stephens (another rookie to be excited about) ended up with the sack, Oweh made it happen with his pressure. Oweh is fast. He’s almost got defensive back speed. Oweh’s upside was always built on his traits. If nothing else, those traits have been showing early in his Baltimore Ravens career.

It’s important to temper Oweh’s expectations for the time being. He still has to learn how to rush the passer in the NFL. His pass-rushing repertoire will improve. The good news is that he’ll be able to stay on the field for a high snap count because he’s not a liability against the run. Unlike Yannick Ngakoue, who didn’t do much for run defense, Oweh’s fundamentally sound and effective at that part of the job.

There will be tackles that Oweh can’t get past. He has to learn to convert that speed into power. Oweh has to learn to play against tackles who are used to getting in front of edge rushers every bit as athletic as he is.

That’s why Oweh’s production as a pass rusher is likely to come in spurts rather than be a consistent push upward. There will be games where he outmatches the offensive tackle trying to block him. There will also be games where he runs into a pro’s pro and speed and reach aren’t enough on their own. With the understanding that Oweh isn’t a fully developed player, the buzz about his future is completely merited.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

The long-term plan at outside linebacker is at the very least set in motion. Oweh hopefully grows into the Terrell Suggs role, while Daelin Hayes becomes the next Jarett Johnson. Tyus Bowser becomes the versatile Matt Judon-like player. For several years the outside linebacker position could be incredibly fruitful for the Baltimore Ravens while being relatively inexpensive because of drafted and then homegrown talent.

At the moment, Justin Houston brings legitimacy to the position group. He’s the leader and he should generate the most pass rush in the 2021 season. We’ll see impressive bursts from Oweh as a rookie, and the signs that a magical career could be possible.

NEXT POST: Odafe Oweh: Rookie scouting report for Ravens 1st round pick

Oweh could be an incredible player for the Ravens. His performance in training camp and in the first preseason game has me thinking he’s on the right track. When the Ravens take on the Carolina Panthers in the second preseason game, it will be interesting to see what Oweh does.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. New Orleans Saints: Preseason preview (Offense)

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens take on the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night… kind of. It’s the first preseason game of the year for the Ravens and it should feature almost exclusively backups. This is an important evening for the Ravens. The importance of preseason games feels admittedly muted, but there is purpose in this process.

Let’s take a look at what we should watch for when the Ravens have the ball. I already wrote an article about the backup quarterbacks and their role in the bout with the Saints. I encourage you to check that out for a more fleshed-out take on the quarterback play. This is a look at the offense as a whole, and since we’ve already dived into the quarterbacks, let’s jump right into my favorite position grouping, the offensive line.

Offensive Line:

One reason the Ravens may not play their starters much in the opening preseason game is that the offensive line is caught up in the injury bug along with the wide receivers. According to Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore SunAlejandro Villanueva, Kevin Zeitler, and Ben Cleveland all missed practice Thursday. Ronnie Stanley just returned to practice recently. It wouldn’t be shocking if none of these players got involved on Saturday night.

The players to watch on the offensive line are Tyre Phillips and Trystan Colon-Castillo. Phillips could end up at left guard or right tackle. The fact that there are options for Phillips makes him the most interesting player for the offensive line. Phillips could either be a starter or the preferred backup at two different positions on the offensive line. We need to see if he made progress and where he lines up will be interesting.

Trystan Colon-Castillo is competing to be the backup center. I still don’t hate the idea of just keeping Bradley Bozeman at left guard and having Colon-Castillo as the starting center. I’d like for Colon-Castillo to sell me on that a bit more in this game.

He’s a player we’ve seen a small sample size out of. The postponed game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a nice showcase for Colon-Castillo. I want to see him dominate against backups. I want to see if he shows he’s a step ahead of the backup-level linemen on this team. If he does that, it makes the shaping of the offensive line a more interesting tale.

Let’s talk about tight ends now.

What do the Ravens have outside of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle? Boyle still hasn’t returned from his injury and has had surgery to get ready for the season. The third tight end spot has become important, perhaps more important than it was this time last season.

The standout of training camp at tight end has been Josh Oliver. Oliver probably has the most talent as a pass-catcher. He certainly has a skill-set in the passing game that could help the Ravens. If Oliver can make some of the tough grabs he’s made at practice in the games, he’s going to help himself. Still, blocking is incredibly important.

It will be interesting to see who the best blocking tight end will be. Eric Tomlinson and Eli Wolfe are more in the mold of a Nick Boyle than a Mark Andrews. Tomlinson is the veteran the Ravens are familiar with. That makes a bigger impact than people tend to realize. So while Oliver has looked great at camp, the Ravens really need to see him as a blocker.

Now about the Baltimore Ravens’ receivers

At wide receiver it gets interesting. We know we won’t see Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, or Miles Boykin. It looks like we may not see Bateman until after week three of the regular season. We’ll see. Let’s focus on the players we will see on Saturday night: James Proche, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace.

As a blogger who hasn’t been at camp, I want to see the new look James Proche that everybody is raving about. This is a chance to see what Proche brings to the table. Devin Duvernay is a player I’ve been a big proponent of. With a lot of the main guys of the position out of the way, Baltimore needs to see his talent shine through.

Tylan Wallace is a player that also intrigues me. This is the first time he’s playing against another team at M&T Bank Stadium. His potential ceiling is very high. While I think he’s behind some of the players we’ve already talked about, I want to see how much of that positive potential shines through on Saturday night.

These are the receivers we need to see something out of. These are the players of interest. The rest of the receivers, like Binjimen Victor, Jaylon Moore, and Deon Cain, have to give us a reason to be invested in their roster spot. That’s their mission, to just become relevant. That will matter when the first wave of roster cuts happens.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 10 predictions for the preseason

Hopefully, that gets you ready to watch the offense on Saturday night. Honing in on the big picture makes the preseason more enjoyable and more meaningful.

 

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!