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 Hot Take of the Week

Baltimore Ravens 2021 1st round is looking like a smash hit right now

By Chris Schisler

Can we stop for a second and just gush over the Baltimore Ravens’ first-round selections of the 2021 NFL Draft? Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh both look the part of a first-round pick.

Baltimore Ravens loving what Rashod Bateman brings:

Rashod Bateman was the 27th overall pick. Ravens fans had to wait for Bateman to make his mark as a groin injury prevented him from suiting up until the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The rookie from Minnesota has had at least three catches each week. He has 25 receptions for 301 yards and averages 12 yards per catch.

Bateman has been a consistent first-down provider for the offense. While he’s still waiting for his first touchdown, he’s shown off. Unfortunately, Bateman has had his biggest statistical production in bad games for Baltimore. In the loss to the Cinncinatti Bengals Bateman reached 80 yards on just three catches. Bateman got to the 80-yard mark against the Dolphins on six receptions.

Bateman has shown off great hands. Other than a pass being intercepted off his hands in the game against the Chargers, there’s been nothing to complain about with his catching ability. He’s been staging the football out of the air like his life depends on it. Bateman has shown impressive speed and his quickness coming out of breaks has surprised more than one of the opposing cornerbacks tasked with staying on top of him.

The Baltimore Ravens have just six games remaining. If Bateman appears in each game he’ll have a 12 game rookie season. If Bateman simply doubles his production from his first six games he’ll have 50 receptions for 602 yards. That would put him just over the marks set by Marquise Brown in his rookie campaign. In 2019 Brown had 46 grabs for 584 yards, though he did score seven touchdowns.

When you think of it with that perspective, you have to be pleased with Bateman. You couldn’t have realistically asked for much more of an impact out of a rookie receiver who missed the first five games of the season.

Odafe Oweh is putting on a show:

Odafe Oweh has played well this season. He’s getting off the edge quickly and is strong in run defense. Oweh has played a lot of snaps as a rookie edge rusher. Five sacks and three forced fumbles is a nice start. He’s literally responsible for the two takeaways that allowed the Ravens to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the second week of the season.

When the Ravens spent the 31st overall pick on Oweh there was a lot of skepticism about the move. Picking him in the first round essentially meant that the Ravens needed him to be a starter at outside linebacker. They needed this pick to work out for their defensive offseason plan to really come into fruition. It worked.

When you consider that Oweh has been the difference between a win and a loss already, and he’s a consistent key figure of the defense, you have to be impressed. What Eric DeCosta pulled off here was finding a difference-maker near the end of the first round. Oweh probably won’t win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (His Penn State teammate Micah Parsons, is probably the front runner). Still, Oweh is easily the steal of the NFL Draft, at least when it comes to the defensive players.

Baltimore Ravens bottom line:

When you consider what the Ravens did in the 2021 NFL Draft, Eric DeCosta has to come out favorably. His grade for this draft class needs to be near an A at the minimum. When you add in the fact that third-round pick, Brandon Stephens is having an impact in the secondary, it has to help the grade of this draft class.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Top concerns against Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens defense: 3 keys against the Vikings

By Chris Schisler

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

1. Baltimore Ravens must prevent the big play

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

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

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

2. Open-Field Tackling:

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

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

3. Baltimore Ravens winning matchups upfront

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Top 10 positives at the bye

By Chris Schisler 

The Baltimore Ravens are 5-2 as they enter their bye week. When you think about all the injuries and problems the team has faced, this is impressive. Despite the leftover gloom from their loss to divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, there are a lot of positives. Let’s look at them today. Even after the Ravens lose, we have to see the positives. 

10. Rashod Bateman looks the part

Rashod Bateman looks like the first-round pick he’s supposed to be. Bateman has only gotten to play in two games due to a groin injury in training camp. Bateman is coming on strong and the pros outweigh the cons. When the Ravens drafted Bateman they took a stab at finding an explosive playmaker at the position with size.

The rookie wide receiver is playing silky smooth. He’s winning the battle and getting great separation. In two games he’s tallied a total of seven receptions and 109 yards. His biggest gain was a 35-yard strike. It’s not just that he’s contributing to the box score, but the fact that he looks ahead of his years that has the Ravens so excited.

9. The Hollywood Brown ascension:

Keeping with the wide receiver position, let’s talk about Marquise Brown. The Ravens got one bad game out of Brown – it was against the Detroit Lions. The rest of the season has been impeccable for Brown.

He has caught at least three passes in every game. He’s had a couple of monster Fantasy Football days. Against the Colts, he aided a historic comeback with nine receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He had six receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City. His touchdown grab against the Broncos may have been the top highlight of the season.

Brown has become a legitimate deep threat to say the very least. He’s had a play over 40 yards in three of the seven games this season. With 10 games left, if Brown only doubles his receptions and receiving yards, he’s going to blow past his career highs. Brown is simply a different player this year. Now we’re seeing why he was a first-round pick.

8. Bradley Bozeman is a bright spot on a struggling offensive line

The offensive line has a lot of problems. Ronnie Stanley is out for the year after rushing back too soon for the season opener. The Ravens are looking for their third option at right tackle with Alejandro Villanueva being on the left side and Pat Mekari hurt against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kevin Zeitler has been good as a pass blocker but the right guard hasn’t performed quite as well for the run game. Left guard has been a bit of everything with a surprising number of names getting involved: Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, and Ben Cleveland. Do you know what hasn’t been a problem? Bradley Bozeman at the center position. 

Bozeman may be pricing himself out of a second contract with the Baltimore Ravens, yet the move to center has been a positive one for him. He’s back in the position he played for the Alabama Crimson Tide and without him, the offensive line wouldn’t function at all. With Stanley out of the picture, Bozeman may be the best offensive lineman on the Baltimore Ravens. 

This is a huge win for Eric DeCosta and John Harbaugh because Bozeman moving to center was a transparent part of the plan for the entire offseason. The Ravens would have paid a cost if it was a bad idea. 

7. Odafe Oweh has been an impact player

Odafe Oweh is going to be a dangerous pass rusher for a long time. The outside linebacker from Penn State is having a very noticeable and memorable start to his rookie season. Against the Chiefs, he was directly involved in the two defensive plays that let the Ravens win 36-35. He’s been a solid defender on the edge and it’s allowed him to play a lot of snaps. He has three sacks and two forced fumbles. When he wins off the edge he shows signs of being a special player. 

6. Calais Campbell is a consistent rock

The Baltimore Ravens don’t beat the Indianapolis Colts if Calais Campbell doesn’t block a field goal in the middle of the comeback attempt. Think about that for a second. One of the oldest players on the roster, who supposedly is hanging up the cleats after this season, made a special teams play for the ages with a pure effort play.

Campbell is playing consistently well on the defensive line. He is Pro Football Focus’s third highest-rated player this season. He may not be as flashy as he once was, yet Campbell is showing why he has future Hall of Fame inductee written all over him. He’s the hardest working player on a defense that needs more hard workers. 

5. Special Teams has been a strength

Special teams have been huge this season. The kickoff coverage has been surprisingly potent, while Devin Duvernay has become a very efficient return specialist. The Ravens’ special teams have been an underrated part of their 5-2 mark. Having the best kicker in NFL history doesn’t hurt either. 

4. Found a way in some close games

The number one thing you can say about a team is that they find a way to win. The Ravens have found a way to win in close games. They had an emotionally charged comeback against the Indianapolis Colts. They had a 66-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions and they got past the Chiefs in one of the best games M&T Bank Stadium will ever see. The Ravens could be 2-5 right now. They’re 5-2 because they have dug down deep and stepped up in the crucial moments much more often than not. 

3. The team has shown flashes of something greater

The talk about the Baltimore Ravens has shifted because of the humble pie they took before the bye week. Fine. Let’s not forget that the Ravens were getting glowing praise all over the place and from just about every outlet. The Ravens were a Super Bowl contender with an MVP quarterback and just because the hype got quiet doesn’t mean the Ravens can’t wake it back up.

When the Ravens won comfortably against the Los Angeles Chargers they showed a sign that something more was possible. They put everything together and it looked amazing. The offense rolled, the defense dominated and Baltimore was higher than cloud nine. We’ve seen some incredible moments out of this team. The negatives have the spotlight, yet the Ravens have every chance to have a great season.  

2. Lamar Jackson… Wow!

Lamar Jackson at his best is the most entertaining thing to watch in professional sports. Jackson has been incredible this season and is on pace to have the best year of his career to this point. The numbers that Jackson set in the 2019 season (Where he was the unanimous MVP) should be smashed. Jackson has led comebacks wins. He set the single-game passing yards record for the Baltimore Ravens franchise. He’s played MVP caliber football and his dual-threat ability is as jaw-dropping as it ever was. Has it been perfect? No. Has it been a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life? Absolutely. 

1. Playoff chances are still good: 

With 10 games left on the schedule, the Ravens have five wins. If the Ravens win six out of those 10 games they will probably end up in the playoffs. The Ravens continue their homestand after the bye week with a game against the Minnesota Vikings. They then take on the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. If the Ravens win those three games everything is back on track and the Ravens are halfway to where they want to be after this 10 game stretch. At that point, if they managed to only split with each of their division rivals they’d have 11 wins right there. 

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking their top 10 problems after a tough loss

The Ravens’ two stumbles in the first seven games were about the best realistic outcome Baltimore could have expected. What the Ravene must do, is to take care of business and they should be heading to the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Baltimore Ravens need to step up and realize their full potential. These positives set up a good foundation to make that positive. We will have more content for the bye week as well as some early coverage for the battle against the Vikings. When you need your Raven fix, we have you covered. 

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

Baltimore Ravens: Defensive game plan against the Bengals

By Chris Schisler

I’m going to put my coaching hat on here and give Baltimore Ravens fans a sense of what I would do if my name was Don Martindale and I was the defensive coordinator against the Bengals. This game is exciting because the Bengals really do possess a lot of players you could consider a threat.

It starts at the wide receiver position for the Bengals. They have Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. Chase is their big-play threat. He averages over 20 yards per reception and has found the end zone five times. The game plan for the Ravens starts with shutting Chase down. This is a game where the Ravens cornerbacks have to come out fighting and they have to be ready. Marlon Humphrey will shadow Chase all day. The Ravens have to put their best cornerback on their best target it’s that simple.

Baltimore Ravens must start by taking away their strength

Because I have so much trust in the secondary of this team, I’m going to be aggressive. De’Shon Elliott and Chuck Clark have been great this season. Anthony Averett has really only had one bad game and he’s shown he can handle his business overall. The defense has turned things around after a rough first two weeks of the season against Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes. Trusting my players is essential.

So I’m being physical with the receivers. I’m rerouting the receivers and making it hard for Joe Burrow to go to his first read. It’s exactly what the Ravens did against the Chargers only this time it comes with more pressure. You have to pressure Burrow and you have to test the merit of his arm talent. If he burns me once or twice, I’ll live with it. He’s not having all day to throw that football. He’s going to have to beat me with perfect throws all day long and against pressure.

No “Mixon” it up

The number one thing I’d tell my outside linebackers in this game outside contain is paramount. I just told you I’m being aggressive. If Odafe Oweh or Justin Houston don’t rack up sacks in this game it’s fine. I’ll send pressure. We have to play gap sound defense. We can’t let Joe Mixon get around the edge. The second the Bengals are a one-dimensional team, with no run game to speak of, the second I can really get to work.

I’m going to have a player always spying on Joe Mixon. He’s not going to make an impact on this game if I can help it. I know the biggest liability here is my inside linebackers in pass coverage. I’ll use some well-timed fire zones at them. It may be Oweh dropping into a shallow zone, or maybe even Calais Campbell, but we’re going to make the passing lanes tough places for Mixon to get the ball underneath.

Wrap Burrow in the fire:

This is a great game for stunts, especially in passing situations. Let’s see Justin Madubuike playing a shade of the center, wrapping around Calais Campbell who comes across the A gap on his side. Let’s see Oweh do a super stick all the way into the A gap with the nose guard slanting the other way into the guard and a blitzing Patrick Queen flying up the other A gap. What I want to do is to get defenders getting the Bengals’ wires crossed upfront.

I’m going to send a lot of different looks at the Bengals. I’m going to stretch out every morsel I can out of the “positionless” defense we have in Baltimore. One play I’ll send Chuck Clark. The next it will be Tavon Young. Heck, let’s get De’Shon Elliott a sack too. This whole game is about making Burrow constantly deal with somebody in his face. It’s all about making him reckless and giving him no time to think.

With a scarcity mindset and off-balance launch points, Burrow will make bad throws. It may be a deep ball that lags behind his receiver and into a defensive back’s hands. Maybe it will be a ball forced into a tight window, a ball without the requisite juice to thread that needle.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 6 keys for the offense against the Bengals

It’s a thin line between being aggressive and being reckless. This is a game where I trust Marlon Humphrey on an island, I use extra defensive backs to play around with coverage and blitzes. I can have my cake and eat it too. The hypothesis is that if you put Joe Burrow in hell, no angel is going to save the football from harm’s way. Turn up the heat. Adjust accordingly, but never let them feel comfortable, especially the quarterback.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens host Los Angeles Chargers: Key bullet points

By Chris Schisler

Baltimore Ravens fans, it is game day. Here is a look at the Baltimore Ravens battle against the Los Angeles Chargers boiled down into simple bullet points, so you can be the smartest fan in the room.

  • The Ravens and Chargers are both 4-1 with quarterbacks who are in the MVP discussion.
  • Lamar Jackson has completed 112-167 passes for 1,519 yards and eight touchdowns. Jackson also has 341 rushing yards this season.
  • Justin Herbert has completed 139-207 passes for 1,576 yards and 13 touchdowns.
  • The Ravens have been the master of the close victory this season. They average 27.2 points per game while their opponents average 23.4 points per game.
  • The Chargers are in the same bracket on that front. They average 28.4 points and their opponents have an average of 23.2 points per game.
  • This game is expected to be a shootout. The Chargers and the Ravens are both averaging well over 400 yards per contest.
  • As much attention as the Chargers get for their passing game, this offense is balanced and the Chargers have one of the best running backs in Austin Ekeler.

Key Factors in this game:

  • Weather shouldn’t matter in this game. It’s a nice day to be at the stadium, so the fans should be happy at the very least.
  • The Ravens have are at -1 with their turnover ratio. The Ravens have to protect the football against a Chargers team against a team that makes turnovers hard to come by.
  • Odafe Oweh needs to have a big game. He has three sacks and has made an impact in every game. The Ravens need him to make life difficult for Herbert. This game could come down to a player like Oweh making one or two plays that change the game.
  • Tyre Phillips, Rashod Bateman, and Miles Boykin are back for this game. While the dichotomy at wide receiver probably doesn’t see an instant change, getting Phillips back could be big for the offensive line.
  • The Ravens have been winning the hard way. This is a game where they can’t get away with a ton of mistakes. This has to be the sharpest performance of the season.

Baltimore Ravens matchups: A mix of good and bad

  • The Chargers’ secondary has its hands full as much as the secondary of the Ravens does. Expect a lot of zone from the Ravens in this game. They have limitations and the Chargers have so much talent at wide receiver. The good news is that the Chargers have to make the choice. Do they get beat by Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews? It will be tough for them to stop both.
  • The Chargers’ defensive front could overpower the offensive line. Jackson could have to do it all again. Expect quarterback running plays to the outside to try to loosen up the middle for the running backs.
  • The offensive line of the Chargers is beatable. The front seven has to take over this game for the Ravens. The Ravens need a huge day from guys like Calais Campbell and Justin Madubuike while Brandon Williams needs to show up.

The most important players for both teams:

  • For the Chargers, it’s about their wide receivers pulling out all the stops and making plays when they have the football in the open field. This is a huge game for Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Jalen Guyton.
  • The Ravens don’t have an answer for Joey Bosa, and Jerry Tillery could force some inside pressure behind the line of scrimmage. The Chargers’ defensive front probably watched how the Raiders beat the Ravens and have eyes on taking over this game.
  • Austin Ekeler is the worst thing a defense that can’t tackle proficiently wants to see
  • For the Ravens, it’s about Lamar Jackson. It’s always about Jackson. You know he’s going to ball out but you need to see him protect each possession of the football here.
  • Odafe Oweh, Calais Campbell, and Justin Madubuike have to be the big key to the Ravens winning the line of scrimmage on defense.
  • Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews has to have a big day.

NEXT POST: NFL Week 6 picks: Quick takes on each game this Sunday

This is a big one. Let’s have some fun.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Indianapolis Colts: 4 Keys for the defense

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a prime-time fight with the Indianapolis Colts tonight. Let’s take a look at what the defense needs to do in this Monday Night Football appearance. Here are four keys for the Ravens defensively:

1. Up, up… and Oweh:

Odafe Oweh is off to a fantastic start to his rookie season. The Ravens have 10 sacks this season and Oweh has accounted for a pair of them. Oweh made two of the most important plays of the season against the Chiefs that allowed the Ravens to take the ball away from Kansas City for their miraculous win. Four games in and Oweh has ten tackles, six QB hits, and a forced fumble. The Ravens need to see if Oweh can have a sack in back-to-back games.

One way or another the Ravens need to get pressure on the quarterback. The outside linebackers need to keep up the momentum that they picked up last week against the Denver Broncos. Tyus Bowser came to the party with a couple of sacks. Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh both got into the quarterback take-down party. In a week where the Broncos were short on help for the inside of their offensive line, the Ravens dominated the offensive tackles. Against the Colts, Don Martindale needs to see if this can continue.

This is a big picture thing as much as a takedown the Colts thing. The growing hype about Oweh is a real area of hope. The Ravens needed a star pass rusher for a while. The outside linebackers as a whole have been exciting. If this position group keeps a positive trajectory, this defense has a bit more muscle to count on this year.

2. Justin Madubuike… We see you

Justin Madubuike got a sack in Denver as well and is having a strong season. According to Pro Football Focus, Madubuike has had 56 snaps as a pass rusher and 26 run defense stops. The PFF grade for Madubuike in pass-rushing is a very strong 73.8. While he hasn’t quite been the run stopper that Brandon Williams has always been, Madubuike offers more penetration and pocket pushing than Williams ever has. In fact, Madubuike has more talent than Justin Ellis, Michael Pierce, and Timmy Jernigan combined. Things are only going up for him.

Let’s talk about how Madubuike can be a key for this battle against the Colts. If the Ravens keep Wentz in the pocket, Madubuike’s mid-line pressure could give him nowhere to step up in the pocket. Madubuike could offer a lot of problems for the Colts’ offensive line. If the outside linebackers keep up their forceful play and Madubuike does his thing, the Ravens will win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Madubuike plus Oweh and Houston going off equals the whole thing coming together.

3. Ravens corners controlling the action:

Michael Pittman Jr. is a player that needs to be neutralized. He’s a Colts receiver that has had a great start to the season. With his slick route running, his combination of size and body control, and, most of all his toughness, Pittman Jr. can overpower some of his opponents. Mr. Pittman Jr. have you met Marlon Humphrey? Humphrey is a key player in this contest. He can take the Colts’ biggest weapon out of the entire affair.

The Colts’ passing game goes through Pittman Jr. who has eight more receptions than any other player on the team. Eight grabs behind him is Zach Pascal. Pascal does have three touchdown receptions and is a solid number two. Anthony Averett has to limit him. If the Ravens corners can clamp down on the two Colts’ receivers, Martindale can go all-in on the pressure looks he dials up.

This is one week where the tight end position isn’t a huge threat. Jack Doyle has 10 receptions this season, but he isn’t a Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, or a T.J. Hockenson. The passing game comes down to controlling the availability of the top two receivers. This is a game where the Ravens can actually do what they want to do on defense. This is a game where the matchup favors Don Martindale’s comfort zone. Steer into that Wink!

4. For goodness sake just tackle:

The Baltimore Ravens have had an iffy relationship with tackling this season. The Ravens can’t let bad tackling keep the Colts churning out plays that have no business happening. Jonathan Taylor is a heavy running back, especially in the open field. The defense has to make full use of their shoulder pads and not just throw arms at Taylor (I’m looking at you, Queen).

The Ravens almost have to look at Taylor as if they’re going against Derrick Henry. It’s the same concept. They need to hit low and run through. If the Colts’ run game flourishes or bounces big plays down the field on plays that could be bottled up, this game could be more frustrating than it has to be.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens battle Colts on MNF: How good are the Colts?

There you have it. That’s what the Baltimore Ravens need to do for this game to be a compelling victory.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Colts: 4 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens take on the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football this week. You have a Sunday to enjoy anxiety-free football. Ravens Flock, it’s totally acceptable to be one-day Chargers fans as they battle the Cleveland Browns. The Broncos may have recently been annoying but watching them beat the Steelers wouldn’t be too bad of an experience for any member of the purple and black community.

Let’s fast-forward mentally to the game we’re all waiting for. The Ravens play a Colts team that has looked disjointed and only has one win. The Ravens are at home and are the heavy favorites. The key here is to play up to the moment and not the level of the competition. If the Ravens attack this like they’re playing the Chiefs, the Colts don’t stand much of a chance. If the Ravens let this get ugly we could have another close call like the Lions game. So how’s this one going? Here are four predictions and a score.

Prediction 1: It’s a bad night to be Carson Wentz

Statistically, Carson Wentz hasn’t been that bad. He has 921 yards with five touchdowns and only one interception. The Ravens pass rush got heated up last week. The Colts came into the season confident about their offensive line but Quenton Nelson is on IR and getting to Wentz is an attainable goal. Wentz has been sacked 10 times this season, while his backup has been sacked once as well.

The Ravens will make the Colts one-dimensional. This will happen for two reasons. First, the Colts will have to be playing catchup with the Ravens offense, an offense that has a lot of confidence, and an MVP caliber quarterback. Secondly, the Colts will have to deal with a defense that has been impressive in the past two games for the most part. The Ravens defensive line is playing well. Justin Madubuike and Calais Campbell are in particular offering a lot of force in the trenches.

What does this mean for Carson Wentz? It means Don Martindale gets to have fun. Marlon Humphrey has the chance to take away Michael Pittman Jr. while Anthony Averett gets to cover Zach Pascal. If the Ravens cornerbacks win their matchups, Martindale can be aggressive with his play-calls. Wentz will have to be guessing all game on who is coming at him and who is dropping back into coverage.

Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston have been strong off the edge and are coming off a game where they had each had a sack. Tyus Bowser has even gotten into the action. Give me the Ravens to get three sacks from their outside linebackers and two sacks from blitzes. Let’s put the Ravens down for an interception and a forced fumble from these blitzes. The matchup has Ravens win all over it. All the Ravens have to do is give Wentz a bad evening.

2. Lamar Jackson has his second 300 yard game in a row as a passer:

The Baltimore Ravens have used their passing game to get most of their work done offensively in the last two weeks. If it wasn’t for Marquise Brown drops Jackson would have been over 300 yards against the Detroit Lions. Jackson had 239 yards passing against the Chiefs and 235 against the Raiders. The passing game is going better than the run game – it’s different for Baltimore but it’s been a nice development. Jackson can carry the offense. The Broncos had the top pass defense last week, Jackson surgically defeated them anyway.

3. The Baltimore Ravens get their record:

Last week the Ravens tied the record for the most games in a row with 100 yards rushing. The Ravens are going to break that record on Monday Night. The Ravens’ run game almost didn’t get it against the Broncos. The run blocking was inconsistent and the running backs didn’t look the part against a solid defense. Guess what? They got 100 yards anyway. Jackson may have 60-70 of the yards but the Ravens will have 120-150 yards on the ground in this contest. If Jackson is rolling as a passer, the Colts can’t sell their soul to stop the run.

4. Sammy Watkins keeps on having a solid season:

Rashod Bateman may or may not play in this game. Marquise Brown is back in good graces after his performance against the Broncos. Sammy Watkins is an under-the-radar option in the Ravens passing game you have to pay attention to. Watkins has had exactly four receptions in each game this season. He’s averaging just over 16 yards per reception. Look for Watkins to get his first touchdown of the season. Jackson and Watkins seem to have great chemistry. He’s on pace to have 68 receptions this year. If Watkins can stay healthy he’ll keep having steady results.

Now the Score: Ravens win 35-10

I have no problem having a bold prediction here. If the Ravens do what they’re supposed to, this should be the clearest and dominant win of the season so far. The Ravens just have to take care of business against a team that lost its first three games of the season (Two of those losses came in Indianapolis). The Colts have only one game with over 24 points on the board this season and it was against the Miami Dolphins. If the Ravens score 28 they should win and I’ll give them 35.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Analyzing third down problems for the offense

More content is coming your way Ravens Flock! Monday Night Football has the potential to be much more enjoyable the second time around this season.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

6 Baltimore Ravens lessons from win over the Broncos

By Chris Schisler

1. The Baltimore Ravens passing game can carry the offense against a good defense

The Baltimore Ravens leaned on their passing game against the Broncos. They did that last week, but it almost didn’t count because it was against the winless Detroit Lions. This was the first time the Ravens played an incredibly talented pass defense and asked Lamar Jackson to throw for the victory. It’s important to remember that the Broncos came into the game with the top pass defense in the NFL. This was a defense that was stifling their opponents and the Ravens just had over 300 yards passing.

Lamar Jackson was next-level good against the Broncos. His deep ball has never looked so good, and many of his strikes were perfectly on the money. The criticism that “Jackson can’t throw” has always been laughable. Jackson has gone beyond proving that he can throw the old pigskin. Jackson is saying that if the game dictates it he can beat you through the air like an Aaron Rodgers or a Patrick Mahomes.

The Ravens are no longer built to win just one way. They didn’t do what they’ve done the last two weeks last season. For that matter, they wouldn’t have mounted a fourth-quarter comeback against the Chiefs last season. The Ravens have a better balance this year and the passing game can carry its weight.

2. James Proche can make an impact

James Proche had five receptions against the Broncos and looked like a player that belongs in this offense. Five receptions for 74 yards is a good stat line to see from a young and developing wide receiver. Proche has seven career receptions so it’s safe to say that this was the start. In his first real and fair opportunity to show up, Proche made important plays. The mostly sure-handed second-year player from SMU could be the possession receiver the Ravens need.

3. The Ravens will be in a tough spot if Alejandro Villanueva misses time:

Alejandro Villanueva was questionable in this game with a knee injury and he left the game with a knee injury. If Villanueva misses a game (or multiple games) the Ravens are in a very bad situation. Who would the Ravens play at left tackle? Ronnie Stanley is out for a while. Tyre Phillips may be the best answer once he returns from injury (once he returns being the keyword).

Phillips is not a very appealing answer yet he would have more going for him than Andre Smith, who looked as if he was hoping not to get the next man up call. Ben Cleveland could play tackle, that’s a rough spot to put a rookie guard in.

He does have experience at offensive tackle as a Georgia Bulldog. Villanueva may not be having a great season but he’s incredibly important. He’s a starter for a reason. The Ravens’ tackle depth is non-existent. Should Villanueva go down while Ronnie Stanley is still out for an unknown time, it will force a make-shift plan for the Ravens. At least Lamar Jackson is fast and elusive…

4. Odafe Oweh is as good as advertised

Odafe Oweh is worth every bit of his first-round selection. Oweh put on a show off the edge in this game. Funnily enough, the Broncos’ offensive line was decimated inside and the Ravens abused the starting offensive tackles. Oweh had a sack in which he blew past the tackle without much of a struggle. It was a ferocious play and it was good for his second sack of the young season.

Oweh may not have made a huge imprint in the box score other than that sack, but Denver had a lot of problems with him. He got great pressures and it’s amazing how many holding penalties he should have drawn. It was probably four or five times that he got held without consequence to the Broncos. Oweh is the real deal. I spent all offseason preaching patience with Oweh. Nah. He’s ready to rock and I was wrong there.

5. The Baltimore Ravens can win on the road without a lucky finish

For the Ravens Flock, this is a great win. It was nice to have your heart beating through your Ravens jersey louder than a marching band, wasn’t it? The Ravens were in full control of this game. Once they survived a bad start Baltimore enforced their will on the Denver Broncos. The Denver crowd doesn’t have to like that last play that got the Ravens the record but that’s about as fun of a way to end a game as there is. Deal with it, Denver.

The Ravens didn’t let this game get too close, even if they took their time finishing the thing. The Ravens found a way to win without a massive comeback in the fourth quarter or a historically long field goal. That’s what you like to see, especially on the road against an undefeated team. The Ravens are capable of taking care of business without giving us heart failure and for that, we should be thankful.

6. The secondary is still a plus for the Baltimore Ravens

Can the Baltimore Ravens secondary stand up so it can get recognized? Everyone clap. Courtland Sutton is one of the better wideouts in the NFL. He was held to three receptions for 47 yards. Noah Fant had six grabs and a touchdown but he was under 50 yards receiving also.

The Broncos had no shots down the field. Teddy Bridgewater dinked and dunked almost exclusively. Drew Lock took some ill-advised shots down the field, but all Denver could do was run slants and crossing patterns. What a glorious day for the Ravens’ secondary (and they did it without De’Shon Elliott)!

Marlon Humphrey, Anthoney Averett, Tavon Young, and Jimmy Smith all had great games. By the way, if Averett doesn’t make that interception in garbage time, the Ravens don’t get their rushing record. The secondary should get as much praise as Lamar Jackson in this game. It’s still a strength of this team. It’s only getting better with Smith back and Young getting his rustiness behind him.

NEXT POST: Ravens handle the Broncos: The good, bad and ugly

This was a big win for the Baltimore Ravens. These lessons are good ones to take in.

Posted in Pregame Content

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

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have a tough game on Sunday. It’s in the later 4:25 pm window and it’s against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are undefeated heading into their home game with the Ravens. We don’t really know how good the Broncos actually are. They’ve taken down the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and most recently the New York Jets. They’ve been dominant in every game- but they haven’t played anybody.

The Ravens are actually a hard team to figure out as well. In three games they’ve been a very interesting blend of impressive and frustrating. The Ravens basically got lucky in Detroit, with the longest field goal of all-time giving Baltimore the win. The Ravens were talked about as serious contenders after beating the Chiefs and a lot of that has cooled off after the third week of the season. Is the perception of the Broncos rooted in overconfidence and the perception of the Ravens rooted in false levels of concern?

Let’s dive into this matchup with some predictions based on what we do know about these two teams.

1. Marquise Brown has a bounce-back game:

The Baltimore Ravens offense can’t really take off if the run game isn’t churning or Marquise Brown is struggling. I expect a bounce-back game for most of the offense, especially from Brown. Brown is the top receiver for the Ravens and he has the most chemistry with Lamar Jackson. When Brown plays well the Ravens flourish.

The Ravens know that and they won’t turn away from their number one wide receiver. Look for the Ravens to get Brown off to a fast start in this game. The way the Ravens handled Brown’s miscues tells a lot about the situation. It’s a mental thing and yelling and barking at him isn’t going to do anything. Brown wants to do good, it’s not an effort thing. The only way to gain back confidence is to get the football in his hands. Look for Brown to have five to six catches for 100 yards in this game.

2. Von Miller will be a straight-up problem for the Baltimore Ravens

Von Miller is still one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. As the Broncos’ defense is starting to pick up steam, Miller is picking up a lot of the momentum. He’s had a sack in each outing this season, with two sacks in the season opener against the Giants. Miller could have a Maxx Crosby-like impact on this game.

The Ravens’ offensive line has been bad two out of three games. The odds are that the trend continues in this game. Jackson will have to continue to take protecting himself into his own hands. The Ravens will be facing a team that has eight sacks and four interceptions in three games. Jackson may be able to right the ship when it comes to protecting the ball, but he will be put into some seriously bad situations.

3. Don Martindale frustrates Teddy Bridgewater:

Teddy Bridgewater is having a nice season for the Broncos. He hasn’t thrown an interception and has over 800 yards passing in three games. Two of the Broncos’ offensive linemen (Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner) are questionable. Justin Madubuike and Justin Houston are back.

I’m calling it now, it’s going to be a sack party for the Ravens defense. Give me a sack by Madubuike. Give me two sacks for Justin Houston, one for Calais Campbell, and one for Odafe Oweh. The Ravens will get five sacks and an interception in a key moment. Martindale is going to create pressure inside and it’s going to fluster Bridgewater for the first time of the season.

4. Lamar Jackson has 350 total yards and three touchdowns

According to a tweet by ESPN’s Sportscenter account, Lamar Jackson is leading the NFL in yards per pass completion and yards per rushing attempt. This has never been done before, pointing out how much Jackson is doing for the Ravens. Put Jackson down for 100 rushing yards and 250 passing yards. I think he will account for three touchdowns also. This will be a tough game but Jackson will step up to the plate.

Score Prediction: Baltimore Ravens win 28-17

I think this will be a close game and then the Ravens will pull away. The Broncos aren’t a bad team and the Ravens are on the road. Ultimately, the Ravens will test Denver in a way they haven’t been pushed yet this season. Jackson will lift this team to victory.

NEXT POST: NFL Week 4: Predictions for every NFL game

Here are my predictions for the game. More analysis is coming including an in-depth look at the Denver Broncos and what the keys are for the Baltimore Ravens on offense and defense. Thanks for coming to the Purple and Black Nest today!