Posted in Pregame Content

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

By Chris Schisler

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

1. The Ravens shouldn’t rush back Lamar Jackson

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

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

2. Don Martindale is the X-Factor here

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

3. Ravens must win the time of possession battle:

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

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

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

5. A great chance for a rallying moment:

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

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

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

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

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens who deserve a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl

By Chris Schisler

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

Mark Andrews – Tight End

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

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

Marquise Brown – Wide Receiver

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

Pat Ricard:

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

Bradley Bozeman – Center

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

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

Justin Tucker – Kicker

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

Devin Duvernay – Kick Returner

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Baltimore Ravens: How to get the offense rolling again

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have lost Marlon Humphrey for the year. The Ravens secondary in general is an injury-stressed place and the offense is going to have to score more points without their Pro Bowl corner. The offense needs to score. It’s an absolute need against teams like the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Los Angeles Rams. The Ravens needed 21 points to beat the Steelers last Sunday and didn’t get it.

With that in mind let’s take a look at how the Baltimore Ravens can get the offense going. Let’s look at the problems in three segments: Lamar Jackson, Greg Roman, and the offensive line. These are the three major drivers of what is hurting the Ravens. The quarterback, the play-caller, and the offensive line are the key factors in turning everything around. So let’s start with the player who touches the football every play.

Lamar Jackson:

This may be an unpopular answer, but Lamar Jackson just needs to snap out of it. Jackson is stuck in his head and it’s affecting the way he sees the field. The Lamar Jackson from the Ravens’ thrilling wins and the Jackson of the past several weeks are effectively two different players. We’ve been over that already though. We’ve diagnosed the problems earlier this week. Now we have to look for solutions.

The first fix for Jackson is to change the metabolism of the game. The Ravens should use a high-tempo offense. They should get to the line of scrimmage quickly. The Ravens have been comeback kings, they even mounted a last-minute drive against the Steelers that would have tied up the game if John Harbaugh made a different decision. It may sound a little simplistic, but this team only seems to do well when they have a sense of desperate urgency. Simulating that with tempo isn’t a bad idea.

More importantly, it could get Jackson out of his head. The Ravens need to get him rolling out of the pocket by design a little more, play fast and encourage Jackson to take off and run the football. When Jackson is in the zone he’s a stone-cold killer of NFL defenses. Spark Jackson.

Jackson needs a mindset change. He can’t always be trying to make the big play. He has to go through his progressions and make the short pass that’s there when the deep shot isn’t available. Jackson needs to see the whole field. He needs to go back to being a point guard style of quarterback. He is responsible for creating big plays, but his ultimate responsibility is to make the right decision and distribute the football to players with green grass in front of them.

Greg Roman:

If Jackson’s job is to change his mindset and spark himself by taking what the defense gives him, Greg Roman has the responsibility of putting Jackson in the best situation. That means calling a game for tempo rather than huddling. That means calling plays with check-downs and easy completions to get up his confidence. When Jackson is struggling and frustrated, call a designed run. Running the football is the one thing Jackson can do in any state of mind. Jackson wakes up when he realizes he’s a dual-threat. Roman has to understand that fact when calling the game.

If I was Roman I would call plays that simplify things for Jackson until the rut is gone. I’d try to lean more on the ground game which would maximize the play-action passing game for Jackson. Roman also needs to avoid getting too cute with it. Think about the two-point try. T.J. Watt was a problem off the edge. Think about the overtime interception against the Vikings. Jackson couldn’t get the ball over an edge defender on a play that clearly needed him not to be there. This is actually a pattern on less prominent plays as well. Roman needs to do a better job factoring in edge rushers in his play-calling.

Any creativity that Roman has left, this is the time to pull it out. If there’s some magical vault of plays he has at the ready this is the time to go to the bag. Roman has to bring some fun into this offense. Whether that means using Devin Duvernay in creative ways out of the backfield or coming up with some trick plays, now is the time. The Ravens have been miserable to watch. Part of the reason that is true is that they’ve seemed tense and frustrated on the field. Mixing things up is a great idea right now. The status quo has become the worst part of the offense.

The offensive line:

The offensive line has to put their best forward. Lamar Jackson took seven sacks against the Steelers and it kind of felt like more than that. A good bit of that is actually on the quarterback, but excusing seven sacks from an offensive line isn’t happening in my book.

There’s only so much the Ravens can do upfront. The Ravens need Pat Mekari at right tackle. There’s just no way around it and it looks like Mekari won’t be able to suit up against the Cleveland Browns. Mekari didn’t practice on Wednesday because of his nagging ankle injury. Maybe Ja’Waun James can be the answer by the end of the season, but that’s a major question mark. If Tyre Phillips is your right tackle, you have issues.

The offensive line needs help from Pat Ricard and the second and third tight ends on the roster, mostly on the right side of the offensive line. Ricard should get more time on the field because the fullback is the best extra blocker Baltimore has. The right side is the big problem. Alejandro Villanueva is having a surprisingly decent season at left tackle. Bradley Bozeman is doing well at the center position. Helping out the right tackle has to be a part of every game plan.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens breakdown: The 2 point conversion attempt

Boiled down, the keys are getting Jackson going with tempo and play-calling while helping out the right side of the offensive line with extra blockers.

Posted in Pregame Content

Ravens offense: Things we want to see against the Browns

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens are about to host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football. This is one of the biggest games of the season. It’s a chance to keep the Browns down and hold onto first place in the AFC North. The Ravens have to play the Browns again in Week 14 after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 13. The Browns get a bye in between their clashes with the Ravens. This one is big and it can’t be overstated.

Stars back, the quarterback protected:

The first thing you want to see for the Baltimore Ravens is the return of Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown. This isn’t a game that the Ravens can get by in without making big plays. The offense can’t leave the defense out to dry. The Browns may be as on and off as the Ravens, but when they’re on they can drop some points on the scoreboard.

The Ravens need more from their pass protection to be better. What was the problem two weeks in a row? Blitzes coming off the edge untouched and unnoticed. This is a game where the Ravens can’t leave Lamar Jackson out to dry, assuming he gets back into the action. This is where the return of Nick Boyle comes in. Protect the right tackle with extra help blocking. Put Boyle in there and have Pat Ricard at the ready.

Myles Garrett has 13 sacks to his name this year and has a case to be the Defensive Player of the Year. The Browns should absolutely send a defensive back after the Ravens’ quarterback in this game, it worked for two teams in a row. The offensive line is outmatched. What does this mean for Greg Roman?

It means it’s not okay to see a lot of looks out of an empty set, taxing your five-man protection. It means that he can’t call a ton of deep shots down the field that doesn’t include safety valves for Jackson underneath. The ball has to come out quick more often than not and that doesn’t mean 50 wide receiver screens.

Run the ball, have some fun with it:

The Ravens need to keep making progress with their run game. Let’s see Devonta Freeman keep picking up some momentum. Let’s see Latavius Murray running fearlessly up the gut as he did against Chicago. We need to see Jackson chip into the run game. The Ravens used to be promised 150 yards on the ground even on a bad day. You can run against this Browns defense. Let’s see the Ravens get back to overpowering their opponent.

This is a game where every bit of creativity from Roman will be appreciated. All season, the Ravens have been using Devin Duvernay in the run game. What if that jet sweep could be used to set up a fairly deadly play-fake? It feels like the Ravens have been setting it up all season and this could be a good game to have it pay off. The Ravens need to pull out all the stops. The last thing Ravens fans will accept is a lack of creativity and inspiration from their play-caller.

More than anything you just want to see the Ravens finish drives. Too often they are stopped to Justin Tucker field goals when the offense looks like it’s about to get going. The offense needs to hone into the moment with no little mistakes. Penalty-free football is next to impossible the way the game is called, but Baltimore can’t beat themselves with stupid things: False starts, delay of game penalties, illegal formations.

Jackson to Andrews:

Again, this article is written in the assumption that we’ll see the Ravens MVP candidate under center on Sunday evening. We have to see Lamar Jackson playing like Lamar Jackson wire to wire. He can’t be off or out of sync at the beginning of this game and look to turn on the jets as the game progresses. He needs to be the number eight that steps into his throws and fires strikes, not the one who misses low, or puts himself in a bad throw because he held the ball too long.

This is a Browns game so it’s all about Mark Andrews. Andrews has had some of his biggest games against the Browns. That needs to continue on Sunday evening. When Jackson is feeling it and the Browns don’t have a way to stop Andrews, good things happen for Baltimore.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Ranking every crazy victory of this insane season

This is going to be a battle. The offensive focus needs to be on three things. First, the play-calls must help the offensive line. Secondly, creativity must unlock some fun in the run game. Finally, the Ravens need Lamar Jackson back and ready to do some damage. Other than one bad day in 2019, Jackson has owned the Browns. He’s their biggest nightmare. He has to be extra scary to the Browns on this game in front of a national audience.

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Projecting Gus Edwards numbers for 2021

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens will have to lean a little bit more heavily on Gus Edwards now that J.K. Dobbins is out for the season with a torn ACL. Fans want to know- partly for Fantasy Football – partly for the love of Ravens football, what will change this season for Gus Edwards?

The honest answer is not a lot. Edwards has had three straight seasons over 700 yards rushing. In 2018, he had 144 carries. He’s had over 130 carries three seasons in a row. While J.K. Dobbins was technically slated to be the number one running back, Edwards offered little to no drop-off as running back two. Essentially the Ravens planned on having two lead backs. One is out for the year, the other will continue to be a workhorse for the offense.

Projection is tricky but doable for the Baltimore Ravens’ top back:

Projecting based on last season is a little tricky. There’s an extra game this year, and Dobbins is out of the equation. For the moment, the fill-in running back carries will be handled by Justice Hill and Ty’Son Williams. Last season it was a fairly even split. Edwards ran the rock 144 times and Dobbins got it 133 times.

The reason it won’t be a drastic change for Edwards is that the Ravens aren’t going to abuse him. The Ravens haven’t really had a running back who got around 25 rushing attempts a game since the days of Brian Billick and Jamal Lewis. John Harbaugh-coached teams have seldom had one back do all the heavy lifting. In 2019, Mark Ingram had 10-13 carries per game, proof that the number one guy doesn’t get a cruel workload.

The Ravens are going to want to maximize what they get out of Edwards. They don’t want to work him so hard that they have him running out of gas by the playoffs. Let’s say he averages 12 rushing attempts per game. This seems like a fair number. 12 x 17 = 204 rushing attempts. That is 60 more carries than last season. His workload is going to go up.

So we have Edwards down for 204 rushing attempts. On paper, it does sound like a lot. In a perfect world, the Ravens may be able to lean on their other running backs enough to make it more of a fair ask of Edwards. Nonetheless, 204 attempts is the projection we’re at. Edwards should be good for around five yards per carry. That average would track with the rest of his career. That would give Edwards 1,020 yards on the year.

Additional thing to think about here:

Keeping in mind that there is an extra game and that Ty’Son Williams and Justice Hill probably don’t add up to the impact of one J.K. Dobbins, overdoing it a little bit with Edwards is going to be hard to avoid. The Ravens may not want to add a veteran running back to the mix either because the roster math is still a limitation. Can moves happen? Yes. For the time being this is the unit the Ravens have for the backfield.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Pat Ricard get a little more in the way of touches this season. His rushing totals will still look minimal, yet it’s another way to run the ball without asking the “Gus Bus” to do it all.

One area of concern is how the Ravens have their running backs produce as running backs out of the backfield. Last year, Edwards only caught nine passes. Edwards only has 18 career receptions. Justice Hill all of the sudden is probably Baltimore’s best receiving option out of the backfield. Dobbins was a more dynamic playmaker as a receiving option than Edwards. This could limit the offense a bit more than Greg Roman would like.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Early reasons for confidence vs. Las Vegas Raiders

It should be a great year for Edwards. If he stays healthy he’s going to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. You could argue he already is one of the top backs in football. He certainly is one of the most consistent.

Posted in Ashley's 3 big questions

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Big Questions at the Fullback Position

By: Ashley Anderson

Editor’s note: Ashley has a whole category on PBN. Check out all of Ashley’s 3 big questions posts! 

Unlike most of the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens love their fullbacks. It is a position that does not garner much attention, but it is arguably a focal point in the Ravens’ offense. Here are a few big questions surrounding the fullback group.

 

3.) Will Patrick Ricard continue to be a two-way player?

Patrick Ricard, aka Project Pat, came into the NFL as an undrafted defensive end out of Maine. Baltimore saw a kid who loved to hit and quickly realized he could be an asset on offense. With that, he became a rare two-way player, helping open holes as a fullback in the Ravens’ prolific run game while attacking opponents on defense.

Last season, Ricard did most of his damage on offense, but he made some splash defensive plays here and there. In a 49-13 shellacking of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10, Ricard was credited with a strip-sack that led to a touchdown. It was his lone sack and forced fumble, and he finished the season with nine tackles and a pass breakup.

As a receiver, he has 21 catches for 104 yards and four touchdowns in his four seasons. While clearly not an aerial threat, he does have sure hands to pick up tough yards on quick passes. With the Ravens looking to expand their passing attack, Ricard could become more involved this year, using his brute strength to bully past defenders in search of first downs.

On the flip side, Baltimore still seems to have a need for more pass rushers. Though he is more of an offensive specialist at this point, Ricard could line up on defense to throw off opposing quarterbacks. Will Baltimore keep Ricard lined up strictly at fullback, or will he continue to be their Swiss Army Knife?

 

2.) Will the Baltimore Ravens extend Patrick Ricard at some point this season?

As evidenced above, Ricard is a player the Ravens love to utilize in a variety of roles. Following the 2019 season, they inked him to a two-year, $7.3 million deal that is set to expire in the coming offseason.  In those two seasons, Ricard has been durable, reliable, and done everything Baltimore asks of him. He has certainly earned another payday.

Unfortunately for Ricard, fullbacks are not a priority in most situations. Baltimore already needs to find a way to pay Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews among others, and their wallets are about to be much lighter. A savvy front office knows where to cut costs, and even a player as special as Ricard can land on the chopping block.

One way to avoid that would be an in-season extension that could come at a lower cost than waiting for Ricard to test the market. Although there are few teams that utilize a true fullback, the league has undoubtedly taken notice of a guy who can make an impact on all three phases of the game. With another solid season, he could push himself out of Baltimore’s price range.

 

1.) Is there room for Ben Mason on the Baltimore Ravens 53-man roster?

Baltimore may have been thinking ahead when they selected fullback/tight end Ben Mason in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. While fullback is not a pressing need this year, Ricard is a free agent following the season. Mason is eerily similar to Ricard having been a two-way player at Michigan.

Toughness would be the one word used to describe Mason, who was twice voted Toughest Player of the Year by his college teammates. He went so hard at rookie minicamp that he tore the skin off his feet and was sidelined due to the injury. Clearly, he is committed to making it in the NFL.

The problem for Mason is there really is no role for him to currently step into this season. While there is an open competition for the third tight end slot, Mason only caught three passes at Michigan and does not seem primed to fit that need. With Ricard locking down the fullback job, Mason could be on the outside looking in on cut day.

NEXT POST: Logistically, Lamar Jackson needs to get Covid-19 vaccine

However, the Ravens could be grooming Mason to be a potential replacement for Ricard. Thus, if he clears waivers, they will likely stash him on their practice squad. He will need to put on a big show in training camp and the preseason if he is going to earn a spot on the active roster.