The Final Curtain Call

Filmstudy The Final Curtain Call

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Ravens vs. Saints 9/2/16

The Ravens closed out the 2016 preseason with the final curtain call in New Orleans last night, defeating the Saints by the score of 23-14. Today and tomorrow will be a frenzy of cuts, so I know that’s everyone’s primary interest.

Take a read for reasoning and I’ll give you the 25 players I think the Ravens will keep on defense at the bottom.

The offensive notes will follow tomorrow.

Individual Grades and Notes

As in past years, I have given a number of Ravens a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my expectation of their impact on the 2016 Ravens changed based on their performance.  I don’t rate starters, players who have no place on the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have any data for a judgment.  The players here are new to the team, rookies, on the cusp of making the team, have new responsibilities in 2016, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove this season. The first grade is for the game and the second is cumulative for the preseason.final curtain call

Beyer, Brennan (0/0): He had 3 tackles and had a good pass off coverage on the final goal line stand, but didn’t do enough to earn a spot in a deep OLB corps. He is a practice squad (PS) candidate and will probably make it through waivers.

Brooks, Terrence (+1/+1): He played every snap for the 2nd straight game and made something of the opportunity with a team-leading 6 tackles. You probably saw the game, so I’m just going to give the racing form version of his plays (in the order they occurred) without time references:

–Makes hard open field tackle on Ingram on RL12
–Good coverage forces dump off as Levine pressures Brees
–Good position for tackle on incomplete forced by Onwuasor pressure
–Tackles Hightower blitzing off left edge RL1; Good play despite 3rd-and-1 conversion
–Big hit on Coleman on PM19 would often have dislodged ball with smaller receiver
–Late diagnosing PR11 to Williams
–Lost in backfield wash on run blitz RR5
–Beaten by Lewis 50 yards between right hash and numbers, overthrown
–Makes good gamble on run—up quickly to tackle Murphy RL3
–Collided with Ochi on RL27
–Covers Manhertz in end zone to force Grayson throw away on rollout

After missing 2 of 3 tackles on Saturday, it was good to see him make all 6 vs. the Saints. More importantly, I liked what I saw in terms of instinctive movement to the football against the run. He had some good coverage in short space, but didn’t look good away from the LoS. I had ruled him out as a backup dime due to concerns about tackling and his frame, but he was much more effective up front in this game.

Brown, Arthur (0/-1): He started and played the bulk of the game at ILB as the signal caller. He had 4 nice plays, a QH on a low hit (Q1, 6:06), a tackle of Ingram for no gain (Q1, 4:39), a pressure to flush Grayson (Q3, 13:52), and a diving, open-field tackle for a gain of 2 (Q4, 3:39). Other notes all involve him failing to get off blocks on significant run and pass gains. The club has no future option on his play, cannot reasonably expect to get a compensation pick if he leaves as a free agent after 2016, and does not seem to have a need for his quickness this season on defense, particularly if Levine is playing dime next to Mosley. He needs a fresh start somewhere else.

Byndom, Carrington (-1/-2): He got hurt, which caused extended playing time for Davis and Young. He never had a significant shot at the roster, but the injury reduces the chance he’ll be kept on the practice squad.

Canady (+2/0): First of all, he’s back from the injury, which is great news considering he could not play 5 days ago. The Ravens used him extensively at safety as they tried to get through the final PS game. Normally, I would not ascribe much significance to the emergency fill-in role, but Julian Wilson had also played safety this preseason and also split his time at CB and S on Thursday. The team will have to decide if Canady or Wilson provided enough back-end value to justify a CB/S role. Canady has shown more at CB and is a long corner prospect. If either player stays (with Price), Kendrick Lewis may be cut. Canady had a mixed night of racing-form notes in 53 snaps:

–Draws holding flag on Kuhn on run blitz
–Blocked on reverse, but turns it inside where Ochi runs it down RL3
–Soft in zone on 11-yard pass to Lewis
–Illegal contact negates Pierce’s 2nd sack (not on screen)
–Uncredited PD vs Williams on diving INT attempt by Brooks
–Covers Lewis well in end zone on Grayson throw away
–Covers Williams in end zone on Grayson step-out-of-bounds sack

Carter, Chris (0/+2): He played very well, but I don’t see a way the Ravens can keep him (otherwise I’d say his grade would have been a +2). He was effectively blocked on several big plays, but:

–he beat RT Barnes outside for a QH (Q2, 10:19)
–beat RT Thompson for pressure on Pierce’s sack/FF/FR/TD (Q2, 3:34)
–beat a double team for a QH when he appeared to be trying to set up a stunt (Q3, 1:23)
–got under the right arm of Thompson for a QH that was flagged for roughing the passer (Q3, 0:44)
–deflected the 4th-and-3 pass which would otherwise have been caught by Lampman for a TD (Q4, 2:04), but was negated by Henry’s roughing the passer.

Kansas City may be a logical trade partner for some of the Ravens OLB depth.

Correa, Kamalei (0/+2): He didn’t make my notes for pass rush from OLB, but he drew a phantom illegal block to negate a long punt return (Q1, 7:24). As an ILB, he had a screen diagnosis for first contact that led to a loss of 6 (Q2, 3:02). He also had end zone coverage of Johnson, then Lampman on Grayson’s throw away and sack, respectively (beginning Q4, 2:19). Finally, he could not diagnose or catch up to Johnson on his 3-yard TD grab (Q4, 1:58). It was Correa’s most substantial action at ILB (perhaps 15 of his 37 snaps) and I think his coverage held up reasonably well.final curtain call

Davis, Carl (-2/-3): The Ravens will want to keep Pierce if they can find a way after this game. Depending on the severity of Davis’ injury, he could go to IR and would be among the candidates to return when injuries strike. The grade is all a matter of how much his chance to help the Ravens in 2016 was reduced by this game/injury.

Davis, Will (0/+4): He played extensively both on the outside and in the slot (52 snaps). He drew an OPI on Williams, but he was also beaten 40 yards down the right sideline on a play that was overthrown by Grayson (Q2, 0:40). He’s been the Ravens’ best CB this preseason and is squarely the 4th CB behind Smith, Wright, and Young. His chance could come via injury or ineffectiveness, but it’s likely he’ll start at some point in 2016.

Henry (+1/+4): Here are my racing-form notes:

–Penetrates by Saints’ center Henry to blow up Hightower on Judons tackle for -4
–Backs up and sheds LG Fullington to tackle Lasco for no gain
–Beat RT Cheek for front-side pressure on Pierce’s 2nd sack, negated by illegal contact
–Bulls Cheek for late QH, flagged for RTP to convert 4th and 3.

Don’t listen to anyone who says the 2 late penalties may impact his status when filling out your roster pool. He’s emerged from a crowded DL picture to a sure roster selection (as opposed to IR). I expect he’ll get significant rotational playing time in 2016.

Judon (0/+6): He’s had one of the greatest preseasons ever by a Raven, rivaling McPhee in 2011. I can’t increase his grade any further, because he’s now a fully-valued stock, but I’m sure I am as amazed by his playmaking ability as you are. On Thursday, he emerged from a quiet game to take over for 3 plays:

–(Q2, 3:02) He beat starting LT Hills for a QH on a screen right that was hard and a little late. The play went for a loss of 6 as Hightower was pinballed backwards between tacklers.
–(Q2, 2:39) He tackled Hightower for a loss of 4 set up by Henry’s penetration.
–(Q2, 2:02) He bulled then shed Hills for another QH.

Levine (0/+4): He played only 1 series (9 snaps), which is the best indication of how important he is to Pees’ defensive plan. That importance is further evident when you consider the Ravens played 2 cornerbacks at safety after he departed. He hasn’t played dime since the first preseason game, but that’s where he’ll be on September 11.

Lewis, Kendrick (-1/-2): DNP. He’s missed 3 straight games and Pees’ deployment of Canady and Wilson at safety, along with Brooks’ elevated play, lends credence to the possibility he’ll be released today. With the crowding the Ravens have throughout the roster keeping Canady or Wilson as a CB/S will save a spot that can be used elsewhere. In addition, the Ravens get significantly younger by doing so.

Lewis-Moore, Kapron (0/-1): He’ll have an NFL job somewhere, but I think he’s played his last game as a Raven. He was on the outside looking in prior to the Saints game, but if there was a chance for him to take Davis’ spot, it’s now gone with the play of Pierce. As a 4th-year player, the rationale is similar to that given for Arthur Brown in terms of future control and compensatory pick value.

McClellan, Albert (0/+3): DNP. The Ravens have him listed at ILB, where they are quite thin, even though he played exclusively at OLB last season. His slot is absolutely safe.

Ochi, Victor (+2/0): Victor had played only 19 snaps entering Thursday’s game, but did well in a longer trial (14 snaps) versus the Saints. He lost the edge on a 1-yard run left, made the athletic 3-yard tackle, and collided with Brooks on Murphy’s 27-yard run left (Q4, 4:27). On consecutive plays in the 3rd quarter, he beat LT Hills outside for a QH on a screen pass (Q3, 2:45) then beat Hills inside for a sack/FF (Q2, 2:09). Those 2 plays likely preclude any hope the Ravens can retain him on the practice squad.

Onwuasor, Patrick (+1/+1): He had an unblocked pressure to force an incomplete pass (Q1, 8:52), Drew a hold on RT Thompson (Q1, 4:39), and made a nice tackle off the edge for a loss of 1 near the goal line (Q4, 2:52). I don’t think he’ll make the roster, but he’s a good PS candidate who could very well get significant playing time if the Ravens suffer and injury to either ILB or replace Levine as the dime.final curtain call

Pierce, Michael (+3/+5): He was the team’s defensive MVP on Thursday. He really deserves to have all my notes listed out, but a nose tackle who scores a TD by his own pass rush and beats a double team for a 15-yard sack has had an extraordinary game. With the injuries and suspension the Bills have on the DL, they seemed like a natural trade partner for Pierce, but I don’t think the Ravens now want to risk facing this behemoth on September 11. The team will find a way to keep Pierce on the roster until they can figure out how health shakes out and trade value can be maximized. The looming investment required to keep Brandon Williams may also play a role in retaining him.

Powers, Jerraud (0/-4): DNP. I see no reason for him to take up a roster spot. He’s in his 8th season, and on a 1-year deal, so he has no option value. He shouldn’t start ahead of Young and barring injuries on the outside, Davis should be first up as SCB if anything happens to Tavon. The Ravens guaranteed $750,000 of Jerraud’s salary, which is an unfortunate sunk cost that should have no bearing on the decision to cut him. And perhaps most importantly, the Ravens can get a 2-for-1 roster spot if they keep Canady or Wilson while cutting Lewis and Powers.

Price, Sheldon (+1/+1): Usage alone should make it clear Price has a secure roster spot. He played the first 4 series then returned for the last series of the game which I believe was a function of Byndom’s injury. He didn’t have any coverage notes versus the Saints regulars. He was blocked on the WR screen right that set up the Saints last TD (Q4, 3:02). However, he was one of the players who had good end zone coverage (of Williams then Lewis) on the consecutive failed rollouts near the goal line (beginning Q4, 2:19).

Urban, Brent (0/+4): Brent had several contributions, but his stock was already well valued. He beat the TE (missed the number) for a flush (Q3, 2:56), tackled Murphy for a loss of 7 (Q4, 7:00), and forced Grayson to step out of bounds for a sack (Q4, 2:12). His roster spot is secure. He and Henry both look like they’ll provide significant disruptive value on the DL.

Wilson, Julian (+2/0): Wilson entered on the play Pierce scored (Q2, 3:34) and played the remainder of the game. He and Brooks were beaten on the 50-yard overthrow for Lewis (Q3, 2:56).

Young, Tavon (0/0): Tavon appears healthy now and played 17 snaps versus the Saints. Snead beat him for a 26-yard play up the left sideline (Q1, 11:56) where he never found the football and overran the play. Otherwise, he stayed out of trouble and made an open-field tackle for a gain of 10 on 3rd and 30.

Projected 25 Defensive Players

With the reasoning given above (and considering only players with the organization now), here is my projection of the 25 defensive players on the Ravens roster (as of 5:10 AM Friday, 9/3):

DL (7): Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Willie Henry, Timmy Jernigan, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Brandon Williams
ILB (3): Albert McClellan, CJ Mosley, Zachary Orr
OLB (5): Kamalei Correa, Elvis Dumervil, Matthew Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs
CB (6): Maurice Canady, Will Davis, Sheldon Price, Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Tavon Young
S (4): Terrence Brooks, Anthony Levine, Lardarius Webb, Eric Weddle

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick

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