Baltimore Ravens’ scouting report

Street Talk Baltimore Ravens’ scouting report

Posted in Street Talk
Print this article
5 CRITICAL QUESTIONS
 
1. Will the Baltimore Ravens snap their four-game losing streak?
As the reeling Ravens (4-6) travel to the edge of the Pacific Ocean today to take on the equally disappointing San Diego Chargers (5-5), this is a clash between two former AFC superpowers who had the top records in the conference a year ago. Now, last year’s AFC North champions are on the cusp of a potential franchise low that has no precedent: five losses in a row. The Ravens have virtually no shot at making the playoffs. The combined winning percentage of the remainder of their schedule is .600. And they’re coming off a bizarre, frustrating 33-30 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns. Will the Ravens’ true colors show? Will this team’s competitive streak manifest itself despite the decreasing motivation? Ravens coach Brian Billick believes he already has the answer despite entering a three-week stretch against the Chargers, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, who sport a combined record of 23-7. "I’d be very surprised if they don’t have the appropriate focus and energies towards their preparation," Billick said. "It would seem that’s not likely conventional thinking, but this group will because they’ve shown me nothing to indicate that they won’t.”

 

2. Will the Ravens exterminate the turnover bug?

 

With a total of 26 turnovers, the Ravens are tied with the Houston Texans for the NFL lead with 17 fumbles and nine interceptions. The Ravens are on pace to commit 41 this season, which would set a team record. In their six defeats, opponents have converted 84 points off the Ravens’ turnovers for an average of 14 points a game. Quarterback Kyle Boller was intercepted twice and fumbled once against Cleveland with one of his picks returned 100 yards for a touchdown.

 
 
3. Will the Ravens be the latest defense to contain LaDainian Tomlinson?

 

The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player rushed for 62 yards on 16 carries in a 24-17 loss last week to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 76 yards on 21 attempts in a 23-21 win over the Indianapolis Colts and just 40 yards on 16 carries in a 35-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings over the past three games. San Diego coach Norv Turner doesn’t seem to believe in Tomlinson nearly as much as Marty Schottenheimer did. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ third-ranked rushing defense doesn’t believe in allowing 100-yard rushers with the league’s longest streak of 13 games in a row without an opposing runner hitting the century mark. Baltimore allows just 78 rushing yards per game.

 
 
4. Is the offensive line going to allow more sacks today against an accomplished front seven?

 

One week after allowing six sacks to the last-ranked Browns defense that entered the game with just 11 sacks, rookie Marshal Yanda could be reinserted at right tackle. Teams have discovered the blueprint on how to rattle Boller: bring blitz pressure directly up the middle. Chris Chester and Adam Terry had particularly rough games against a nondescript Cleveland defensive line. Now, they have to contend with aggressive outside linebackers Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips along with Jamal Williams, who’s arguably the best nose guard in the league.

 
 
5. How will cornerback Samari Rolle fare after returning from another bout with epilepsy?
 
Rolle is bound to be rusty after missing the past three games following his third seizure this year. The one-time Pro Bowl defensive back feared for his career. With proper medication, his condition appears to be under control. The Chargers’ top receivers are Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson. Not to mention Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates.
 
WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Ravens Offense
Total (22) Rushing (18) Passing (21)

Quarterback
Which Kyle Boller will show up today as he returns to his native Southern California? Will it be the lost individual who was intercepted twice and fumbled once or the gunslinger who led an impressive fourth-quarter comeback? The Ravens need to know as soon as possible.
Running back
Willis McGahee has outrushed a distinguished group of runners in every game in his inaugural season in Baltimore, including Rudi Johnson twice, Thomas Jones, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis twice, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Willie Parker.
Receivers
Devard Darling, where have you been hiding? He’s coming off a career breakthrough with four catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Derrick Mason ranks second in the NFL with 72 catches behind T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s 76 receptions. There are growing concerns that tight end Todd Heap could miss the remainder of the season with a strained hamstring.
 
Offensive line
Marshal Yanda is expected to get back into the mix at right tackle today, possibly as a starter. Jonathan Ogden’s body language told an interesting story last week. The 10-time Pro Bowl selection looked completely disgusted. He’s got to be regretting his decision not to retire.
 
Ravens Defense
Total (6) Rushing (3) Passing (13)
 
Defensive line
Haloti Ngata has been a destructive force inside. The Ravens are lobbying for nose guard Kelly Gregg to make his first Pro Bowl, but the fan voting and his team’s record could work against him. The Ravens will sorely miss defensive end Trevor Pryce, who was placed on injured reserve this week with a torn pectoral.
 
Linebackers
Ray Lewis flexed his softball-sized biceps last week, recording 23 tackles and returning an interception 35 yards for a touchdown. It’s official: Bart Scott is having an off-year. Jarret Johnson could be a big factor today in trying to contain LaDainian Tomlinson.
Secondary
The Ravens get a shot in the arm today with cornerback Samari Rolle’s return from another bout with epilepsy, the condition he revealed that was bothering him all season. Chris McAlister rested all week. Will his knee hold up and will he need surgery after the season? Safety Ed Reed’s body is starting to betray him.
 
Special teams
They could be in trouble again in kick coverage, facing off with Darren Sproles. Matt Stover showed that the inactivity of the previous three weeks was no problem, nailing a potential game-winning 47-yard kick. Punter Sam Koch can’t shank kicks the way he did to give Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs a short field to operate.
Chargers Offense
Total (20) Rushing (16) Passing (23)
 
Quarterback
Philip Rivers has been streaky this year, an unexpected development considering coach Norv Turner’s reputation. Rivers has an unorthodox delivery, but he has a lot of ability.
 
Running back
LaDainian Tomlinson leads the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns, but ranks seventh overall in rushing yards. Norv Turner has been limiting his carries. Tomlinson’s production has suffered for the past three weeks. The Ravens usually shut down star runners without having to crowd the line of scrimmage with extra defenders.
Receivers
Tight end Antonio Gates is a great athlete who can stretch the field. Chris Chambers has provided a deep threat. Vincent Jackson is a big downfield target.
 
Offensive line
When healthy, this is a really good group. Center Nick Hardwick could return today from a foot injury. Offensive tackles Marcus McNeill and Nick Olivea are a solid tandem.
 
Chargers Defense
Total (26) Rushing (23) Passing (25)
 
Defensive line
Big, strong and nasty, this is a tough unit led by nose guard Jamal Williams. They’re shorthanded without Luis Castillo. Igor Olshansky plays nearly as imposingly as his name sounds.
 
Linebackers
Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman, the former University of Maryland star, has made less of an impact this year and looks noticeably smaller in his upper body and even his face, prompting rumors that he didn’t bulk up naturally. Not to mention last year’s four-game suspension for violating the league’s steroid policy. Shaun Phillips is really fast on the other side. Stephen Cooper and Matt Wilhelm are reliable inside linebackers.
 
Secondary
Antonio Cromartie should be starting. Drayton Florence could be headed for big dollars as a free agent. Should Baltimore take a look? Quentin Jammer hasn’t lived up to expectations. Marlon McCree is an ordinary safety. Rookie Eric Weddle should supplant him by next year.
 
Special teams
Kicker Nate Kaeding has only made nine field goals. Darren Sproles is a dangerous kickoff and punt returner, notching touchdowns in both categories.
 
EDGES: Quarterback: San Diego; Running back: San Diego; Receivers: San Diego; Offensive line: San Diego; Defensive line: San Diego; Linebackers: Baltimore; Secondary: Baltimore; Special teams: Even.
 
INSIDE SLANT

The Baltimore Ravens’ turnover problem is having a severe impact on the league’s sixth-ranked defense. On the 17 touchdowns allowed by Baltimore’s defense, the average starting field position for opponents has been the 49-yard line. Of those scores, nine of the touchdowns have started at the 50-yard line or in Ravens territory with an average starting position of the 31-yard line. Ten of the 19 touchdowns scored against Baltimore have been off turnovers, including a fumble return for a score by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Landon Johnson during the season-opener and a 100-yard interception return by Cleveland Browns safety Brodney Pool a week ago. Of the 43 total scores allowed by the Ravens’ defense this season on 17 touchdowns and 26 field goals, the opponents’ average starting field position is their own 45-yard line. Bottom line: Lots of short fields, and lots of defeats for a team that used to usually win the turnover game. Baltimore is 43-0 during the nine-year Brian Billick era when posting a plus-2 turnover ratio and 61-5 with a plus-1 margin. However, Baltimore is 8-45 under Billick when it has a negative turnover ratio.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

The Baltimore Ravens’ turnover problem is having a severe impact on the league’s sixth-ranked defense. On the 17 touchdowns allowed by Baltimore’s defense, the average starting field position for opponents has been the 49-yard line. Of those scores, nine of the touchdowns have started at the 50-yard line or in Ravens territory with an average starting position of the 31-yard line. Ten of the 19 touchdowns scored against Baltimore have been off turnovers, including a fumble return for a score by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Landon Johnson during the season-opener and a 100-yard interception return by Cleveland Browns safety Brodney Pool a week ago. Of the 43 total scores allowed by the Ravens’ defense this season on 17 touchdowns and 26 field goals, the opponents’ average starting field position is their own 45-yard line. Bottom line: Lots of short fields, and lots of defeats for a team that used to usually win the turnover game. Baltimore is 43-0 during the nine-year Brian Billick era when posting a plus-2 turnover ratio and 61-5 with a plus-1 margin. However, Baltimore is 8-45 under Billick when it has a negative turnover ratio.

Photo by Sabina Moran

Facebook Comments
Share This  
Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

More from Aaron Wilson

Close

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

Get More Information