Defense is As Advertised

Report Card Defense is As Advertised

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The Baltimore Ravens were 2-7 playing in Cincinnati under John Harbaugh going into this game. I think most fans probably circled this game as a loss coming into Paul Brown Stadium.

Those fans were silenced pretty quickly. It was a team win and I don’t think Harbaugh and co. could have asked for a better start to the 2017 campaign. Let’s break down the position groups to see how this win came to fruition.

Offense – Overall: B-

The Flacco Report: B-

I know some are going to think this may be high for a performance in which Joe Flacco finished 9/17 for 121 yards 1 TD and 1 INT.

This grade comes with the expectations in mind for Joe’s return to the field. Missing training camp and preseason games is not good for any quarterback and some rust was expected. We saw that with some missed throws. Particularly the 3rd and 6 to open the 2nd quarter, when he missed Jeremy Maclin breaking open in his route.

However, he called a great audible on the 48-yard touchdown strike to Maclin.

The biggest concern and a question that should be asked to Harbaugh or Flacco is what the point of the delay of game calls were. It’s hard to tell if that was planned or if Flacco just wasn’t managing the clock, but in a non-blowout we need more out of the leader of the offense.

Overall, can’t knock Flacco for much today.

Running back: B

Like Flacco, the running backs’ statistics won’t paint the whole picture. Flacco threw the ball 17 times and Terrance West and Javorius Allen carried the rock 19 and 21 times, respectively. Danny Woodhead and Michael Campanaro both had a carry for a total of 42 carries for 157 yards (3.7 AVG) and 1 TD.

West was heavily criticized for his speed during the preseason, but he looked less hesitant today and he hit his holes hard. He will be a good fit for this running scheme that Greg Roman is obviously influencing.

Allen was just okay as well. The running backs are going to go as far (literally) as the offensive line can take them. They are an average group skill-wise, but they proved when they are given holes they will take advantage of them. Hence, the average rating.

Woodhead was great and showed how dynamic he can be, but unfortunately went down with a re-injured hamstring. It’s unfortunate because he was looking like a great pass-catcher out of the backfield and even lined up in the slot for a few snaps.

Wide Receiver/Tight End: B-

This almost should be a N/A grade. With only 17 attempts to catch a ball (five of which went to a running back) we really didn’t get a good glimpse of the pass catchers.

Woodhead led the team in catches and Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman (the #2 and #3 receivers) only had one catch each. Maclin made his presence known with the score, but it’s hard to do much when you run the ball 42 times.

Nick Boyle had a solid 14-yard catch, but had a bad holding call on a big Allen gain. Overall he looked good in the H-back role and he’s going to be a bigger factor when Flacco starts airing the ball out more.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line would have earned a higher grade if it wasn’t for the penalties. Ryan Jensen committed 3 holds, but other than that was an obvious upgrade over Jeremy Zuttah.

The pass protection was impressive. Flacco was only sacked once and it seemed he held the ball a little too long, but coverage sacks happen. Overall, it looked much different than last year. Jensen and James Hurst need to earn Ravens fans’ trust and they took a good step this week by preventing pressure up the middle against guys like Pat Sims and Gino Atkins.

Run blocking improved as the game went on and that was surprising. The Ravens ran the ball almost exclusively in the second half. For example, the 17 play, 71-yard drive in the 3rd quarter that resulted in a field goal consisted of 15 running plays.

The Bengals then began stacking the box more. The line continued to get some push throughout the rest of the game, but the lack of diversity in the play calls gave them a tough task.

Next week against a solid Browns front-7 will be another good test for this unit.

Defense: A+

Yup this unit gets the A+ grade. One could argue there were a few miscommunications that Andy Dalton failed to take advantage of including a deep pass to Cody Core that flew out of bounds, but the Ravens held Cincy to just 221 yards. When they did give up yards they seemed to always get the turnover to keep the Bengals off the board. That is what you need out of your defense.

Defensive Line and Edge Rushers: A+

This unit struggled to start the game. Jeremy Hill broke off a nice 12-yard gain on the first drive where Brent Urban got completely washed out by the offensive line. However, they pulled it together throughout the game and held Cincinnati’s committee running back approach to 77 yards on 22 carries.

The pass rush was stifling. Terrell Suggs continues his push to be considered for the Hall of Fame. He finished with two sacks and a forced fumble. Tony Jefferson, Michael Pierce and Za’Darius Smith finished with sacks as well.

For once, Dean Pees took advantage of a weak offensive line and unleashed his players, who abused Dalton all day.

Linebackers: B+

If there was one sore spot in this unit it was the play of second-year man Kamalei Correa. He had a very bad first half and was replaced by Patrick Onwuasor (aka Peanut). Correa completely missed the tackle on an 8-yard first down run by Joe Mixon. However, he improved throughout the game and has a lot to prove throughout this season.

C.J. Mosley showed Ozzie Newsome why he needs to be re-signed this offseason. Mosely had 4 INT last year and he added another one today as well as 8 total tackles and a pass deflection.

Peanut had a beautiful tip on Brandon Carr‘s interception and played the pass well. Pees is going to have to use Correa and Peanut according to the situation. Peanut plays the pass well and Correa needs to develop into a run stopper.

Defensive Backs: A

Four picks should be an A+, right? Allow me to explain. The Carr and Lardarius Webb interceptions came off tipped passes, so I knocked them just a bit. However, it was purely great coverage that resulted in Jimmy Smith’s INT.

Overall, the defensive backs looked phenomenal. Jefferson showed exactly what he can provide. He played up close to the line quite a bit and played a heavy role in holding Tyler Eifert to 1 catch for 4 yards. He also led the team in tackles.

Eric Weddle was quiet today, but he kept the play in front of him and commanded the secondary as one of the leaders of this defense.

Special Teams: B

The special teams unit was solid outside of a muffed punt by Campanaro on his first return of the day. Campy actually had some solid returns, Sam Koch blasted his punts and Justin Tucker was perfect on the day.

Coaching: B-

Marty Mornhinweg’s playing calling didn’t leave me too impressed, but a 20-0 win where they obviously tried to pound the rock for half the game makes it hard to critique too much. However, it should be noted that on the one time the Ravens ran a route that used a pick it went for a 48-yard touchdown. Let’s hope he notices that and makes it more regular. With a guy like Campy in the slot, it could become a dangerous weapon.

Not even Pees could ruin this defense today. He got a little conservative on the Bengals’ 82-yard drive that result in the Mosley INT, but like I said…even he couldn’t stop the playmaking. When your unit does what his just did, again, it’s hard to be too critical, but it seems to be more individual plays and not so much great scheming.

It makes you wonder what a better DC could do for this team.

Game Ball

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It’s hard to find one player on this team that stood out. The defensive unit deserves to all be players of the game, but the game ball is going to the leader, Terrell Suggs today.

He looked rejuvenated in the pass rush and set the tone for this team.

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Cole Jackson

About Cole Jackson

Cole Jackson has been an avid follower of the Baltimore Ravens for over a decade. Born and raised in Brockville, Ontario, Canada, Cole’s love for the Ravens was born and bred in following the playing style of Ray Lewis, which he tried to emulate in his own football career, (ultimately failing to do so). Cole graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in Criminology before becoming a Policy Analyst with the federal government. Cole’s football career now involves being a columnist for RSR, yelling at others who are beating him in Madden and being a regular on the RSR forum where he is known as GreatWhiteNorthRaven. Cole has a knack for the team-building aspects of the Ravens, which includes player scouting, free agency and the draft.

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