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Judon’s Hat Trick Seals the Deal

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Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard
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Hello again, Ravens fans. It’s been awhile. I know I’ve been sporadic in my writing, so I’d like to begin with an apology, and an excuse. That was the apology…here’s the excuse. I had a death in the family – my kitten, Tyrant, who was really more of a puppy, especially with how loyal and loving he was, died recently. He was the runt, and after $1,200 and a long weekend in kitty ICU, he didn’t make it. I’ve been a wreck ever since, but now I’m back!

The Lamar-led Baltimore Ravens are 2-0, and that means another iteration of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

The Good!

Coaching adjustments! What a sight for sore eyes. In the first half, 20 out of 29 offensive snaps were pass plays, and it wasn’t pretty. Lamar Jackson threw two interceptions, and the offense struggled to move the ball. Even if it was the players speaking up at halftime, the Ravens came back out, and looked like an entirely different team on offense, with Gus Edwards and Jackson running for a combined 189 yards on 34 carries. Even Ty Montgomery got in on the fun, averaging 6.3YPC en route to 51 yards of his own. It’s not often that a Ravens fan can be happy about coaching adjustments, offensively. In this case, rejoice.

Gus Edwards runs against Oakland.
Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

Run game! As I literally just mentioned, the Ravens had a combined 242 (I obviously didn’t include Buck Allen in the first equation) yards, and an LJ score on the ground. While most people want to credit Lamar for the run game, Edwards and the offensive line deserve a lot of the credit. The OL seems to be more capable of Power blocking than it was in Zone, and Gus the Bus seems to be a more complementary runner to LJ’s style than Alex Collins would have been. Whatever the reason, the ground game seems to have found its footing (pun intended) in Baltimore, and this team is the better for it.

Cyrus Jones evades Raiders tacklers.
Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

D/ST playmaking! Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the defense was lights out – it wasn’t. I’m not going to tell you that special teams was incredible – it wasn’t. What I am going to say, is that, in a game where the offense looked anemic in the first half, the D/ST stepped up in a big way. Cyrus Jones had his ‘welcome home’ moment, with a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown, which injected life into the team, and the stadium. Matthew Judon decided to awaken, notching a forced fumble, which Terrell Suggs’ old ass promptly…no, wait, that’s not right…slowly returned for a defensive score. All-in-all, it was a nice change from the lack of forced turnovers and shoddy special teams play that has been so prevalent this season.

Offensive line! I’m very excited about this. The offensive line played well in both aspects of the game, but since we already mentioned the run game, let’s focus on the pass protection. Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown, Jr. both had good days securing the edge, and Marshal Yanda seemed to get out of the ‘funk’ he was in, to have an impressive game. (Don’t touch him, though. You won’t like him when he’s angry.) Lamar Jackson had ample time on the majority of throws, though the OL did seem to lose his place in the pocket from time to time.

Now onto the not-so-great stuff.

The Bad.

C.J. Mosley. But he led the team in tackles. That’s what one or more of you will say to me. I guarantee it. I’m also expecting ‘CJ is the best defensive player we have, pay the man, you’re just a hater’.. Or something similar.

[Related: C.J. Mosley Worth a Big Money Deal?]

News flash. He isn’t the best defensive player the Ravens have (hi Marlon). He may not even be top 3, at this point.

Stats lie. Get used to it. Mosley made a few tackles after getting beaten in coverage (weird, right?) or after decent runs. I know he is a fan favorite, but it’s time to accept that he’s just above average, not great – sometimes not even good.

Coaching. I know, I know. I just praised them. For adjusting. That doesn’t excuse that they came out of the gate with a pass-first game plan, against one of the league’s worst run defenses, with a QB that is erratic when throwing (undeveloped, not a shot at LJ, calm down). Long has this coaching staff tried to get too ‘cutesy’ when it didn’t need to, and this time, as so often in the past, it made the game harder than it needed to be.

Receivers. John Brown dropped a ball, albeit one that was low and behind. Then he dropped another. Michael Crabtree only caught 50% of the balls thrown his way. Those two earned a spot in the ‘bad’ category on their own.

Is it fair to include Willie Snead and Chris Moore here? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway, through no fault of their own. I have no idea why they were not used. Snead played 70% of the snaps, and got targeted… checks notes… zero times. Yep. Moore? Targeted once. Caught the one target…for one yard.

I mean, come on. If this was by design, the coaching staff is seriously bad. Mark Andrews should not be the leading receiver, especially with just one catch.

Lamar Jackson rolls out to pass.
Baltimore Ravens/Shawn Hubbard

Lamar Jackson (through the air). Boy, I can’t wait to read the comments. Look, Ravens Flock. I’m not denying that LJ is a phenomenal athlete, and that he has a high ceiling. I think he will improve. However. He was not good through the air yesterday, which is why the coaches adjusted.

He had a 56% completion percentage, and two interceptions against one touchdown. He was 14-of-25 for 178 yards, good for a 58.4 passer rating. He also fumbled for the fourth time this season (something Alex Collins got absolutely lambasted for.)

Bottom line, Lamar has to improve through the air, especially when going up against better defenses, or even high-powered offenses. I do not feel secure in his ability to play come-from-behind football as of right now.

Now for the truly bad.

The Ugly.

The Ravens still can’t cover the middle of the field. Nobody should be shocked by this, at this point. It’s not just Mosley. It’s also shoddy play from Tony Jefferson. It’s the lack of commitment to Kenny Young, even though that’s what he was drafted for. It’s bad scheming. Lee Smith and Jared Cook, had they been used more over the middle, could’ve done some real damage, with each of them over 15 yards per reception, by a decent margin (Smith was close to 20YPR).

And now, I introduce to you…

The Chloe Bennett!

I haven’t cleared this with Mr. Lombardi, but I think we can all agree that 2018 Chloe Bennett is far more attractive than 2018 Megan Fox. So until he nixes this idea, I’m rolling with it. (Derek is gonna have to change the site, methinks.)

Whatever. It plays. We’ll see how it goes. Anyway, the best player on the team, this week, was easily Matt Judon.

Five tackles. A forced fumble. Consistent pressure, right up until he had back-to-back-to-back sacks on Derek Carr. Why is that so impressive? Maybe because no player in the league had done it since 2002, and only one other has done it since 1982.

Maybe because the Ravens sack numbers were dreadful over the last few games. Maybe because the Ravens hadn’t forced a turnover since before Red Dead Redemption 2 was released.

Whatever the reason, Judon ran into that tunnel, and right back into our hearts.

It’s good to be back, folks. Neutral Zone Infraction (now hosted by The Fanimal) returns this week as well, so look out for that!

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