RAVENS MAILBAG: Ngakoue Coming Home?

Lombardi's Way RAVENS MAILBAG: Ngakoue Coming Home?

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Ravens Mailbag: AKA Letters to TL

Ravens mailbag

If Marcus Peters is so good, why did a team like the Rams, who have struggled on defense and are still in the mix for a playoff berth, give up on him? Joe S, Kingsville, MD

Peters is an unrestricted free agent in 2020. The Rams knew that they were in the mix for Jalen Ramsey and with an offer like theirs (2020 1st-round, 2021 1st-round, 2021 4th-round) they probably knew they were the favorites.

Peters was well-liked by the Rams organization and his teammates but they were not going to re-sign the talented corner in 2020 so why not send him to a good organization with a chance to compete for a playoff spot and get something in return? Players and their agents remember these kinds of things.

The Rams are a team that is hell-bent on winning now. They move into their $5 billion stadium next season and they will want to fill it. They need some momentum and they’re feeling pressure. Maybe Ramsey brings some relief. But that organization is in trouble. They are mortgaging their future by stripping away its foundation – young talent, the byproduct of draft picks. Plus, the Rams will have four players who collectively will eat up close to $100M of their 2020 cap and they only have 34 players under contract next season. That’s a top heavy roster counting on their stars to perform with a thin support group.

In the future they’ll have to pay Cooper Kupp and they still have to open their vaults to Ramsey whose agent can now hold the Rams for ransom after selling the farm to get him.

Sorry for the long-winded answer, but in the end, the Rams upgraded some at corner and got a little something in return for a guy who would leave in 2020 anyway. And that’s why he’s a Raven today. Kudos to Eric DeCosta for sniffing out the Rams’ vulnerability.

It’s great to add a solid corner in the form of Marcus Peters but the Ravens still lack a pass rush. Will Peters even make a difference? Charles M. from Elkton

The Ravens pass rush is a concern but with Peters’ cover skills coupled with those of Marlon Humphrey, plus Earl Thomas’ range as a centerfielder, it should afford Don “Wink” Martindale with a few luxuries that he can parlay into exotic blitz packages. Unless the Ravens add a pass rusher, that’s what Wink will be forced to do, assuming Tyus Bowser and/or Jaylon Ferguson don’t improve as the season progresses.

Also keep in mind that the Ravens have limited cap space ($2M). That would preclude them from trading for any significant edge rusher however, as mentioned in a piece I posted earlier this week, there is one player who could be available via trade who would fit a need AND fit into the Ravens available cap space. His name – the Jaguars’ Yannick Ngakoue. The former Terp, if acquired after Sunday (he would serve little purpose this week), would count $1.2M against the Ravens 2019 cap.

Of course, it takes two to tango and it remains to be seen if the Ravens have what it takes to lure Ngakoue away from the Jags. The 2016, 69th overall pick will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

Another option may be to find an interior pass rusher to collapse the pocket and help the team’s edge guys get home. The Ravens were all-in on Gerald McCoy prior to the season so they may have had an inkling then, that opposing QB’s might be able to climb the pocket rather easily. They picked up Jahid Ward off the street. Time will tell if he helps there, but if the Ravens struggles while rushing Andy Dalton given his depleted offensive front is an indicator, Ward is not the answer.

If DeCosta asked me, I’d focus on Ngakoue and offer the Jags a 2020 4th at the trading deadline and then cut loose Justin Bethel to potentially pick up a 5th round comp pick. Is a 4th enough for Ngakoue? Maybe. Maybe not. But DeCosta is patient and will let it play out to see who blinks first, unlike Rams GM Les Snead.

Do you think that the Ravens can hang on and win the AFC North this season? Kevin B. from Jarrettsville

As you know the Ravens currently have a two-game cushion in the AFCN but on Sunday they begin a tough stretch in their schedule. Looking ahead, I can see them finishing (9-7), maybe even (10-6) if the defense begins to gel. That said, there’s a chance that they could finish at (8-8) but even then, I think it’s still enough to take the division. Here’s why…

The Browns will lose their next 3 against the @Patriots, @Broncos and Bills. They will split with the Steelers, beat the Dolphins, Cardinals and Bengals twice and they’ll lose to the Ravens on 12/22. They will finish with a (7-9) record and they might not get there if the Browns offensive line’s inadequacies continue. I doubt that Mayfield can hold up.

The Steelers will finish in the (6-10) to (7-9) range. Their defense should keep them in most games if Mason Rudolph protects the football. However, losing Stephon Tuitt for the season was a big blow to their cause. The Dolphins will quietly enjoy Pittsburgh’s misery.

As for the Bengals, they’ll be featured in the NFL’s Toilet Bowl on December 22nd. On that day two (0-14) teams will clash in a game that no one wants to win but unfortunately for Cincinnati, they’ll bungle away a chance at the number 1 pick by winning the game.

Ravens mailbag

Do you think that Bradley Bozeman will hold on to the starting left guard spot? Richie G, Churchville, MD

Bozeman is the offensive line’s weakest link. I think he’s a step slow and gets beat to the punch in his one-on-one matchups too often. He’s better when pulling or scraping down in a play that features zone blocking, but his feet aren’t quick and I think that’s why you see the false starts too often from him. He’s trying to jump the count and the anxiousness leads to 1st and 15. His starter’s status is on thin ice.

It’s interesting that the Ravens don’t give that job to James Hurst. Most will remember Hurst as a player who struggles at either tackle position but when he was given the left guard job in 2017, he seemed to find himself there and performed well. Maybe the Ravens are just enamored with Hurst’s versatility and they don’t want to lose a serviceable guy off the bench who can play four positions across the offensive front.

After Hurst, there’s Patrick Mekari and rookie Ben Powers. Both must smell blood in the water.

One might get his chance soon.

Are you at all concerned about Lamar Jackson’s running or about his weaknesses as a pocket passer? Do you think that he’s the future? Earl J. in Baltimore

Lamar Jackson is a superior athlete and the Ravens have done a great job of shaping an offense around him to maximize his talents. They aren’t there yet but the progress is noticeable.

I get that you ideally don’t want your quarterback to run the ball 19 times but Lamar is different. Besides his speed, he has uncommon change of direction skills and can stop on a dime to allow would-be tacklers to wash by. And it’s those COD skills that help prevent injuries. I do prefer the boundary plays when there are designed runs because the perimeter offers a protective friend – the sideline. Those running plays inside the tackles concern me. I’d like to see those less frequently.

As for Lamar’s ability as a pocket passer, I don’t see why so many want to shape him into one. Enable his skills, don’t suppress them. His speed and escapability spreads the field and that opens up passing lanes that might not be there for the statuesque pocket passer. He could and should do both and I think we’re seeing that in 2019.

Is Lamar the future? It’s still too soon to tell and the Ravens really don’t have to make that call for another year, maybe two. The team controls him for another three seasons. That said, if his progress from year 1 to year 2 is indicative of the growth Lamar will experience moving forward, then yes, he absolutely is the future.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Report and Armchair Quarterback both seen and heard on Fanimal Radio. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi
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