Are you feeling the effects of the bye week blues? Yeah, me too, but that’s okay because Dr. Jackson is going to take this opportunity to do a check up on the Ravens performance up to the bye week.
If I had told you prior to the season that the Ravens offense would rank:
— 2nd in total offense (yards per game)
— 1st in rushing offense (by 30 yards per game over second place)
— 2nd in points per game
You’d probably be a little shocked. To be fair, you’d buy the rushing offense because this was a well-known strength going into the season, but Lamar Jackson’s passing has improved and has strengthened the offenseinto a more complete unit.
Let’s break it down.
Jackson on Jackson: A-
Is Lamar Jackson’s arm improved? Yes.
Is Lamar Jackson’s arm a finished product? No.
Lamar is a 22-year-old sophomore who still hasn’t completed a full season (he now has 15 starts in the NFL). His passing has been average thus far, but what he has done with his legs is truly what makes him special. If he can continue to be an average passer this year, while using his legs the way he has, he’s going to become even more dangerous.
It seems every week we hear about a new record that Jackson has set. He is currently 6th in the NFL in rushing yards and has a whopping 6.9 yards per carry. What’s even crazier about his average is when you adjust his rushing attempts to take out QB kneels, which shouldn’t count as a rushing attempt (running backs don’t have those, folks) it’s even more impressive.
83 for 576 (6.94)
Take away 10 kneels for -10:
73 for 586 (8.03).
He also gets a 0 yard carry for the snap that hit Andrews:
72 for 586 (8.14)
23 for 255 (11.09) [scrambles]
49 for 331 (6.76) [designed runs]
— KingMoose (@Yoshi2052) October 23, 2019
Not impressed? Just consider this gem:
If that’s not enough for you out of LJ at this point, I’m not sure what to tell you. We just witnessed Jackson completely take over the game in a win against the Seattle Seahawks in their own barn and out-Russell-Wilson Russell Wilson himself, so yeah I’d say that’s worthy of an A- grade.
Running back: A-
I’ve been asking for the three-headed monster attack since the Ravens signed Mark Ingram and drafted Justice Hill. Unfortunately, that hasn’t materialized, but this group has worked together to provide a trio of complementary skillsets. Ingram brings the all-around #1 RB skillset, Gus Edwards adds the smash-that-hole mentality, and Hill brings the wiggle.
Jackson has been a huge catalyst of this rushing attack, but these three deserve a ton of credit for running hard and finding the end zone (Mark Ingram is tied for second in the league for most rushing TDs). Expect a lot more strong rushing games after the bye.
Wide Receiver: C+
The Ravens are certainly missing the high flying skillset of Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. Brown came out of the gates guns blazing, but unfortunately is now nursing an injury. Luckily, John Harbaugh indicated that Brown should return after the bye against the New England Patriots.
Brown’s effectiveness was limited in the weeks before his injury and the WR targets in general have been quite low, which leads to the average grade. It’s not necessarily on the wide receivers, as they haven’t had a lot of opportunities. Luckily we’ve seen flashes from rookies Brown and Miles Boykin, as well as some veteran contributions from Willie Snead and Seth Roberts.
A key to getting this offensive passing attack really going is going to be using these weapons at WR and getting them more involved in the passing attack, particularly down the field.
Tight End: A
Make no mistake, the Ravens boast the best trio of TEs in the league. Similar to the running backs, there’s a complementary skillset that allows all three to be in the game at any given time. The athleticism of Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst allow them to be split out in the slot, which has allowed the Ravens to use 12 personnel in empty backfields to spread out the defense and create mismatches. The blocking of Nick Boyle has been outstanding and he basically acts as a 6th offensive lineman who can get out in the flats and make catches.
It doesn’t hurt that there’s many weeks where Andrews is the Ravens best offensive skill player. The drops against the Seahawks are the outlier and he’s still an absolute animal.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive tackle combination of Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. has evolved into one of the better ones in the NFL. Stanley is playing at an elite level for a LT, and despite a rough start to the season, Brown Jr. has rebounded with some stellar performances.
Bradley Bozeman and Matt Skura continue to be up and down, but they’re far from being a liability in the interior. Marshal Yanda continues to prove that age is just a number with elite play. If Bozeman and Skura can continue average starter-level play, which will include some bumps here and there, the Ravens will continue to produce with a strong offensive line.
This is a top 10 offensive line in the NFL, mostly because of the high level of play from Stanley, Brown and Yanda.
This is a tough grade. If it was grading the start of the season it’d be in the low C to D range. However, the defense has rebounded with some stability in the secondary provided by Chuck Clark and the additions of L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes to the linebacker group.
Overall though, I have to lean towards recent performances, as I believe that is what we should expect coming out of the bye, and that’s what bumps the grade up to a B-.
Defensive Line: B-
The combination of Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce are major reasons why the Ravens feature the 3rd best rushing defense (based on yards per game). When Williams is out it’s very noticeable and he has justified his value as of late. The Ravens are going to have a very hard time holding onto Pierce this offseason.
The pass rush continues to be the major question mark of this defense and is the reason for the lower grade, relative to the strong run defense. Many Raven fans are waiting for a trade for a pass rusher, and while I’d love to see one added, I’m not sure a difference-maker is in the cards as the asking price for former Maryland Terrapin, Yannick Ngakoue, is likely too high. The Ravens are relying on the blitz again this year to get pressure.
The good news? The Ravens used that approach last year and boasted the #1 defense in the NFL. With the stability in the secondary, a little more juice from Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson could lead to some better pass rushing results.
Again, this is a tough grade with the transition at the inside linebacker position. Patrick Onwuasor has been hurt, Kenny Young was traded and Chris Board is riding the pine. This would normally be a scary situation, but the additions of Fort and Bynes have been game changers for the middle of the field.
Fort and Bynes have shown significantly better awareness to cover their gaps in the run game, and while they aren’t the greatest athletes, they do show a better understanding of where they need to be in coverage. Getting Peanut back, and allowing him to move back to WILL LB, will only help this group, as he can be free to cover the flats and rush the quarterback, which he excelled at last year. Sunny days ahead for this group, and again the grade is bumped because of how significant the contributions of the recent additions have been.
Defensive Backs: B-
Marcus Peters made his debut with an absolute bang by allowing one catch for eight yards and taking Russell Wilson’s first pick of the year to the house. Marlon Humphrey has solidified himself as one of the top corners in the entire NFL. Combine that addition with the fact that Jimmy Smith should be returning soon and there’s plenty of reasons to be excited.
It hasn’t been easy though. The DB group was a strength going into the season, but the Smith injury and the injury to Tavon Young caused a very rough start to the season. Tony Jefferson was also lost for the season, but to be honest Chuck Clark has been an upgrade and looks a lot better in coverage than Jefferson did.
Whether that’s because the Ravens sorted out their communication or because Clark fits the role better, it’s hard to say, but what matters is this group is starting to click.
Special Teams – A
Justin Tucker is great.
Sam Koch is great.
The Ravens did allow the Bengals to score a kick-off return for a touchdown though, so that takes the + off the A for this grade.
This won’t surprise you, but it has to be Lamar Jackson. He put the team on his back against the Seahawks, which may be one of the biggest regular season wins in the John Harbaugh era. He’s a gamer, who will continue to get better. The Ravens are in good hands.
The General Manager: A+
Eric DeCosta has been a great story of this Ravens season. In his first offseason as GM he put together a very strong roster. They hit some bumps in the road, and EDC has adjusted accordingly with the key additions of Peters, Fort and Bynes.
Add to it that he got a 5th round pick for a kicker who isn’t in the league anymore, and flipped unused assets in Alex Lewis (though he is now playing for the Jets) and Jermaine Eluemunor, it’s just gravy. Again, the Ravens are in good hands with EDC at the helm.
And look at this…was EDC up in some box staying warm on Sunday in Seattle? Hell no! He was on the field with his team!
(0:41 mark here)
How can you not love this guy?
The Coaching: B+
John Harbaugh faced some early criticism for his approach in the Kansas City game. He was then praised for his aggressiveness against the Seahawks last week. He also provided the sound bite of the year with his interaction with Lamar Jackson during the 4th and 2 decision.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 21, 2019
Despite the criticism, Harbaugh continues to field competitive football teams and bounced back from the Cleveland Browns loss with an absolute statement against the Seahawks.
Greg Roman has really catered the offense to the strengths of the team by focusing on running the ball and implementing a strong west coast offense passing attack. When the Ravens stay true to who they are, they’ve done very well on offense and the scheme is a large reason why.
Don ‘Wink’ Martindale has rebounded very well. His scheme appears similar to last year, but it really required certain skillsets to make it work. With stability in the second and third level, it looks like the Ravens are back there.