HELP WANTED: Pass Rush

Lombardi's Way HELP WANTED: Pass Rush

Posted in Lombardi's Way
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A closer look at the Ravens v. Browns reveals an offensive line that struggled. Throughout the contest Lamar Jackson was under duress yet he still delivered a performance that won him another AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Lamar possesses uncommon poise in the pocket. He has great escapability and he knows it, so he hangs in the pocket longer than most, allowing plays to develop and if they don’t, he takes off, keeps his head downfield and if he sees something enticing, he has the ability to deliver the ball from a few arm angles depending upon need.

And if nothing is there, he can just take off and outrun most defenders.

That’s a dangerous weapon and it makes you wonder why 31 NFL personnel groups allowed him to slide to the 32nd pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Full disclosure, I had my doubts about Lamar – doubts harvested from the seeds of others who claimed to know better. He wouldn’t survive in the NFL with his style of play (I’m looking at you Bill Polian). He lacked accuracy and arm strength. He could never be a successful pocket passer.

Maybe the talent evaluators couldn’t see clearly, blinded by their own paradigms for the position of quarterback in the big leagues. Lamar wasn’t prototypical. He wasn’t a guy who looked like a franchise quarterback and maybe he didn’t speak like one either. But what they overlooked was his ridiculous playmaking ability, his work ethic, off the chart character and an insatiable desire to win.

I had my own biases about what an NFL quarterback should look like and sound like. And I let those biases define the player instead of allowing the player to define himself, as Lamar has. Yet I still had faith in the Ravens as talent evaluators. And if they thought he was the right pick at that spot, who was I to judge?

Many friends and visitors to this site questioned the pick and even my blind faith in it. I was willing to let it play out, to take the leap inspired solely by my belief in the vision of GM Eric DeCosta.

And today, each and every one of us is happy to say that Eric, Ozzie & Company were right!

Pass Rush

Granted, it is just one game but I expected an interior push from Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe that might make it easier for the Ravens edge rushers to get home. That didn’t happen on Sunday and despite Baker Mayfield being forced to pass often given that his team trailed throughout by a significant margin (41 drop backs), the Ravens could only muster 2 sacks. The outcome stirred up concerns about the team’s inability to get to the quarterback.

Matt Judon was very quiet. Perhaps Cleveland presents a matchup issue for Judon who has just 1 sack versus the Browns in 9 career games. Tyus Bowser had one sack and there may be some promise there but Jaylon Ferguson looked slow.

The Ravens obviously recognize the issue, otherwise why go through the creative lengths to land Jadeveon Clowney. DeCosta has a great relationship with Jaguars GM David Caldwell and they tried to make the deal happen but the league threw up a stiff arm. DeCosta also made inquiries about former Jaguar Yannick Ngakoue but things didn’t work out there either. Last season the Ravens showed interest in Shaq Barrett but in DeCosta’s mind, none of the deals past the right player, right price test.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 15: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys tries to shake a tackle by Clay Matthews #52 of the Los Angeles Rams at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Some have suggested Clay Matthews or Ziggy Ansah as potential solutions but it’s possible that DeCosta sees both as no better than what he already has. It’s also possible that the Ravens GM has his eyes set on a player that could become available via trade. There’s a reason, an unknown one at this time, why the Ravens restructured Brandon Williams’ deal to free up $3M in cap space.

Clearly they are aware of the issue. But awareness has yet to produce a solution – so far.

Crowd Noise

I get that this is an unusual season for obvious reasons, but count me among those who believe that the crowd noise produced by the networks that cover the NFL is a bit cheesy. It’s also a bit random and at times not well thought out.

While watching the Steelers at the Giants, Big Blue had the ball deep inside the Pittsburgh red zone. In between plays you could hear the chant, “DEFENSE-DEFENSE”. Great home field advantage, right? So, I inquired with the Ravens to see if what we hear on TV is the same as what the players and coaches hear in the stadium. It. Is. Not. The. Same.

Things might be a bit different for Cowboys games. A Dallas source has informed me that Jerry Jones is pushing to sell tickets to fans comprising 25% of Jerry World. That’s 30,000 fans. And that’s really an unfair homefield advantage. Go figure. We are talking about Jerry Jones, right?

ICYMI

We kicked off our inaugural Zoom Ravens Rap show which airs live each Monday at 7PM on Facebook Live at Ravens 247 and also on Resort Video Guide in Delmarva. The show is also distributed via YouTube and RSR on Tuesdays. We hope you can check it out for a fun 60 minutes.

Each week moving forward during the show’s final segment, we will invite three fans to join us via Zoom to ask a Ravens/NFL-related question on air. If you’re interested, hit me up at TL@russellstreetreport.com and we’ll be sure to share the log in details.

Cheap Shot of The Week

I enjoy Good Morning Football on NFL Network. They provide a nice collection of personalities with Kay Adams as a refreshing host, Nate Burleson serves up an insightful player’s perspective and Peter Schrager is enthusiastic and honest in his assessment of league developments although he can fall into the “fan boy” category at times, but that’s a very minor criticism.

Kyle Brandt on the other hand, is like the good-looking rich kid who hosted the high school parties at his impressive parents’ home, drove the best car, dated the prom queen and always had money in his pocket. He’s the guy everyone envied, until one day he was exposed as a fraud and his parents were busted for their involvement in a Ponzi scheme.

Brandt is the contrarian of the group. He’s the pompous know-it-all who you can’t wait to be proven wrong. That said, he may have redeemed himself for me (as if that really matters to Brandt) when he recently laid into the insufferable Baker Mayfield (although the pair probably hung out at the mall).

Final Thoughts

• It seems like decades ago when Marty Mornhinweg was the Ravens offensive coordinator. Give the always loyal John Harbaugh credit for recognizing that Greg Roman was a far better fit for Lamar Jackson than Marty ever could be. The move is an understated yet crucial one for Lamar’s development and it’s likely to land Roman a head coaching gig in 2021. For those keeping score, Mornhinweg is now a senior offensive consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles.

• Enjoy the upcoming weekend everyone as well as tonight’s game. Unfortunately, I think the Browns get the “W” tonight in Cleveland who will host roughly 6700 fans. Make it Browns 27-17.

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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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