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Glass Half Full?

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The Ravens left Philadelphia with a 30-28, nail-biting win to advance to (5-1) on the season. Yet John Harbaugh and his staff left the game with more questions than answers. Who are the Ravens? Offensively they look like a mess – a team that wants to broaden its arsenal and expand the playbook but oftentimes they can’t get out of their own way. On defense they are susceptible to giving up big plays. If not for a couple of huge drops by Eagles receivers, we might be talking about a different outcome and a markedly different long-term outlook for the Ravens.

The football gods did the Ravens a favor by rescheduling their game against the Steelers for November 1. If a team ever needed a bye to clean up their act, the 2020 Ravens are that team. Not only do they get a week of rest and an extra week to prepare, the Ravens will get the added benefit of the Steelers going on the road to Nashville to take on the formidable and physical Tennessee Titans. That’s a big advantage.

On the plus side, there’s a lot to work on and improve upon, and the feeling is the Ravens will get better. We’ve been down this road before with the Ravens. In 2000 and 2012 the Ravens started off with (5-1) records – records that looked much better than the team. Those teams went on to win the Super Bowl. We’ll see what the Ravens do moving forward. History tells us that it’s best to view the team’s glass as half full.

Calais Campbell
Photo Credit: Shawn Hubbard, Baltimore Ravens


Lamar Jackson’s legs bail the Ravens out of trouble – regularly. Sunday was no exception. In the second quarter he tucked it in and took off to convert a 3rd-and-10. Facing a 2nd-and-17 at the start of the third quarter, Jackson took off for 24 yards. Then facing a 3rd-and-3 at the 5:53 mark of the third quarter, he took off for a 37-yard TD run. LJ’s pump fakes were excellent, effectively freezing the defense to help create some running space where there was often none throughout the game. His ad lib abilities on the 7-yard dart to Nick Boyle for the game’s first score are just instinctive things that can’t be taught. That TD pass was reminiscent of point guard distribution by Philly’s own Allen Iverson…Boyle was a more frequent target of Jackson’s than normal. Boyle was 3-for-3 when targeted for 33 yards and a score. The touchdown wasn’t an easy catch…Devin Duvernay’s role is growing. He also was 3-for-3 on targets. Perhaps his role will blossom after the bye.

Pernell McPhee was active at the LOS. His play-with-your-hair-on-fire performance brought energy to the front 7. Pernell had a sack and 3 QB hits…L.J. Fort was all over the field. He’s a smart, technically sound player. Along with Matthew Judon, he stopped Carson Wentz on the potential game-tying 2-point conversion. Fort finished with 6 tackles, a few at or near the line of scrimmage and he added a nice takedown during an Eagles punt return…DeShon Elliott continues to ascend as a player. He has a nose for the football, plays with explosiveness and is now mimicking Marlon Humphrey with his ball-hawking abilities with forced fumbles. He had two on the afternoon and just missed an interception that would have driven a nail in the coffin of the Eagles’ comeback hopes at the 4:38 mark of the fourth…Marlon Humphrey had another forced fumble and a sack, a QB hit and a successfully defended pass. He made it difficult for Wentz to connect often with his favorite target, Zach ErtzJimmy Smith seems to be settling into his new role and was effective in coverage…

Justin Tucker doing Justin Tucker things. He makes 55-yard field goals look easy.

[Related Article: Ravens Report Card v. Eagles]


It’s difficult to read into the collective body language of a team and draw conclusions. However, if one was asked to crack the body language code of the Ravens yesterday, it was anything but good, beginning with Lamar. It leads to speculation, and I’ll do that here. It just seems to me that as they effort to become multi-dimensional on offense, the energy level of the reigning MVP has diminished. And the drop off appears contagious as the entire offensive unit lacks the focus that paved the way to a successful 2019. It’s hard not to walk away with the thought, “Let Lamar be Lamar.”

LJ’s mechanics have regressed dramatically. He’s not driving through his throws even with ample time to set and deliver. He’s dropping his arm often and there are just too many tipped passes which fortunately haven’t converted into easy picks for opponents. The attention to detail that marked his play in 2019 seems to have slipped. The coaches need to be in his grill to get him back on track…The running game, despite the yardage totals, is just way off. Extracting Jackson’s totals, the RB’s collectively posted 74 yards on 28 carries, 2.6 YPC. We knew that losing Marshal Yanda would not be easily masked, but the resulting O-Line is far worse than expected. Football Outsiders, the acclaimed NFL analytics site, grades the Ravens offensive front 15th in run blocking and 21st in pass blocking. That was entering the game. The tale is likely to be different after Week 6 and you have to wonder what they’d be like without the supreme athleticism of their quarterback. Could you imagine Joe Flacco behind this offensive line?

Tyre Phillips experiment at RG should be terminated. He’s just not ready…Matt Skura was tripped on one counter to the left which threw Bradley Bozeman off stride and tripped Ronnie Stanley. The result was a 1-yard loss. I couldn’t help but to think of the Three Stooges…The Ravens had 5 other running plays which went for losses…Miles Boykin and Lamar are STILL not on the same page. Lamar made the right read on a route that Boykin should have cut out to the sideline for the first down but instead, he opted for a long gallop down the left sideline. It looked a little like electric football.

Justin Ellis wasn’t much more effective than an empty 50-gallon trash can and that was against a really thin Eagles offensive line…Marcus Peters has been playing very soft. His willingness to tackle is on par with Charlie Sheen’s acceptance of celibacy. Teams are using that against him by throwing his way on screens and formations that force a corner to support the run.


At the 9:02 mark of the 3rd the Ravens faced a 3rd-and-9 from the Eagles 29. Lamar rolled right, bought some time scrambling – time that eventually ran out. Instead of throwing it away to set up a Tucker FGA, Lamar took a sack, an 11-yard loss and Sam Koch ran onto the field. That’s a rookie mistake and one that you wouldn’t expect a league MVP to make…You also wouldn’t expect such chaos from the Ravens offense. Stanley was flagged four times (2 accepted). Joe D’Alessandris unit was guilty of false starts, illegal formations and an ineligible man downfield (Boyle) that suggested the offensive line was overwhelmed by the Eagles defensive front or they were tired, or they lacked focus. Or all of the above. I’m going with the latter.

The Ravens gave up 194 yards rushing. In the second half the Eagles ran for 129 yards on just 7 carries. That’s 18.4 YPC (not a misprint)…the Ravens also gave up way too many big plays. There was the 4th-and-9 TD toss to Travis Fulgham, who got behind Humphrey and Peters. Then there was Sanders’ 74-yard run, Wentz’ 40-yard run and John Hightower’s 50-yard reception. The Eagles accepted 8 penalties against the Ravens offensive front for 55 yards. Overall the Ravens were flagged 12 times for 132 yards, 112 more penalty yards than the Eagles.

Wink Martindale’s unit entered the game as the 26th-ranked red zone defense. The Eagles were 3 for 3 in the red zone yesterday so that ugly stat is just going to get uglier…the DPI call against Peters was abysmal as was a ticky-tacky roughing the passer call against Calais Campbell.


Speaking of which…

He’s been a breath of fresh air since he arrived and he’s exhibited uncommon leadership as a newcomer. He has been for the Ravens 2020 defense what Mark Ingram was for the Ravens 2019 offense. Calais Campbell was a disruptive force on Sunday. He contributed 3 sacks, 4 QB hits and 5 total tackles. He did his very best to put the Ravens defensive front on his back to pick up the slack stemming from the absences of Derek Wolfe and Brandon Williams.

And for the most part he did just that…

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