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5 Ravens Who Need More Playing Time

J.K. Dobbins runs with the ball at practice.
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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Welcome back to the 2MD Flockers! I know it’s probably tough getting hype for Sunday’s game when the Ravens have lost two out of their last three games by a total of 10 points… and we’re about to face a 6-3 Titans team that ran through our Ravens like a body built by Taco Bell… and the IR is more crowded than Maryland’s ’10 person gathering’ mandate allows for…

But there’s still promise and plenty to be optimistic about moving forward, and who knows? Maybe the Ravens come out on top this Sunday despite the glaring holes in the starting lineup. After all, this team has been known to surprise people in recent years…

Around The League

A few noteworthy hits from around the league this week..

  1. Bruce Arians called Antonio Brown an upstanding citizen and we all shared a laugh.
  2. Taysom Hill was named starting QB over Jameis Winston in the absence of Drew Brees.
  3. Myles Garrett went on the Rona Reserve.
  4. Andy Dalton had the Ronas, and said it was brutal, but people don’t believe him because he’s back to playing on Sunday, just three weeks since the concussion he can’t remember.
  5. Greg Olsen tore something in his foot and the Ravens need to protect Luke Willson before the Seahawks snatch him off the Practice Squad and bring him back to Seattle.

About Last Week…

Look, I don’t want to talk about it as much as you don’t want to hear about it. It was probably some of the worst football I’ve seen from the Ravens this season, and whether you want to attribute that to the weather, the injuries, or the officials? That’s your call.

What I will do is try to put a slightly optimistic spin on that game: the Ravens looked dead at halftime, even worse to start the third, and suddenly? The defense and offense figured it out. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late (much like the Pittsburgh game) but given the growing list of bodies on the IR, the fact that the Ravens are still ‘in’ games like this one is promising.

Just think about it this way: the offense is missing a pair of starters, their Right Tackle moved to Left Tackle, their Center is struggling with his snaps, they’re down to one healthy Tight End, nobody in the backfield is running away with the job, the receivers are generally struggling with drops and creating space…

And yet, they still almost find a way.

Defensively, losing Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell in the middle is basically like holding the door open for opposing running backs up the gut, they cannot generate any pressure on the edge with consistency, they’ve gone through about a half dozen slot cornerbacks, Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey were banged up…

[Related: More Questions than Answers in Baltimore]

And yet, they still found a way to make big stops on the final three Patriots drives when it mattered most.

Naturally, a monsoon took over (and was gone by post-game interview time) the moment the Ravens attempted to step onto the field for a final drive in the last 60 seconds, and a victory just wasn’t in the cards.

But guess what?

Nobody cares. Work harder.

This Week

Titans @ Ravens (-6.5)

A rematch of last year’s playoff debacle doesn’t have the feel to it that I had hoped it would. I wanted high energy, high emotion, and just a raw sense of proving that last year was a true fluke…

But when your team is coming off of a loss against a truly subpar team that really just handled the Ravens for the bulk of the game on both sides of the ball?

It takes a little bit away from the excitement of the impending game.

And when your team now sits three games behind the AFC North leaders, with only seven games to go?

It eats away a little more.

Then, when you realize the Ravens are going up against a running back that gashed them for 195 yards last season (and a passing touchdown) and the Ravens’ two stars of the defensive line will be hanging out on the trainer’s table come Sunday?

You’re officially dead inside.

On the flip side, it’s not like the Titans are world beaters in their own right, having lost three of their last four games, including losses to the Bengals and Colts by 28 combined points – two teams the Ravens beat by a combined 38 points.

Let’s be honest, the fear factor in this game comes down to two things: stopping Derrick Henry & what version of the Ravens offense we’ll see.

I’ll try to quell the anxiety with this minor note: the Ravens defense was gouged last game against New England… until they found a way to stop the bleeding. The final three drives by the Patriots went for 18 plays, 52 total yards, and three punts. In terms of rushing, they had 12 carries for 15 total yards, with five plays that went for a loss.

As for the offense… I simply guess we’ll just have to see what Greg Roman means when he said the offense will ‘forge a new identity’ on Sunday…

Prediction: I’ll preface by saying that I can’t not pick the Ravens in this game. My vengeful soul will not allow for it.

Last year the Ravens did get gashed by Henry, but they also held Ryan Tannehill to 88 total passing yards. I think it’s safe to say the Ravens defense will plan on loading up the box on Sunday and forcing Tannehill to throw it around…

…but Henry will still find his way to a 4th straight 100+ yard ground game.

The return of Jimmy Smith will help a short-handed secondary, and despite Tannehill finding better success than last year’s 88 passing yards, I think the Ravens find their way into a pair of crucial interceptions in this one (Smith & Marcus Peters). The bulk of the Titans receiving yards will come at the hands of Jonnu Smith as they attack Patrick Queen, and we’ll call it… six receptions, 75 yards and a score.

Overall for the Ravens defense, they allow 20 points on the day (Smith, Henry & a pair of Field Goals) while forcing a pair of turnovers, and recording three sacks on the day (Yannick Ngakoue and Justin Madubuike get their first).

Offensively, this game for Baltimore better be all about using that speed. The loss of Nick Boyle forces Baltimore to try some new things, get uncomfortable, and as Roman said, forge a new offense.

As such, I expect plenty of movement (hopefully no more associated penalties for Illegal Shifts/Formations!) and more use of the speed of Hollywood Brown, J.K. Dobbins, and Devin Duvernay. The Ravens will work the edges with speed, head east and west consistently and try to wear down the Titans in the process.

That use of speed will be crucial, and coupled with the fact that the Titans have allowed six rushing touchdowns in their three recent losses?

I think it’ll be a J.K. kinda day.

Dobbins finally gets another shot to shine after just five carries last week, and scores for the first time since Week 1, with 80 yards on the ground on the day. Lamar Jackson will also find himself scampering into the end zone to go along with a passing touchdown to Duvernay. I don’t care about the flashy stats for LJ; this game for me is about accuracy, decision making, and using your legs at the right time.

Settling back into a rhythm that will prove valuable for the long-term good of this team.

It won’t be a high-scoring affair, and we’ll see plenty of clock-eating drives from both teams, but ultimately a Justin Tucker field goal takes this one for the Ravens.

Ravens 23 Titans 20

Best of the Rest

Week 10 of the NFL schedule is just awful for the 1pm slot with a bunch of games that I expect will be lopsided affairs (Steelers @ Jags), featuring a backup QB starting (Lions @ Panthers, Saints @ Falcons) or just flat-out boring games (Browns @ Eagles, Bengals @ WFT). I guess the Saints taking on the Falcons is fun if you’re into a 30-year-old QB ‘debuting’ as a starter and seeing if that hype train finally leaves the station (or crashes).

No worries though, because the Ravens kickoff at 1pm. The 4pm slot looks much more enticing.

  1. Fins @ Broncos. 4:05pm. Tua vs Lock should make for a high-scoring affair.
  2. Packers @ Colts. 4:25pm. Two solid teams. AFC vs NFC. Rodgers vs Rivers. I’m here for it.

As do the prime-time games.

  1. Chiefs @ Raiders. SNF. Remind me again who handed the Chiefs their lone loss? That’s right… Derek Carr did.
  2. Rams @ Bucs. MNF. I want this game to end 45-42, preferably with a Brady pick just to knock his ego down.

Rank Em!

I had a recent conversation about Derrick Henry (the same Derrick Henry that wreaked havoc on Baltimore) and how he was stifled early on in his career, being buried behind DeMarco Murray for a few seasons, then splitting touches (60-30-10) with Dion Lewis and Marcus Mariota, respectively. Likewise, there are a few Ravens who are likely suffering the same fate, but give me high hopes that they’ll soon find their way into a dominant role.

Let’s rank those guys with an awkward title.

Top-5 Buried Ravens That Are Destined To Break Out Once The Team Gets Their Heads Out Of Their Collective Asses And Lets The Player Shine

5. Tristan Colon-Castillo

This is just a personal preference, but I have high hopes for the Center out of Mizzou. The Ravens currently have Matt Skura struggling, Patrick Mekari filling in at Right Tackle, and Bradley Bozeman at Left Guard. Should a need arise at Center? TCC is going to step in and shine.

4. Ben Powers

Another OL prospect that’s been riding pine entirely too long. In limited opportunities (mostly in preseason) Powers has looked the part of a starting-caliber player, yet he’s never gotten the green light, including this year when Tyre Phillips beat him out… only to struggle mightily. Get Powers in at Guard and he’s not giving it back to Phillips.

3. Iman Marshall

He’s not buried due to trust, but injuries have been the plague this year. I pegged Biggie as the next Jimmy Smith on this defense- and he still has that potential given his physical style of play, size and frame. Once he’s healthy come 2021, he’ll find himself pushing for a role that’s well deserved.

2. Devin Duvernay

The kid is a bowling ball rolling downhill… and he’s hardly being used. Comparatively, the rest of the Ravens wideouts not named Willie Snead have been rendered useless of late, so why not give Duv more touches?

1. J.K. Dobbins

I don’t care how early it is in his career. Dobbins went for over 7 yards per carry in his limited reps through Week 6, then rumbled off 6.6 ypc over 10 quarters in Mark Ingram‘s absence… only to immediately go back to just five carries last week. #FreeJKD

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