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Campbell Remains Key to Ravens Pass Rush

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If you had any reservations about the impact that defensive tackle Calais Campbell has for the defense and the pass rush specifically, his return against the New York Giants should tell you everything. The big man only played 20 snaps against the G-Men, purely on obvious passing downs. However, in those 20 snaps, I charted that the defense recorded three sacks and several incompletions. Campbell himself came close to registering half a sack but ended up freeing linebacker Chris Board instead for the full sack.

In a sequence in which the Giants were down by 14 in the fourth quarter and got the ball back with a chance to cut the lead even further, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale made sure Campell was on the field when it mattered most. The Giants promptly went four and out.

But easily the most awesome sight of Campbell’s devastation came earlier, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when he was on the field for Baltimore’s three-straight-sack barrage (of course the sequence was squandered because of a Justice Hill roughing the punter penalty). As mentioned, Board’s sack came on a stunt in which Campbell occupied blockers to clear a path.

Campbell’s pass-rush versatility was one of the prime benefits the Ravens valued when they acquired him for a fifth-round pick. That versatility was on full display on Sunday. In a first-quarter red zone sub package in which Wink rushed three (flanked by Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon), Calais lined up over the center, on the nose. He also lined up at the three technique and we already know he can line up as a five technique as well. 

What I like about Campell’s limited usage is that Wink was able to rotate his other linemen and get everyone involved while keeping the veteran fresh. Moreover, he used Campbell primarily on obvious pass-rushing downs. That probably won’t be the case going forward, but he at least got a sample size of the results of keeping Campbell locked into that role to enable the front rush on a controlled amount of snaps. The former Jaguar is an imposing facilitator who can eat up blocks to set up his teammates. 

Overall, the Ravens sacked quarterback Daniel Jones six times with five different defenders. Granted, New York stinks in pass protection. But the formula was still promising heading into a postseason run. You have to also like that the “big three” of Campbell, Judon, and Yannick each had a pass-rush impact. This is what the front office must have envisioned when they traded for both Campbell and Yannick.

But one thing is clear: the potential of an effective four-man pass rush begins with Campbell. When he’s on the field and healthy, he’s the firestarter. 

Wheels in Motion

Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the progression of rookie J.K. Dobbins in Greg Roman’s offense has been an awesome sight. Yesterday may have been the most fun showcase to chart. Oftentimes he lined up in the slot as a receiver, motioned across the formation, and would either come into the backfield all the way or take a handoff from Lamar Jackson on a sweep. Roman had the Giants outflanked with these designs. Not only does the motion put the defense in a bind to match up with the right personnel to either side of the field, it also enables Roman to collect certain defensive tendencies and overall intel throughout the game. 

The area that Roman attacked the most was off tackle, and he utilized both Dobbins and Gus Edwards to do so. The perimeter has been a larger strike zone in general since Mark Ingram has been phased out of the offense. Dobbins ripped off a 25-yard sweep on the strong side of the formation behind pullers in the third quarter. This was easily one of the most successful first-down plays the offense has produced all season. 

Dobbins’ influence, especially as a deployable chess piece who can move all over the formation, is paying major dividends. He has the speed to turn the corner and the defense has to honor that. But they also have to honor his ability as a pass catcher who can split out against linebackers.

Roman is playing his own version of The Queen’s Gambit…

Other Notes

— Speaking of first-down run production, Dobbins and Edwards were cooking against a stout Giants’ stout run defense. On the first drive of the game alone, Dobbins and Edwards gained four and five yards consistently. It’s the type of efficiency that’s been missing on first down runs all season. Again, coming into the game, the Giants had a top 10 ranked run D. They’re especially tough to move in the middle, but the Baltimore offensive line was able to get it done consistently. 

Malik Harrison is going to be a good player in this league. We’ve already seen plenty of glimpses, especially when it comes to his physical prowess to take on blocks and wrap up ball carriers. His tape is impressive. But yesterday wasn’t one of those days. There were at least two instances in which New York RBs Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris ran right through him and shoved him backwards. It looked like Harrison came in too high and lost the leverage battle. It’s a good teaching opportunity for the rookie backer. 

— As the Ravens have now regained “control of their destiny” to get into the playoffs, this offense is humming at the right time. The ground game just embarrassed a quality defense by gaining nearly 250 yards without breaking a sweat. While there is certainly reasonable cause to have fears that this ground game could be limited as it was in the playoffs the past two seasons, it looks like Roman has figured out the right formula with his offensive line, backs, and play design. And then there’s that guy Jackson who is running the ball more than he did earlier in the season. This combination is even more lethal than last year with a hobbled Ingram. Now Jackson isn’t the only guy who can kill defenses on the perimeter. Dobbins and Edwards are just as capable. This attack can stretch defenses horizontally and still bludgeon them in-between the tackles, as we saw yesterday.

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