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It was definitely a night to forget for the Baltimore Ravens offense last Thursday, but the defense had a substantially better showing against the Miami Dolphins. Once again, the scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story, as seven of the Dolphins’ 22 points were the result of a fumble return touchdown, and Miami’s only offensive touchdown came with just 2:19 left in the fourth quarter. More on that later.

The Ravens’ tackling has clearly improved coming out of their Week 8 bye. After averaging more than nine missed tackles per game in their first seven games, they’ve only missed nine in two games since. They held Miami’s Myles Gaskin to just 2.2 yards per carry and recorded a whopping 34 quarterback pressures, per Pro Football Focus. But Baltimore’s defense is still struggling with communication issues and missed assignments that result in big plays for opposing offenses.

It looks like this is pretty much the defense we will have for the rest of the season. There haven’t been any recent updates on rookie OLB Daelin Hayes, and ILB Malik Harrison will probably come back but remain in a limited role due to recent strong play from Josh Bynes and Patrick Queen. More on that later as well. Chris Westry looked solid upon his return from injury, but Derek Wolfe has been ruled out for the season, taking away a long-expected reinforcement.

As Marlon Humphrey said last week, “You are what you put on tape.” So, let’s find out what to expect from the Ravens’ defense for the rest of the season.

Big Plays = Big Problem

Giving up big plays have been a problem for the Ravens all season, but Baltimore hasn’t been beaten by many deep balls. Instead, they’ve left opposing receivers wide open and struggled to tackle after the catch. As I mentioned, tackling wasn’t an issue against Miami, but wide-open receivers were: the Ravens gave up two passes of more than 50 yards, plus another 35-yarder.

Let’s start with a first-quarter 52-yard Jacoby Brissett pass to Isaiah Ford.

Receivers do not get this open unless there is a blown coverage. Three Ravens are within ~10 yards of each other at the bottom of the screen on this play, clearly indicating that someone missed their assignment. Any NFL quarterback worth their salt is going to be able to take advantage of that, and the Ravens are lucky that Chuck Clark slowed down Ford enough for Geno Stone to make the tackle.

And then, of course, there was the fourth-quarter dagger. Clearly a miscommunication, and influenced by an identical formation and jet motion on the play before.

It could have been the responsibility of any number of players, but it shouldn’t be happening. No one even moves with Wilson as he runs along the line of scrimmage, immediately alerting Tua Tagovailoa that Wilson will probably be open. Chuck Clark definitely saved a touchdown here, but this was still a back-breaking play without which the Ravens might have won that game.

But it wasn’t all bad, and the defense is showing signs of gelling as they head into the second half of the season.

This is a smart route combination by the Dolphins that worked against the Ravens’ zone coverage, so I’ll go easy on the Ravens’ defense. Brandon Stephens did a solid DeShon Elliott impression with a big hit on Jaylen Waddle, but you’d rather not see Anthony Averett step up early in the play instead of getting back in his zone, allowing Waddle to get behind him.

Stephens is going through some growing pains in his increased responsibilities since Elliott was ruled out for the season, but it’s good to see him show off some range and lay the boom. He looked confident on this play against crossers in front of the end zone, which can be a tough concept to defend.

The Ravens have been excellent in the red zone this season and held Miami to three red zone field goals last week. This is the kind of solid, disciplined football that the Ravens need to limit big plays. They just need to find that level of play whenever their opponents have the ball, not just inside of their own 20.

This was a cute play by Miami that honestly should have gone for a lot more against a usually-overaggressive Ravens defense. Tua barely gets rid of this ball with Marlon Humphrey closing in, and the rest of the defense is decently-positioned to limit the gain. Sure, Odafe Oweh is fast, but look at Justin ‘Jelly’ Ellis rumble to make the play!

[Related Article: Ravens Repair Man]

ILBs Firing on All Cylinders (And Some Coverage Highlights feat. Marlon Humphrey)

Another week, another great performance from Josh Bynes and Patrick Queen. Queen is absolutely thriving next to Bynes, playing with more confidence than he’s ever had. Check out these reads and tackles.

He also showed of his speed on the blitz in the first play below. Also, check out a solid tackle from Chris Westry (he’s back, baby!) in the second play.

After checking out some sticky coverage in the first play below, watch Queen and Bynes combine to cause another big hit on Tua in the second play.

This pair of linebackers is a playoff-caliber unit after a huge turnaround in just a few weeks.

While Humphrey still got turned around once by Jaylen Waddle, he had a second solid game in a row against the Dolphins. Plus, he still leveled Waddle to end this play with some violence.

 

He looked great against the run, absolutely crushing a blocking WR  and combining with Odafe Oweh to make the tackle on the first play below.

And he blankets Mike Gesicki, like he did all game, in the second clip, helping the Ravens hold one of the hottest tight ends in the league to zero catches on seven targets.

Pressure Starting to Cook

Another reason for optimism about this defense is that the pass rush is rounding into form. Look at how easily Houston gets by his blocker on this play for his 100th sack!

The Ravens don’t always need a blitz to generate pressure with some very talented pass rushers on their team now. Chuck Clark and Chris Board avoid getting too aggressive and stay with their assignments, allowing Houston to do what he does best! And check out Odafe Oweh lining up on the interior; I’m curious to see how he does there in the future.

Here’s’ Oweh again, using his speed to quickly close on Brissett after Campbell clears out the Dolphins’ right guard, center and left guard to give Oweh a free lane.

But that was just the runner-up for the Calais Campbell appreciation play of the week. Here’s the winner:

Yes, I know he doesn’t demolish three blockers on this play, but look how he throws Robert Hunt, a 327-pound offensive lineman, to the ground. He just grabs and tosses him like Andre the Giant fighting a mere mortal! But that’s not enough for Campbell, who dives at the ballcarrier and finishes the play himself.

Mentioning Hunt also allows me to bring up the weirdest play of the night: his called-back touchdown. Props to Westry and Clark for the effort on the play, even though it was obviously illegal. I think everyone deserves a laugh after a loss like that, so please enjoy that play in all its slo-mo glory, with a modern classic soundtrack to boot.

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