Ravens Fast Five: Choosing The Optimistic Stance
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The Ravens problems can be fixed.
After a second week in a row giving up 500+ yards of offense, I’m taking the optimistic side that all is not lost. It’s only week 4 after all. Ravens fans, step back from the ledge for a few minutes.
Let’s think back to the 2012 season. The Ravens won the Super Bowl. In that season they had a game where they were flat out embarrassed by the Houston Texans, 43-13. Going into that game the Ravens were 5-1. Later in the year they crushed an inferior Raiders team, 55-20. They ended up losing three games in a row between weeks 13-15 yet won the division by winning in week 16.
Look back to last year. They crushed an inferior Bills team. Had an embarrassing loss to the Browns, one which the offense was as bad as the defense was yesterday. They lost three games in a row to end up at 4-5 before the week 10 bye. They would go on to finish 6-1 and win the division.
Anything sound familiar? So far, they have crushed an inferior Miami team. Now embarrassed by the Browns yesterday. On the verge of three game losing streak with the Steelers looming this coming week. It’s a long season. One big change can make all the difference though. In 2012 that change was Cam Cameron. In 2018 it was Lamar Jackson replacing Joe Flacco. What’s it going to be in 2019? Ponying up to trade for Jalen Ramsey? As simple as getting Jimmy Smith back sooner rather than later? Someone stepping up and becoming a leader on the defense? Let’s face it, there isn’t one. Someone elevating their game. Jaylon Ferguson is seeing more action than Tim Williams. Maybe we see Otaro Alaka activated for some MLB reps next week. The Ravens defense should try anything and everything while there is plenty of time for trial and error, and for someone to establish themselves, before the season gets away from you.
Look around the league. The NFC Champs lost a shootout…to the Bucs? The stars on that defense gave up 55 points? The Patriots are maybe a Josh Allen concussion away from being in second place in their division. On the flip side the Saints are now 2-0 in games Teddy Bridgewater starts, handing the Seahawks and Cowboys their only losses of the year.
The game works in mysterious ways. It’s a bump in the road. It was ugly, but still counts as one.
It doesn’t take a keen eye to see what took place yesterday.
The problems don’t have to be dissected by a great mind like John Madden or the great minds on a analytics staff. The Ravens defense played undisciplined. Communication breakdowns can’t happen a quarter of the way through the regular season. They lacked attention to detail. They lacked fundamentals in tackling. They were a step slower than the Browns all day. That’s attitude. That’s heart. Coaches can coach this up.
The Browns wanted it more. Period.
Coming into the game, the same talking heads that pimped the Browns all offseason, had to put the brakes on and point out that the games aren’t played on paper. “they haven’t proved anything”. Too many talking heads in Baltimore were claiming, “same old Browns” after their 1-2 start. Coaches have to and do preach “don’t listen to the noise.” The noise being the media. But if you think these guys aren’t on twitter, aren’t having NFL Network, or ESPN on in the clubhouse, you’re kidding yourself. The Browns came in with something to prove and their backs against the wall, staring down 1-3. The Ravens came in with, “eh, it’s the same old Browns.” Except for…
…One shining star.
Marlon Humphrey. Lost in the embarrassment will be the excellent game he had covering Odell Beckham. Infuriating him to the point of inducing Beckham to hit him upside the head, and Humphrey to retaliate by maybe pinning him to the ground, maybe by the neck. Maybe fines come from this. Heat of the moment, you can’t let someone hit you in the face and be okay with it. Defense needed a spark anyway. Akin to a basketball coach getting T’ed up, or a baseball manager kicking dirt on the umpire, sometimes it works. You loved it. You know you did.
This week, it doesn’t get any easier as Humphrey will have to draw the Steelers only star, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Along with that, the pressure is on for the secondary. Marlon Humphrey was great against OBJ. Now he’s got to handle JuJu and may have to follow him to the slot as he runs routes from there 62.2% of the time. James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Donte Moncrief, have all been non-factors. However, someone like Ricky Seals-Jones was supposed to be a non-factor last week. We’ll see in a few hours when the Steelers take on the Bengals if any of these things change.
The pressure is on the defense after two weeks of allowing multiple splash plays, to shut that down against a team with just one real weapon on the offense.
Don’t let Connor, Chubb you.
The Ravens absolutely must slow down RB James Conner. Connor has not yet posted a rush of more than 15 yards. His elusive rating is also among the league’s lowest at 27.2. In perspective, Gus Edwards, a legit bowling ball who runs straight and falls forward, is around a 50.0. If the defense needs a confidence boosting week to get back to fundamental tackling and rebound from the way Nick Chubb tore them apart, this is it. Make Mason Rudolph beat you through the air. Every time they give the ball to Connor we should be saying, “thanks for the negative play. On to 2nd and long… 3rd and long…”
Connor can change our outlook a little tonight, facing a Bengals defense allowing 167.8 yards on the ground per game. 31st in the NFL. They have also allowed four rushes of 20+ yards, which as noted before, Connor has none over 15, much less 20. If he doesn’t get going tonight, the Ravens can’t be the ones to allow his long-awaited breakout from his slow start to 2019.
Steelers week? Still a thing?
It has become a week that has lost it’s a luster a tiny bit. For now, at least. Not a primetime matchup on the schedule. For the first time in a long time the second game of the series will be played in week 17 when nothing might be on the line. Or, everything could be on the line and it could be flexed to 4pm. It’s usually not a gamble the league makes given that they have loved this matchup on national TV for over a decade. No Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown. No Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs. What’s Lamar Jackson, chopped liver?
Steelers are 0-3 (Monday Night Football pending) but haven’t had the easiest slate of games facing New England, Seattle, and San Francisco. Two of them are still undefeated, and the Ravens have all three on the schedule later in the season.
Steelers week? It’s still a thing. The faces are different, but the colors are the same. There is a reason the Steelers always schedule something honoring someone or wear some goofy throwback jersey during Ravens games. They need that little extra sauce. It’s only twice a year like Duke/UNC. It’s a thing.
We hate them. They hate us. They’re known for French fries ON a sandwich, which is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of, and I’m the fattest of kids. Let’s get back on track, bury the Steelers and stay above .500 at their expense. Deal?
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]