Analysts Debate Whether It's Time for Ravens to Hit the Panic Button
After the Ravens' latest frustrating loss this past Sunday, veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell said the team is not going to hit the panic button.
NFL Network analysts Michael Robinson and David Carr entered the "panic room" on "NFL Total Access" to discuss whether they think it's time to hit the panic button on the Ravens (3-3).
They agreed with Campbell that it's too early to panic, but they do believe there is cause for concern.
"First of all, you just got too much history with Coach [John] Harbaugh there. You just don't think that they're going to finish the season by giving up multiple-score leads. I just don't think you're going to have that," Robinson said. "They're one of the top rushing teams in the National Football League, and Lamar Jackson is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL. They should get their football together. But I am concerned."
Carr said: "Situationally, they have to be better, they have to be better at the end of the game. But they've had double-digit leads in every game they've played and they're running the ball like crazy. … Too many times I see Baltimore in those late-game situations, they rely so much on Lamar, it's like, hey, someone better coach him up situationally. There's just a lot that he's dealing with. Someone has got to help him there. So I'm not panicked yet, but I'm close."
Meanwhile, Russell Street Report’s Tony Lombardi looked at the big picture and contended that there are ample reasons to believe things will get better for the Ravens, largely because of the imminent return of several key players from injury.
Lombardi also pointed out that despite losing three games they should have won, the Ravens are in first place in the AFC North.
"Sunday is the start of the rest of the season — a starting place that is a tad better than the rest of the AFC North. Job No. 1 is to keep it that way," Lombardi wrote. "And the way things are beginning to shape up with the roster, the future of the 2022 season could very well be bright, despite the gloomy start."
Are the Ravens the Third-Best Team in the AFC?
The consensus is that the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs are the two best teams in the AFC. So who is the third-best?
ESPN's Bill Barnwell took an in-depth look at six plausible candidates (Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans) and three teams on the fringes of the discussion (Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots) and gave the nod to the Ravens.
"I'll go with the Ravens, who have shown the highest ceiling of any of these teams so far," Barnwell wrote. "They should be able to figure out their fourth-quarter woes to start closing out games the way they did in years past. And unlike the rest of the AFC North, their schedule is relatively manageable over the remainder of the season."
To Barnwell's point, based on how well the Ravens typically play for the first three quarters, they'll be difficult to beat if they can extinguish their late-game miscues.
"Through the first three quarters of games this season, the Ravens have generated 1.77 win probability added (WPA) on offense, defense and special teams. If the games ended after the third quarter, they would be the second-best team, trailing only the Eagles," Barnwell wrote. "In other words, John Harbaugh's team has done more to clinch its games over the first 45 minutes than either the Bills or Chiefs."
Examining Some Ravens Narratives
Russell Street Report’s Darin McCann examined some of the narratives about the Ravens and labeled each one as a "yay," "nay," or "meh." Here's a look at one example for each category:
Ronnie Stanley is back: Yay
"I say this with the full understanding that health is never a guarantee, so fingers and toes are fully crossed. But Ronnie Stanley has been really good — even with a surprise huge workload last week due to the injury to Morgan Moses. Stanley is the second-highest rated Raven on offense (behind Mark Andrews) per PFF, with a score of 77.2. And even more importantly, it just looks good out there. He appears to be moving fluidly, he has looked strong when setting for bull rushers and he appears to be his usual cerebral self in identifying blitzers and knowing when to hand off defenders."
DeSean Jackson fixes the offense: Nay
"This is not the same DeSean Jackson that once terrorized defenses, but there is still enough there to make a corner take a step back at the snap and a safety to at least steal a glance in his direction. If nothing else, that could help the run game and free up some space in the middle, where the Ravens are most effective throwing the ball. Still, Jackson has only played 24 games over the previous three seasons, and posted a combined stat line of 43 catches, 849 yards and five touchdowns. Again: Over three seasons. The bright side is he still has some wheels, averaging 19.7 yards per catch over that time period. He can help. I can see that. But he won't fix it alone."
The pass rush is a problem: Meh
"I say this because they're tied for 10th in sacks, and reinforcements should be coming at edge with Justin Houston, Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo fighting to come back from injuries. They are getting a lot of their rush from the middle right now, with Justin Madubuike and Calais Campbell, along with off-ball linebacker Patrick Queen, who is tied for the team lead with Madubuike with 2.5 sacks. If they can get more heat off the edge, and the hope is that will happen with the cavalry nearing a return, this could be a formidable pass-rush by the end of the year. And keep a close eye on rookie Travis Jones. There were days this summer when he looked like the best player on the field."
Trade Proposal Has Ravens Acquiring Roquan Smith
When Chicago Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith requested a trade in August, several media outlets named the Ravens as a prime landing spot. Now, as the Nov. 1 trade deadline approaches, the Ravens are again being linked to the two-time second-team Pro Bowler.
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox proposed the Ravens trade their 2023 first-round pick to land Smith, who currently leads the league in tackles.
"The Ravens have allowed an average of 6.3 yards per pass play and 4.5 yards per rush while surrendering an average of 23.5 points per game. At 3-3, the Ravens may need to make a move to enter the Super Bowl conversation," Knox wrote. "Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith could help all areas of the Ravens defense. This year, he's racked up 66 tackles, 40 solo stops, 1.5 sacks and an interception. He has allowed an opposing passer rating of 69.2 in coverage."
There's no question that Smith, 25, is a difference-maker. The question is whether the Ravens could afford him.
"Smith is in the final year of his rookie deal and is owed a $9.7 million base salary. The Ravens have just $2.7 million in cap space. If Ravens GM Eric DeCosta can get creative and free up some space, however, this would be a fantastic move for the Ravens," Knox wrote. "Naturally, DeCosta would want a guarantee that Smith is willing to sign a long-term deal upon arrival.
"The Bears, meanwhile, could get something in return for a player they're likely to lose in free agency anyway. Smith requested a trade in the offseason, but he reversed course and decided to bet on himself — and he is set to cash in."
DeCosta has shown a willingness to make deadline deals. He traded for cornerback Marcus Peters in 2019 and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in 2020.