Eisenberg: A Homegrown WR Solution, Revisiting Draft Needs, Special Teams Symbolism

031918_Eisenberg

Scattershooting about the Ravens (i.e., some thoughts that have surfaced while I try to calculate how the roster will shake out this year in those average-age breakdowns):

That was a nice parting gift John Brown gave Chris Moore before heading off to the Buffalo Bills as a free agent signee.

In an out-of-the-blue tweet about the 2018 season, Brown wrote, “Our best receiver was Chris Moore I hope they use him big time he’s a play maker that needs to be used and his work ethic is crazy. Needs to be a starter.”

I usually try not to give too much weight to such chatter, but this struck me as a heartfelt, bona fide peek behind the curtain.

Moore, 25, only has 44 receptions in three seasons of limited offensive opportunity. But he has made some tough, acrobatic catches, and we know he has a ton of speed.

Brown’s tweet has me thinking maybe it’s time to give the homegrown player more snaps instead of going back yet again to the familiar well of “name” free agent receivers whose most productive days are behind them.

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I’m already on record in favor of using next month’s first-round draft pick to bolster the offensive line. It wouldn’t be a sexy choice, but given the offense’s ground orientation with Lamar Jackson under center, I don’t think you could turn the No. 22-overall pick into a more useful player.

Now, though, two other positions are running neck-and-neck-and-neck with the O-line in the race for most pressing need.

The departure of Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith leaves the pass rush without a major pressure-cooker other than Matthew Judon. The team is hoping Tyus Bowser and/or Tim Williams can step up, but it can’t be assumed that’ll happen. A dip into free agency seems possible, even likely, but this year’s draft class is deep in promising pass rushers. The pick could have terrific long-term implications.

Also, with another rebuild at wide receiver underway, the upside potential of taking a playmaking pass catcher at No. 22 needs no explanation.

O-line. Pass rush. Wide receiver. The race is on.

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I’m pretty sure it was strictly a coincidence the Ravens signed free agent special teams ace Justin Bethel on the same day Jerry Rosburg announced his retirement as special teams coordinator.

But even though the timing was unanticipated, there was symbolism in the conjoined moves – at least I think so.

The Ravens have relied on their special teams forever, played the field position game, asked a lot of their kickers, because their offense hasn’t always lit up the scoreboard. Rosburg, who was highly respected throughout the league, faithfully delivered units that ranked among the best.

It’s inevitable to wonder if the tradition will continue under new management (Chris Horton is taking over after being mentored by Rosburg for five years) but the Bethel signing is nothing if not an indication that the Ravens plan to continue focusing on their special teams with a commitment matched by few other organizations.

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My advice to Gus Edwards: Don’t get caught up in thinking the Ravens gave the starting job you earned in 2018 to someone else when they signed Mark Ingram II.

There are going to be plenty of touches for Ingram, Edwards AND Kenneth Dixon in the run-heavy offense, and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman has made it clear he wants to use a “stable” of backs, largely because it keeps them fresher.

Edwards should understand. He had quite a run as a downhill bulldozer once he became the No. 1 back last November, but he took a pounding and was showing signs of wear by the end of the season.

I don’t know how the load at running back will be divvied up in 2019, but there’s no doubt Edwards will still be a major contributor.

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Full disclosure (non-Ravens): The “scattershooting” start to this column is a tip of the cap to my first sportswriting hero, one William Forrest (Blackie) Sherrod of Belton, Texas.

If I use it again, and I might, just be aware that I stole it.

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Haloti Ngata locked up the “best retirement of the year” award with his Instagram post from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That literally can’t be topped. Well done, big man.

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