As Kyle Hamilton Has Emerged, So Has Ravens Defense
To say that as Kyle Hamilton goes, so goes the Ravens defense is probably an overstatement, but it's undeniable that the defense's emergence as a dominant unit in recent weeks has coincided with the first-round safety's rapid development.
"Gone is the unsure-of-himself rookie who was prone to blown coverages and missed tackles," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Over the past few weeks, Hamilton has played with speed and physicality. He's performed exceptionally well in man-to-man coverage all season. That has continued. But now, he's tackling better, he's making plays close to the line of scrimmage and he's making his presence felt as a blitzer.
"Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has clearly found a role that brings out the best in the former Notre Dame standout. That's having Hamilton do a little of everything and be a chess piece of sorts. Hamilton has also helped fill the nickel spot, which has been a trouble area for the Ravens since the start of the season."
Just how good has Hamilton been? The 14th-overall pick is Pro Football Focus' highest-graded safety and highest-graded rookie defender.
Hamilton was having perhaps his best game of the season this past Sunday against the Carolina Panthers before he exited in the third quarter with a knee injury. Fortunately, X-rays showed his knee is stable.
"It wasn't long ago when there were concerns about why Hamilton was not playing a whole lot. Now, if he has to miss time, there will be questions about how the Ravens go about filling his role," Zrebiec wrote. "He's been pretty important to what Baltimore has done defensively over the past couple of weeks."
"The Ravens answered two questions — how would their top 2022 draft pick impact winning, and who would take the lead at their unsettled nickel spot? — with one personnel deployment," The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker wrote last week.
Hamilton finished with four tackles, including one for loss, and a quarterback hit in just 21 snaps Sunday.
"His physicality and instincts helped shore up problem areas for the defense, blowing up blocks on wide receiver screens and making quick, smart reads as a run defender," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Hamilton was also sticky in man-to-man coverage and sound when dropping into zone coverage."
Russell Street Report's Cole Jackson wrote: "His role has been very similar to what he did at Notre Dame and you're seeing the dividends. First and foremost, his physicality pops and sets the tone with guys like Marlon Humphrey, Roquan Smith and the entire DL."
ESPN Says Deep Passing Game Is Ravens' Most Underachieving Aspect
ESPN's NFL Nation reporters each identified one person or aspect of the team they cover that is underachieving this season. Not surprisingly, for the Ravens it's the deep passing game.
"Lamar Jackson has struggled to stretch the field, connecting on just 24.2% of his passes (8-of-23) that have traveled at least 20 yards in the air. That's the second-worst completion rate in the NFL (ahead of only Zach Wilson)," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Defenses are going to stack the box against the Ravens until Jackson can make them pay for doing so."
After the Ravens traded Marquise Brown this offseason, Rashod Bateman was being counted on to fill the void and stretch the field, but the second-year wide receiver played in just six games before going on injured reserve with a season-ending foot injury.
Devin Duvernay got off to a good start this season, catching three touchdown passes over his first two games and gaining 226 receiving yards over his first five games. However, he has just two catches on two targets for eight yards in his past two games. Head Coach John Harbaugh acknowledged earlier this week that the team needs to get Duvernay the ball more often.
Perhaps DeSean Jackson will be able give the deep passing game a boost when he's healthy. The veteran wide receiver suffered a hamstring injury in his Ravens debut in Week 9 and did not play this past Sunday. Harbaugh said Jackson is "going to be back hopefully this week."
Raiders Castoffs Demarcus Robinson, Kenyan Drake Have Boosted Ravens
Not every offseason signing makes for a splashy headline, but two under-the-radar Ravens acquisitions in August — running back Kenyan Drake and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson — have paid dividends.
Injuries to Bateman and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards have given Robinson and Drake an opportunity to step up, and the 28-year-[add]old journeymen have made the most of it.
"You've surely heard the one man's trash is another man's treasure cliche before. Well, how about Robinson and running back Kenyan Drake? Both were let go by the Las Vegas Raiders, neither even making it to the final roster cutdown stage," Zrebiec wrote. "Now, they're key players on a team that is 7-3 and leading the AFC North."
Both played key roles in Sunday's 13-3 win over the Panthers. Robinson had a career-high nine catches for 128 yards (the second-highest total of his career), and Drake's 29-yard run to the 1-yard-line midway through the fourth quarter set up the Ravens' lone touchdown.
Robinson has 16 catches for 204 yards over his past three games.
"DeMarcus Robinson has emerged as the default No. 1 wide receiver, and his career-high nine catches produced 42 yards after the catch, six first downs, and three explosive plays, per PFF," Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones wrote. "Baltimore didn't do enough to address wide receiver, but his late-summer addition was still a good one."
Drake has led the Ravens in rushing in four games this season, including 119 yards against the Giants in Week 6 and 93 yards against the Saints in Week 9. Drake's three rushing touchdowns are tied with Jackson for the team lead.