Yannick Ngakoue Is the Pass Rusher Ravens Should Trade For
The Oct. 29 trade deadline is now less than a week away, and speculation that the Ravens will attempt to make a deal for a pass rusher continues to percolate.
“Good Morning Football’s” Peter Schrager believes the Ravens “would be really well-suited to play the Patriots if they had one more pass rusher.”
“I would go big. I would call up Jacksonville [about Yannick Ngakoue] … and say, ‘What does it take? Is it a first-round pick? Is it something like that?” Schrager said. “I would call the Rams. I would say, ‘Hey, is Michael Brockers available?’ … I would even call the L.A. Chargers and say, ‘Is Melvin Ingram available?’”
Ravens Wire’s Vasilios Nikolaou put Ngakoue at the top of his list of pass rushers the Ravens should pursue.
“Ngakoue is one of the best young players at his position and could command a huge return in draft equity for the Jaguars,” Nikolaou wrote. “Still on his rookie contract, Ngakoue would only cost about $1.1 million against Baltimore’s limited salary cap right now.”
Baltimore Beatdown’s Eric Misotti also believes Ngakoue is the player the Ravens should target. He projected the Ravens could land Ngakoue by giving up a 2020 second-round pick and 2021 fourth-round pick.
“With a projected cap hit of $1.2 million, this could be the right player at the right price deal the Ravens are seeking,” Misotti wrote. “Although he would only be a rental for the rest of the season, the Ravens would have the first crack at signing him to a long-term deal when their cap space explodes at the end of the season. Regardless, if the team truly believes they can win now, they will be acquiring one of the best young pass rushers in the league to fill a major position of need.”
Going against the grain is NFL.com’s Greg Sessler, who proposed the Ravens trade for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker, who he thinks would cost the Ravens a 2020 fourth-round pick.
“The Ravens are ripping through defenses with 200-plus ground yards per game, unleashing uber-athletic signal-caller Lamar Jackson and a flock of backs,” Sessler wrote. “With rookie deep-threat Marquise Brown in and out of the lineup, the Ravens could use another reliable wideout for those Sunday tussles that require more balance. … [The] 26-year-old Parker would give Baltimore a 6-foot-3, 216-pound asset with potential.”
Lamar Jackson Is a Challenge For Blockers, Too
Not only is Lamar Jackson’s otherworldly running ability a nightmare for opposing defenses, but it also presents a challenge for his blockers.
The latter, of course, is a good “problem” to have. Jackson may be a nightmare for defenses, but he’s a dream come true for his teammates on offense. Still, blocking for a quarterback with Jackson’s moves and speed when he takes off isn’t easy.
“Jackson is one of the shiftiest players in the NFL, and when he breaks the pocket, there’s no way of knowing what he’ll do,” NBC Sports’ Andrew Gillis wrote. “That means there’s no way of knowing what the next step is as an offensive player, either.
“As an offensive line, the Ravens' front five must make a determination once Jackson breaks the pocket on what to do. They could go downfield to try to get a step on the defense and risk an illegal man downfield penalty, or stay back and protect Jackson if he decides to set and pass the ball.”
Running back Mark Ingram II said: “Sometimes he’s scrambling, and we’re all out there like, ‘Do we block? Do we try to get open?’ You’re trying to be there for him, but he’s just doing crazy stuff.”
Guard Marshal Yanda said it just comes down to letting Jackson “do his thing.”
“That’s about the easiest way you could say it,” Yanda said. “Block them as long as we can, if he breaks the pocket and he goes, obviously try to cover him as much as we can down the field.”
Gillis wrote that the Ravens “certainly don’t want to quell what makes Jackson so special,” which was a point reiterated by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman.
“You definitely don’t want to dull that,” Roman said. “You want to let it happen naturally, let his natural talent take over.”
This week, Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris said he tells his linemen to just block until they hear the whistle and “play the play.”
“When they feel a breeze going by them, they say, ‘Hey, let’s go. We better follow that breeze,’” D’Alessandris said.
That natural talent has sparked The Ringer’s Bill Simmons to anoint Jackson as the NFL’s most fun quarterback to watch. On his podcast, Simmons also marveled at Jackson’s ability to take over a game, as he did in Sunday’s 30-16 win over the Seahawks in Seattle.
“What he was doing [against Seattle] reminded me of a basketball game when one guy is really feeling it,” Simmons said. “A really close back and forth game and then somebody’s like, ‘Oh my god, he just hit a 28-footer. Oh my god, he just went through five guys. … He was just so good they couldn’t lose.
“I’ve never seen a quarterback more in control of situations that usually when we see a quarterback in them you’re like, ‘Oh my god, this guy’s going to get killed,’ or ‘Oh my god, you should slide,’ or ‘What are you doing? Why are you taking this guy head on?’ There’s this split second where the defenders have just never seen anything like this before. Where they’re expecting to be on the attack with the QB and the QB is like, ‘Yeah, I’m actually going to decide what’s going to happen here,’ and he flips it on them.”
With Jackson’s MVP-worthy season thus far, as well as improved play by the defense the past three weeks, Simmons said the Ravens have the potential to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC. His co-host, Sal “Cousin Sal” Iacono said the Ravens are the second-best team in the conference (behind the undefeated New England Patriots, who come to Baltimore in Week 9).
Daniel Jeremiah of the “Move the Sticks” podcast said the Ravens “are a problem” for their opponents, largely due to the offense being “so difficult to prepare for because you just don’t see what they do offensively ever.” Jeremiah also noted that Jackson’s ability as a scrambler is allowing him to avoid taking big hits in addition to gaining massive amounts of yards.
“When we look at the scrambles [against Seattle], he was getting big chunks of yardage and he wasn’t taking punishment because the defense expands, there’s lots of room for him to explore without getting killed,” Jeremiah said. “He had five carries of 10-plus yards in this game, four of them were scrambles. That totaled 94 yards. That’s huge for this offense.”
Some Critics Persist in Doubting Jackson
Despite the fact that Jackson is on pace for 3,771 passing yards (which would be the sixth-most in Ravens history) to go along with a projected 1,317 rushing yards (which would shatter the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a season), there are still some sports talkers clinging to the notion that Jackson will not be successful over the long haul.
Jackson’s response has been that he wants to make the doubters eat their words, which begs the question: Are Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis and BBC Sports’ Osi Umenyiora hungry?
Travis said it’s “off-the-charts insane” that Jackson is being mentioned in the MVP conversation.
“Lamar Jackson is the latest in a line of rushing quarterbacks. If they put the word ‘rushing’ in front of you, you are not going to have a long career in the NFL,” Travis said. “I love this guy. I bet on him a lot at Louisville. I loved him in Bobby Petrino’s offense. I think he is a fun player to watch. But I’ve seen this movie before.
“Vince Young, Robert Griffin III, and Tim Tebow. Do you know what they said about those guys who were not consistently able to drop back and pass? ‘All they do is win’. All three of them came in and took the league by storm early in their career. Eventually it came back to what it always comes down to in the NFL – a third down and eight passing league when you have to process information and the defense tries to confuse you and you have to throw for a first down. Lamar Jackson can’t do it.”
Umenyiora said: “What the history of the NFL shows you is that this type of guy, if he’s not making his reads down the field, if he’s not making his one-two-three, if he’s just making one read and running down the football field, you’re going to be a good football team, but you’re never going to be a great football team. When they run into a team that takes away your ability to run, if you’re not able to sit there and read the defense accurately, you’re going to lose every time.”
Umenyiora also said that “we’ve never seen a quarterback like this win the Super Bowl.” Is it possible that’s because we’ve never seen a quarterback like this? Remember, Seahawks five-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner described Jackson as “one of one” and “special” after playing against him Sunday.
To echo a point made by Late for Work creator Sarah Ellison, based on some of the comments made by Jackson’s critics, I wonder if they’re even watching the games.
The Ravens placed three players in Pro Football Focus’ top 25 second-year players.