Fact: Earl Thomas Is Playing at a High Level
When things go wrong – as has been the case for the Ravens defense recently – it's human nature to look for someone to blame. All-Pro safety Earl Thomas III should not be that someone.
That's the assessment of The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer after he analyzed film of Thomas' play the past three games.
"Playing all but two defensive snaps over the Ravens' trying three-game stretch, he has covered well, tackled soundly and managed the secondary intelligently," Shaffer wrote.
After reviewing film of the Ravens' games against the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, Shaffer separated fact from fiction regarding Thomas' performance to this point in the season.
Here are some excerpts from what he concluded:
Thomas has not been exposed in coverage: "Thomas has been 'targeted' in coverage — loosely defined as defending an intended receiver or in the vicinity thereof — just five times. The results: one 34-yard completion, one interception (by cornerback Maurice Canady) and three incompletions. The Ravens had problems in their secondary throughout September, but a defensive back who allowed a 15.8 passer rating against Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield was not one of them."
Thomas is not washed up athletically: "He can still fly around the field. Tracking data proves it. Midway through the fourth quarter in Week 3, Chiefs running back Darrel Williams took a handoff, cruised through a hole at the line of scrimmage and took off down the right sideline. [Safety Tony] Jefferson had been blocked out of the play; only Thomas could stop him. According to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Williams reached 20.88 mph on the play, the fifth-fastest speed among all Week 3 ball-carriers. But Thomas, the weak-side safety, tracked him down from behind and limited a would-be touchdown to just a 41-yard carry. It was not a perfect play for Thomas, who seemed to slow just as Williams was breaking to the second level, but it was an athletic one."
Thomas is still a football savant: "He thinks fast and plays fast — so fast that some receivers just give up on plays. That seemingly happened Sunday. Midway through the second quarter, Cleveland faced third-and-3 near midfield. The call was a run-pass option, and Mayfield opted to pass. [Wide receiver Jarvis] Landry, lined up in a reduced split to Mayfield's left, ran at Canady for about 7 yards, then broke in. Thomas saw it coming from a mile away. As soon as Mayfield kept the ball on the RPO, Thomas broke from his center-field position to where he expected Landry to turn. The pass was low and thrown a little too far inside, but Landry had by then given up on the play. He likely saw Thomas charging him, full steam ahead. Landry avoided a collision; Canady got the interception."
Former Raven and Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed was at the Under Armour Performance Center yesterday to do an interview with Thomas for NFL Films. That should be really good stuff, so make sure you stay tuned. Reed also gave a speech to the entire team while he was in the house.
Ravens Will Win AFC North, Analytics Expert Says
Even though the Browns are currently ahead of the Ravens for first place in the AFC North (both teams are 2-2, but Cleveland owns the tiebreaker due to last Sunday's head-to-head win), the Ravens still have a slightly better chance of making the playoffs than the Browns, according to NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund.
Frelund gives the Ravens a 51 percent chance of making the playoffs, while the Browns are at 50 percent. The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3), who host the Ravens this Sunday, are given a 37 percent chance of qualifying for postseason play.
She projects the Ravens to win the division in large part because "they have the rare combination of leading the NFL in touchdown passes and rushing yards per game."
The key to the Ravens' season, according to Frelund, is how they fare during Weeks 7-10, which she deemed their toughest three-game stretch. She gives the Ravens a 42 percent chance of defeating the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 7; a 39 percent chance of defeating the New England Patriots at home in Week 9; and a 53 percent chance of defeating the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 10.
Using "situational data with a proven relationship with past success," Frelund separated the eight current division leaders into contenders and pretenders. She placed the Browns in the latter category.
"My model rates the Browns' O-line No. 25 so far, and their 41 penalties are the second most in the NFL," Frelund wrote. "Eight of those penalties came on special teams (tied for the most in special teams penalties), and the lack of discipline in that phase of the game only exacerbates the impact of a leaky O-line. … O-line play is a big factor in my model, so the Browns' ability to dial up and execute plays that keep them on schedule is a big key to their season."
Meanwhile, NFL Network's DeAngelo Hall and Shaun O'Hara were asked which of the 13 teams with 2-2 records is are most likely to make the playoffs. Hall chose the Browns, while O'Hara went the Ravens.
"Their offense still, I don't think the NFL's figured it out," O'Hara said. "They can't stop Lamar Jackson. I think they missed some big throws and big plays. I think their defense is going to get better. When you look at the Baltimore Ravens on defense, they're going to find a way to get some pressure and they'll find a way to create some turnovers. But I think this offense … their run game is so explosive in between the tackles as well as on the perimeter. I think that's why they're going to rattle off a couple wins here."
Despite the Ravens' 15-point loss to the Browns, The Comeback's Harrison Hamm still believes in them as contenders.
"I'd still lean toward the Ravens as the best contender [in the AFC] beyond the Chiefs and Patriots," Hamm wrote. "The defense will improve when run-stopper Brandon Williams returns (his absence helped unleash Nick Chubb)."
Five Ravens Who Have Excelled in 2019
Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens identified five Ravens players who have been "studs" through four games. Here's a look at who he selected and excerpts from what he wrote about each:
Jackson: "After four games, the only people still doubting Jackson's abilities and drive are doing so only out of pure stubbornness and hate. … Jackson still has some questions he has to answer over time like any player in the sport, but it's easy to see how he could become the face of the NFL in short order if he keeps improving like he has."
RB Mark Ingram II*:* "When considering Ingram came in significantly cheaper than Le'Veon Bell's contract this offseason and was figured to be nearing the end of his career, he's been an absolute steal for Baltimore. By any metric, Ingram has been one of the best running backs this season."
TE Mark Andrews: "Andrews has shown an ability to outrace linebackers while being more physical than safeties and cornerbacks matched up against him. He has solid hands, catching nearly everything that comes his way and he knows how to get open when quarterback Lamar Jackson extends plays. In just his second season, Andrews looks destined for greatness already."
CB Marlon Humphrey: "The secondary's issues have overshadowed what has been an All-Pro caliber season from Humphrey. He's played physical and smart football, covering upper tier wide receivers well. … Humphrey looked like he was on this pace last season and he's done absolutely nothing to disappoint in 2019."
WR Marquise Brown: "Even if the season were to end right this minute, [Brown's season] would still be among the best rookie seasons a Ravens wide receiver has had. He ranks sixth in rookie-season receiving yards, tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns and second in yards per reception among players with at least 18 receptions."
Jaguars Owner Not Planning on Trading Jalen Ramsey
The Ravens are among the teams reportedly interested in trading for Jacksonville Jaguars All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but Baltimore fans shouldn't get their hopes up.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan told the Associated Press' Mark Long he does not intend to honor Ramsey's trade request – despite the All-Pro cornerback continuing to sit out due to a variety of different issues.
"Obviously, football is a team sport and I'm sensitive to what individual insight or viewpoint or requests [there] might be," Khan said. "But we have to do the right thing for the team. ... I think right now the best thing is to have him be part of the team."
ESPN's Adam Schefter said his feeling as of now is that Ramsey will not be traded this season.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler previously reported that the Ravens, Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles had inquired about Ramsey.
- Ingram moved up two spots to No. 6 on NFL.com's Maurice Jones-Drew's running backs index
- "Hollywood" Brown is No. 4 in ESPN's rookie rankings.