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Late for Work 11/24: The Case for And Against the Ravens Pursuing Phillip Lindsay

Houston Texans running back Phillip Lindsay (30) runs the ball during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, October 17, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Case for and Against the Ravens Pursuing Phillip Lindsay

The Ravens reportedly had interest in running back Phillip Lindsay before the trade deadline. With Lindsay having been released by the Houston Texans yesterday, should the Ravens attempt to claim him off waivers?

Veterans Devonta Freeman, 29, and Latavius Murray, 31, have been the Ravens' top running backs, but the 27-year-old Lindsay theoretically would bring a different speed element to the backfield.

Baltimore Beatdown’s Dustin Cox said Baltimore is a natural landing spot for Lindsay.

"Even with the emergence of Freeman, the Ravens still lack speed at the position to truly threaten defenses," Cox wrote. "Lindsay ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at Colorado's pro day. If Lindsay makes it unclaimed to Baltimore, then it would make sense for General Manager Eric DeCosta to take a chance on a young player who is only two years removed from looking like one of the best young players at his position."

Lindsay signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and went on to rush for 1,037 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns to become the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. In 2019, he ran for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 35 passes for the second straight season.

However, Lindsay missed five games last year due to knee, hip and toe injuries and finished with 502 yards rushing and a touchdown. With Houston this season, Lindsay rushed for just 130 yards and a touchdown on 50 carries (2.6 average).

Ebony Bird’s Justin Fried acknowledged that the Ravens' backfield could use an upgrade, but he said Lindsay isn't the answer.

"There's a reason he was essentially benched by Houston and then released," Fried wrote. "He's been as ineffective as any running back could be."

Cox cited Pro Football Focus' "elusive rating," which measures a running back's success independent of blocking, to provide context.

"Only one running back in the entire NFL (among qualifiers) has an elusive rating below 13.0. That player is Lindsay, whose abysmal 3.7 rating is easily the worst in the league," Fried wrote.

There's a strong possibility Lindsay will be unavailable if the Ravens do have interest in him. Twenty-eight teams would have to pass on Lindsay before the Ravens would have an opportunity to claim him.

Bleacher Report Says Marquise Brown Has Shed Bust Label (Huh?)

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox identified six players in their second or third seasons who are "shedding the bust label" in 2021. Marquise "Hollywood" Brown made the list.

"Even with the Week 11 absence, Brown is on pace for 80 receptions, 1,111 yards and nine touchdowns. Those are the sort of numbers fans would expect from the first receiver taken in the draft," Knox wrote. "Yes, an increase in Baltimore's passing frequency — Baltimore ranked 32nd in pass attempts last season and 16th through Week 10 — has played a role, but Brown is also morphing into more than a complementary deep threat."

It's nice that Knox acknowledged Brown is having a breakout season, but the notion that the speedy wide receiver was considered a bust heading into this season is off-base.

Knox contended that Brown fell into the bust category because he was the first wide receiver selected in 2019 but was not as productive in his first two seasons as some other receivers in that draft class, such as DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown.

"Being the first player off the board at a position is usually going to set the bar high," Knox wrote. "Not only are such players heavily scrutinized, but they're always going to be compared to the players at the same position drafted after them."

It's true that Metcalf and A.J. Brown had better stats than Marquise Brown, but it's not like "Hollywood" wasn't productive in the Ravens' run-heavy offense.

He tied a franchise rookie record with seven touchdowns in 2019 despite having screws in his foot as he was recovering from Lisfranc surgery. He had 58 catches for 769 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Moreover, he has 18 catches for 322 yards in three career playoff games.

"If Brown had regressed in 2021, then maybe a bust label would have been a tad more appropriate," Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher wrote in response to Knox's article. "However, with what the wide receiver was able to do in a very run-heavy Baltimore offense over his first two years plus his great 2021 season so far, Brown never deserved to have a 'bust' label in the first place, regardless of what his peers were doing."

Are Edge Rushers Being Held Back By Wink Martindale's Scheme?

With former Raven Matthew Judon of the New England Patriots among the league leaders in sacks this season and former Raven Za'Darius Smith of the Green Bay Packers among the sack leaders the previous two seasons, a narrative has emerged that Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's scheme may hold back edge rushers.

Judon is third in the league with 10.5 sacks, eclipsing his previous career-high of 9.5 sacks with the Ravens in 2019. Smith never had more than 8.5 sacks in Baltimore, but he had 13.5 and 12.5 in his first two seasons in Green Bay (he has been limited to one game this season due to a back injury). Both players left Baltimore for lucrative contracts.

The Ravens have 22 sacks this season, which ranks 19th, and Tyus Bowser's 4.5 sacks lead the team.

Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed debunked the narrative, despite what the numbers suggest.

"It's understandable for some to wonder why both players are having greater success with their new teams than they had with the one that drafted them and also question whether it was a smart decision by the Ravens to let either walk in free agency," Reed wrote. "However, just because they are putting up better numbers in terms of volume, it doesn't mean that they were any less effective or productive during their tenure as Ravens.

"According to Pro Football Focus, both players' pass rush win rate on true pass sets, which only take in straight dropbacks into account and exclude play action, RPO, and trick plays, marginally improved but didn't dramatically increase since their respective last seasons in Baltimore."

Reed noted that Martindale's scheme requires outside linebackers to do more than rush the quarterback and he rotates players regularly to keep them fresh and opposing defenses on their toes.

"Martindale covets and utilizes versatile edge defenders who possess the skill set to drop into coverage and line up inside over guards and centers in sub packages as well," Reed wrote. "Neither Smith or Judon played even 70 percent of the total defensive snaps in their last years with the Ravens but both have played 84 percent of the defensive snaps in the first season with their new teams where they have been tasked with rushing the passer and playing the edge almost exclusively."

Even though the Ravens aren't putting up huge sack numbers, they are tied for the fifth-most pressures in the league with 111 through 11 weeks and rank third in pressure rate at 28 percent, according to PFF.

Russell Street Report’s Rob Shields said that based on what the Ravens like to do on defense and taking the salary cap into consideration, letting Judon walk, signing veteran Justin Houston and re-signing Bowser were the right moves this offseason.

"Houston has a PFF grade over 75 and is getting a lot of pressures and is setting the edge well," Shields wrote. "The Ravens place a greater emphasis on stopping the run than most defenses. This is a big reason why they consistently don't get as much pressure with four guys. They just don't play that style.

"So, Judon wouldn't have that many sacks this year if the Ravens had paid him. Instead, they saved a lot of money, kept Bowser (who I think could be the better all-around player) and signed a solid vet in Houston who is playing very well for them."

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