Eric DeCosta 'Among the Most Active' During Trade Deadline
The NFL trade deadline passed last week without the Ravens making a move, but according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, it wasn't because General Manager Eric DeCosta wasn't making calls.
"…the Baltimore Ravens didn't end up making a trade leading up to last week's trade deadline. But it wasn't for lack of trying," Rapoport wrote yesterday. "In fact, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta was among the most active last week working the phones in an effort to bolster his roster, according to several executives around the league. Taking aim at a handful of positions, DeCosta tried it all."
According to Rapoport, one specific player targeted by DeCosta and the Ravens was Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard.
"Most notably, the Ravens made a run at Dolphins All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard, sources say, aiming to add a marquee player to their secondary for the second half," Rapoport wrote. "That's just one of the major deals they discussed. Yet Howard isn't a Raven now for a variety of reasons. For one, Miami wanted premium picks for a player of Howard's caliber, likely a first-rounder and more. To make that happen, Baltimore would have wanted the Dolphins to eat some of what's left of Howard's $13.785 million salary."
Rapoport also stated the Ravens' attempt to land Howard wasn't the only one to add strength to a position that lost a player due to injury.
"As for the Ravens, they looked for reinforcements in part because of their assortment of injuries early on. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, cornerback Marcus Peters and left tackle Ronnie Stanley were among the high-profile injuries," Rapoport wrote. "Baltimore explored potential deals in a few of the areas where they had injuries."
The Ravens, according to overthecap.com, have only $1.2 million in cap space remaining, so a deal would've been difficult. However, the Los Angeles Rams' deal with the Denver Broncos to acquire pass rusher Von Miller showed it is a possibility for the team trading away their talent to pay the majority of the remaining cap hit.
Sluggish Starts Still Apparent
Now onto yesterday's 34-31 overtime victory against the Minnesota Vikings …
The Ravens have made a habit of lethargic starts in their games this season and the issue continued against the Vikings. The trend has ESPN's Jamison Hensley asking, "Why does Baltimore always start so slow?"
"The Ravens found themselves in an all-too-familiar spot, trailing 24-10 early in the second half," Hensley wrote. "In half of the Ravens' games this season, Baltimore has fallen behind by double digits after halftime. A big reason has been the sluggish starts by Jackson and the Ravens."
The Ravens could have had a disastrous start as they looked to be stopped on fourth down and fumbled a pitch (recovered by the Vikings), but a horse collar tackle penalty gave Baltimore new life. The Ravens also could have had a much better start after Lamar Jackson delivered a perfect deep pass to Mark Andrews in the end zone but it went through the tight end's hands.
After the field goal, the Ravens punted on their next three drives and Jackson threw an interception on the first play of the following drive.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Are [the Ravens] flawed? They sure are. Slow starts continue to plague the offense…"
Ravenswire's Kevin Oestreicher: "The first half was abysmal for the Ravens but they somehow entered halftime only down by a touchdown as Minnesota led 17-10. They built up some solid momentum at the end of the first half, but it was all taken away on a Vikings kick return touchdown to open the second half."
CBS Sports' Jordan Dajani: "It wasn't a perfect outing for the Ravens, but they got the win and that's what matters. Lamar Jackson and Co. came out looking like they had a major bye week hangover, but they were able to rebound in the second half with three straight touchdown drives."
Press Box's Sean Gorgan: "It looked early on that the bye week offered no relief to a struggling Ravens defense. Minnesota's first two possessions went 79 and 94 yards, respectively. The Vikings took a 7-3 lead on their first possession after a blown third-down coverage by safety Chuck Clark allowed wide receiver Justin Jefferson to get behind the Ravens' secondary for a 50-yard touchdown."
And though the Ravens have struggled to begin games, their second-half adjustments are some of the best in the NFL. According to teamrankings.com, the Ravens are ninth in the NFL for most second-half points, averaging 14.2. They've also come back in three games after trailing by double digits.
"Sparkplug" Patrick Ricard Ignites Offense in Second Half
A lot has been said about the Ravens' offensive weapons this season. The front office used different methods to acquire new pass-catchers for Jackson, from signing wide receiver Sammy Watkins to spending their first 2021 draft pick on wide receiver Rashod Bateman.
But on Sunday, it was fullback Patrick Ricard who stepped up in the receiving game to "jump-start the offense," according to NFL.com's Kevin Patra.
"Of all the players to wake up a sleepy offense, few would have picked Ricard," Patra wrote. "The fullback, however, made three big catches, two for first downs, and a one-yard TD to get Baltimore within a score at halftime. Entering the fourth quarter, Ricard was tied for the team lead with 35 yards on three catches. From there, Jackson, Brown, Rashod Bateman, Mark Andrews, et al. took care of the rest."
An 11-play drive featured three receptions from Ricard, and Press Box's Grogan believes Ricard "reminded us of the weapon he can be."
"Pat Ricard has had a relatively quiet season," Grogan wrote. "He reminded us of the weapon he can be in just one drive. The 300-pound defensive lineman turned fullback entered Nov. 7 with three catches for 19 yards. In a single drive early in the third quarter, he doubled his season total for receptions and gained nearly twice that many yards. There was a 12-yarder on third-and-14 that put the Ravens in position to convert on fourth down the following play. On first down, Jackson hit Ricard for a gain of 19. Both times Ricard powered through multiple defenders to gain extra yards."
More Media Sees Lamar Jackson As An MVP Candidate
Each week, more members of the media realize that Jackson is a worthy candidate for the 2021 NFL MVP award. Among the believers is Fox Sports' Geoff Schwartz and Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer.
"The Ravens are 6-2, and they're 6-2, having survived a rash of injuries in a lot of key places, largely because of the strides that Jackson's made, and because he's not the same player he was when he lit the league on fire two years ago," Breer wrote. "He's unequivocally a better passer than he was in 2019. He has better command of Baltimore's offense. He's more capable of performing in the two-minute offense."
"…Jackson finds himself in the MVP discussion again," Breer wrote. "It's different this time, to be sure. The run game isn't the runaway freight train it was in 2019. Jackson's having to win in different ways, because the truth is that there are elements of what the Ravens have done that the league has gotten better at defending."
"Jackson's 21 carries are the third most by a quarterback in an NFL game. In 2018, Jackson set the record for most carries by a quarterback when he ran the ball 26 times against the Cincinnati Bengals," The Baltimore Sun's Ryan McFadden noted.
While most media members are coming around to the idea of Jackson becoming a two-time MVP winner, Pro Football Talk's Peter King isn't quite there. Even after Jackson's impressive game, King wouldn't change his preseason pick for MVP, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Stafford had a tough game last night in a 28-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans in which he threw back-to-back interceptions, including a pick-six.
- Next Gen stat of the day: Sunday was the Ravens' fourth win this season when having a win probability of 15% or lower at some point in the second half (also Week 2 vs. K.C., Week 3 at DET, Week 5 vs. IND).