Late for Work 8/15: Ravens Defense Somehow Not Ranked Among NFL's Top 10 Units

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Ravens Getting Overlooked Once Again? Yup

For years, there’s been a perception among some Ravens fans that their team doesn’t get the love it deserves from the national media. Whether if it’s the amount of primetime games, or the lack of coverage the organization gets compared to others in bigger markets, Ravens fans always seem to think their team doesn’t get enough attention.

In ESPN’s first power rankings since immediately after the NFL Draft, the Ravens ranked No. 21. That’s up one spot since April.

NFL.com’s Adam Schein also played into that narrative when he didn’t include either Baltimore’s offense or defense on his lists of the league’s best units. After the defensive list was published, safety Tony Jefferson and Ravens fans took to Twitter to voice their confusion/frustration.

Though getting left off Schein’s lists obviously doesn’t matter and isn’t all that surprising for the offense considering where the unit finished last year, it’s odd on defense.

The defense led the NFL in takeaways, finished sixth in points allowed per game, and didn’t lose a single starter during the offseason.

What’s encouraging about the defense this season is that it looks like it should be improved, particularly in the edge rush department. In 2017, the Ravens finished 11th in sacks with 41. The group wreaked havoc the entire game against the Los Angeles Rams, as a plethora of players appear ready for bigger roles this season.

“Very dominant outing for several Ravens pass rushers,” Russell Street Report’s Mitchell Wolfman wrote. “Terrell Suggs, Matt Judon and Za’Darius Smith all showed off some nice moves. But the grand prize goes to Tim Williams, who used an athletic dip move and delivered a crushing strip sack.”

The secondary should also be improved for a variety of reasons, including the returns of cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young from injury, and the progress of cornerback Marlon Humphrey after a standout rookie season.

Though there’s plenty of talent at the top of the secondary’s depth chart, WNST.com’s Luke Jones believes the group’s depth is its greatest strength.

“It’s tough to recall the last time the Ravens had a cornerback sextet with this much talent as Young and Canady look like starting-caliber players and even the rookie fourth-rounder Anthony Averett has progressed this summer,” Jones wrote.

Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw thinks, “This is the recipe for the best defense in the league.”

As for the offense, it’s simply too much of an unknown entity at the moment to get hype from the national media before the season starts. That’s what happens when a team retools the majority of its wide receiving corps, and faces personnel questions along the offensive line.

For those that’ve been around the Ravens throughout training camp, which technically ended yesterday, there’s plenty of reason to think the offense is going to do well. According to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, it starts with quarterback Joe Flacco.

“Flacco looked energized and engaged and moved around better than he has in several years,” Zrebiec wrote. “He was consistent and sharp throughout the practices.”

This is very different compared to last season when Flacco was unable to participate at all in training camp due to a herniated disc.

It hasn’t just been the amount of completions between Flacco and his receivers, but the kind of passes they’re connecting on. The Ravens didn’t throw the ball downfield last season as they’ve traditionally done with Flacco under center, finishing dead last in the NFL in passing plays that went for more than 20 yards.

According to Zrebiec, it’s been a different story this year, “Unlike last year, the Ravens hit on a bunch of deep balls during training camp.”

Fans may have to settle for watching what one major national media member thinks will be a very good football team this season.

Asked by NFL Network’s Rich Eisen which team nobody’s talking about but should be, NBC Sports’ Peter King pointed to the Ravens.

Should Ravens Pursue a Trade for Khalil Mack?

One of the notable training camp holdouts this season is Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack. There’s now talk that the Raiders are seeing what they could get if they were to trade Mack.

There’s been a lot of buzz around the situation as it’s pretty rare for a three-time Pro Bowl selection and an NFL Defensive Player of the Year recipient to become available via trade.

It should be noted that the Ravens have not come up as a potential trade partner with the Raiders, but that didn’t stop Bradshaw from weighing in on if they should consider it.

“The Baltimore Ravens should also be in the conversation for acquiring the rights to Khalil Mack,” Bradshaw wrote. “The Ravens need a splashy move to take the team over the top, and Mack would do exactly that.”

Indeed, adding Mack, who is only 27, would definitely be exciting. Bradshaw believes Mack is “already a Hall of Fame talent,” that would immediately make Baltimore a serious championship contender.

“A talented secondary gets matched with a massive defensive line and a great pass rush. This opens the door for a Super Bowl window,” Bradshaw wrote.

While there’s a plethora of reasons for why going after Mack would be a good idea, there’s also a few thoughts as to why it might not be smart.

First, trading to get Mack will be costly. Bradshaw predicts it would require parting with next year’s first-round pick, as well as another desirable draft pick, and a quality player, potentially someone like cornerback Jimmy Smith.

There’s also no guarantee Mack would stay long-term in Baltimore. He’s a free agent after this season, so the Ravens would then have to sign him to a long-term deal, which Bradshaw predicts would be worth more than $20 million per year.

To make room, Bradshaw believes restructuring Brandon Williams’ contract would “be a smart move, but that seems difficult to do two straight years. Cutting veterans like Eric Weddle are also possibilities.”

Signing Mack could also potentially complicate the Ravens’ attempt to keep their own three-time Pro Bowler, C.J. Mosley, in Baltimore.

“Signing both Mack and Mosley to “one-up” style contracts would cost the Ravens close to $35 million annually, and that could easily be a best-case scenario for the team,” Bradshaw wrote. “It’s simply so hard to justify that much money into two players on defense.”

Hayden Hurst’s ‘Beast’ Approach an Asset

With so much hype surrounding rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, it’s possible to forget the Ravens first draft pick in May was tight end Hayden Hurst. Though Hurst hasn’t generated as many lines in columns, or video segments dedicated to his play on the field, he’s still making a big impact, according to Russell Street Report’s Vasilios Nikolaou.

“Hurst is on his way to becoming a dynamic player after putting together sensational performances against the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams, the latter of which he also abused in joint practices held Aug. 6-8 in Owings Mills,” Nikolaou wrote. “His blocking skills have also improved exponentially since joining the Ravens.”

Though Hurst’s play on the field will surely help Baltimore, Nikolaou believes his “fiery” demeanor will also help the Ravens. Hurst compared his approach to football to how he was as a baseball player, which he played professionally for two seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

“Baseball is more of a mental grind” Hurst said. “There’s some of that in football but it’s more physical, you gotta come out in the heat and grind it out in training camp every single day… it’s a beast.”

The “beast” was out in full force during the Ravens’ practice this past Sunday.

Though the Ravens won’t want Hurst getting into skirmishes, adding a player that won’t back down from a challenge could benefit the group, according to Ebony Bird’s Chris Schisler. Schisler believes Baltimore specifically focused on bringing in tough players because the “Ravens need something that will give them the edge,” as they attempt to get back to the postseason.

“Hurst was a struggling baseball player, who knew a career change was the only way forward. Hurst rebuilt himself through the game of football,” Schisler wrote. “Hurst has mental toughness. His determination is what got him here.”

Hurst’s drive comes from his desire to get the most out of football that he can.

“The whole point when I left baseball was that I wanted to be the best football player I could become,” Hurst said. “I have a vision of what I can become”

“The passion and maturity that Hurst brings to the Ravens is something that, in itself, has the potential to end a three-year playoff drought,” Nikolaou wrote. “His love for the game is contagious.”

Maurice Canady Rated Top Cornerback of Preseason Week 1 By Pro Football Focus

No cornerback in the NFL played better than Maurice Canady during the first week of preseason games, according to Pro Football Focus.

Canady’s performance against the Rams led to his inclusion in Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner’s Preseason Week 1 Team of the Week. He was the only player from Baltimore’s defense to be included in the group.

“Canady only spent nine snaps in coverage, but he made them count,” Renner wrote. “The third-year corner picked off a pass on his only target on the evening.”

Canady brings versatility to the Ravens’ secondary that few cornerbacks can match. He has the size and speed to play outside cornerback, but also excelled in the slot last season.

With Tavon Young expected to be the Ravens’ starting slot cornerback, Canady may be asked to play a few different positions this season.

“It’s a huge deal to me to display my versatility on a daily basis,” Canady said Sunday. “It really projects the player that I envision myself to be. I’m very excited about that.”

Quick Hits

  • As we reported Monday, 53-man roster prediction season is in full swing. Jones and Stevens each took a shot at the exercise.
  • A surprise player from the preseason was also listed for each team in ESPN’s NFL Power Rankings, with undrafted running back Gus Edwards being Baltimore’s selection. “Edwards stands out by how hard he runs with the ball.”
  • Bleacher Report also put together an NFL Power Rankings. The Ravens fared better here, ranking No. 18.

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