Mink: After Sunday's game, Bengals safety Jessie Bates III was pretty frank in saying the Bengals knew and planned for Lamar Jackson to go to either Marquise "Hollywood" Brown or Mark Andrews. "That's all he was really throwing to, was '15' or '89.'"
Now, it's of course not uncommon for quarterbacks to have primary targets. And it's not like some secret has been revealed. Andrews led the Ravens in targets, receiving yards and touchdowns last season. He was a Pro Bowler. Brown is clearly the Ravens' top receiver and a 2019 first-round pick. They're not sneaking up on anyone. Even though Bates planned on Jackson throwing to them a lot, the Ravens' two offensive touchdowns against the Bengals were scored by, you guessed it, Andrews and Brown. So opponents still have to stop it, and that's not an easy feat.
With that said, the Ravens would certainly benefit from a third pass-catcher emerging from the pack. Miles Boykin has not yet taken the Year 2 step forward in terms of reception production, though Head Coach John Harbaugh said he's happy with how Boykin is doing the less glamorous parts of the job. Willie Snead IV has been his reliable self, catching 10 passes for 117 yards on 13 targets.
I like the idea of Duvernay getting more balls thrown his way. The youngster has done nothing but impress when given an opportunity, both on offense and special teams. He has seven catches on nine targets for 59 yards, and looked explosive yet again on his 42-yard end around run to start Sunday's game. Baltimore could use another big-play receiver to complement Brown. That's something they've been lacking for much of the season and hitting some long balls would help open everything else.
Downing: Jackson missed two days of practice last week – Wednesday for a knee issue and Thursday for a stomach bug. When he returned Friday, both Jackson and Head Coach John Harbaugh said that the quarterback was 100 percent. After Sunday's game against Cincinnati, Jackson said that the knee "didn't really affect me at all," and that he expected to be full-go throughout this week of practice.
Jackson didn't have a great game against the Bengals, so it's easy to point to the knee and blame the performance on an injury. But I'm not sure that's the right thing to do. Jackson didn't look hobbled in the game. He still moved well. He wasn't wearing a big brace to protect his knee. All of that indicates that the knee wasn't an issue. Rather than pointing to a potential injury, another possibility is that Jackson just didn't have his best outing. Plus, teams have been defending the Ravens in a way to limit Jackson's opportunities as a runner, and that goes beyond the Cincinnati game. The Ravens have some work to do to get the offense humming again, but the issues from last week can't simply be attributed to an injury.
Mink: Through the first five games last year, the Ravens had 180 rushing attempts. This year, they have 144. The Ravens led the NFL in rushing attempts by a wide margin last year. So far, they rank eighth in the league. Yet Baltimore still ranks atop the league in rushing yards per attempt (5.6), so they're running it well. In fact, it's slightly better than last year, when the Ravens ranked No. 1 with 5.5 yards per rush.
The short answer here, however, is the stats are deceiving. Only three teams in the NFL have thrown the ball fewer times than the Ravens and all three have played fewer games. So it's not like Baltimore is chucking the ball all over the place. The Ravens just haven't had many long drives this season for various reasons. They've had shorter fields off turnovers and haven't been as efficient converting third downs to keep drives alive. The Ravens will continue to lean on their ground game, and I expect that to be the case more and more as the weather turns colder and the offensive line, which has been juggled the past two weeks, settles.
Downing: The rookie running back has looked explosive in limited action this year, and he showed that on a 34-yard carry against Cincinnati. The running back rotation has probably been the most consistent topic we've seen in the Mailbag since the Ravens drafted Dobbins in April, and I don't expect that to change any time soon. The Ravens are going to use a rotation of Dobbins, Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards, and the playing time for each could vary from week to week. Harbaugh spelled that out pretty clearly this week when he said, "That's something that could change from one game to the next, in terms of what plays we're running and all that. But unless you're going to play one guy [for] most all the plays, it's always going to be, 'Why didn't this guy carry the ball? Why didn't that guy get more reps?' So, that's probably a conversation that we're going to have all year."
I do think the Ravens could put more on Dobbins' plate as the season progresses, as he's clearly shown he has major upside. But giving more carries to Dobbins means taking away opportunities for Edwards and Ingram, and they're both critical pieces of the offense.
Mink: I don't know how much interest the Ravens have in a veteran wide receiver. We do know they worked out Dez Bryant in training camp but didn't end up signing him. The Ravens were also reportedly in talks to get pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who ended up with the Titans.
Tough question between pass rusher or wide receiver for top need. Depends who ends up on the trade block. In your scenario I'd rather have Julio Jones but we don't even know if he's being made available. While I do think a big-time wideout would do wonders for the Ravens offense that has had some hiccups the past three weeks, I also was saying the Ravens could use pass rush help just two weeks ago and then they battered Joe Burrow. Five of those sacks did come from the secondary, so just imagine if you add another terror off the edge to the mix.