Skip to main content

Mailbag: How Will the Offense Change Without Nick Boyle?

TE Nick Boyle
TE Nick Boyle

Mink: Besides Lamar Jackson, I don't think there's any player on the Ravens offense that's more irreplaceable than Nick Boyle. Ronnie Stanley is arguably the best in the business at left tackle, but the Ravens had a Pro Bowl right tackle who played left tackle his entire life before reaching the NFL in Orlando Brown Jr. that they could shift over.

Boyle, however, is a foundational piece of the Ravens run game and there isn't an in-house or out-of-house replacement like him. He's at the point of attack so often, relied upon to take on defensive ends and outside linebackers to spring Baltimore's outside runs. And, like Stanley, he's possibly the best in the game at doing so.

So, yes, I do think the Ravens offense will have to change. It's not that you blow up the entire scheme, but you lean on different stuff within it. Baltimore has already had trouble running outside the tackles this year as defenses look to funnel Jackson (and everything else) inside. Thus, the Ravens could play along and line up and run straight at teams more.

Mark Andrews, who has improved greatly as a blocker by the way, will get a higher percentage of the snaps. Patrick Ricard will also surely see more snaps, but he and Boyle were already often used in tandem, so you'd still be missing half of that equation.

Probably the biggest change is I expect they'll throw the ball more often than they would have otherwise. After that brutal loss in New England and given all the injuries recently, I'm in a silver-lining mood right now. Could we look back on this moment someday and say it accelerated Jackson's development as a passer?

Downing: The offensive line is probably the biggest question mark moving forward for the Ravens. The group has been hit hard with injuries all season and hasn't really been able to settle into a rhythm to develop consistency. The group is in flux right now as the right tackle spot is up for grabs after Patrick Mekari replaced D.J. Fluker midway through last game. It also remains to be seen whether the Ravens will stick with Matt Skura at center after his issues snapping the ball over the last two weeks. Tyre Phillips, who started six games at right guard, is eligible to return this week after spending the last two games on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

The Ravens may try a variety of combinations along the line during the week. If they decide to make a change a center, Mekari is a likely candidate for the job after he played well there late last season when Skura went down with the knee injury. Skura could move to right guard, which he played earlier in his career, if the Ravens want to keep him in the starting lineup. Bradley Bozeman, who has started every game at left guard over the last two years, played center in college and is also an option there. At right tackle, the Ravens could go back to Fluker or give the rookie Phillips a shot there. Phillips was a tackle in college, so if he's ready to play this week, the Ravens may slide him back outside. Like I said, there is lots of uncertainty right now. The only player who seems locked in at a position is Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle, and he already had to switch spots after the season-ending injury to Ronnie Stanley.

Mink: The Ravens have already begun to shift snaps and I expect that will continue. Boykin's snap percentage has decreased each of the past five weeks. He was at 82 percent versus the Chiefs and down to 29 percent (with no targets) in New England. Conversely, Devin Duvernay's snap percentage has increased seven of the past eight weeks with a season-high 55 percent versus the Patriots.

Proche didn't get any offensive snaps in New England and I don't expect his offensive role to grow much this season considering he's primarily a slot wideout and that's where Willie Snead IV lives. Snead has been the team's best wide receiver in recent games, plus they need his blocking more than ever now with Boyle out.

As for Dez, your guess is as good as mine, but the Ravens' injuries are not helping his chances of being activated. With Baltimore calling on so many reserves just to have a functioning defensive line and secondary, there isn't much room for a "bonus" wide receiver. Like you, I'm excited to eventually see what he can do, but the Ravens may need to get healthier first.

Downing: Sure, using Brown in the slot more often could be an option. I like him on crossing routes when he can get the ball in space and put his speed on display, just like he did for his first NFL catch against Miami last year. But here's the tricky part about that: the slot is already crowded for the Ravens. Snead is a natural slot receiver and he's playing great right now. Duvernay is good option in the slot. Andrews works the middle of the field. The Ravens need a receiver to spread out the defense and keep the middle of the field open for Snead, Andrews and Duvernay to make plays. Brown is the best candidate to do that because of his speed. The Ravens could try using Duvernay more often as an outside receiver and then slide Brown inside, but I don't expect that to become the new normal.

Mink: This is going to be a tough task to say the least, especially if Calais Campbell (calf) and Brandon Williams (ankle) can't play. Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Campbell is "day-to-day" so we'll see. Henry has the second-most rushing yards in the league (946) and we all saw what he did to Baltimore in the playoffs last year. I have to think the Ravens had visions of Henry in their mind when they traded for Campbell in March.

The way to stop Henry is to not let him get going, because once he gets that 6-foot-3, 247-pound body rolling downhill or on the edge, he's a runaway train. The Ravens could use more run blitzes to try to get defenders in the backfield. They'll need better play from their edge-setters than we saw in New England, superb tackling at the point of attack, and A-plus performances from their young defensive linemen if called into action.

Downing: The talented pass rusher has been quiet since coming over from Minnesota in a trade. He doesn't have a sack through three games, but I don't think it's time to sound the alarm. Harbaugh talked last week about how the sack production is on the horizon for Ngakoue. It's also worth pointing out that the Ravens have faced quarterbacks over the last three weeks who have gotten rid of the ball quickly (Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers), or who have relied on a run-heavy gameplan (Cam Newton). The opportunities have been limited for Ngakoue. He has still gotten some pressure, just not sacks. Changing teams and learning a new defense in the middle of the season is a challenge, and it's unfair to judge Ngakoue after just three games. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked seven times over the last four games, so we'll see if Ngakoue can get that first sack Sunday against Tennessee.

Mink: When the Ravens lose, life sucks. I don't want to talk to anyone, and I go to sleep feeling frustrated and emotionally exhausted. Then I wake up, look at my family, and remember that it's just a game. This season has hammered home how special last year's team was, and that a shot at the Lombardi Trophy is hard to come by. Unfortunately, the Ravens laid a stinker in the playoffs last season against the Titans. Let's hope for a win Sunday so that we all get to lay our head on the pillow feeling some sweet revenge. Cause what's life without revenge, am I right?

Related Content