Mailbag: Jumpstart the Passing Game or Run, Run, Run?


Mink: The eternal struggle. Focus on improving the passing game or do what you do best? The answer, at least for the Ravens, is to try to get better at both. With that said, I think the past two games have shown us that in must-win games down the stretch, in the cold of December, the Ravens are going to turn to their bread and butter and that's running the ball, particularly with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Maybe it'll be hard to keep up with the Kansas City Chiefs with that formula if they were to meet in the playoffs, but the Ravens have to get to the playoffs before they worry about that.

I expect Baltimore to keep running a lot. The Jaguars have the third-worst run defense in the league and the Bengals have the fifth-worst. The New York Giants have, statistically, done well stopping the run, but they also have a good secondary. The Ravens can attack their weaknesses.

At this point of the season, the Ravens have likely tried just about every trick for getting the passing game going. Heck, they started the game Monday with a flea-flicker. At this point, the best method may be to let Jackson create plays with his legs. The 44-yard touchdown to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown late in the fourth quarter in Cleveland happened because a Browns defender thought Jackson was going to try to run for the first down on fourth-and-5. The defender left Brown and Jackson made them pay. The Ravens can have more big plays like that in the passing game.

Downing: The good news with Peters is that he returned to the game after suffering the calf injury. The bad news is that he didn't practice Wednesday. This is something to monitor throughout the week. If Peters continues to miss practice, then that would be concerning about his status for Sunday. However, if he returns Thursday or Friday, even in a limited capacity, that would be a big step in the right direction. Having Peters available is important because the secondary is suddenly short-handed. Jimmy Smith has dealt with a variety of injuries (ribs/shoulder/groin) in recent weeks, and his status for Sunday is up in the air. Recently acquired veterans Tramon Williams (thigh) and Davontae Harris (ankle) are nursing injuries, so the Ravens don't have much depth at corner. Peters has been a durable player throughout his career and has only missed three games during his six NFL seasons. If he can play, he will.

Mink: The Ravens have one sack in their past three games and got none in Cleveland. Part of the reason for that is Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton are among the league's fastest at getting rid of the ball. Baker Mayfield isn't in that mold, but he does play behind a strong offensive line that has allowed the fifth-fewest sacks in the league. The Ravens missed a couple wide-open sacks opportunities on Mayfield with free blitzers, so that's simply on the players to bring the quarterback down.

Sacks often come in bunches, and my prediction is they are coming over these next three games. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew is in the Mayfield mold of holding the ball to try to make plays, but he doesn't play in front of as good an offensive line. Plus, Minshew has been on the bench the past few weeks, so may have some rust to knock off. The Giants have given up the third-most sacks in the league and the Bengals have surrendered the second-most (including seven to Baltimore earlier this year). I don't think the Ravens are going to change much when it comes to their pressure packages. Wink Martindale knows what he's doing. But with more favorable matchups the rest of the regular season, now is the time for Baltimore's pass rush to get cranked up.

Downing: Absolutely. The Ravens would love to keep Orlando and he's someone who fits what it means to play like a Raven. He's been part of the Ravens organization since he was a kid watching his dad play in Baltimore, and there's no question it would mean a lot to him to stay here long-term. Now here's the challenge: the price to keep him is certainly going up. After the season-ending injury to Ronnie Stanley, Brown moved from right tackle to left tackle and is proving he can handle the blindside at the NFL level. He's been a dominant blocker in the run game and Ravens' re-worked offensive line played probably its best game of the season Monday against the Browns. Brown is already a Pro Bowler who will likely get paid as one of the top right tackles in the league, and his performance on the left side will definitely earn him some bidders interested in having him play left tackle. The Ravens already locked up Ronnie Stanley with a long-term deal. Can Eric DeCosta work his magic and retain both of his young tackles with other good, young players such as Matthew Judon, Mark Andrews and Yannick Ngakoue, also looking for deals? Hard to say.

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