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Mailbag: What's Up With the Pass Defense?

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey defends against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey defends against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Mink: Through three weeks, the Ravens still find themselves ranked 32nd in the league in pass defense, giving up 353.3 yards per game. That's obviously not where they want to be. It's going to take some time to get that number down after yielding 469 yards to Tua Tagovailoa and Co. in Week 2. Baltimore's pass defense was certainly better against the Patriots last week, but Mac Jones still threw for a career-high 321 yards.

What's peculiar is Marcus Williams leads the NFL in interceptions (3) and has been superb. According to Pro Football Focus, Marlon Humphrey has been the league's most lockdown cornerback in single coverage. So, as is the case with just about every issue in football, the problem (and solution) is multi-faceted.

Against the Dolphins, rookie mistakes from Kyle Hamilton led to the two big fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Ravens also didn't get enough pressure on Tua, as he took just one sack. Baltimore gave up too much over the middle to Jaylen Waddle and it didn't help that Humphrey was dealing with a groin issue and Marcus Peters was in his first game back from last year's knee injury. Both of their snaps were limited.

Against the Patriots, the Ravens gave up some yards on crossers, with a couple long plays being completed on rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams and second-year corner Brandon Stephens. Humphrey and Peters had spectacular days in coverage, but the Patriots picked on the Ravens' third cornerbacks. Baltimore really likes its young corner trio, but they've been forced to grow up fast after the season-ending injury to Kyle Fuller in Week 1. There's a reason why the Ravens signed Fuller, to help those young players continue to develop before being thrust into action. Now it's go time and there are going to be bumps in the road, but I thought Armour-Davis and Williams had mostly tight coverage against the Pats (some good throws and catches in there) and they'll continue to get better.

I think this group, now with better health, will whip into shape. The talent is there. Don't expect them to pitch a shutout against Buffalo's dangerous passing attack this week, but I think over time Baltimore's pass defense will level out. Plus, if the Ravens keep getting turnovers (they're tied for the league lead with eight), that more than makes up for some of the yards given up.

Downing: First of all, this question is related to the injury nose tackle Michael Pierce suffered against the Patriots, which was reportedly a torn biceps. According to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Pierce is undergoing additional tests to determine if he can continue playing at some point this season. If Pierce misses the rest of the season, or even extended time, that will be a tough blow to the defensive front because he was playing great to start the year.

Rookie Travis Jones is the most likely candidate to fill in for Pierce. He made his NFL debut Sunday and saw limited action. Jones was a dominant player in the preseason in training camp, so the third-round pick could be ready for a significant role on this defense. Calling up Isaiah Mack from the practice squad is another option. As far as bringing back Brandon Williams, that seems unlikely at this point. His name hasn't come up at all since the season ended as a potential free-agent target for any teams, so it would be somewhat surprising if he landed back in Baltimore. Last week, a fan urged Williams to return on Twitter and Williams responded, "They got it!"

Mink: Tyus Bowser is eligible to return next week against the Bengals after coming off the PUP list. I imagine that he'll have a shot to play in that game, but keep in mind that he hasn't even practiced yet, so the Ravens could give him more time to knock off the rust.

David Ojabo is still a question mark and we haven't heard an update on him in a while. In early August, Head Coach John Harbaugh said Ojabo vowed to get back my midseason "at the latest." Maybe after the bye (Week 10) would be a natural target? I don't know, but I do know that once he and Bowser are back, added into the mix with Odafe Oweh, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul, this Ravens pass rush has a real chance to finish strong.

Downing: Justice Hill showed Sunday that he may deserve a larger slice of the pie. He had six carries for 60 yards, and Harbaugh praised him after the game in the locker room and in his post-game press conference. Dobbins has said he's still working his way back into pre-injury form, and the Ravens have made it clear that they do not want to rush his recovery. Giving Hill more carries over the next few weeks could be a way to ease Dobbins into a heavier workload over the course of the season. Hill has shown that he can help jump-start the running game. He has good burst out of the backfield and is showing no ill effects from last year's torn Achilles. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hill as the lead ball carrier over the next few weeks as Dobbins knocks off the rust. The two nearly split carries last week.

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