Pundits Discuss Ramifications of Marlon Humphrey's Injury
A lack of depth at cornerback due to a series of injuries over the past few weeks was already cause for concern for the Ravens. The situation was exacerbated yesterday with the news that Marlon Humphrey was undergoing foot surgery and would be sidelined for several weeks, meaning he could the start of the regular season.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said that other than quarterback Lamar Jackson, Humphrey was the player the Ravens could least afford to lose.
"Marlon Humphrey is not only the team's most accomplished and best cover cornerback, but he's one of the Ravens' best players," Zrebiec wrote. "He's one of their best tacklers, blitzers and turnover-creators. He's a three-time Pro Bowl selection who the defensive coaching staff depends on to set the tone. Over the past couple of years, he's been one of the few constants in a position room constantly in flux."
NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks said he is "super concerned" about the Ravens' secondary and how the injuries will affect the team on both sides of the ball early in the season.
"This is a team that also doesn't have Marcus Peters on this roster anymore. So you went from having a unit in the backfield where you had experienced, All-Pro caliber players to now you're dealing with a lot of inexperienced players," Brooks said. " … Really, it puts a lot of pressure on this offense to hit the ground running because now you're having to deal with shootouts as opposed to relying on a defense that can keep the score down."
The good news is that Humphrey isn't expected to be out long term, and Rock Ya-Sin (knee), the Ravens' other projected starting cornerback, Jalyn Armour-Davis (undisclosed), and Arthur Maulet (hamstring) are expected back soon. However, Pepe Williams is undergoing ankle surgery and will be sidelined until October, and Trayvon Mullen may miss the entire season after getting toe surgery.
The Baltimore Banner's Kyle Goon said Humphrey's absence will put even more pressure on the Ravens' edge rushers, who already were under scrutiny. He contended that Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald will have to be more aggressive when it comes to blitzing.
"Humphrey is foundational to coverage," Goon wrote. "Although he missed only a small sample of snaps last season, opposing passer rating and accuracy rose when he was off the field, and the Ravens didn't get an interception without him on it. If they sit back in games without Humphrey in coverage, they risk being picked apart.
"Sitting back and staying predictable is not the Ravens' way of doing things on defense. [Odafe] Oweh and [David] Ojabo will have to be hard chargers, and Macdonald will have to help them by deploying more creative blitz packages to keep the offenses guessing."
Zrebiec said there are other things Macdonald can do to temporarily cover for the lack of cornerback depth.
"One of those things is moving safety Kyle Hamilton into the nickel role in certain looks and inserting Geno Stone at safety," Zrebiec wrote. "Macdonald could also move around Brandon Stephens, who can play safety and both boundary and slot cornerback."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones said the defense's performance in yesterday's joint practice with the Washington Commanders was encouraging.
"During a 7-on-7 red-zone period, the starting defense kept Washington out of the end zone, which is impressive for a drill that favors the offense," Jones wrote. "The Ravens can endure Humphrey's absence if their inside linebackers and safeties play up to expectations in coverage like they did in that drill."
Still, Zrebiec said it feels like the onus is on General Manager Eric DeCosta to get the Ravens cornerback help. However, as Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed out yesterday, this late in the offseason the free-agent market for veteran outside cornerbacks is thin.
"DeCosta will likely have to make a trade if the Ravens are going to find an outside cornerback who is a significant upgrade to what they already have," Zrebiec wrote. "The challenge is the demand for quality cornerbacks far exceeds the supply. There are teams with cornerback depth. The Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore's opponent in the preseason opener, come to mind. But most teams with cornerback depth want to hold on to it, because of the volatility at the position.
"Because of all that, the cost of acquiring a quality cornerback will likely be steep. The Ravens typically don't act desperate in situations like this. But DeCosta may not have a choice. The Ravens are a team built to win now and have very few roster holes. Cornerback was already a question before Humphrey went down. Now? The need is dire."
ESPN Looks at the Ravens' Ceiling and Floor for Wins and Losses
ESPN used its Football Power Index to calculate projected win totals for each team based on 20,000 simulations of the entire season performed by the ESPN Stats & Information team. From that data, a ceiling and floor was determined for each team.
The Ravens had a ceiling of 12-5 and a floor of 7-10.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley identified new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken as the biggest X-factor in where the Ravens end up within that win-total spectrum.
"In his first year as the Ravens' new play-caller, Monken is in charge of getting Lamar Jackson and this once-dominant offense back on track," Hensley wrote. "Since 2019, Baltimore is 27-5 (.844) when scoring more than 25 points. But the Ravens have been held to 20 points or less in 13 of their past 26 games, which is a problem. Monken is giving the Baltimore offense a different look — more passing and more audibles — in an attempt to provide a much-needed spark."
The two-time defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals had the highest ceiling/floor at 13-4/8-9. The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers were both at 11-6/6-11.
On a side note, Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz thinks the Browns will end up being closer to their ceiling. In fact, he tabbed them as the favorite in the AFC North.
"On offense, it's really a question of sample size," Schatz said on the "Straight Fire" podcast. "What do you believe? Three years of [Browns Head Coach] Kevin Stefanski running a good offense with bad quarterbacks and a whole career of [Browns quarterback] Deshaun Watson being really good, or six bad games last year?
"Sample size dictates that you have to believe in the last two or three years of these guys as telling you more about how good they are than that crappy last six games that they played last year. I think they're gonna be a good all-around team unless Watson really is as bad as we saw last year, and it's hard to believe that he's really that bad given what he'd done in his career before."
Do Ravens Have the Most Intriguing New Offense in NFL?
The “Good Morning Football” crew discussed whether the Ravens have the most intriguing new offense in the NFL. Peter Schrager and Jason McCourty believe the answer is yes.
"Todd Monken is a very, very innovative offensive coordinator," Schrager said. "I've heard from several NFL coaches that they have gone back and watched what Monken did at Georgia in the college game and they implemented that into their NFL offenses. I think he is as respected in a full offense, meaning not only running game but passing game. You add in Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham Jr. and you have two really intriguing receivers. The reviews on Beckham have been outstanding this camp. The reviews on Flowers have been even better. So I want to see it. … It could be an explosive offense. We just don't know yet."
McCourty said: "A lot of the intrigue of the Ravens offense is centered around Odell Beckham. We saw him as a superstar with the Giants, and then he goes to Cleveland, and he gets to the Rams and it's like, this is the guy we remember. He's in the Super Bowl and he's killing it before he goes down with an injury. And everybody is raving about how good he looks for the Ravens during training camp. So, yes, intriguing for Lamar Jackson and everything that we've seen, but also from the Odell Beckham standpoint."