Mailbag: Could DeSean Jackson Play This Week vs. Buccaneers?

WR DeSean Jackson

Mink: Head Coach John Harbaugh got this question Monday and said "we'll see." DeSean Jackson has now been with the team for a week. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time to get up to speed with the offense. We've seen other players step in on short notice on defense, but not so much on offense. Maybe Jackson could have a reduced and more simplified role in the early stages as he assimilates into the team. The 35-year-old receiver still has blazing speed, and as they say, you can't teach speed. Jackson could still help stretch the opposing defense as a deep vertical threat. He does seem to be in good shape and he went through a full pre-game workout before the Ravens faced the Browns.

Even if Jackson does play Thursday night, I envision him as more of a wrinkle. The Ravens are still going to lean on Mark Andrews-Rashod Bateman-Devin Duvernay as their top three. Demarcus Robinson has averaged about 2.5 targets per game and I expect that's about what Jackson would see in this offense. Point is, if Jackson can hit a few big plays and possible game-changers, that's a win, but I don't think whether he plays or not will dramatically change the Ravens offense in Tampa Bay.

Downing: Patrick Mekari has proven to be a valuable player through the first seven games of the year. His ability to back up every position along the line gives the Ravens a ton of flexibility because they have confidence in Mekari's ability to step in and play at a high level. That's been evident the last few weeks as Ronnie Stanley has worked his way back to full strength and Morgan Moses has dealt with a heel injury. Generally speaking, I think the Ravens prefer to have Stanley and Moses take all the snaps at their left and right tackle spots, but if either of them is hobbled or needs a break, then Mekari is there ready to step into action. I don't expect a planned rotation for most games, but Mekari could still see plenty of snaps because it's tough to keep all five starting offensive linemen heathy and he's a swiss-army knife who's always ready to step into any spot.

Mink: It's a one-game sample size. Pat Ricard had 56 snaps against the Browns, which was a season-high 88% of the offensive workload. That's because the Ravens used a run-heavy approach versus Cleveland. You're going to have your fullback on the field more when you run the ball 44 times compared to 16 passes.

I think fans are freaking out too much about one particularly run-heavy game, which, by the way, the Ravens won. Sometimes the script gets a little lopsided. I remember just a week ago when people were screaming that the Ravens needed to run the ball more against the New York Giants. Rashod Bateman has averaged 35.4 snaps per game this season. He had 36 versus the Browns.

Downing: The Bucs have a great linebacker group, headlined by middle linebacker Devin White. He has 53 tackles and three sacks, and he can disrupt the game in a variety of ways. White will be a focal point as the Ravens offensive coaches build the gameplan for how to attack Tampa Bay's defense. But White isn't the only challenge, and part of the difficulty is handling a blitz-heavy scheme that the Bucs like to deploy. Their defense ranks among the league leaders in blitz percentage this year and the Ravens need to have answers ready for it.

"You have to understand who's going to be free and you have to understand what your outlet answer is going to be," Head Coach John Harbaugh said this week when asked about the key to handling the blitz. "Sometimes it's a pass; sometimes it's a run. So, you just have to be able to block whatever it is." In building the gameplan, the Ravens will need to scheme up additional protection from the tight ends and the backs, and the offensive line also needs to ensure that their communication is excellent to handle all the various looks the Bucs will present. Quarterback Lamar Jackson also needs to be decisive in reading the defense and determining where he wants to go with the football. He may need to check it down to the running backs on more occasions, or hit the receivers on quick blitz beaters, and the Ravens will be working on those options throughout the week of practice. There has been much made about Jackson and the Ravens offense against the blitz – especially going into the Week 2 game against the Dolphins – and he handled it masterfully in that game. The Ravens hope for another offensive showing like that Thursday night.

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