Ravens' Need For Better Play at Inside Linebacker 'Just As Glaring As Outside Linebacker Concerns'
The Ravens' lack of depth and production at outside linebacker is well-documented, but The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said the team's issues at inside linebacker have become just as glaring.
A breakout season in Year 3 was expected from 2020 first-rounder Patrick Queen, but it hasn't happened to this point, and dependable veteran Josh Bynes hasn't played up to his usual standard.
"Patrick Queen, in particular, struggled through his third straight rocky game," Zrebiec wrote. "For the second week, he dropped a room service interception that at the very least would have allowed the Ravens to go into halftime with a 20-3 lead. Instead, it was 20-10 because the Bills scored a touchdown six plays later. One thing Queen has done in his young career is make splash plays (sacks, tackles for loss, interceptions, etc.) and he's suddenly missing opportunities to do that now, too. He also took a bad angle on [Josh] Allen's 11-yard touchdown run, got caught in the wash on a few running plays, and got lost a few times in coverage.
"Veteran Josh Bynes was more steady on fewer snaps, but he's been a step behind or a step late far too often in the young season."
Zrebiec believes General Manager Eric DeCosta will explore a trade for an inside linebacker before the Nov. 1 deadline.
"Assuming Ronnie Stanley returns soon — and if he doesn't play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, I don't know what to say about it anymore — to solidify the offensive line and Tyus Bowser returns in the next few weeks to help the pass rush, inside linebacker might be the Ravens' biggest area of need," Zrebiec wrote.
The Ravens reportedly brought in veteran inside linebacker Blake Martinez for a visit a couple weeks ago, but he reportedly is signing with the Las Vegas Raiders.
During the offseason, six-time first-team All-Pro inside linebacker Bobby Wagner said he turned down more guaranteed money from the Ravens to sign with the Los Angeles Rams, citing the opportunity to play in his native city and remain in the NFC West. The Ravens re-signed Bynes a few days later.
Football Outsiders Gives Ravens Third-Best Odds to Win Super Bowl
There are two ways to view the Ravens' 2-2 start. One is that they are what their record says they are: a mediocre team, no different than the 15 other squads who are 2-2. The other is they are one of the better teams in the league, as evidenced by building double-digit leads against the Super Bowl favorite Bills and dangerous Miami Dolphins before collapsing in the fourth quarter.
Football Outsiders is going with the latter option. It gives Baltimore the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl, trailing only the Bills and undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.
The Ravens have a 32.4 percent chance of making it to the AFC Championship Game, a 16.8 percent chance of reaching the Super Bowl, and a 9.4 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, according to Football Outsiders' metrics.
NFL.com’s Adam Schein also believes the glass is more half full than half empty for the Ravens. He separated the contenders from the pretenders among the 2-2 teams and put the Ravens at No. 4 on the contenders list.
"Baltimore's defense has serious issues, especially against the pass," Schein wrote. "Heavy rain helped the Ravens keep Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs in check on Sunday, but this D has legit question marks in the secondary and among the edge rushers not named Odafe Oweh. That's a bad combo with the resurgent Bengals coming to town this week for 'Sunday Night Football.'"
"All that said, the Ravens have something no one else has: Lamar Jackson. Sunday wasn't his best effort — again, the rain kind of put a damper on the highly anticipated Allen-Jackson QB showdown — but he remains as sensational a talent as the league has today. I didn't pick the Ravens to make the playoffs before the season kicked off, but I appreciate the fact that they're always postseason contenders when No. 8 is upright and doing his thing."
Mike Martz: Ravens Called 'Perfect Play' on Crucial Fourth Down But 'Just Didn't Execute'
Head Coach John Harbaugh's decision to go for the touchdown rather than attempt a short field goal late in Sunday's loss to the Bills continues to be hotly debated. A legitimate case can be made for either side, but whether Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's play call was a good one seems more clear cut.
Former St. Louis Rams Head Coach Mike Martz of The 33rd Team applauded the decision to go for the touchdown and said the call was "perfect," but the play just wasn't executed properly, as Jackson didn't see a wide-open Devin Duvernay in the corner of the end zone until it was too late.
"I think it was a pretty good call," Martz said. "For some reason, Lamar comes off and looks to the left. He's got nothing over there, realizes it, and then comes back and tries to get back over to the right side. But by then it's too late. What they have on the right side is exactly what you want for this coverage — a red zone Cover 2. So they switch release; the outside receiver (Duvernay) releases inside and pushes up. And what you want is get leverage on the safety and it's perfect. He's got about two yards of leverage on the safety, pushes right to the corner and there's a big hole out there on the flag. It should just be pitch and catch.
"They had the perfect play on. They had a great call over on the right side, but they just didn't execute. For some reason, Lamar either panicked or just misread the coverage and just didn't execute."
After the game, Jackson explained why he didn't initially see Duvernay.
"Tall defensive lineman with his hands up. I was trying to see around him to see where my guys were, but I saw Duvernay late," Jackson said. "If I would have seen him right off the bat, that would have been a touchdown. The lineman had his hands up and was bull-rushing a little bit and got in my peripheral. So, I couldn't really see what was going on and the play was breaking down. I tried to get back some more but it was too late."
Rookie Daniel Faalele Held His Own Against Von Miller
One of the positives from Sunday's game was the performance of rookie offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. Making his first start at left tackle after playing right tackle exclusively in college, the fourth-round pick held his own against eight-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Von Miller.
Faalele gave up just three quarterback hurries and no sacks in 38 pass blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
"Daniel has kind of established himself the last two games as a viable guy for us," Harbaugh said. "As we get guys back, he's still going to be in the mix. He played really well."
- Despite Sunday's loss, Jackson remained No. 1 in NFL.com’s weekly MVP Watch