Which Ravens Defenders Stand to Gain and Lose Most With Roquan Smith's Arrival?
The Ravens gained an impact player when they traded for inside linebacker Roquan Smith this week. Not only does the two-time second-team All-Pro figure to make a huge impact on the defense, but his presence also will have an impact on the role of some of his new teammates.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer looked at the winners and losers on defense with Smith's arrival. He viewed the addition of Smith as a positive for fellow inside linebacker Patrick Queen, but not necessarily for first-round safety Kyle Hamilton.
Shaffer said that not only will Smith's presence not cost Queen snaps, it should free Queen to do more of what he's best at: shoot gaps as a run defender and harass the quarterback as a blitzer.
"While the Ravens' blitz rate has fallen sharply this year, Smith's dependable track record in coverage over the middle could free [Defensive Coordinator Mike] Macdonald to unleash more of Queen's pass-rushing ability," Shaffer wrote. "According to Pro Football Focus, Queen has 13 pressures and four sacks over just 61 pass-rush snaps this season, impressive numbers for an inside linebacker.
"Smith's explosiveness as a blitzer (16 1/2 career sacks) and Queen's steady improvements in zone coverage should make the Ravens' defensive tendencies harder to discern. That, in turn, should make their top two inside linebackers more difficult to game-plan against. On any given passing down, either could blitz, drop into a shallow zone, carry a receiver into a deep-middle-third zone or shadow a running back as he releases into the flat."
As for Hamilton, Shaffer noted that the 14th-overall pick has been used primarily on passing downs, and there could be fewer snaps for him going forward.
"Coaches have used the rookie as a box safety, lining him up over tight ends in the slot, blitzing him from the edge, and dropping him into shallow and deep zone coverages," Shaffer wrote. "Now, though, the Ravens have two inside linebackers with the experience and skill set to handle such a role. Smith and Queen are both productive blitzers. They both have the speed to run with running backs and to carry wide receivers down the seam. And they're both multiyear starters.
"Hamilton's role in the short term won't disappear entirely; he can still be an asset in coverage against athletic tight ends. But if Humphrey and Marcus Peters are aligned as the Ravens' outside cornerbacks, and Smith and Queen are playing together, and safeties Chuck Clark and Stone remain every-down defenders, snaps could be hard to come by."
Eisen and Brandt Agree: Smith Is a 'Perfect' Raven
With the passing of the trade deadline yesterday afternoon, the pundits have released their grades and assessments on various deals, including the Smith trade, which saw the Ravens acquire him from the Chicago Bears in exchange for reported second- and fifth-round picks and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein.
NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha named the Ravens defense as the biggest winners of the trade deadline.
"He's exactly the kind of linebacker who can be a difference-maker on a unit that needs more of them," Chadiha wrote. "Smith is a tremendous tackler and blitzer, and he fits perfectly with the kind of versatile players Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald wants to utilize in his scheme. Smith also shows up at a perfect time. The AFC North is experiencing its share of upheaval — the Bengals, for one, are especially vulnerable with Ja'Marr Chase sidelined with a hip injury — and Baltimore is now poised to make a run at the division crown with an improved defense."
Grading on a scale of one to 10, Fox Sports 1's Skip Bayless gave the Ravens a nine.
"It feels like Roquan Smith was born to be a Raven," Bayless said. "I'm not suggesting he's Ray [Lewis], but, boy, he's pretty great. … This man is a tackling machine. In that regard he is at least Ray-like."
NFL Network's Rich Eisen and "Good Morning Football's" Kyle Brandt expressed a similar sentiment regarding Smith being a guy who plays like a Raven.
"If I had to choose anybody at the position on another team that sounds perfect as a fit for the Baltimore Ravens … Roquan Smith, he is perfect," Eisen said. "This is a great move."
Brandt said: "A perfect Raven. Just perfect. Really fiery, big hitter. … Think about who they have to go through —it's [Derrick] Henry, it's Josh Allen, it's [Travis] Kelce. Those are the killers, and the Ravens want to win a Super Bowl. They got a guy who is totally fearless, leads the league in tackles, and is one of the top five biggest hitters in the NFL in a year where it's still really hard to hit.
"I think it's a big win for Baltimore. I think this could be the difference in winning a playoff game and losing one. I think he is that good of a player."
SB Nation’s Mark Schofield gave the Ravens a "conditional B" grade.
"Smith's comfort and athleticism in coverage will be a huge boost to the Baltimore defense," Schofield wrote. "The biggest question — and the reason for the conditional grade — comes down to both how the Ravens employ Queen and Smith, as well as whether this is just a half-season rental for Smith, or the Ravens try and sign him to a long-term deal. If Baltimore finds a way to ink him to a new deal, this would be an even better move for the Ravens, as Smith is one of the game's better off-ball linebackers."
NFL.com’s Eric Edholm and Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr weren't quite as high on trade, giving the Ravens a B- and C+, respectively.
"Are the Ravens willing to pay Smith at the Shaq Leonard/Fred Warner tier? Both are making more than $19 million per year, and Baltimore still has Lamar Jackson's deal looming," Edholm wrote. "But they also can let Smith walk after this season and look to earn a 2024 compensatory pick. So there's surely a risk involved in this trade for Baltimore. But if Smith can upgrade this defense down the stretch, it might turn out a hit."
Orr wrote: "While the Ravens are normally the masters of asset management and can afford to make these trades because they acquire so many mid-round picks through their expert understanding of the compensatory formula, this seems like a high price to pay for a linebacker they'll have to extend this offseason, no matter how increasingly valuable solid off-ball linebackers have become."
Ed Reed: 'Baltimore Nation Should Be Excited' About Getting Smith
No one knows more about playing like a Raven than Ed Reed, and the Hall of Fame safety said he's excited about Smith coming to Baltimore.
"If I'm a safety playing with the Ravens, I'm excited. That secondary should be excited," Reed told The 33rd Team. "Baltimore Nation should be excited because you're getting a playmaker, a force on defense to try to push you over the hump in the playoffs and get you to that next level.
"Playing against guys like Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, those quarterbacks pose problems, so you need somebody who causes havoc and is a leader in the locker room, so that's a huge pickup."
Isaiah Likely Was NFL's Highest-Graded Rookie in Week 8, Hamilton Was No. 5
The Ravens had two of Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded rookies in Week 8, with tight end Isaiah Likely (87.4) at No. 1 and Hamilton (79.4) at No. 5.
"This one is bittersweet for Ravens fans, as Likely's breakout came as Mark Andrews was sidelined after only 10 snaps. The rookie did his best impression of Andrews, though, hauling in six of seven targets for 77 yards and a score," PFF's Michael Renner wrote. "After a little rocky start, Hamilton has been as advertised of late. On Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the rookie allowed only two catches from four targets for 15 yards with a pass breakup."
Sports Illustrated’s Todd Karpovich noted that rookie center Tyler Linderbaum also made an impact in last week's game and has played well all season.
"Linderbaum has helped set the tone for the offensive line and he's turning into a dominant player. In last week's victory over the Buccaneers, Linderbaum had a team-high 91.3 run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus," Karpovich wrote. "The Ravens are now looking smart for drafting Linderbaum in the first round of the 2022 draft."