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Mailbag: What to Expect From Ronnie Stanley After Bye

Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (79) blocks during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.
Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley (79) blocks during an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.

Downing: Let's unpack this question a little bit. First of all, it's fair to say that Ronnie Stanley hasn't played at his highest level this season. He particularly had a tough night on Sunday against Chargers All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack, who had a pair of sacks and generally made life difficult for quarterback Lamar Jackson. Let's also acknowledge that Mack is one of the best outside linebackers in the game (his 13 sacks are tied for the third most in the league), so Stanley is far from the only left tackle Mack has given trouble to.

Head John Harbaugh acknowledged that this week when asked about Stanley. "I think he'd probably be the first person to tell you it's not been great," Harbaugh said. "He needs to get stronger and get his technique right. He needs to get out at practice and keep growing back into … He's a great player. We want to get him back into playing at that high level."

Now in terms of the question of how much Stanley has left in the tank, I still think he can play high quality football. He's dealt with two injuries to the same knee this season. Those injuries have taken a toll, and that was evident Sunday night. Stanley gutted it out and played through the injury against the Chargers, even though he wasn't at full strength. I'm not going to make a sweeping judgement about his ability based on that performance. There's probably no player on the team who stands to benefit from the bye week more than Stanley. Having the week off will give him time to get the knee healthier so that he can anchor and withstand the power rush of top pass rushers down the stretch. If the Ravens are going to make a deep playoff run, they need Stanley playing at the level he's capable of reaching. He's one of the game's highest-paid left tackles for a reason, and I think his best football of the season is still in front of him.

Mink: The Ravens defense is so well-coached that players are executing the scheme as if they're AI (that's a joke). What happened is that Queen's assignment was to set a pick on the Chargers' right guard (No. 68) to allow Justin Madubuike to loop around and get a free rush lane to quarterback Justin Herbert. But it was so wide open that Queen passed up his own free lane. Basically, this is an example of Queen doing his job, which is great, but maybe doing it a little too well when he should have recognized the opportunity and grabbed it. Queen realized that later too.

I asked Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald for a coach's perspective on this play. Here's what he had to say: "We say we don't want to dishonor the organization by aborting the pick, and he hasn't dishonored the organization yet. So, shoutout to 'P.Q.' In those situations, when you understand the protection schemes that you're getting, go ahead and make your layups, but he's doing what we're asking him to do, and he's trying to set his teammate up."

Downing: This is a good time to plug The Lounge podcast because we gave out some bye-week awards in an episode dropping later this week, and one of those awards was the surprise player of the year. (Subscribe here and that episode will drop on Friday). The player I'll point to is outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. I knew the former No. 1-overall pick was a tremendously talented player who could deliver some splash plays, but I'd be lying if I said I expected this level of production. Clowney is in his tenth NFL season, and this year could turn out to be his best yet. Clowney is second on the team with 7.5 sacks, and he's on pace to hit double digits for the first time of his career. He's been a game wrecker at times, and his sack on Justin Herbert Sunday was one of the biggest plays of the season.

When the Ravens signed Clowney this summer, I expected him to bring production similar to what we saw from Jason Pierre-Paul last season, who finished the year with three sacks. He's already well surpassed that. I also have been impressed with how well Clowney has fit into the Ravens culture. Coaches rave about his unselfish attitude and how he's just focused on helping this team get to a Super Bowl, and we're seeing the benefits of that mindset. Clowney has been one of the team's best defenders, and the Ravens hope he can keep that rolling the rest of the way.

Mink: It feels wrong to think ahead to the 2024 NFL Draft when we're in the middle of a thrilling season, but alas, mock drafts have begun rolling out. I'm going with outside linebacker. Look at the heavy contributions from Clowney and Kyle Van Noy this season. Both veterans are on one-year deals. Odafe Oweh has emerged in Year 3, but David Ojabo will be coming off ACL surgery that's expected to sideline him until training camp. I think the Ravens will look to add another young pass rusher to the mix to go along with Tavius Robinson, who is getting a lot of valuable reps as a rookie this season, and undrafted rookie Malik Hamm, who has been on injured reserve all year.

If it's not outside linebacker, I would point to cornerback. Many of us thought the Ravens were going to draft an early-round cornerback last year but they didn't take one until Round 5 with Kyu Blu-Kelly, who didn't make the 53-man roster and ended up going to Seattle before landing in Green Bay. Marlon Humphrey has three more years remaining on his current contract and Brandon Stephens has emerged as a top-notch cornerback and he's also under contract for 2024. Add in Jalyn Armour-Davis and Pepe Williams, and the team's depth looks pretty good. But you can never have too many corners and it's good to plan for the future.

If Justin Madubuike leaves in free agency, an interior defensive lineman with pass rush potential will be a high priority and potential first-round pick. Offensive tackle would be the top need on that side of the ball.

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