Week 5 is bringing a pivotal AFC North matchup, and it’s being spotlighted on Sunday Night Football. Cincinnati heads to Baltimore for a game bringing at least a share of the division lead.
1.) AC: For a variety of reasons (running backs coming back from 2021 injuries, Ravens’ defensive rankings and perceived lack of elite wide receiver talent), Baltimore has needed Lamar Jackson to be even more of a Superman than in years past. Moreover, it seems he’s answered the call, as he continues to progress. Are both of these statements accurate?
I wouldn’t say it’s asking Jackson to be “even more of a Superman than in years past”. I believe he’s made bigger and more impactful plays this season, but not due to nobody else being around him.
In fact, his receiving unit has been rather impressive. Of course, there is All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews, who registered 260 yards and three touchdowns in four games. His wide receiver unit, though not ‘elite,’ has been impressive. Devin Duvernay has been an excellent complement to Rashod Bateman, and they’ve combined for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
Regarding the running game, absolutely. Jackson has been relied upon to make something happen. I think that was relieved a bit with the return of J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill, but Hill suffered a hamstring injury against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4.
2.) AC: Despite hiring a new defensive coordinator and amassing a lot of secondary talent over the past two offseasons, the Ravens are dead-last in passing yards allowed this season. What’s the issue(s) there and what possible adjustments can they make to more utilize the great talents they have?
KB: I think part is the pass rush. You can have the greatest secondary in the backfield but if you can’t pressure the opposing quarterback, they will eventually pick you apart.
Another reason was horrible communication failures during the Miami Dolphins game. They were on pitch counts with both cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, and swapping in rookies Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams and veteran Daryl Worley. They had rookie Kyle Hamilton also on the field rotating in, and it was clear there were communication failures and players not following their responsibilities.
I’m unsure on the adjustments. Getting some guys back healthy in the pass rush would help, but both Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul were absent Friday’s practice, so it’s just becoming a challenge to get healthy guys to rush the passer.
3.) AC: Ronnie Stanley is coming back from an injury, but how has the Ravens’ offensive line looked in general—particularly Tyler Linderbaum? Seems like the unit is doing pretty well, given they are top-10 in team rushing yards and having given up only eight sacks this year—or is that all on Lamar making things happen with his legs, too?
Until Stanley sees the field, we won’t ever know what’s going on with him. He said he was ‘very close’ heading into the Bills game last week but wasn’t active for Sunday, and missed Friday’s practice this week.
The rest of the line has held up. Guards Ben Powers and Kevin Zeitler have done well. Morgan Moses at right tackle has been decent, and rookie tackle Daniel Faalele, the fourth-string left tackle who never played a down at left tackle, has done well. But, that’s in part because the Ravens are shading help in the form of fullback Patrick Ricard or a tight end to help him.
As for Tyler Linderbaum, he’s excelled as a blocker. He looks sharp, makes smart reads and gets to his assignment expeditiously. He had a bad game last week due to three penalties, but it felt like a poor lapse rather than the norm. He’s been arguably the best of the Ravens’ rookie class this season.
4.) AC: I’ve long-held massive respect for both Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh for the consistent winning product they put on the field. However, Tomlin’s Steelers are predictably struggling this year and just last week we saw Marcus Peters and Harbaugh go at it on the sidelines, as Baltimore has given up two big leads turning into losses.
What’s the sentiment with Harbaugh among the Ravens’ fan base? Is patience wearing thin with this franchise and its annually-high (rightfully so) expectations?
KB: Ravens fans want Harbaugh gone with each loss.
When they win, it’s due to the brilliance of Lamar Jackson. When they lose, it’s because of the coaching staff and everybody else. It is what it is.
5.) AC: I’m guessing this is a hard one for you to predict, given the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of both teams squaring off this Sunday. How do you see this playing out and do you see the underdog Bengals covering the spread (+3)?
KB: I see the Bengals covering the spread and likely winning this game. The Ravens are frustratingly banged up. I don’t expect Stanley, Bateman, Hill and Houston to play. I’m unsure if Peters will either.
Going into a game against primetime Burrow and Company—who relish pummeling the Ravens, without your No. 1 pass rusher, No. 1 wide receiver, No. 1 running back and No. 2 cornerback is a recipe for a loss.
Yes, there is a realm in which the Ravens put it together, but I wouldn’t favor the Ravens in this one.
Our thanks to Kyle Barber over at Baltimore Beatdown for the session! Go check out their site for all of the pertinent news, updates, opinions and analysis as the big clash comes up this week!