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Ravens News 2/16: Balanced offense, extending Pierce and more

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LSU v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Greg Roman Is Building a More Balanced Ravens Offense for 2019 - Ryan Mink

“We’ve got to develop a strong passing attack,” Roman said in his first comments as offensive coordinator on The Lounge podcast. “Lamar’s got to develop and everybody around him has got to get better in that area. Obviously, there will be more emphasis on that.”

“That’s another thing we want to do is make a lot more big plays in the passing game,” Roman said. “Take advantage of these looks we’re getting from defenses, who are basically stacking everybody up in there and playing a modified 6-2 defense.”

“I think he does things at the position that you can’t coach. He can see things,” Roman said. “He’s not one of those guys where you go, ‘Ah, he didn’t see him and he was wide open’ or ‘They dropped coverage on this guy and he didn’t see it.’ That is hugely encouraging because some guys just don’t have that.”

“But I would rather have a guy that can see the field, that can see things, and get him mechanically and fundamentally progressing rather than the guy that’s really, really good fundamentally but just can’t see the field. That’s a big, big thing.”

If Lamar Jackson becomes more consistently accurate, Greg Roman’s offense will be difficult to defend.

PFF loves Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce. The team has something to think about. - Aaron Kasinitz

PFF, a prominent outlet which scouts and grades players, rated Pierce as the Ravens’ best defensive player. Beyond that, Pierce graded out as the site’s top interior defensive lineman in the AFC North, beating out multi-time Pro Bowlers Cam Heyward and Geno Atkins for the honor.

While it can be difficult to measure an interior lineman’s performance through statistics, there’s evidence that Pierce elevated the Ravens’ defense. After the team totaled a franchise-record 11 sacks in a 21-0 victory over the Titans in October, several players credited the inside push from Pierce as a factor that allowed edge rushers to pummel quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Williams, who turns 30 this month, is signed through the 2021 season, but Baltimore could release him to get significant relief under the salary cap a year earlier. If the Ravens ink Pierce to a long-term contract, they’d be able to structure his deal so that the brunt of the cap hit comes after Williams’ contact is off the books.

The Ravens will tread lightly when negotiating any contract with an interior defensive lineman after they absorbed criticism for shelling out $52.5 million over five years to Williams. But the defense needs new, young linchpins with Weddle and Suggs nearing the end of their careers.

Pierce might be willing to sign a team friendly early contract extension because of the financial security that a multi-million dollar signing bonus provides to former undrafted free agents who are still under team control.

2019 Free Agency Profile: Javorius Allen - PFF

With Kenneth Dixon stepping in as the passing-down back and Edwards leading the backfield in rushing, there were simply no more snaps left for Allen. The entire backfield from 2017 was replaced this season based on performance. Allen’s production was mostly driven by volume over anything throughout his career. After a career-year in 2017, “Buck” dropped off from 68.7 to 63.1 this past season. When Allen did rush the ball, though, it was most likely inside the five-yard line. With 15% of his rushes coming inside the five-yard line, Allen led the league with at least 30 carries. He has proven that he can be a reliable, albeit lacking in explosiveness, backup running back for a team next season.

Buck has developed in the classic jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none tailback. A mid-round rookie with breakaway speed would be a better complement to Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon next season.

BREAKING THE 2019 SAFETY CLASS INTO NFL ROLES - Jon Ledyard

Single-High Free Safeties

Nasir Adderley, Delaware

Deionte Thompson, Alabama

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida

Juan Thornhill, Virginia

Marquise Blair, Utah

Evan Worthington, Colorado

Adderley has the best range and ball skills combination in the class, and I think his athleticism will translate immediately to the NFL. Gardner-Johnson has played all over Florida’s defense, but in my opinion his best reps in coverage were as a deep safety. I think his range and angles to the ball could project to a single-high role quite nicely.

The rest of the group have big question marks. Thompson has unbelievable flashes as a deep safety, but he’s a gambler who can be undisciplined with his eyes. There are also questions about how well he’ll run at the Combine. Thornhill’s best spot is playing deep, but I don’t see an instinctive or explosive athlete in coverage. He’s smart, but will that be enough?

Blair is a projection to single-high as he did it sparingly at Utah, but I think he has the athletic traits and is sharper from the neck up than he’s given credit for. How good are his ball skills though?

Worthington looks good on the hoof and might test well, but the mental processing aspect of free safety is still pretty foreign to him. Growth is needed, but the ceiling is decently high.

Baltimore’s defense will field the personnel to become a truly elite unit if Eric DeCosta can land the elusive “rangy” free safety this offseason.