The Baltimore Ravens are coming off a fresh loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that may have looked out of reach at times, but ended closer than most expected. Week 4 could present itself with a fresh start for several players that struggled against a phenomenal Chiefs team. The Cleveland Browns are currently 1-2 and hungry for a win against a division rival. The Ravens should also be hungry considering the result at Arrowhead Stadium.
This should be a more competitive game than most people would think based on the recent struggles of the Browns, and the feeling of a must-win in Baltimore for both teams. Let’s not forget that every division game has severe playoff implications, no matter the time of year. Multiple players on the defensive side of the ball need to step up in a big way at M&T Bank this Sunday. Let's look at some players that you’ll need to keep an eye on in this crucial division game.
Arrowhead brought out the worst performance of Lamar Jackson’s 2019 season, and added only his second regular season loss of his young career. Jackson didn’t play bad by any means, but he struggled to move the ball successfully in the first half against an underrated Chiefs defense. The Ravens odd choice of play-calling in the first half resulted in Jackson throwing the ball 19 times and only completing eight of those passes for 75 yards. Lamar looked anxious at times and impatient, which is expected based on the environment in which he played in. Any player that goes to Kansas City against that team will have to quickly adjust to the atmosphere and overcome. Jackson ended the game completing 22 of his 43 passes for 267 yards. He also ran the ball eight times for 56 yards and a touchdown. He did what he had to do in the second half to put the team in a position to make a run.
Look for Lamar to continue this going into Week 4 against the Browns. He may not be given what he’s looking for, but he’s going to make the most out of the situation at hand. This is very impressive to see coming from a second-year player at any position, let alone the quarterback position. Jackson’s relentlessness will be tested against a Cleveland team that is looking to make a name for themselves - lets see how Lamar handles that pressure.
Brandon Williams and the Interior D-line:
I know that we are quick to blame the linebackers for not putting enough pressure on the quarterback, but year after year we see nothing from the interior line when it comes to the pass-rush. We all understand that Brandon Williams has never been known for pass-rushing skills but at this point in his career and especially given his contract, you’d expect more from him than just being a run-stuffer. Michael Pierce has flashed in the pass-rush over his first few years in the league, but still isn’t generating the type of rush the Ravens are looking for - hence their interest in Gerald McCoy during the offseason. Since Willie Henry was released, the interior pass rusher void hasn’t been filled.
Brandon WIlliams, Michael Pierce, Chris Wormley, Patrick Ricard and company need to step up and start pushing the issue of getting to the quarterback. The Cleveland Browns’ offensive line is struggling and injured. Let’s see if this is the week that the Ravens defensive line steps up big.
The Chiefs matched up Chris Jones on Bradley Bozeman quite often because they thought he was a weakness along Baltimore’s offensive line. Bozeman played fairly well considering the challenges that he was faced with. Lamar Jackson was given time to make decisions against a Kansas City’s defensive line built to rush the passer. Has Bozeman separated himself as the clear-cut starter for the remainder of the 2019 season? Possibly, but let's not forget that the Ravens have players like Ben Powers waiting in the wing to start if needed. Did this put a fire under Bozeman to keep his current job? This is optimistic for the organization knowing that they can at least rely on Bradley to maintain a position for a stretch of the season.
Look for Bradley Bozeman to continue to take this starting left guard job more seriously as the weeks go on. Cleveland traded for Oliver Vernon during the offseason and he may line up over Bozeman as another test. Let’s see how the guy handles his next challenger.
Brown had a relatively quiet day on Sunday. The Chiefs took away the deep ball and he wasn’t able to get separation he needed. Brown was targeted nine times and hauled in just two of those catches for 49 yards. Brown was impressive when he caught the ball, because they were both big plays during the game. Marquise and Lamar have a connection on and off the field that produces receptions. Teams will only be able to hold Brown down so much based on his speed and pristine route running. The fact that Marquise is getting so much attention just three games into his rookie year is something Ravens fans aren’t used to seeing and is astonishing news.
M&T Bank stadium will be rocking this Sunday when Marquise Brown hauls in some big catches to move the chains and score some points. Look for Brown and Lamar to hook up several times and beat the Browns on deep crossing routes and quick slants. Keep your eyes downfield when Baltimore’s manning the pigskin.
If there is one player that has been continually picked on by opponents throughout the first three weeks of the season, it’s Anthony Averett. The cornerback looked extremely poor in coverage against the Chiefs, and rightfully so. The Chiefs, as everyone knows, has a track team on offense and any corner would have difficulty keeping up. Averett was not even mediocre, he was horribly bad. He gave up several plays to Mecole Hardman and DeMarcus Robinson. Averett was even asked to blitz on occasion and failed at that is well, tripping over his own feet or falling in pursuit of Patrick Mahomes.
This is inexcusable, even for a second-year corner stepping into a starting role. Don Martindale needs to use Averett in a variety of ways and if he can’t handle the assignments, then he needs to step out of the way and let another player take his spot. Baltimore will realize this if Jimmy Smith’s absence extends longer than expected.
Fans see the fallacy within the secondary and look for it to be improved upon as the season rolls on. A once deep cornerback position for the Ravens has turned into a liability quickly after injuries to Smith and Tavon Young. Look for 34 to step up or step out against a very good wide receiver core featuring Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and possibly Rashard HIggins.