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Ravens vs. Titans: the good, the bad and the ugly

The breakdown is here

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I stated I’d offer a more comprehensive breakdown rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the Baltimore Ravens’ (6-4) nauseating overtime loss delivered by the Tennessee Titans (7-3).

The Good

Dez Bryant is active: Nearly three years removed from his last NFL reception, Bryant played considerably well on Sunday. He found soft spots wide open in zones and ended the game with four receptions on five targets for 28 yards. One of his catches in the fourth quarter was sprung by a brilliant Mark Andrews block for 16 yards. I’ve been cautiously optimistic with Bryant and didn’t want to comment until I saw him make plays.

To take this a step further, I think he didn’t do anything more special than Miles Boykin could do. However, maybe the route running and the finding of openings in the zone was something Boykin couldn’t do on Sunday. Either way, Bryant looks good and deserves more looks down the stretch of the 2020 season.

J.K. Dobbins finally receiving more snaps: It is Week 11 and Dobbins has finally received the lions share of rushing snaps. I’m blown away it’s taken this long. I was and still against his selection in the 2020 NFL draft, but at least on the side that if he’s sporting the purple and black, he needs to be utilized far more frequently. Which is something I’ll mention later on in this article. For now, though, he’s receiving more playing time which is ultimately a good thing.

Mark Andrews breaking loose: After a few weeks of battling every double-team and bracket coverage imaginable, Andrews got the targets and the plays he’s capable of. A 31-yard flag route reception was the splash play that the Ravens’ desperately needed. He’s been taken away from game plans and it’s good to see him battle through it still and execute.

Patrick Mekari’s return to center: While his untimely snap may have cost the Ravens a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Mekari’s play on Sunday was far improved from the past couple weeks by Matt Skura. The only wild snap on Sunday came from the Titans’ direct snap to Derrick Henry. I’ve been critical of Mekari on the podcast “Host, Chief & Deputy,” as I really enjoyed his 2019 production and was disappointed in him not locking down a starting role to begin 2020. But after yesterday’s performance, I’d argue he’s the starting center moving forward.

Third quarter Lamar Jackson: Heading into halftime, Jackson’s statline wasn’t pretty, going only 4-for-11 for 54 yards. However, the first drive of the third quarter was brilliant. He waltzed the Ravens downfield, going 4-for-4 on passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. It felt as if he honed in and the receiving threats were creating separation. They put together a great drive to take a commanding lead.

DeShon Elliott’s hitstick: Regardless of the games’ outcome, a thunderous hit on Derrick Henry deserves applause.

The Bad

Marcus Peters has not been lockdown: When the splash plays are there, he’s among the elite. When he doesn’t create takeaways, he can get caught out of coverage often. I am a big fan of Peters’ play and his takeaway numbers are mentioned with the likes of Ed Reed and Deion Sanders, but his shutdown ability is not. Getting torched by the Titans’ play action was painful to watch.

Patrick Queen’s coverage ability, or lack thereof: Similar to my feelings of Peters, is Queen. Deputy Editor of Baltimore Beatdown, Vasilis Lericos, asked me on the most recent episode of, “Host, Chief & Deputy” as to whether the splash plays brought on by Queen are enough to make up for his lack of coverage ability. I said yes, but these past two weeks have been an argument against. He has the speed and agility, I believe, but the wisdom and learning curve are a cruel lesson taught by chunk plays and touchdowns.

The Ugly

J.K. Dobbins production wasn’t labeled “intentional”: On Sunday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Dobbins receiving the majority of carries was not by design, but just a result of how the game played out.

Meanwhile, during Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s media availability, he stated, “It’s obvious [J.K. Dobbins’] their feature runner now.”

I don’t know if it’s Harbaugh’s attempt to hide Dobbins as their primary back, but either way, this is getting old. He’s clearly the best tailback on the roster. He’s clearly making more plays than others. He was the Ravens’ second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Why they’ve waited so painstakingly long to utilize the talents of their high draft pick is arguably foolish at this point.

From Eric DeCosta’s media availability after Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft, after being asked about the pick of J.K. Dobbins:

“We’re a team that likes to run the football. Having running backs is I think is really, really important. This was a guy that, in my opinion, one of the very best in college football this year. He’s a very talented guy with electric skill and played at a very high level in a really good conference. We’re excited to get him. He fits us and I think he’s going to be a guy that’s very dangerous for us.”

Stop giving a guy who clearly can be a “very dangerous” guy for the team minimal carries.

Also, at the time of writing this it’s been announced that J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II tested positive for COVID-19. Fantastic.

Mark Ingram isn’t it: No longer does Ingram look to be the same back whose first carry in 2019 was a 70-yard bulldozing run against the Miami Dolphins. He appears to have hit the infamous 30-year wall.

Marquise Brown and the tweet: Since complaining of his lack of usage, this man has produced only 5 catches on 15 targets for 52 yards and zero touchdowns. He has dropped multiple wide-open passes and failed to make plays. I’m not at all impressed and I was a part of the crowd believing in the hype. He was grinding an offseason of work. He was heralded by Ravens strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders for his brilliant offseason efforts. He has little to show for it and I don’t believe it’s due to the game plan exclusively. Make the plays, get in the lab, do the job. It’s easy for me to complain from a desk chair but to see this production is pitiful. It’s especially painful when witnessing other wide receivers in the same draft class dominate, a la A.J. Brown bullying four Ravens and scoring a go-ahead touchdown against the Ravens.

Greg Roman’s playcalling: A team full of “track stars” can’t find separation. There’s speed at every spot for skill positions. Mark Andrews can even carve up linebackers. But, somehow, a team boasting Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Marquise Brown, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II can’t break free on slants, crossers or otherwise? Why is there a complete lack of splash plays where a receiver catches a five-yard pass and turns it upfield for 20? I don’t understand it.

Eric DeCosta’s picks deserve criticism: As of now, his top pick of Marquise Brown looks wide of the mark compared to the likes of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and others. His second first-round pick is a linebacker struggling in coverage, albeit has made splash plays. His 2020 second-round pick is a “very dangerous” running back that has seen the third-most carries on the team, behind both Jackson (103) and Gus Edwards (85). Now, obviously these are short-term takes and they have multiple years to display their talent but it’s not panning out right now.

Discipline: This team cannot play legal football. Now, some of this is a ref show but the self-inflicted penalties and failures are most certainly not the referee’s fault. False starts, illegal formations and failures to simply play the game within the boundaries of the rule book are critical to the success of a team. Baltimore now leads the league with a -23 penalty differential compared to their opponents, worst in the NFL. Coincidentally, they’ve been flagged for 23 pre-snap penalties, which is eighth-worst in the NFL. Get it together.

Third place in the AFC North: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Baltimore now trails both the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0) and the Cleveland Browns (7-3). Not much else to say, outside of realizing this is how poor the Ravens are performing at this point.