It’s clear this season that Lamar Jackson is at least from this world — not an alien who is set to completely rewrite all we know about the game. With a worse offensive line, scheme changes and a nagging injury, Jackson hasn’t been quite at his MVP level so far in 2020, but half of his performances have earned a PFF grade of at least 75.0.
With Ronnie Stanley lost for the year, the question for Jackson will be where his performance levels out for the season now that he is dealing with major adversity in terms of supporting cast for the first time in his NFL career.
Marlon Humphrey is one of the game’s best defensive backs but doesn’t quite get the recognition because the Ravens ask him to do different things than most top shutdown corners — some of which harm his overall numbers, such as covering the slot.
Since the start of the 2018 season, only Stephon Gilmore has a higher PFF coverage grade than Humphrey when in single coverage. And when limiting that to snaps played strictly at outside corner, Humphrey is No. 1 by some distance, with one of the highest forced-incompletion rates (31.3%) of any corner. Don’t let his role fool you; Humphrey is a true stud.
Andrews was underrated from Day 1. He was the better tight end when he was drafted despite being taken lower in the draft than Hayden Hurst, and he has set about proving that and becoming Lamar Jackson’s favorite target.
Since the start of 2019, Andrews leads the Ravens in targets (136), catches (87), touchdown receptions (15), first downs (60), yards per route run (2.37) and has almost three times more contested catches than the next receiver. He is an outstanding receiver over the middle for the Ravens offense and one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the game.
Bonds was one of seven Ravens players added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday after having either social or game-day contact with Humphrey. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that this group, including Bonds, will not practice this week but is expected to be cleared by Sunday. The second-year undrafted free agent played 15 defensive snaps vs. Pittsburgh, recording two tackles in the loss, and could see more playing time this weekend in Indianapolis. More quick than fast, Bonds has a high football IQ and good instincts but can lose concentration at times. He is aggressive and isn’t afraid to tackle, a key trait in a cornerback. He’s undersized (5-foot-8, 182 pounds) but a natural nickel corner who knows how to play every position in the back end.
If Bonds isn’t cleared to play Sunday, look for Khalil Dorsey, a primarily special teams player, to step in. When watching the All-22 Coaches Film, Dorsey is a smart, quick cornerback who shows burst to the receiver and the ball, but lacks top long speed to cover a speedster downfield. He plays tough against the run, but is often engulfed by blockers due to his small stature (5-9, 170). His limited wing span also causes him to miss some tackles. Dorsey would be best suited as a nickel corner.
When Stanley exited last week’s game, Orlando Brown slid from right to left tackle and Fluker took over on the right side. In 29 pass-blocking snaps vs. Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense, Fluker allowed two hits, two hurries and four pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. When watching the film, Fluker looks quicker than he did last year after losing some weight in the offseason. As a physical player with size (6-5, 342 pounds) and strength, he’s a better run blocker than pass blocker, as he has good balance against linebackers and stays on his feet very well. His problem area in pass protection is when he faces speed — evidenced by last week’s stat sheet — because he has some stiffness as a blocker. His size and strength do help him against pass rushers who aren’t quick. Unfortunately, Justin Houston brings a lot of speed off the edge for the Colts’ No. 2-ranked defense.
4 bold Ravens predictions for Week 9 vs. Colts - Marty Fenn
J.K. Dobbins rushes for over 100 yards
Dobbins has had a strange season to this point.
The second-round pick generated a ton of buzz for the Ravens in the offseason, showcasing his downhill running style and also looking like a capable receiver out of the backfield. But Dobbins’ usage was very spotty with both Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards still in the picture.
However, Baltimore would be wise to keep the Dobbins train rolling after he gashed the Pittsburgh Steelers for 113 yards on 7.53 yards per carry last weekend.
Indianapolis has dominated against the run, ranking second in both rushing yards allowed and yards per carry. DeForest Buckner has been worth every penny, stuffing the run and making plays in the backfield. Denico Autry has also had success chasing the ball, and Darius Leonard is a menace at the middle linebacker spot.
But the Colts have also faced some relatively underwhelming rushing attacks thus far, and the Ravens have one of the most unique schemes in football.
The Colts will likely key in on Lamar Jackson, which could result in a big day for Dobbins if he finds holes and breaks into the second level.
NFL Week 9 game picks: Packers over 49ers; Bucs top Saints - Gregg Rosenthal
Baltimore Ravens 24, Indianapolis Colts 20
This game is a stress test that will tell us how different these Ravens truly are. Baltimore’s defense is better than it was a year ago, but the sluggish passing game is impossible to ignore after another rough day for Lamar Jackson. Philip Rivers, on the other hand, is quietly carrying a Colts offense that ranks fifth in yards per pass attempt, yet dead last in yards per carry. I love Darius Leonard. I love Julian Blackmon. I love DeForest Buckner. But the Ravens’ running game is coming off its best game of the year and Baltimore still has more ways to win, with more firepower than the Colts, on both sides of the ball.