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Ravens News 12/4: Edge Decisions and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

What the Steelers Said After Close Win Over Ravens - Ryan Mink

QB Ben Roethlisberger

Did they defend you guys any differently as far as you could tell than the second half back on November 1st?

“Yeah, they did some different things. Set back some zones. A little less man. Some of that might have to do with injuries and things like that. They threw some different looks at us, some blitzes. Give them some credit obviously for the way we played, too.”

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Did they do a better job this week of anticipating, this time against you guys of anticipating some of those third and short rub routes that you guys had? Did they do better this time?

“I would say, I would say, yeah. I would say they were ready for all the quick slants underneath, the quick plays, plays that we have been getting the past game that we played them at their stadium, so I think they were more prepared, having the knowledge drop, being able to read and to disrupt everything that’s going on in the bubbles and all that. So, yeah, they played very well in stopping us on third down.”

The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Loss to Steelers - John Eisenberg

It was disturbing and then some to see the Ravens’ defense experience all sorts of tackling problems late in their last game against the Tennessee Titans. “That’s not who we are,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said, and indeed, the tackling was vastly improved Wednesday, especially in the secondary. That’s where it had to be good, as the Steelers of 2020 are operating a short-route passing game that controls the clock, with the running game usually taking a backseat. Roethlisberger attempted 51 passes Wednesday and the Steelers ran the ball just 20 times. I think that actually worked in the Ravens’ favor, as the opposing offense attacked Baltimore where it is strong, i.e., the secondary, as opposed to the depleted rushing defense, which was without Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams for a third straight game. Needing to make stops and keep plays in front of them, the secondary came through. Chuck Clark was in on 13 combined tackles. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters each had six unassisted tackles.

Baltimore Ravens snap counts: Debuts and new roles aplenty, telling wide receiver numbers - Aaron Kasinitz

With slot receiver Willie Snead recovering from a coronavirus infection, fellow rookie Devin Duvernay played a career-high 41 offensive snaps and caught three passes for 20 yards. The team still didn’t use sixth-rounder James Proche much; he was on the field for just one offense play, which wound up as a Steelers pick-six.

Perhaps more interesting is that Dez Bryant, in his third game with Ravens, played more than Miles Boykin for the second time.

Boykin was on the field for at least 31 offense snaps in each of Baltimore’s first seven games the season. But he played 18 snaps Wednesday and hasn’t seen more than 20 in any of the past three contests.

Either because of a predetermined plan or his back spasms, D.J. Fluker did not play the entire game at right tackle. Fluker started but came off the field on several occasions, and third-round rookie Tyre Phillips replaced him. Fluker finished with 34 snaps and Phillips played 20. The Ravens also used rookie offensive guard Ben Bredeson as an extra lineman often, putting him into the game for 13 snaps.

With running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Gus Edwards (28 offensive snaps) and Justice Hill (26) saw similar playing time totals and both finished with nine carries.

2021 Free Agency: Ranking the NFL’s top 50 free agents - PFF

45. EDGE YANNICK NGAKOUE

It’s all about setting proper expectations and carving out a role for Ngakoue, who has been a good, not great, pass-rusher throughout his career. He excels from wide alignments where he can threaten the edge and has the inside counters to keep offensive tackles off balance. Since 2017, Ngakoue has the eighth-best pass-rush grade in the league when rushing from wide alignments, at 89.1, but he grades out at just 68.3 from all other defensive line alignments. When combining that with a history of well below-average run-defense grades (he peaked with a 59.0 grade in 2018), Ngakoue has a limited skill set compared to other top edge defenders around the league.

Ngakoue’s best role is as a designated pass-rusher on a team with strong interior rushers and in a scheme where he can stay on the outside while limiting his work in the run game.

Contract Analysis: Eventually, a team that trades for Ngakoue has to pay him, right? Ngakoue shouldn’t be too confident in that happening, as Baltimore let Za’Darius Smith walk after 2018 and couldn’t come to terms with Matthew Judon this past offseason. They’re not afraid of losing edge rushers.

48. EDGE MATTHEW JUDON

There’s an element to Judon’s game that screams “buyer beware,” as he has had high sack totals and good — not great — pass-rush grades over the past three seasons. The Ravens’ blitz-happy scheme certainly helps create mismatches and unblocked pressures, but even with those factored in, Judon has an above-average pass-rush grade over the past three years. The caveat is the expectation that he’ll become a “10-sack guy” in any system. Judon fits best as a situational rusher who can take advantage of mismatches and be used as a pass-rush/spy weapon against athletic quarterbacks.

Contract Analysis: It appears Judon is facing the same fate as former Ravens edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, especially after Baltimore doled out huge extensions to cornerback Marlon Humphrey and left tackle Ronnie Stanley. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson is eligible for an extension after the season, as well.

NFL Week 13 game picks: Undefeated no more! Washington stuns Steelers - Gregg Rosenthal

TUESDAY, DEC. 8

Baltimore Ravens 23, Dallas Cowboys 16

8:05 p.m. ET (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon) | M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)

The Ravens’ roster is compromised. One season after clinching home-field advantage with a week to spare, they are the AFC’s ninth seed with five games left. Baltimore hopes to get Lamar Jackson and others back for this game, but the Ravens can’t take anything for granted after the month they’ve been through. The Cowboys have experienced their share of awful luck this season, but they’ve collapsed within games enough times to believe it’s park of their makeup. When the talent is so depleted for both sides, I lean toward the better quarterback and better organization.