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Ravens News 1/29: Investment Strategy and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Offensive Line Is a ‘Major Focal Point,’ But How Much Investment Is Needed? - Ryan Mink

For the third straight year, the Ravens’ playoff exit and offensive struggles fall somewhat on Baltimore’s offensive line. The Ravens got outmatched up front in the 2018 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and knocked back in the 2019 defeat to the Tennessee Titans.

This time, wild snaps and trouble handling the Buffalo Bills’ pressure caused the biggest problems for an offense that moved the ball fairly well but still scored only three points. The middle and right side of Baltimore’s offensive line did not have its best outing.

“We certainly have to do a better job of getting the ball back to the quarterback,” DeCosta said. “We think we have some options at the position, and we’ve got some good, young players.”

“What I like about the offensive line is we have a lot of really good, nice, young players,” General Manager Eric DeCosta said. “We’re not sure who those guys are going to be [and if] they are going to emerge and be the starters for us, but we’ve got good depth – what I would call shallow depth. We have some guys that can play. A lot of guys have played for us – a lot of young players are emerging talents.”

Under-the-radar NFL free agents to target in the 2021 offseason - Sam Monson

C AUSTIN REITER

The NFL is always chasing dominance on the offensive line, but in truth, solidity is more important — it can lead to excellent value on players that don’t tick the boxes the league wants them to, particularly if they weren’t high draft picks.

This sums up Austin Reiter, a seventh-round draft pick by Washington back in 2015. He has been the starting center for the Kansas City Chiefs for the past two seasons and has never had an overall PFF grade worse than solid during his NFL career.

In a league continuing to trend ever-more pass happy, Reiter’s pass blocking has also been the stronger facet of his game, with three straight seasons of at least a 77.5 PFF grade in that area. Reiter will likely never be a superstar, but he is assuredly solid at a key pivot point along the offensive line and will be dramatically underrated because he isn’t a dominant force inside.

Some teams have endured sub-standard center play for years, and a player like Reiter would likely be a cheap but significant upgrade for them.

AFC unsung heroes: Naming one under-the-radar stud on each team - Nick Shook

Baltimore Ravens

Gus Edwards

We all paid plenty of attention to quarterback Lamar Jackson’s elite rushing exploits and the rise of rookie runner J.K. Dobbins, but in the meantime, Edwards quietly usurped veteran Mark Ingram as the Ravens’ second back and put together a solid season. Edwards rushed for 723 yards and six scores on 144 carries (5 yards per attempt) as part of the league’s top rushing attack, and he made an even greater impact than most would realize when it came to Next Gen Stats. Edwards finished with the eighth-most rushing yards over expectation on the season (+163), and his rushes over expectation percentage (the percentage of rushes in which a back exceeds expected rushing yards) was the highest in the NFL at 43.1 percent.

END OF SEASON ROSTER EVALUATION DEFENSE - Ken McKusick

Young Producers (3): Deshon Elliott, Justin Madubuike, Patrick Queen

These are players on their first contract who are already starting (or should be) and are playing well. A team needs as many of these players as possible to continually outperform the salary cap.

Tyus Bowser graduated from this group and is now a free agent. Deshon Elliott is entering year 4 and a candidate for an early extension after playing virtually every snap at FS. Madubuike improved dramatically as the season progressed and finished with 25% of snaps played. After consideration, I included Queen as a young producer rather than developmental. Of all players on the defense, he’s the one who most needs to receive positional coaching this offseason to improve tackling and coverage recognition.

Tales from baddest defense: 20th anniversary of Ravens’ first Super Bowl win - Jamison Hensley

The Ravens trash-talked running backs and even an opposing owner. They flipped the middle finger at the Black Hole in Oakland before the AFC Championship Game. Heading into the Super Bowl, the Ravens didn’t simply guarantee a victory. They repeatedly predicted a shutout (a promise which, technically, they did live up to) at news conferences all week.

How confident was this Baltimore defense? By midway through the season, the routine of discussing the defensive game plan before games had ended in the locker room.

“We didn’t really care about that anymore,” former Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa recalled recently. “It was more about: What dance are we going to do when we get an interception? We’re not even talking about the game because we knew we were that good. We’re practicing ‘the grenade,’ where one guy throws the ball up in the air and everyone falls back. I was like, this is really messed up, man.”

Ray Lewis, the game’s best defensive player, manned the middle with linebacker Jamie Sharper on a defense that produced four shutouts. Up front, Siragusa and Sam Adams formed a 700-pound wall that held teams to 2.7 yards per carry. On the edges, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett took out quarterbacks and wondered why the backups never wrote them thank you notes for getting them into games. In the secondary, safeties Rod Woodson and Kim Herring teamed with two young first-round picks, Chris McAlister and Duane Starks, to turn interceptions into touchdowns.