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Ravens News 7/19: Blitzing Wizardry and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns

NFL Head Coach Power Rankings - Conor Orr

4. John Harbaugh, Ravens

Trending: Upward

Staff strength: 9

There is a theme you’ll notice on this list: coaches who are willing to be flexible and the resulting success. Harbaugh has defined flexibility for the modern NFL coach. In 2017 he was on the verge of losing his job, and now Baltimore is seen as a franchise on the NFL’s cutting edge. The presence of Lamar Jackson aside, Harbaugh leads a team that is responsibly married to its analytics department and is one of the few organizations that often finds itself a step ahead of the league’s middle class. This is what happens when you hire a true CEO and don’t grasp at an offensive wunderkind that you hope will develop into a leader. Harbaugh’s ability to manage some difficult roster transitions, beyond the era of Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and into the Lamar Jackson era, has been instructive. The Ravens took a broad look at how the league was operating and came as close as any NFL team to truly recreating football’s version of Moneyball by capitalizing on an athletic quarterback with mobility and a stockpile of talented tight ends and running backs, all traditionally undervalued assets.

Ravens Assistant Coaches Hold the Keys - Ryan Mink

Let’s start with Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale. Already established as one of the top at his profession, Martindale is tasked with overcoming the losses of Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue and Jihad Ward.

There’s been a lot of hand wringing about the Ravens’ pass rush after Judon and Ngakoue walked for bigger paydays. Baltimore drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round and could still end up signing a veteran lingering on the market.

But the more time passes, the more it seems Baltimore may just rely on Martindale’s blitzing wizardry to offset the losses and apply enough pressure to help what should be one of the league’s best secondaries. It’s not a bad bet.

Speaking of Oweh, the man primarily in charge of grooming the athletically otherworldly Penn State product is Drew Wilkins, who is in his 12th season with the Ravens and second year as outside linebackers coach.

“He’s the young star that no one knows about,” Martindale said in May. “He studies tape like I’ve never seen another coach in my career study tape.”

What to look for in games on TV, breaking down Tite front and outside zone offenses - Ted Nguyen

On third downs, the Ravens can get into their designer blitzes. They don’t have to worry about lining up a run sound front. This front with a defensive tackle and two rush linebackers to the offensive left was designed to get the offensive line to slide the protection that way, which it did. The defensive back lined up over the center has his right foot up and looks like he’s slightly shaded to the left A-gap.

On the other side, the Ravens have a defensive tackle and outside linebacker but would run a game with the defensive tackle and outside linebacker slanting inside and the defensive back looping around them. The safety would also come down from a deep alignment and rush from outside.

The running back had to pick up the safety coming from outside. Although the line had the numbers to pick up the blitz, it’s still difficult to block one-on-one and have to adjust to all this movement, especially on the side away from the line because there’s not help from the center.

Coverage-wise, the Ravens played cover 6 (quarter, quarter, half), which is a two-deep coverage, after showing only one-deep initially. To the strong side (the three-receiver side), they played cover 4, with both linebackers dropping and matching underneath.

To the weak side (one-receiver side), they played two-man (man coverage with a deep half safety over the top).

Better, worse or the same? Ravens defense focused on being the best - Jamison Hensley

Defensive line

Additions: Jovan Swann

Losses: Jihad Ward

Returners: Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike, Broderick Washington Justin Ellis, Aaron Crawford

Better, worse or the same? Same, although Campbell could change that.

Baltimore brings back all three starting linemen from last season — Campbell, Williams and Wolfe — each of whom is over 30. The Ravens are hoping this group can be more disruptive this year because a calf injury and COVID-19 never allowed Campbell to play like himself. If Campbell can bounce back at this late stage of his career (he turns 35 before the start of the season), the Ravens can cause problems up front. If he doesn’t, this group regresses.

This can be a breakout season for Madubuike. Coaches and teammates raved all offseason about Madubuike’s high effort and his explosiveness in getting out of his stance. It wouldn’t be surprising if Madubuike forced his way into the starting lineup this season.

Interior Defender Rankings: The 32 best DIs entering the 2021 NFL season - Ben Linsey

10. CALAIS CAMPBELL, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Campbell missed some time with a calf injury in 2020 and wasn’t the same elite player when on the field that he was in Jacksonville, snapping a streak of four consecutive seasons with 90.0-plus PFF grades. But there is little reason to believe he won’t continue to look like one of the more well-rounded defensive linemen in the league next season for the Ravens at 35 years old.

Few have been able to match his contributions in the run game over the past five seasons. His 61 tackles for loss or no gain against the run over that span rank third among defensive linemen, behind only Brandon Graham and Jadeveon Clowney.