Evaluate your team’s activity or lack thereof at the deadline. Did you like what they did or did not do? Should they have done something more?
I like the Smith addition for the Ravens and I would have liked it even better if it was paired with a wide receiver. But I digress. The Ravens’ inside linebacker play has been shaky at times, and they’ve been lacking in guys to make a play late in the game to get the defense off the field. Smith certainly has that capability. The Ravens could have used another receiver, especially with Rashod Bateman out for the season with a foot injury. Given the team’s modest number of draft picks and current salary-cap room, it was always going to be hard for general manager Eric DeCosta to make more than one notable move at the deadline. Smith will impact more games for the Ravens than some second or third wideout they could have gotten. Still, that wide receiver depth chart without Bateman is hard to ignore.
A Quiet Competitor Is Starting to Roar - Ryan Mink
Devin Duvernay topped 20 mph on his 15-yard jet sweep touchdown in Tampa Bay last week. That’s nothing new for the Ravens’ speed demon.
What was different was his celebration. As he turned to his teammates, Duvernay unleashed a roar captured by a Thursday Night Football camera.
Duvernay is a mild-mannered, well-mannered guy. He’s no nonsense, no frills, no fluff. He doesn’t talk much, or loud. Duvernay’s parents still have to squeeze details about his day out of him when they call.
But inside that soft-spoken shell is an intense competitor. And now that he’s getting an opportunity to show what he can do, that competitor is starting to roar.
The Ravens are using Duvernay in every way possible. He’s lining up outside (72%), in the slot (26%), took a handoff out of the backfield, and is being used on screens, bubbles, jet sweeps and more. He’s the do-it-all weapon in the Ravens offense and already has a career-high 313 receiving yards in just eight games.
Duvernay is also again the game’s best returner, as he’s second in punt return average (15.1 yards) and first in kickoff return average (31.9). He’s the only player in the league with a kick or punt return touchdown so far this season. His top speed of 21.60 mph on his 103-yard kickoff return against the Dolphins in Week 2 is the third-fastest speed recorded of any player in the NFL this season.
With OLB Tyus Bowser set to return, Ravens’ pass rush is primed for breakout: ‘We’re on our way’ - Jonas Shaffer
With Tyus Bowser set to make his season debut, Justin Houston finally healthy and second-round David Ojabo fully practicing, Odafe Oweh can appreciate the state of the Ravens’ outside linebacker depth chart. For once, there’s actual depth there.
“We have rotations now,” Oweh said Wednesday. “Earlier, we didn’t. It was just two guys busting our [butts], man.”
“I’ve been working hard this entire time, and my only focus is just getting better each and every day,” Bowser said. “Like I said, I’m confident in where I am. That’s pretty much where I’m going with it right now.”
Even without Bowser, the Ravens’ pass rush has been trending up in recent weeks. Over its first five games, the defense ranked 29th in the NFL in pressure rate (26.5%) and 25th in sack rate (4.9%), according to TruMedia. Since Week 6, the Ravens are 20th in pressure rate (31%) and second in sack rate (10.9%), behind only the Dallas Cowboys, despite ramping up their blitz rate only slightly (21.5% to 24.8%).
“I think we’re on our way,” defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said Friday. “Like, the vision of how we want to operate — are we at the level yet? No. I think that’s kind of been the message since I’ve sat up here, since we got here. So it’s still an evolving process. Now that we have more guys that are able to do different things, I think you’ll start to see it come into focus a little bit more.”
Roquan Smith hadn’t missed a defensive snap all year for Chicago and expressed little concern about learning Baltimore’s system this week. Perhaps there’s a stray sub package or two in which we won’t see him, but I fully expect the standout inside linebacker to play a lot on Monday night.
The late-week injury to Demarcus Robinson could put an even brighter spotlight on DeSean Jackson, who’s poised to make his season debut. When you put yourself in the position the Ravens have at wide receiver, the hope is the 35-year-old can find the Fountain of Youth.
Despite shutting out Las Vegas last week, the Saints had allowed 30 or more points in each of their previous three games and entered Week 9 ranked 27th in pressure rate and 30th in blitz rate. Of course, New Orleans not having to account for Andrews or Rashod Bateman helps.
Linebacker play is always critical in the quest to contain Lamar Jackson, and New Orleans has the formidable pair of Demario Davis and Pete Werner. Entering Sunday, Pro Football Focus graded Davis first and Werner 22nd among qualified NFL off-ball linebackers. Davis has five sacks this season.
The red zone is always important, but New Orleans ranks second in the NFL with 29.5% of its plays inside the opponent’s 20 resulting in a touchdown, according to Sharp Football. Meanwhile, opponents are averaging a league-high 12.3 red-zone plays per game against the Ravens.
This is truly going to be a battle of Lamar Jackson vs whoever can keep up with him in the front 7. We have never seen Lamar go against the Saints as the starter, as last time they played in 2018 Jackson was the backup to Joe Flacco. But we have seen Jalen Hurts have his way with the Saints, but also Kyler be relatively tame against them as well, so this is a difficult one to predict.
One thing working in the Saints’ favor is that J.K. Dobbins is obviously out with his knee injury, being placed on IR late in October. Backup Gus Edwards also has not practiced yet in two sessions, which does not bode well for him playing. This would leave Kenyan Drake as the starter with Justice Hill and Mike Davis as the rotational backs, which is obviously not optimal. If Gus does not play, this should help the Saints focus down and run a huge amount of QB contain/keep someone as a spy and go all out to prevent him from running. Will that work? TBD. But as of right now, the Ravens should have the edge in these two units matching up until we know more about Gus Edwards’ status.