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Ravens News 2/3: Prudent Blitzing and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Mike Macdonald’s Vision for the Ravens Defense - Clifton Brown

More Prudence With Blitzing

Macdonald certainly utilized the blitz at Michigan, but not as frequently as Brown or Martindale. Macdonald preferred to keep quarterbacks off balance by showing the blitz less frequently and mixing up zone and man-to-man coverage in the secondary. When the Ravens blitzed last season, they often they didn’t get a sack or quarterback pressure and left themselves vulnerable against the pass.

Both Head Coach John Harbaugh and Macdonald believe in being aggressive defensively, but Ravens cornerbacks may not be left on an island as frequently.

“The aggressiveness – absolutely – is going to carry over, but I think you’ve got to look through the lens [of], ‘What does aggressiveness actually mean?,’” Macdonald said. “It’s about keeping the offense off-balance and where they’re not really believing what they’re seeing on a down-to-down basis. So, a lot of times, that will come with the schemed-up pressure – that’ll happen. A lot of times it could be a fake pressure, it could look like this coverage and play like another one. You’re changing the stress points of the zones and things like that and just trying to create doubt at all times. You want to be the one pushing the envelope, rather than the other way around.”

Ravens film study: What to expect from Mike Macdonald’s defense - Jonas Shaffer

The Ravens didn’t have that kind of personnel advantage this season. Not a lot of teams do. According to Pro Football Reference, Martindale’s defense had a 31% blitz rate in 2021 (sixth highest in the NFL) but finished with just 34 sacks in 17 games (11th fewest) and a 23% pressure rate (ninth lowest). In Baltimore, Macdonald’s challenge will be supercharging a pass rush that has young talent but not yet the kind of playmakers who warp game plans.

In the secondary, Macdonald has maybe his most obvious analog. At Michigan, Hill, the younger brother of Ravens running back Justice Hill, lined up everywhere over his three college seasons. While he played mostly in the slot last season (580 snaps, according to PFF), he also got 132 snaps as a box defender, 80 as a deep-lying defensive back and 20 at the line of scrimmage. A potential first-round pick who projects as a versatile, speedy safety, Hill finished second on the Wolverines in tackles (69), first in pass breakups (nine) and tied for first in interceptions (two).

In Baltimore, Macdonald could find a similar role for safety Brandon Stephens, who emerged as one of the Ravens’ top defenders over the final month of his rookie season. Stephens, a gifted athlete himself, played mostly as a deep safety last season. But Martindale moved him around like a chess piece, from box safety (90 snaps in pass defense, according to SIS) to slot cornerback (75) to outside cornerback (11). Under Macdonald, Stephens could prove too good to keep tethered to any one position.

Tom Brady retires: Ranking current NFL QBs with best chance to match Buccaneers, Patriots great’s legacy - Cody Benjamin

7. Lamar Jackson (Ravens)

You can critique his big-game performances to date, but Jackson is in the conversation because he’s also a game-changer with his legs, totaling 3,673 rushing yards in four years. He’s on pace to blow past the top all-time QB rushing marks held by Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Randall Cunningham. He’s also helped lead playoff runs in three of his first four seasons and is buoyed by a strong support staff in Baltimore. From a sheer athletic standpoint, he’s got the tools to be an all-timer.

2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl: Top draft prospect at every position - Michael Renner

OT: BERNHARD RAIMANN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Draft Board Rank: 19th

2021 Overall Grade: 94.6

Raimann has a chance to fly up draft boards. In only his second season at offensive tackle in 2021, he was already the highest-graded tackle in college football. He put on over 60 pounds in two years and completely changed physically. If Raimann shuts down top competition in Mobile, he could end up a top-10 pick.

DI: DEVONTE WYATT, GEORGIA

Draft Board Rank: 37th

2021 Overall Grade: 89.8

Wyatt gets a lot of play with an elite first step at 307 pounds. He moves like an elite three-technique, but with versatile defensive tackle size. However, Wyatt still needs a more complete pass-rushing plan to truly take advantage of those tools.

CB: ROGER MCCREARY, AUBURN

Draft Board Rank: 25th

2021 Overall Grade: 89.9

McCreary was the highest-graded cornerback in the SEC last season and has as much experience as any player at the position in the class. The worry is how his lack of length will translate as an outside cornerback in the NFL. McCreary checked in at only 189 pounds with extremely short 29 1/4-inch arms.

15 potential Ravens draft targets to watch at the 2022 Senior Bowl

Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

It’s an old cliche for offensive linemen, but it’s simply hard to find 6-9, 387-pound humans that move the way Faalele does. With his size, he’s almost never knocked backward, allowing just one pressure in the final eight games of his career, according to PFF. Former Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah compared the Minnesota star to former Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama

It doesn’t take long to scour NFL rosters and find quality interior defenders from Alabama. The 6-4, 313-pound Mathis is next in line, racking up seven sacks as a senior and delivering consistently strong play against the run.

Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois

If the Ravens are searching for a ballhawking deep safety, Joseph could be the one. The 6-0, 200-pound defensive back recorded five interceptions as a senior and showed a knack for snatching the ball over receivers. He was also a great tackler, often bringing down returners as a gunner on special teams. The biggest question is whether he has enough range to hold up in the middle of the field in the NFL.