Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun
Michael Pierce taught a clinic in interior line play
This was classic big boy flexing from the Ravens’ sturdiest interior defender.
In the second quarter, with the Cardinals facing fourth-and-1 in Ravens territory, Pierce overpowered his blocker to stuff running back Emari Demercado for no gain. A few moments earlier, he had bulled through a double team to make another stop at the line of scrimmage. On the drive before that, he’d shoved his way into Dobbs’ pocket to bat down a pass on fourth-and-1.
It turned out he was just getting started. Pierce opened the second half with a tackle for loss and his first sack of the season.
“Yes, ‘The Juggernaut.’ That’s what we call him,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “The big fella up front; I love playing behind him, and it takes two to block him.”
Pierce’s job requires unselfishness. He’s usually the guy who swallows blockers so others might swoop in to finish off ball carriers. When Mike Macdonald answered a recent question about Justin Madubuike’s pass rushing production, he made a point of saying it wouldn’t be possible without Pierce, who was sackless at that point. Coaches and teammates understand how much the whole operation depends on the grunts and thumps delivered by Pierce, Travis Jones and Broderick Washington.
Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said he’s never played with a better defensive front.
Bo Smolka, PressBox
Gus Edwards can be that workhorse, clock-killing back.
The Ravens curiously seemed to forget about the running game in the first half. They dropped back to throw on nine of their first 10 snaps. Jackson had a quiet day overall, going 18-for-27 for 157 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
In the first half, Edwards (6-20) and Justice Hill (1-6) carried on just seven on the team’s 28 offensive plays.
But after safety Geno Smith intercepted Dobbs late in the third quarter with the Ravens leading, 14-7, they rode with Edwards. He carried twice in a row on that abbreviated drive, and his 7-yard touchdown run gave the Ravens a 21-7 lead.
On the Ravens’ next possession, early in the fourth quarter, Edwards carried on the first four plays, totaling 30 yards. On their possession after that, Edwards again carried on the first four plays. That sequence netted a first down and also forced the Cardinals to burn all their timeouts.
Edwards might not have breakaway speed, but the 6-foot-1, 238-pounder will exact punishment running north and south and he can move the chains.
The Ravens have insisted all summer that the offense is going to look different this year, with its high-profile, rebuilt passing game. But certain times call for a return to their old-school, power run game, and as he showed in this game, Edwards is the man for that job.
Ryan Mink, BaltimoreRavens.com
“What level of need is what it comes down to,” Harbaugh said. “Do we have a specific overarching have-to-have guy? No, we have an excellent roster. … I love our guys. I think we have everything we need to be successful.
“At the same time, if an opportunity came to bring in somebody that can help us and make us better in any area really, but some areas more than others, and you can do it in a way that is affordable to the team and club – cap wise and draft-pick wise – you would do it to try to get better. That’s where we’re at right now. Eric and his group is are working through that. … That’s a possibility.”
The Ravens didn’t seem to have a glaring hole at inside linebacker last year when they acquired Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears, but he instantly made a huge difference. Harbaugh called that Monday one of the Ravens’ “all-time great trades.”
Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic
If the best thing you can say about the Ravens Sunday is that they took care of business, that’s OK. Dominant, thorough performances like the one they authored against the Detroit Lions don’t happen weekly.
Now, DeCosta has some business to attend to of his own by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Does he make a move or stand pat? The answer could tell you a little bit about how DeCosta evaluates his team through eight games. If he does make a move, does DeCosta, who loves being in the mix when standout players are available, try to land a star or just add depth at a potential position of need?
“I know he’s always looking into different things,” said cornerback Marlon Humphrey. “I know he’s always looking into good players, any way we can add to the team. It would be interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.
“I like our team. I think we really got a lot of good pieces, but you can always add somebody. I don’t even know who is really on the block, but there’s a lot of good players out there that if they came, it would be a great addition.”
Brad Spielberger, PFF
BALTIMORE RAVENS: HOLD
The Ravens are already in the top three of cash spending for 2023, so pulling off another blockbuster like they did last year in acquiring linebacker Roquan Smith may be tough to accomplish. Giving up premium draft capital also makes it harder to add cheap young talent, further compounding the issue.
Steven Ruiz, The Ringer
For the first time in Jackson’s career, we can’t blame the receiving corps for that. While Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, and a potentially washed Odell Beckham Jr. aren’t an elite unit by any means, they are more than enough for a quarterback as talented as Jackson. I’m not sure we can say the same about the team’s group of running backs, which is being led by the extraordinarily mid Gus Edwards.
Edwards was the offense’s most productive player in Sunday’s 31-24 win over Arizona, rushing for 80 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. But that performance also illustrated his limitations as a lead back: Sure, Edwards can get you 4 yards consistently, but don’t expect much more than that. Justice Hill, the team’s RB2, has a little more juice, but he doesn’t really know how to utilize it. Neither guy is capable of making defenders miss, and the result is a lack of explosive gains by the team’s running backs. Losing J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending Achilles injury put a clear ceiling on Baltimore’s rushing attack. If the team insists on limiting Jackson’s designed carries, the only way it’ll raise that ceiling is by dealing for a back who can consistently break out for long touchdowns.