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Ravens News 12/6: Shaky Protection

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NFL: NOV 26 Ravens at Chargers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As Ravens return from bye, these 7 flaws could derail their playoff push

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Shaky pass protection

The Ravens ended last season with one of the NFL’s best pass-blocking tackle duos. But in recent weeks, Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses have been the weak links up front.

Stanley, hampered throughout the season by injuries, has allowed four sacks and 28 quarterback pressures this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Since Week 8, among the 37 left tackles with at least 100 snaps in that span, he has the 11th-highest blown-block rate on pass snaps (5.5%), according to Sports Info Solutions. Harbaugh said last week that the bye week could be beneficial for Stanley, but he acknowledged that the former All-Pro “needs to get stronger and get his technique right.”

Moses has the 16th-worst blown-block rate on pass snaps (5.3%) among the 42 qualifying right tackles since Week 6, his first game back after a shoulder injury. He also sat out Week 9 and Week 10. Swing tackle Patrick Mekari hasn’t been any more reliable on drop-backs, either. At left tackle, his blown-block rate this season is 7.8%; at right tackle, it’s 5.1%.

The Ravens have to find a solution soon. Over the next five weeks, they’ll face the Jaguars’ Josh Allen (13.5 sacks), the 49ers’ Nick Bosa (eight) and Chase Young (6.5), the Dolphins’ Bradley Chubb (6.5), and the Steelers’ T.J. Watt (14) and Alex Highsmith (six) on the edge.

Ravens RG Kevin Zeitler: ‘Need To Finish Up The Right Way’ Following 9-3 Start

Henry Brown, PressBox

“I think a late bye is really nice,” Zeitler said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 28. “Just powering through the first 12 weeks like that, it’s a grind, but to get a little rest, try to heal up to finish off the season, I think it will do us some good.”

His play has put the team in a position to succeed, but as someone who has already witnessed multiple late-season flameouts in Baltimore, the five-time playoff participant is preaching the importance of focusing on the future.

“I think we’ve done some good things, and it’s fun. We want to acknowledge what we’ve done, but we have a long way to go, a lot of things to learn, and a lot of things to get better at,” Zeitler said. “[If] we take advantage of this bye, [if] we can get it going to finish out strong, the sky’s the limit.”

Zeitler has only allowed two sacks on the season, according to Pro Football Focus, giving quarterback Lamar Jackson time to provide his weapons with scoring opportunities. That makes Zeitler’s commitment well worth the bruises.

NFL Power Rankings Week 14: 49ers make a statement, plus worst-case scenarios

Josh Kendall, The Athletic

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)

(Last week: 2)

Sunday: Bye

Worst case: Roquan Smith regression

Since the Ravens sent the Bears second- and fifth-round picks for Smith on Oct. 31 last year, Baltimore is first in the NFL in yards per play allowed (4.5), third in defensive success rate (62 percent) and third in EPA per snap (12.8). In that span, the linebacker is fourth in the league in defensive splash plays (66), according to TruMedia. Sure, Lamar Jackson is integral to Baltimore’s success, but don’t overlook Smith’s impact.

Up next: vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m. ET Sunday

NFL Week 14 Power Rankings 2023: How all 32 teams stack up

Jamison Hensley, ESPN

4. Baltimore Ravens (9-3)

Pleasant surprise: DT Justin Madubuike

Madubuike has gone from being a very good player to an All-Pro one. He has dominated the interior of the line, becoming the first Ravens player since Terrell Suggs in 2017 to record double-digit sacks in a season with 10 so far. A third-round pick in 2020, Madubuike had 8.5 sacks in his first three seasons combined (42 games). This year, a contract year, he has recorded at least a half-sack in nine straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. “He’s walked in this year with just mission-minded [focus] from the beginning,” Ravens defensive line coach Anthony Weaver said. “I’m talking about in March, and to see it all come to fruition has been awesome.”

Pending 2024 NFL free agents who have raised their stock the most this season

Brad Spielberger, PFF

DI JUSTIN MADUBUIKE, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Madubuike had already established himself as a good all-around defender with consistent down-to-down effort on tape and a developing pass-rush arsenal, but the fourth-year breakout here has been noticeable.

Madubuike now has far more pressures (45) and nearly double the sack total (10) through Week 13 of this season than he’s had in any full season prior, with his career-high 13.3% pass-rush win rate ranking 16th among interior defenders. Madubuike’s 78.6 pass-rushing grade on true pass sets ranks 17th out of 114 qualifying interior defenders in 2023, and he has recorded eight of his sacks on those plays.

Madubuike’s 70.5 run-defense grade and 9.8% run-stop rate are also career highs. He has gone from a good all-around player to a great all-around player and, after the market explosion among interior defenders who can rush the passer last offseason, earned himself a ton of money along the way.

S GENO STONE, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Ballhawking deep-third free safeties don’t always cash in when free agency rolls around, as the league perceives some of the production to be largely predicated on the surrounding circumstances. Stone has certainly benefited from an ideal supporting cast with the Ravens and defensive coordinator Mike McDonald this season, but his ball production can’t be ignored.

In his first season playing in a full-time role on a defense that deploys three-safety looks as much as any team in the NFL, Stone boasts an 89.6 coverage grade and an NFL-leading six interceptions through Week 13. Stone has been credited with allowing just 18 receptions for 120 yards on 29 targets into his coverage, surrendering just one touchdown and only two receptions of 15-plus yards.

The knocks on Stone will be about his lack of deployment in the box or the slot and his poor run defense/tackling. However, if a team is looking for an eraser on the back end to make opposing quarterbacks think twice about chucking it deep, Stone has been that man this season.