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Ravens News 12/7: Downfield Strikes

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Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Here’s how Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense could evolve after the bye

Jonas Shaffer, The Baltimore Banner

Downfield passing

The bad news for the Ravens’ passing game is that Jackson’s downfield accuracy remains below average. He ranks 28th in completion percentage (27.5%) among the 31 quarterbacks with at least 20 deep passes (20-plus air yards), according to TruMedia.

The good news: Jackson isn’t overly reliant on them. With his 40 attempts, Jackson ranks 12th in deep-passing rate (12%) among the 28 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts this season.

Still, if the Ravens want to help themselves, they’ll need a downfield strike every once in a while. Without the threat of home run shots, opponents can defend Jackson more aggressively, moving their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage in run support and blitzing more regularly. According to TruMedia, Jackson has faced “Cover 1″ defenses — man-to-man coverage, typically with a middle-of-the-field safety and sometimes with five pass rushers — on 27% of his drop-backs this season, a career high and the third-highest rate in the NFL among qualifying passers.

The Ravens’ best hope for a breakthrough deep threat might be rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers, who flourished in that role in college. According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the first-round pick leads the Ravens not only in deep routes run (62), deep-pass targets (13) and deep-pass catches (five) but also separation downfield. On average, he’s 2.9 yards from the nearest defender when the ball is released and 1.9 yards from the nearest defender when the pass arrives, both team-high marks that rank near the league average for wide receivers.

NFL quarterback questions: Concerns, standouts, contracts

Jamison Hensley, ESPN

Baltimore Ravens

How do you expect the target shares to shake out for Lamar Jackson’s top pass-catchers with Mark Andrews out for the season?

In the seven quarters since Andrews injured his ankle, Jackson’s three most-targeted players are Zay Flowers (11 targets), Odell Beckham Jr. (11) and Isaiah Likely (eight). The X factor is Likely, who brings more speed and elusiveness as the starting tight end. His average of 4.8 yards after the catch per reception ranks eighth among AFC tight ends with at least 40 catches over the past two seasons.

“As he keeps developing his craft and his depths [on his routes] and setting up defenders, he’s going to be hard to handle,” Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “It’s just a matter of time. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.”

NFL offensive line rankings ahead of Week 14

Zoltan Buday, PFF

3. BALTIMORE RAVENS (NO CHANGE)

Projected Week 14 starters:

LT Patrick Mekari

LG John Simpson

C Tyler Linderbaum

RG Kevin Zeitler

RT Morgan Moses

The Baltimore Ravens were on a bye in Week 13.

The Ravens’ offensive line ranks 13th in pass-blocking efficiency rating this season. The unit has allowed 107 total pressures — including 16 sacks — on 417 pass-blocking snaps.

Best player: Tyler Linderbaum

While his play tailed off a bit in recent weeks, Linderbaum still boasts the fourth-highest pass-blocking grade among centers in the NFL.

Justin Madubuike Is Living Up to the Aaron Donald Comparisons

Ryan Mink, BaltimoreRavens.com

Madubuike had heard the comparisons made between he and the Los Angeles Rams’ three-time Defensive Player of the Year, at least in terms of body type, athleticism, and playing style. So Madubuike got in touch with Donald’s trainer and went up to Pittsburgh for several days to train with Donald about a month before the start of training camp in 2021.

Madubuike was always a hard worker, but he came away with a different appreciation.

“The guy is a monster,” Madubuike said. “He’s just so focused and in-tune with his grind.”

Madubuike has taken to the coaching of Defensive Line Coach Anthony Weaver and Outside Linebackers Coach Chuck Smith, who has helped arm him with an arsenal of pass rush moves.

“You’ve seen ‘Beeks’ get a sack on the spin. You’ve seen ‘Beeks’ get a sack on the cross-chop. You’ve seen ‘Beeks’ get a sack on the chop-drive. He’s worked on his skills and basically took what he did last year and brought that forward,” Smith said.

For ‘dragging’ Ravens, bye week came at perfect time as they face difficult schedule ahead

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

“It’s great,” Edwards, 28, said of the Ravens’ bye. “You get a chance to get your legs back under you, work on the little nicks that you have, spend time with family. It started feeling like [the season] was dragging. It came right at a time when we needed it to come [mentally and physically].”

“They are looking pretty good right now,” Harbaugh said of Madubuike and Humphrey when asked about their availability this week. “I think on Wednesday we’ll probably have a more definitive type of an answer, but I’d say right now there’s a lot of optimism.”

“You look at your team, you have the eye test [and] what you see on tape,” he said. “You have the analytic test [for] what the numbers tell you. You look at all that stuff, and you say, ‘OK. What are we doing well? What are we not doing well, and where are our opportunities? What can we leverage to give our guys an advantage going forward to make plays and be the best players they can?’

“You just do the best you can figuring all that stuff out, and you go forward and go fight.”

As Moses said, there’s still a lot of football left to play. “[We have] probably the hardest schedule left in the NFL,” he said. “We look to embrace it.”

Week 14 NFL picks: Chiefs, Bills get in wild shootout, Cowboys overtake Eagles in NFC East

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (-7)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox, fubo)

This is a long trip for the Rams against a team coming off a bye. The Rams are one of the surprise teams so far, but this is a real challenge for their defense. Lamar Jackson and the offense will get the best of that unit, while the Ravens defense plays well against Matthew Stafford.

Pick: Ravens 28, Rams 16

NFL Week 14 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

Dalton Wasserman, Pro Football Network

Los Angeles Rams vs. Baltimore Ravens Prediction

Spread

Ravens -7.5

Moneyline

Rams +265, Ravens -330

Total

40.5

The Ravens are solid and may be the best team in the AFC, but this is too many points against a rising Rams team.

Since the bye, the Rams have been a different team, finishing off a sweep of the Seattle Seahawks and running all over the Cardinals and Cleveland Browns. They now find themselves in the thick of the playoff race and are getting more than a TD here.

Yes, the Ravens have blowout potential as we have seen, but not in the last few weeks against the Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Chargers.