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Ravens News 2/1: Finding Answers

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

Ravens’ offensive game plan vs. Chiefs remains baffling after closer review

Ted Nguyen, The Athletic

Against the Chiefs’ elite pass defense and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the best postseason defensive coordinator in recent memory, the answer was clear. Everything from the film to numbers screamed for the Ravens to run the ball in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Chiefs are 22nd in defensive success rate against the run.

• Chiefs are fourth-best in defensive EPA against the pass.

• Since 2022 (regular and playoffs), the Chiefs are the fifth-worst team in defensive EPA against designed quarterback runs and scrambles.

The Ravens needed to put big bodies on the field, they needed to run between the tackles, and they had to make Jackson a high-volume runner again. Instead, they used 11 personnel on 63.2 percent of snaps, their second-highest rate of the season. They only used 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, two receivers) on six snaps (four in the first half). The Ravens running backs only carried the ball six times and Jackson only had two rushes on designed rushes. The rest of his carries were scrambles and he had one kneel-down.

One game doesn’t mean moving on from Roman to Monken was a mistake. Monken has helped Jackson progress as a passer and Jackson should be even better with a year in the system under his belt. For both Monken and Jackson, this has to be a learning experience. The AFC goes through the Kansas City Chiefs and their defense is young, they’ll be a menacing group for at least a few years. The Ravens should continue to improve on offense and they’ll put up numbers in the regular season but they’ll inevitably meet the Chiefs on the path to the Super Bowl. When they do, will they have the right answers?

Twelve Ravens Thoughts following AFC championship loss to Kansas City

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

That lack of composure extended to Todd Monken and John Harbaugh as the offense was way too reluctant to try to run and play with heavy personnel against a Chiefs defense that struggles against the ground game. The Ravens panicked and played into the hands of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

That said, discussion about completely abandoning their identity is somewhat overstated considering the Ravens ranked seventh in the NFL in game-neutral early-down passing rate. While it’s ironic that Greg Roman’s influence could have helped Sunday, this hadn’t been that same run-first offense until taking commanding leads, which Baltimore did often.

Lamar Jackson playing his worst game since November was extremely disappointing, especially after the brilliance exhibited on the first-quarter touchdown pass to Flowers, who was initially open underneath before Jackson’s magician-like escape from pressure and deep heave. It felt like this game would be a shootout at that moment.

It’s wild to think back to Christmas and how lousy Kansas City and San Francisco had to be feeling after ugly home losses while the Ravens made an emphatic statement as the NFL’s best team. There’s no sugarcoating what a squandered opportunity this was. You only get so many.

Ravens 2024 offseason guide: Pressing questions, salary cap space, team needs and more

Brian Wacker, The Baltimore Sun

Salary cap

At the top of the salary cap pyramid are the Commanders, with a whopping $73,649,626 in cap space. Just north of the beltway, things are little more, well, tight, with the Ravens sitting at 19th with just under $14 million in room.

On the surface, that might not seem so bad considering they had even less than that last offseason and reached the AFC championship game. Of course, they didn’t have more than two dozen free agents then, either. Plus, there will be more draft picks to sign this year than last. In other words, when considering their effective cap space, which factors in the cost of filling out the roster and signing a draft class, the Ravens will have only $5.1 million to spare.

There are myriad ways to create more space such as restructuring deals and adding void years, and there will be teams in worse shape than Baltimore when it comes to the numbers, but filling out the roster the way it did this past season will be much tougher this year, particularly given the array of needs.

Needs

One thing that got exposed against the Chiefs was the Ravens’ offensive line. It was, by and large, mediocre this season and simply got bullied at times against Kansas City.

With Moses and Stanley getting older and dealing with injuries, and with both starting guards hitting free agency, finding a dependable tackle should be the first goal. From there, the Ravens will need help at cornerback, outside linebacker, wide receiver and running back. Or put another way, at just about every level of offense and defense.

2024 NFL playoffs: Top free agents, projected landing spots for Mike Evans, 19 other vets from playoff teams

Cody Benjamin, CBS Sports

A.J. Dillon

GB • RB

The supersized vet could have an increased role in Green Bay depending on Aaron Jones’ future, but the latter has proven much more valuable. How about a return to his hometown Baltimore as a short-yardage option? Projected team: Ravens

Kevin Zeitler

BAL • OG

Named to his first Pro Bowl after Baltimore’s AFC title-game defeat, the 12-year veteran is at home with the Ravens, where he helped pave the way for Lamar Jackson’s most efficient season as a quarterback. Projected team: Ravens

Justin Madubuike

BAL • DT

The former third-rounder picked the right time to break out, logging a career-high 13 sacks and 33 QB hits as the anchor of a suffocating front. Other teams would pay a fortune to have him, but Baltimore can beat them to it. Projected team: Ravens

Top 50: 2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings 1.0

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com

Rank 30

Nate Wiggins

Clemson · CB · Junior

Wiggins is a tall, long cornerback with outstanding speed. He is effective in press coverage. He gets his hands on receivers, but he’ll need to let go earlier at the next level. He is a fluid mover and has plenty of deep speed. He can locate and play the ball down the field. He will have concentration lapses at times, trying to peek back at the QB, which makes him lose position. From off coverage, he is efficient in his transition, and he closes in a hurry. I was a little disappointed in his lack of aggression against the run. He is content to hang on blocks at times, and his effort to chase from the back side is spotty, at best. Some of this could be due to high play counts, but it’s still bothersome. Overall, Wiggins is dripping with athleticism and physical traits, but he needs to be more invested in the run game.