Filling the Void
Any good feeling from the Ravens 15th straight preseason win and the underlying individual performances was gone when I heard John Harbaugh announce the Ravens have lost Tavon Young to a significant neck injury.
I don’t believe the Ravens have had time to react to the news yet, because it seems likely they would have had another player(s) getting a trial at nickel than Cyrus Jones. Potential solutions:
Continue with Cyrus Jones, who has started the last 2 preseason games at SCB
Shift Brandon Carr from outside to a full-time nickel role where he played rotationally in 2018
Shift Maurice Canady from outside back to nickel where he played the 2nd half of 2017
Move Anthony Averett to SCB from the outside
Find the best available nickel on the street now or after cut down day
Trade for a 1-year solution using a player who would otherwise be cut
Trade a draft pick to a team with a surplus SCB
Harbaugh, Martindale, and DeCosta may have to get creative to find a solution, but the Ravens solved this same problem 2 seasons ago.
OLB Competition Heats up with Expansion of Defensive Packages
In terms of defensive packages, we still haven’t seen anything exotic from Martindale, but with the OLB competition in full gear, the Ravens adjusted to using an OLB rushing from the inside on most dime packages. By using McPhee or Ferguson on the inside Martindale was able to secure earlier snaps for Ferguson and Williams who entered on the 2nd and 3rd drives respectively.
The additional opportunity for playing tme created by the alignment did not extend to Shane Ray, who played his first snap early in the 3rd quarter.
Individual Grades and Notes
As in past years, I have given each Ravens player a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my expectation of their impact on this year’s team changed based on their performance (game grade before the front slash, cumulative grade after). I don’t rate starters, players who have no place on the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have any data for a judgment. The players here are new to the team, rookies, on the cusp of making the team, have new responsibilities this season, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove.
Adeoye (0/0): He got small to beat RT Gerhard de Beer and ran down Wilkins for an 8-yard sack (Q4, 4:18). He’s made 2 nice plays now playing at the tail end of games.
Alaka (+1/+2): Board’s concussion could be an opportunity for either Alaka or Alvin Jones. Each had an opportunity to wear the green dot for a period in Thursday’s game. Otaro had 2 TFLs among a game-leading 6 tackles. He was quick closing and his tackles came 1, 6, -1, 5, -2, and 3 yards from the LoS. He replaced Board midway through the 2nd quarter and played most of the rest of the game (28 snaps).
Averett (-1/+1): Anthony gave up the only Packers TD when he lost WR Darrius Shepherd when he reversed near the goal line (Q3, 5:33). He did not otherwise surrender any of the longer receptions to the Pack. He’s one of several solutions to take over the SCB role in Young’s absence. He played some at SCB last year in the Chiefs game when Tavon and Marlon Humphrey were hurt.
Bethel (0/+2): He played 15 snaps at RCB, all in the 4th quarter. I did not record a target, and the fact the Packers had only 8 yards (negative after penalties) for which he deserves some credit. However, I don’t believe he’s a reasonable candidate to replace Tavon in the slot.
Board (-1/-1): Before he left with the concussion, he impressively shed the LG Lane Taylor to tackle Tra Carson for a gain of 3 (Q1, 9:56). Later the same drive he bulled David Bahktiari for a pressure (Q1,7:13). I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen an ILB use a bull rush on a tackle, let alone Bahktiari, who is among the best pass blocking LTs in the entire league. He also had the green dot early in the game. At present, we don’t know the severity of the injury, but if he is back for the opener, I expect he’ll continue to play a healthy portion of the snaps.
Bonds (0/0): Terrence played SCB in the Ravens dominant 4th quarter defensive effort, but did not make my notes.
Bowser (0/0): He played just 17 snaps early and contributed a nice stunt for a pressure (Q2, 1:23). He also held the right edge vs TE Evan Baylis (Q2, 3:29), which turned Carson’s run inside.
Canady (+1/+2): He played 30 snaps at RCB and surrendered just 2 receptions for gains of 7 and 16 yards on consecutive plays (beginning Q2, 4:28). On that first play, the Ravens challenge for OPI on a pick play was denied. Interestingly, on the play which ended the drive (Q2, 2:04), Canady was picked by WR Darrius Shepherd (again unflagged). In addition to solid play, his grade is up this week because he was the last SCB solution under similar circumstances in 2017.
Clark (0/0): He played 3 drives paired with Deshon Elliott in the second quarter. His highlight was a hard, low tackle on TE Robert Tonyan for a loss of 1 (Q2, 10:54).
Ejiya (0/-1): He played the last 2 series at ILB. He’s not a candidate for a roster spot, even if Board loses significant time.
Elliott (+1/+2): He had a better chance to display his skills on the back end in this game and impressed. He stripped TE Robert Tonyan of a 16-yard pass between the hash marks and almost came away with an interception (Q2, 0:43). Boyle also grounded a ball in front on Tonyan with Elliott just behind (Q3, 12:01). He’s played well enough to get more time at safety, but both he and Clark are candidates to play some big nickel if the Ravens play more of that in Young’s absence.
Ferguson (0/+3): He saw his action spread from the 2nd drive all the way to the last, but I did not note him for a pressure in this game. He bulled LT Adam Pankey and shed him to tackle Dexter Williams for a loss of 1 (Q3, 14:54). Later, he lost the edge to a seal from Ross Nijman to open a hole for a 10-yard run (Q4, 5:02).
Grigsby (0/-1): He played the 3rd quarter next to Alvin Jones at ILB, but did not make my notes.
Jackson, Bennett (0/+1): He again played the entire 2nd half at FS along with Elliott in the 3rd quarter and Trawick in the 4th. He defended the sticks on 3rd and 21, allowing a 14-yard completion in front of him, but made a quick tackle for 0 YAC (Q4, 8:19).
Jean-Baptiste (+1/+1): He played well in the 4th quarter, including a strip of WR Teo Redding (Q4, 5:29) from behind on a slant. He followed that up by drawing an OPI on Redding on the next play (Q4, 5:25). He’s still a long shot to make the roster, but the recent spate of injuries at CB has opened the door a crack. His best chance would come if one of the outside corners (perhaps Averett) is used to take over Young’s SCB role and he wins a spot on the outside. In terms of trade value, I believe SJB, like Canady, would be an upgrade for the 4th CB on a handful of teams and an upgrade at the 5th spot for perhaps half the teams.
Jones, Alvin (+1/+1): He and Alaka both played well and have a big opportunity not only to make the team, but to play rotationally at ILB. Alvin played the entire 2nd half, wore the green dot for a stretch, and beat RB Keith Ford for a slow-developing sack (Q4, 14:56). Based on point of entry vs the Packers, Alaka is ahead on the depth chart, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Martindale tries to foster a competition with a different division of snaps which allows both players some earlier time in the 3rd game.
Jones, Cyrus (-1/0): Cyrus started again and played most of the first 3 quarters to lead the defense in snaps (34). He was picked on in coverage by the Packers, to whom he allowed a 7-yard reception to convert 3rd and 2 (Q1, 9:17), a 25-yard completion including 14 YAC (Q3, 7:23), and a 21-yard completion (Q3, 6:00). He had step-for-step coverage of Shepherd in the end zone (Q2, 0:34) on an incomplete. Despite starting the last 2 games as the nickel, he’s just one of the options to replace Young.
Marshall (-1/0): DNP. The seriousness of the injury is not yet public information. While Iman won’t move to the slot, his health would make it easier for Martindale to move another outside CB to the slot.
Mack (+1/+1): He entered at the start of the 2nd half and played off and on for the balance of the game (19 snaps). He rushed unblocked and forced an incomplete screen pass to RB Keith Ford (Q4, 14:10). He shed RG Anthomy Cole to help blow up Darrin Hall’s run for a loss of 5 (Q4, 9:00).
Onuoha (0/0): I have not seen that the Ravens put him on IR yet, but he’s not expected to play in 2019.
Ray (0/-1): He did not enter until the beginning of the 3rd quarter. I noted him for pressure events (QH, pressure) on 2 drive-ending plays (Q3, 11:15 and Q4, 8:19). If the Ravens top 5 hold up in terms of health, he appears to be on the outside. Pass rushers are always in demand at this time of year, so he might have some trade value.
Ricard (+2/+4): He has towered over preseason opponents for 3 years now. Patrick was reportedly upset by reports that he was “just a pass rusher” after his contributions to 3 sacks in the first game. This game he blew up 2 run plays for losses of 1 and 5 respectively, recovered a fumble at the Packers 6, and stayed in the game at FB to help Justice Hill score 2 plays later.
Sieler (-1/-1): He was largely invisible prior to 2 run stops on the last GB drive.
Stewart (0/-1): He did not play on defense despite Board’s injury.
Trawick (0/0): He played the dime for the 2nd and 3rd quarter, then as the SS in the 4th. The only note I have is for a missed tackle of WR Allan Lazard which allowed a 17-yard conversion on 3rd and 10 (Q3, 13:14). He did have a special teams tackle and like Bethel, he’s unlikely to see the field defensively in 2019.
Williams, Tim (+1/+2): He entered on the 3rd drive and continued into the 4th quarter. I scored him for a late QH (Q2, 0:43) along with 2 other pressures (Q2, 4:03 and Q4, 14:05). He tackled RB Darrin Hall for no gain (Q3, 9:18), but he was also blocked effectively by LT Adam Pankey on Hall’s 28-yard run (Q3, 8:42).
Willis (0/0): He didn’t play until the last 2 drives and accumulated just 8 defensive snaps with no notes.
Young, Kenny (+2/+1): His playing time will be increased more than any other if Board does not return quickly. His highlight from this game was a shed of LG Lucas Patrick to tackle RB Dexter Williams for a loss of 2 (Q2, 11:32).