The Streak Marches On
With a combination of 6 takeaways, great kicking, relative defensive depth, and relentless scheme, the Ravens extended their preseason win streak to 18.
They have now outscored opponents 420-213 during the streak and allowed an average of just 5.6 points per game in the 2nd half.
I would argue this was about as big a test as the Ravens can face to their well-heeled formula for preseason success. The Ravens faced a Saints team with a solid offensive line and a set of QBs with significant NFL experience/success in Hill and Winston. Notre Dame rookie Ian Book entered in the 2nd half, the Ravens shut down the Saints, and finally generated some offense of their own with Tyler Huntley.
Cards on the Table
If the Ravens are planning to continue to use the nickel defense I have referred to as the “proxy dime” with Chris Board in at WLB, it will be a reversal of what we saw versus the Saints.
Martindale deployed the dime consistently on 3rd down and 4+ versus the Saints and there were some frustrating results as well as some costly penalties (Westry, Wade). That said, it’s obvious Martindale has a talented set of defenders to choose from, whether he wants to deploy a traditional 3-safety/3-CB dime, the 4-CB dime we have seen vs 10 and 01 personnel, or a quarter (7-DB) package.
Wink also dialed up the pass rush scheme versus the Saints, including stunts, simulated pressure, and a number of pass rush snaps from safety, SCB, and ILB.
Unlike the offense for most of the night, the defense was fun to watch.
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 (-2): He played most of the game in rotation at OLB, but his biggest contributions were well downfield. He lost the left edge to TE Adam Trautman on Tony Jones 18-yard TD (Q2, 11:44). After failing to contain the backside of a zone run left, he pursued to recover Jones’ fumble. He again pursued to tackle TE Juwan Johnson after a 38-yard pickup put the Saints in scoring position at the 2-minute warning. While the hustle plays were good, he needs to do more as an edge setter and pass rusher and lost ground to Ferguson and Hayes at OLB.
Alaka (0): DNP
Averett (+1): There are some who believe Averett’s roster spot could be in jeopardy to a rookie, but he’s looked terrific in camp and played well vs the Saints. He allowed a pair of receptions where he had excellent coverage (Q1, 5:44 and the Saints passing TD Q2, 1:11). Yes, these were completions allowed, but he was in position and by doing so consistently he’ll have some bounces and hand play go his way. He also had a PD/near INT of Hill (Q1, 4:33).
Board (0): He took over for Queen on the last series of the first quarter and played for the rest of the game. Welch had the green dot when he suffered his stinger and Board was brought a green dot helmet at that point. In a mixed effort, Board recovered the fumble forced by Madubuike (Q1, 0:40), but he was also party to 2 failed containments (Q2, 13:35; and Q3, 4:00). He made a nice downhill tackle on RB Jones (Q4, 12:27), but also was underneath on the 33-yard completion to TE Johnson (Q2, 2:00) which set up the Saints 2nd TD.
Crawford (+2): Aaron was the Ravens best DL and his play merits star treatment:
- (Q1, 5:08): He penetrated to tackle RB Murray with Hayes.
- (Q2, 14:10): He was blocked by C Clapp as part of Murray’s RR28.
- (Q2, 2:51): He bulled RG Sweezy to blow up RB Jones’ RR1.
- (Q3, 9:19): He bulled C Clapp to blow up RR0 by RB Freeman.
- (Q3, 4:34): He crossed the face of RG Sweezy on zone left.
- (Q4, 5:56): He beat double team from C Montano and LG Throckmorton to tackle RB Freeman RL2.
- (Q4, 5:20): He beat C Montano right to help flush Book left for throw away.
Dorsey (-1): DNP. He lost ground to Ar’Darius Washington, who played well.
Ferguson (+3): Jaylon played the entire game and was the Ravens best pass rusher. Using a 3-second standard, I scored him for 9 pressure events, including a pressure on a negated sack, and what eventually became a half sack shared with Fort. Since this will differ from other sources that use a 2.5-second standard, the time stamps for your review are (Q1, 8:40; Q2, 3:05; Q2, 1:21, Q2, 1:11; Q3, 8:58; Q3, 5:42; Q3, 5:07; Q3 5:03 [negated by penalty]; Q4, 5:13).
He also negotiated traffic on a screen left to tackle Montgomery for a gain of 1 (Q1, 12:36), blew up a run play (Q2, 5:21), registered a stuff (Q3, 9:51), and helped clean up a RL2 with Crawford (Q4, 5:56). It was his best game as a Raven and comes at a time where he is playing for his job as the Ravens 6th OLB. It’s difficult to get a read on edge defenders at camp with only moderately competitive play, but he had not stood out, even in pads. This live-fire exercise against the Saints is a big step forward.
Harris (-1): He didn’t enter until late in the 3rd quarter, which is a realistic indication of his spot on the depth chart. With the Ravens current depth and youth (Harris is a 4th-year player) on the margin at CB, he faces an uphill battle.
Harrison (+1): He stood up RB Murray allowing Broderick Washington to strip him (Q1, 11:27) and generated a pressure (Q2, 13:39). However, he was effectively blocked by LG Calvin Throckmorton on RB Jones’ RR28 (Q2, 14:10).
Hayes (+2): The bad news first…Daelin twice lost the edge on runs for 17 and 5. Aside from those 2 plays, he was brilliant with a QH on a play I thought was either a sack or intentional grounding (Q2, 12:58), 3 other pressures (1 late), and good containment of Book on the sack shared by Ferguson and Fort (Q4, 5:13). He also had contributions on 2 run stuffs for gains of 0 and 1. He did not surrender a completion as I scored it, but he did not drop to cover often. His ability to do so will go a long way to determining how often he plays in 2021.
Houston (0): DNP. He’s just started to get reps in the last week at camp, so we don’t have a problem.
Levine (-1): Co-Cap played out of position as a back-end safety for 4 series, but also played some dime. He was blocked by FB Alex Armah on RB Jones’ RR28 (Q2, 14:10). He also tried to shoot through the left B gap and was thwarted on Jones’ RL18 TD (Q2, 11:44). The other elder safety/special teams ace, Jordan Richards did not play well on defense, but Levine is also competing with Geno Stone and Ar’Darius Washington who both played well.
Madubuike (+1): He started with Campbell, Williams, and Wolfe all sitting. I scored him for 4 positive notes in a quarter of play, capped off by his bull of RG JR Sweezy and subsequent strip of Devonta Freeman (Q1, 0:40). My expectations are very high for Madubuike in 2021 and his performance did nothing to dissuade. Since he’s not anywhere near the roster bubble, I likely won’t grade him next week.
Marshall (-1): DNP. He’s seen some time at safety in camp and this would have been a nice game for some live-fire reps on the back end. He’s a longshot to make the team in year 3, so he needs every chance to compete.
Oweh (0): Odafe’s first NFL game was a mixed bag. He was handled by RT James Hurst (yes, that James Hurst) on Hill’s 28-yard pass to Callaway (Q1, 13:44). He beat LT Ethan Greenridge for what should have been his first sack, but was unable to convert and Stephens and Swann ended up sharing a dangerous-looking sack on Winston (Q2, 4:45). He was used primarily as a situational pass rusher versus the Saints, but Martindale had him drop to coverage on 3rd and 9 (Q2, 2:18). That play resulted in a 26-yard pass to Ty Montgomery who lost Oweh over the middle. Given his recent injury issues, it was good to see him play at all and make a contribution.
Queen (+1): He played just 3 series, but made a contribution where he first contained, then sacked the rolling Taysom Hill. On the previous play, he made a fast screen read and sliced through 3 linemen out front to tackle Freeman for a loss of 3. He looked fast as always, but the screen read is the sort of downhill pass recognition that needs to be part of a breakout season. It’s only fair to note he made a late read on Freeman leaving the backfield several plays earlier on what became a 6-yard completion (Q1, 6:49).
Smith, Chris (+1): He had a terrific night as a situational pass rusher. To detail:
- (Q1, 2:32): On 3rd/12, he beat LG Peat to flush Hill right where he was sacked by Queen.
- (Q2, 4:45): On 3rd/9, he cleaned up with Stephens for S-8.
- (Q2, 1:16): He bulled LT Greenidge for a fast pressure.
- (Q3, 7:14): He was blocked by Greenidge on a screen right to RB Jones PR17 (-4 + 21 YAC)
- (Q4, 1:49): He beat LG Throckmorton outside for a fast QH on a 6-man pass rush as Book under threw for Wade’s game sealing INT
Stephens (+2): He played both safety and SCB and did a variety of things well. He cleaned up on a run play, cleaned up on his sack split with Chris Smith, was in position to make a TFL on a screen pass that went incomplete, and delivered a fast pressure when he rushed untouched off the slot right on Stone’s first interception (Q1, 8:34).
Stone (+3): Both interceptions have something in common that I associate with the best free safeties. They were both anticipated overthrows. Good free safeties put themselves in position for plenty of these and convert a high percentage of them. Geno had another PD when he drilled FB Alex Armah to dislodge the football (Q2, 5:27).
Swann (0): I don’t believe the Ravens have room for him with so many linemen playing well, but Jovan had a fine game. In the course of 1 drive, he drew a chop block, beat LG Throckmorton inside for a pressure, and pursued QB Ian Book for a QH to cause an intentional grounding (effectively a sack). He’s likely to be pilfered off the Ravens practice squad as injuries mount during the season.
Wade (0): He played the 2nd half at outside CB although I believe he’s the natural backup/heir apparent to Tavon Young at SCB. He had a costly defensive holding flag which negated Fort’s sack and extended a Saints drive (Q3, 5:03). WR Jake Lampman also blocked him relentlessly on the 38-yard catch and run by TE Johnson (Q4, 2:06). He put the game away 2 plays later with his interception of Book’s underthrow by the left sideline.
Warrior (-1): DNP. Nigel was a camp darling last season, but was never called upon despite the 2020 team’s season-long need to find a dimeback. He’s been physical and made some plays at CB in camp, but he’s clearly trailing players who were effective vs New Orleans.
Washington, Ar’Darius (+1): He played the entire 2nd half at SCB and was badly out of position on the 35-yard (4 + 31 YAC) pass to WR Easop Winston (Q3, 8:58), but recovered to register the drive-ending play on each of the first 2 Saints drives after intermission. He forced the fumble recovered by Adeoye (Q3, 4:00). On the next drive, his diving PD/near INT on 3rd and 3 (Q4, 11:55) forced a punt. He finished his night with an unblocked pressure off the slot which flushed Book right to force a throw away (Q4, 1:56).
Washington, Broderick (+2): He started and continued to rotate snaps throughout the game in what would become the best game he has played as a Raven. Detailing:
- (Q1, 14:50): He shed TE Trautman to tackle RB Murray RM1.
- (Q1, 11:27): He stripped RB Murray as second man to ball to end the Saints first drive
- (Q1, 9:07): He pancaked RT Hurst as Queen tackled RB Murray RL2
- (Q2, 14:10): He was blocked by RG Sweezy on Murray RR28
- (Q2, 12:58): He bulled C Clapp in what could have been ruled a shared sack (with Hayes) or intentional grounding
- (Q3, 7:52): He bulled RG Sweezy to flush Book right for PR3
- (Q3, 5:07): He diagnosed a screen right for TE Griffin and was in position to tackle as the pass was incomplete
- (Q4, 2:06): He bulled C Montano for pressure on Book’s 38-yard pass to TE Johnson
Welch (-1): I heard John Harbaugh refer to Welch’s injury as a “stinger” after the game, which can be code for concussion. Setting aside the injury concern, I don’t believe there is room on the team for a player who plays only special teams and does not contribute in some specialized role on offense or defense. With 4 ILBs (3 who play special teams) ahead of him on the depth chart, the best chance for Welch to contribute to the 2021 Ravens may be via a practice squad assignment and activation in case of injuries.
Westry (0): He came into the game with a favorable depth-chart standing which manifested itself in his 2nd-drive entry along with Anthony Averett (ahead of Harris, Wade, and Wasington). He had a hand in allowing a 3rd-and-10 conversion when both he and Levine were soft in coverage of RB Murray. He reached around for a PD on a 15-yard throw intended for WR Chris Hogan (Q2, 3:05). He tipped Winston’s pass intended for WR Humphrey, which was intercepted by Stone (Q2, 0:55). However, he was flagged for taunting to give the Saints a 1st down after WR Lampman had just dropped a potential 3rd-down conversion (Q3, 5:36). He was removed for a teaching moment then reinserted after a 1-play hiatus.
Young (0): He played only the first series. Tavon and Peters were closest to Callaway when he caught a 23-yard pass on 3rd and 7 to set the Saints up at the 9-yard line. Woodson blamed Peters for failing to carry the route deeper and the fact Peters did not emote after the play seems to confirm that.
Defensive MVP: Ferguson and Stone share this one. Both were outstanding.