Demarcus Robinson Liftoff

To summarize:

  • (Q1, 2:57):  On 3rd/2, Huntley had ATS but rolled right and threw for Robinson 15 yards [5].  Timing was not perfect and CB St-Juste reacted to the comeback and knocked the pass down to end the drive
  • (Q2, 14:22):  With ATS, Brown completed PL67 (27 + 40) [2] with lots of air as CB Johnson bit on the sluggo (slant and go) and Robinson exploited with speed
  • (Q2, 3:03):  With ATS, Brown completed an inbreaking PM13 (12 + 1) [4] to Robinson who didn’t really fool CB Holmes at the break, but used his body well to shield the catch.
  • (Q3, 14:26):  Brown completed a pass short right to Robinson PR3 [5].  Much of this play is missing from the broadcast video, including the backfield, but it looks as if the ball was out quickly before pressure developed.
  • (Q3, 13:10):  On 3rd/5, Badie picked up the first of 2 blitzing ILBs to provide time for Brown to loft a pass for Robinson in the end zone.  CB Neal lined up as if to press Robinson, but did not use his hands at the LoS and Robinson simply outran him by approximately 2 yards as Neal was falling at the catch.  Demarcus caught the ball cleanly over his right shoulder but the officials ruled him OOB (upheld on challenge).
  • (Q3, 10:31):  With ATS, Robinson beat CB Neal with out and up for PL52 (35 + 17) [1] again with 5 yards of separation.  The ball was slightly underthrown, but Robinson tracked it well, slowed, and caught the ball in stride over his right shoulder.  It might not have been a touchdown even if perfectly thrown, but the underthrow forced Demarcus had to negotiate traffic after the catch.

General notes on these plays:

  • Robinson’s ability to exploit a CBs mistake at the top of the route with high-end speed adds another dimension to the Ravens offense.  He immediately takes a key role in the Ravens passing game.
  • Perhaps even more impressive he used 2 different A moves on the big throws (sluggo, out and up) to gain separation at the top of the route.
  • One of the primary concerns prior to the acquisition of Robinson was the Ravens WR’s ability to take the top off the defense to make space for their TEs.  Robinson gives them a key missing piece and should continue to provide value as Lamar Jackson is able to extend plays.
  • Brown laid the ball out well, but Robinson also tracked it well on each of the long catches.  A player who provides that much separation gives the QB a much larger bucket in which to drop the ball and makes an underthrow an increased chance for either a catch or pass interference.  On the 67-yard TD, the CB never did find the football as he raced to make up for his mistake.  As it was, the ball was slightly overthrown and Robinson made a marginally difficult catch look easy with his fingertips.
  • Protection on these 6 throws was outstanding with no pressure, 2 ball out quick (BOQ), and 4 Ample Time and Space (ATS: pocket would have held up for 3 seconds).

Anthony Brown Makes Trouble

Anthony Brown made the most of his playing time with one of the greatest performances by a Ravens QB in preseason history (13.5 YPP, 136.3 passer rating).  Of QBs with 25 or more attempts, his 117.7 rating this preseason was the 6th best.

Brown’s performance may force the Ravens into a difficult choice.

They have 4 alternatives:

  1. Keep him as the 3rd QB:  On a crowded roster that still has significant depth concerns, this seems unlikely.
  2. Keep him as the 2nd QB:  This would require the Ravens to cut or trade Tyler Huntley.  I think it’s a legitimate possibility given the difference in service time (Brown is a rookie and Huntley is entering year 3).  However, despite what Ravens fans would love to believe, I don’t think Huntley has much trade value and GMs on the other end of the phone might inquire about Brown.
  3. Trade him: As well as he has played, the Ravens might be able to find a team with interest, but it’s doubtful the return would be much (perhaps a 5th round pick).
  4. Cut him and expose him to the waiver process: The hope would be to bring back Brown on the practice squad which would require clearing of 2 hurdles.  First, Brown would have to go unclaimed.  Since he is a good developmental prospect, I think there might be a team (particularly a team with unimpressive general depth) that makes a spot as a 3rd QB for him.  Even if he clears waivers, he is subject to be recruited to another team’s practice squad where he could perceive greater opportunity (as happened to Ben Mason in 2021).

This is not an easy time, but I expect the Ravens are fielding calls on both their backup QBs and attempting to gauge the market in advance of Tuesday’s cut deadline.

OL Usage by Series

Here are the offensive linemen by series, something that often tells a story about the team’s plans:

DrivePlaysNet YardsResultQBeg TimeLTLGCRGRT

Notes on the OL rotation:

  • Linderbaum played 9 snaps in his debut (including 1 penalty).  Qualitatively, he looked quick and appeared to process well.  I have provided scoring and commentary below.
  • Ronnie Stanley remains the biggest domino on the entire team in terms health.  If he can be 90% of the player he was in 2019, the Ravens OL is going to be good.  If he’s not able to go, the Ravens don’t have an obvious answer that I see as likely to work.  All of the other potential drop offs are much smaller be that the 2nd best LG or Mekari replacing Linderbaum at C, for examples.
  • Powers did not play and seems destined to be the starting LG vs the Jets.  With the injury to Cleveland not yet revealed, I think it’s unlikely the Ravens trade Ben.
  • Cleveland has been the team’s best lineman this preseason but missed the finale after getting rolled up on his final play vs the Cardinals.  He’s been a physically imposing pass blocker who has not been giving ground.  Whether run or pass, he’s finished blocks better than any lineman, which is an important part of his game in terms of tiring opponents.
  • Mekari may be the 3rd or 4th player after Stanley that would see playing time at LT.
  • I did not do individual scoring for Ja’Wuan James, but he did not have a pressure note in 5 pass blocking snaps (9 total).
  • Morgan Moses and Kevin Zeitler both sat out the entire preseason and comprise the starting right side.
  • Tyre Phillips played the entire game between RG and RT.  The first conclusion I’d make is that there is little or no chance he’ll start at LG vs the Jets barring injury or trade.  The Ravens had to get through this game with someone playing RT.  Daniel Faalele was held out due to injury and Jared Jones-Smith was among the cuts to reduce the roster to 80.  The fact Mekari played LT but did not take some of the load on the right side where he played extensively in 2021 indicates he has a more prominent spot on the depth chart than Phillips.
  • Daniel Faalele may be a candidate for IR to start the season.  The Ravens are juggling a number of injuries with 4 players (Urban, Jefferson, Means, and Davis) who could easily be cut and resigned as vested veterans without going through the waiver process.  David Ojabo and Charlie Kolar are certain to make the 53 and then be transferred to IR prior to week 1.  Other candidates to be placed on IR (minimum of 4 weeks missed) prior to week 1 include Faalele, Proche, Wallace, Armour-Davis, and any others for whom injuries in the last preseason game have not yet been reported.  Since the Ravens only have 2 more offsetting veteran handshake agreements (an arrangement could also be made with Josh Bynes if he is amenable), not all can (or should if the injury term is short) be placed on IR.
  • Khalil McKenzie played the entire game at LG and has had a great preseason as a pass blocker, including just 1 shared pressure in the finale.  Run blocking has been another story.  He’s had problems sustaining the back end of double teams (Q1, 4:30 and Q1, 3:35 are examples, see below) among other problems making/maintaining effective run blocks.
  • Jimmy Murray played all but 2 series at RG and contributed to the poor night of run blocking that included just 13 RB rush yards on 11 carries.  To be fair, he and the rest of the line delivered Anthony Brown with a high percentage of Ample Time and Space (ATS) opportunities which was a function of both the Commanders pass rush simplicity and the Ravens effective pass blocking.
  • In a normal game, the 2 series at RT and 5 series at LT would constitute a substantial sample of play for David Sharpe, but since the Ravens only ran 37 plays (excluding penalties), Sharpe’s trial was effectively a little less than half a game.  He did not look good as a pass blocker (details below).

Roman dialed up many more deep opportunities for Brown in this game as the Ravens obviously wanted to get a good evaluation of both their rookie QB and Demarcus Robinson under live fire.

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.

Badie (+1/+1):  Tyler had the only good Ravens run of the night by a RB (Q4, 12:14) with a 12-yard cut back behind Sharpe and McKenzie.  Despite 12 yards on 5 carries, his pass blocking stood out including a terrific pick up of a blitzing ILB (can’t see the number) on the near-TD pass to Robinson in the end zone (Q3, 13:10) and a cut block on DE Smith-Williams (Q2, 11:57).

Bateman (0/0):  DNP entire preseason.

Boyle (0/0):  Nick played just 14 snaps.  He did not have a target or make my notes as a blocker.  He’s more likely to have an impact with Jackson extending plays and driving the run game in the regular season, but I expect a reduced snap count per game relative to either 2019 or 2020.

Bridges (-1/+1):  He caught 1 of 2 targets for 8 yards, but the difference in ability to separate between him and Robinson is significant and the Ravens do not appear to have a spot for any of the UDFA WRs.

Cleveland (-1/+3):  DNP.  He returned to practice on Monday although it’s not clear whether that was just individual or team drills.  The Ravens offense could harvest value from a physical LG playing between 2 finesse players in Linderbaum and Stanley.

Colon (0/+1):  He again played well in 29 snaps.  Right now he’s the 11th offensive lineman on a 10-man unit and as a 3rd-year player, he has limited option value.  I expect the Ravens will try to trade him and he is one of the few potential cuts that might get selected in the waiver process.

Davis (0/+1):  Davis (5 snaps) carried the ball twice for 0 yards.  I have speculated that Davis may be the top of the RB depth chart this preseason because he is able to master the mesh point, but I don’t have any actual evidence to back that up.  The Ravens have messed up 3 notable read options in the last 2 games (bad snap, bad read, fumble on pull), so facility with mesh mechanics should be an important consideration for each RB. 

I see no reason why Davis should not be cut with a handshake agreement to facilitate a move of another player to IR and then resigned prior to week 1.

Faalele (-1/0):  DNP.  Like Cleveland, he might be a candidate for IR after the 53 is set, but I doubt they will place both linemen there.  As of now, it will be a win if Faalele can practice with the team and make good use of the year from a developmental perspective whether or not he sees game action.

Hill (0/+1):  Justice was the 2nd RB to enter but played only 2 snaps on offense and none on special teams.  He did not have a touch.

Huntley (-1/+2):  He played just 7 snaps before giving way to Brown after 2 drives.  He wasn’t nearly as effective as he was in the first 2 games and his spot as the backup became less secure with Brown’s outstanding performance.

James (0/-1):  See notes above.

Likely (0/+3):  DNP.  The week after Likely’s huge night, Demarcus Robinson was even more impactful. 

Linderbaum (0/-1):  I did not expect to see him play vs the Commanders, but it’s a good thing to get live fire and test out the foot.   

Tyler flashed in a short outing.  His only negative charge was a holding flag on ILB Harris (Q1, 4:30).  Two plays earlier, he engaged, torqued and pushed DE Toohill on a play where he raised his hands asking for an offensive holding call (Q1, 7:56).  Reviewing the video, his argument seemed to be warranted.  He was not assigned to pull but had 1 block in level 2, and no pancakes. He had two highlights were near identical combination blocks on DT Hamilton then ILB Harris in L2 (Q1, 3:35) and (Q2, 15:00).  

Scoring: 8 plays, 8 blocks, 0 missed, 1 holding, 2 points (.25 per play).  There are not enough plays for a grade.

Lots of rookie linemen have had problems with holding early on, including Ronnie Stanley who collected 4 flags in a game against the Steelers in 2016.  If it’s a bad habit, that’s one thing, but if it is compensation for physical shortcoming or ability, that’s another.  Since he was not getting beat outside the frame in either case, I am hopeful it’s correctable.

Mason (0/0):  He played just 8 snaps and had a 1-handed grab on a flat route for 4 yards.  He’ll be cut and the Ravens will probably offer him a practice squad spot.

McCrary (-1/-1):  He had a 14-snap trial where he received 6 touches, 4 carries for 1 yard and 2 catches for 1 yard.  He was at RB when Brown fumbled the pull on the read option (Q4, 4:02) for a loss of 3.  When the Ravens need for a speed back was greatest in 2021, Nate got only 1 carry all season.  It’s possible inability to handle the mesh point regularly was a contributing factor.

McKenzie (0/+1):  He and Linderbaum were flagged for holding on the same play and off the same original double team as Khalil held the back end vs DT Hamilton and Linderbaum executed a combination to hold ILB Harris in level 2.  Just 2 plays alter (Q1, 3:35) Khalil failed to hold the back end of another combination block on Hamilton.  I also noted him for a shared pressure when bulled by Hamilton (Q2, 2:26).  

Mekari (0/0):  See notes above.

Moses (0/0):  DNP, see notes above.

Murray (0/0):  See notes above.  Jimmy was cut on Monday.

Oliver (0/0):  He led Ravens TEs in snaps (20).  Josh caught a 17-yard (4 + 13) [4] pass from Huntley including an effective stiff arm of DB Parker that provided 11 YAC.  He beat ILB Harris for a 24-yard play (8 + 16) [1] from Brown.  That’s good tape for a player who is likely to be playing elsewhere in the NFL this season.  If he clears waivers, I expect the Ravens will offer him a spot on the practice squad, but it also would not surprise me if he looked for a greener pasture.

Phillips (+2/+1):  See notes above.  Here is my scoring of his play:

Tyre had a fine pass-blocking game with occasional struggles in the run game.  He did not allow any pass-blocking events but he was beaten inside by DE Smith-Williams to bubble Davis on RR-1 (Q1, 7:56).  He was unable to maintain his only pull (Q2, 4:27) which allowed Smith-Williams to blow up McCrary’s RL1 (Q2, 4:27).  He had 1 block in level 2 but no pancakes. He did not have a highlight.  He was a big part of a good pass-blocking night for the Ravens OL with exceptionally physical engagement, particularly in his time at RT.

Scoring: 36 plays, 34 blocks, 1 missed, 1 penetration, 32 points (.89 per play).  That’s an A using a combined standard for G/T snaps.

Poljan (0/0):  He played 10 snaps but did not make my notes.

Polk (0/+1):  Makai caught 1 of 2 passes for 10 yards in 25 snaps.  He caught a 10-yard pass from Brown (9 + 1) [5] on which he fought for a first down.  He also dropped Brown’s 4-yard pass by the right sideline (Q4, 5:24).  Of the Ravens UDFAs Polk’s youth (21) makes him likely to be offered a practice squad role.  Webb and Bridges are 24 while Victor is 25.

Powers (0/0):  See notes above.

Proche (0/0):  DNP. 

Sharpe (0/0):  He was beaten for contributions to 2 pressures (Q2, 10:39; Q2, 2:26) plus another that resulted in a flush for a short run (Q3, 13:46).  He slipped contributing to Badie’s RL-4 (Q4, 11:31)

Stout (0/+2):  DNP as a punter or kicker.  He did hold on 3 kicks.

Victor (+1/+2):  He led all WRs with 26 snaps and caught 4 of 6 targets for 74 yards.  He high-pointed the pass from Brown over CB Neal for PL50 (46 + 4) [1] (Q3, 15:00).  In addition to his receiving contributions he maintained an outstanding run block of CB Neal in the end zone on Brown’s 6-yard TD scramble (Q3, 8:30).

Wallace (0/-1):  DNP.  He has practiced but is still not a sure thing to be active for the opener.

Webb (0/+1):  Among 22 snaps, he caught his only target for 8 yards.  I would really love to know how the discussion to insert him at safety for the last 2 plays originated.  If he offered, I am impressed.  The only other time I can recall a WR playing defense was Tim White, who played about 6 snaps at SCB during the 2018 preseason, also against Washington.

Offensive MVPs:

  1. Demarcus Robinson
  2. Anthony Brown
  3. Tyre Phillips

The Final 53: Offense

I assume the active roster entering week 1 will consist of 25 offensive players, 25 defensive players, and 3 specialists.  The following is my expectation of the 25 on offense for Tuesday afternoon with the understanding that a 26/24 split is possible for roster manipulation purposes prior to week 1.

QB (2)

Tyler Huntley, Lamar Jackson

If the Ravens find a trade partner for Tyler Huntley, I don’t think they would mind resetting the clock with Anthony Brown who has shown more as a passer.  Brown may clear waivers and be offered a practice squad spot, but he might look for another organization with a more tenuous depth chart.

OL (10)

Ben Cleveland, Daniel Faalele, Ja’Wuan James, Tyler Linderbaum, Patrick Mekari, Morgan Moses, Tyre Phillips, Ben Powers, Ronnie Stanley, Kevin Zeitler

Trystan Colon is cut as a 3rd-year player with waning option value if the Ravens can’t trade him.  He’ll probably be claimed by another team with IOL issues.  Ben Powers could still be traded prior to week 1, but I think it’s unlikely unless the club is committed to starting Cleveland and confident in their remaining depth.  Regardless of the Colon/Powers outcome, I think the Ravens stay with 10 OL to enter the season with improved depth.

TE (4)

Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Charlie Kolar, Isaiah Likely

Charlie Kolar will be moved to IR and miss significant playing time.  That will require a handshake agreement, perhaps from Mike Davis.  The Ravens may try to keep Josh Oliver on the practice squad and use the elevation system to activate him for certain games prior to Kolar’s return.  They may also look for another veteran TE cut who can be signed after week 1 and fit a situational need.

WR (5)

Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Demarcus Robinson, James Proche, Tylan Wallace

All of the camp darling UDFAs turn into pumpkins despite a spirited competition.  Of those, I expect Polk and Victor have the best chance to be offered a practice squad role.  The Ravens should also have a good ability to find a just-miss WR from another roster if they decide to cut Tylan Wallace or he starts the season on IR.

RB/FB (4)

Tyler Badie, JK Dobbins, Justice Hill, Patrick Ricard

Mike Davis is cut on a handshake deal and back for week 1 as the Ravens play with just 3 TEs to start the season.

The Ravens have a spate of options for stylistic fits on the practice squad including Nate McCrary, Ben Mason, and rookie/year 1 cuts around the league.  They also have a chance to get Gus Edwards back off PUP at some point this season.