Who Wants it Less?

The Ravens and Cardinals both did plenty to give this preseason contest away.  Let’s review:

  • The Ravens were penalized 12 times for 116 yards
  • The Cardinals had a number of drops and almost as many misfires intended for open receivers
  • The Ravens allowed the Cardinals to convert 8 of 15 3rd downs plus another conversion by DPI.  The distances on the 9 converted 3rd downs were 9, 2, 5, 10, 8, 19, 1, 6, 10.  Woof.
  • The Cardinals mercifully allowed the game to end with 2 unused timeouts rather than attempt to get the ball back with a little less than 1 minute remaining

Macdonald Shows Some Cards

The Ravens employed a dime package in the first half with Brandon Stephens replacing Kristian Welch as the WLB (dimeback) for 5 plays.  In addition, Geno Stone replaced Tony Jefferson at SS.  Aside from 2 snaps of 32 dime in the opener, this was the team’s most exotic look of the preseason.

In the 2nd half the Ravens discontinued use of the dime, presumably as a means to get a look at the UDFA ILBs, Ross, McClain, and Fagot.

When the games count, I expect we’ll see lots of 3 and 4-safety packages where the Ravens replace ILBs with safeties.

Defensive Line too Deep for Cardinals 2s

Michael Pierce and Calais Campbell did not play.  In addition, Broderick Washington, Justin Madubuike, and Brent Urban combined for just 27 snaps.  Of those expected to play a significant role this season, only rookie Travis Jones (27 snaps) had a meaningful workload.  Nonetheless, the Ravens defensive line dominated the Cardinals with lots of 1-on-1 pressure wins and run penetration.

This is a great sign for depth, but players like Aaron Crawford and Isaiah Mack are too good not to be on an NFL roster somewhere this season and may both be lost if exposed to the waiver process.  Jones’ injury may allow 1 of them to be on the roster for week 1.

Rookie Defenders

Of the rookies, Travis Jones, Kyle Hamilton, Rayshad Nichols, Josh Ross, Chuck Wiley, and Pepe Williams all made significant defensive contributions detailed below.  That was in stark contrast to the first game where the Ravens leaned on an exceptional performance from Geno Stone to dominate the 2nd half.

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.

Armour-Davis (0/-1):  DNP.  He is a key backup for the Ravens, but now that he has sat out the first 2 games, he may miss the 3rd as well.

Bynes (0/0):  DNP.  I see no reason why he’ll play in game 3 after missing the first 2.  This simply speaks to his role as a presumptive starter.

Crawford (+1/+1):  Aaron played on the opening drive and continued to rotate throughout the game.   He delivered run penetrations which blew up Pledger for RM1 on 2 separate occasions (Q4, 11:25; Q4, 7:47).  He also had contributiuons to 2 pressures (Q1, 10:50;  plays (Q4, 3:41) despite playing primarily run downs.  He may be competing with Isaiah Mack for a roster spot.

Fagot (0/0):  He entered for the final 2 defensive drives but did not make my notes or the defensive stat sheet.

Fuller (+1/+1):  There are plenty of other veterans the Ravens did not need to see play, but Fuller needed live fire.  He was involved on both drive ending plays while he was in the game, each of which was a demonstration of ball skills:

  • (Q1, 10:44):  On 3rd/6, he made a diving interception attempt on a pressured, off-target pass but came up short
  • (Q1, 0:12):  On 4th/4, he stepped in front of TE McBride for an interception

He retired after the latter play with 14 snaps and that play may earn him a night off against the Commanders.

Hamilton (0/+1):  He played 3 quarters and was juked out of his shoes by WR Greg Dortch on his 34-yard play (15 + 19 YAC, Q2, 2:21).  On the RPO play (Q2, 0:55) he came up to fill on the run, recognized the fake, transitioned from run to pass defense, and leaped for the deflection which could have resulted in a turnover.  I see that play as solid evidence he is going to be a threatening presence underneath in zone coverages due to his size, athleticism, and awareness.

Harrison (+1/+3):  Malik played 38 snaps through the first drive of the third quarter and again made some contributions:

  • (Q1, 11:33):  He and Seymour converged to contain WR Dortch on a pass left off jet motion for PL3 (-3 +6) [1]
  • (Q2, 0:51):  On 2nd/goal from the 7, he took a block from the pulling LG Coward which allowed Welch to fill behind him and tackle McSorley RM2
  • (Q2, 0:43):  On 1st/1, he and Worley converged to tackle McSorley short of the goal line for S0
  • (Q2, 0:24):  On 2nd/1, he came unblocked off the OLS to tackle RB Benjamin RM-2
  • (Q3, 8:52):  He bulled TE Seikovits for pressure on what became DPI by Stephens

He improved on a flashy, mixed result vs Tennessee and appears to be a good candidate to back up at both MLB and WLB.

Hayes (0/0):  Daelin had up-and-down results after entering on the third Cardinals drive.

  • (Q2, 10:43):  With ATS, he appeared to have responsibility on RB Ward PL27 (3 + 24) [1] that converted 3rd/2
  • (Q2, 0:19):  On 3rd/3, he bulled LT Jones to flush McSorley who nonetheless delivered a TD pass to WR Bolden which was dropped in the back of the end zone
  • (Q3, 8:42):  He bulled LT Jones for pressure and contact as McSorley’s jostled throw landed 5 yards short for WR Isabella
  • (Q3, 1:57):  He was fast off the snap to beat LT Jones outside for a fast pressure as McSorley’s screen to RB Ingram went for PL-1
  • (Q4, 12:04):  McSorley unloaded quickly to RB Pledger PM15 (3 + 12) [2] with Hayes trailing

As a Sam LB, he needs show some coverage chops to go with edge setting and pass rush.

Jefferson (-1/-1):  Tony started the game at SS and had a difficult game.  He took a bad angle on a short pass to Isabella (PR11, -4 +15, [5], Q1, 3:03) and missed the tackle near the line of scrimmage.  He was the beneficiary of an overthrow (Q1, 10:50) when he was unable to stay with WR Dortch.  Tony made a nice tackle from his knees while blocked by WR Bolden (Q2, 2:21) as the last line of defense after Dortch had juked Hamilton for PL34 (15 + 19).

Jones (0/+2): Travis didn’t get a chance to play vs the Arizona starters, but was too much for the backups:

(Q2, 12:08):  He beat C Harlow left for a fast QH but was flagged for roughing the passer for helmet-to-helmet hit

(Q2, 9:40):  On 2nd/7, he beat C Harlow right for pressure as McSorley overthrew TE McBride

(Q3, 8:13):  He pancaked RG Martin but the ball was out quickly and intercepted by Williams

(Q4, 14:06):  On 4th/1, he had initial penetration vs. C Harlow but Ingrim converted RM3 with second effort and pile push

(Q4, 13:30):  He bulled RG Long for a fast pressure as McSorley threw incomplete for WR Isabella

(Q4, 10:40):  He drew a holding flag from C Smith to negate RR3

His score for the game would again have been a +1 or +2 without the injury, but his departure put a damper on a great night.

Mack (+2/+3):  He played 39 snaps, beginning with the first drive and rotation through to the end of the game.  To summarize:

  • (Q1, 10:44):  On 3rd/6, he beat LG Coward inside for fast pressure as McSorley threw incomplete off back foot
  • (Q2, 9:33):  On 3rd/7, he beat C Harlow left to flush McSorley right on what would be a forced incomplete
  • (Q2, 3:04):  He beat LG Coward (who gave up too early on screen) for pressure on incomplete
  • (Q2, 0:24):  On 2nd/goal from the 1, he beat RT Miles inside to create a front-side pile which allowed Harrison to tackle RB Benjamin RM-2
  • (Q2, 0:19):  He dropped to cover on an initial 3-man rush but returned to deliver a late QH as WR Bolden dropped an easy TD pass
  • (Q3, 4:01):  He beat LG Long inside for a QH as McSorley’s pass for WR Dortch was tipped for near INT
  • (Q3, 3:56):  He was flagged for neutral zone infraction
  • (Q4, 8:32):  On 3rd/1, he bit on McSorley’s RPO fake allowing him an easy pull for RM1 TD
  • (Q4, 8:20):  He beat LG Coward inside for fast pressure, flush right, PR3
  • (Q4, 7:47):  He cleaned up RM1 by RB Pledger off initial penetration by Crawford
  • (Q4, 2:40):  He bulled RT Coward for front-side pressure on Nichols/Wiley shared S-8
  • (Q4, 2:00):  On 3rd/25, he bulled RT Coward for initial pressure on what became RL15
  • (Q4, 1:52):  He bulled RG Martin for pressure as Guarantano threw incomplete on Cardinals final play

He’s made a broad set of contributions in each game, but the injury to Travis Jones may open the door for him to make the opening-day roster.

McClain (-1/-1):  He entered late in the third quarter and played the remainder of the game (27 snaps).  He was thrice beaten on pass plays (Q3, 1:16, PM13; Q4, 10:10, PM21 + MT; Q4, 3:41, PM19).  He’s clearly behind Josh Ross at this point based on both his entry point and quality of play.

Means (-1/0):  Steven started and played into the third despite leaving briefly with an injury during the Ravens goal line stand to end the first half.  He made some nice plays, including containment on a run and forcing a high trajectory on one of McSorley’s screen passes, but he did not impress me in terms of his pressure contributions vs the Cardinals tackles.

Moon (0/0):  He played 21 snaps beginning with the first drive of the second quarter, during which time he generated pressure on a drive-ending play (Q2, 9:33) and crashed the edge unblocked to take down RB Ingram for no gain (Q4, 9:25).

Nichols (0/0): He again played well in the last spot on the DL and exclusively in the second half.  He and Wiley took over the game in the 4th quarter when he generated 2 pressures, the S-8, and the pocket flush on 3rd and 25 that became a 15-yard scramble by QB Guarantano.  At a minimum, he’ll be on some practice squad this season (probably the Ravens).  However, he’s the sort of player who becomes very attractive as the season wears on and DL injuries accrue because 1) the replacement level drops to bolster his 2022 value and 2) he will have 3 additional seasons of control for a team that takes a chance on him.

Ross (+1+2):  He again stood out relative to the other UDFA ILBs.  Let’s review:

  • (Q3, 4:01):  He was unable to collect a pass tipped by WR Dortch 2 yards [2] where he was well positioned for a quick tackle
  • (Q3, 1:57):  He and McClain diagnosed quickly and beat their screen blocks to tackle RB Ingram on PL-1 (-7 +6) [2]
  • (Q3, 0:03):  He rushed unblocked through the left B-gap as McSorley overthrew RB Ingram
  • (Q4, 15:00):  On 3rd/7, he stunted for pressure as McSorley threw to WR Isabella PL6 (1 + 5) [2]
  • (Q4, 11:25):  He cleaned up RB Pledger for RM1 off Crawford’s penetration
  • (Q4, 8:47):  He and Stone contained the boot right by McSorley and Josh pushed OOB RR1

He’s either 4th or 5th on the Ravens ILB depth chart now and should have a spot secured on the practice squad at a minimum.  He played 20 snaps vs Arizona and I expect he’ll see more vs the Commanders with Harrison’s play reduced.

Seymour (0/-1):  Kevon departed midway through the second quarter after 21 snaps.  He allowed just 2 pass plays for 7 yards.  He contained WR Dortch well with Harrison on his PR3 (Q1, 11:33).  He had a missed tackle on his other reception allowed (Q1, 2:30), but knocked WR Bolden back and turned him by the sideline so Fuller easily cleaned up PL4.

Stephens (-1/-1):  He started at outside CB and played some dimeback as well with mixed results:

  • (Q1, 14:56):  He was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a late OOB hit
  • (Q1, 13:20):  On 3rd/9, he could not stay with WR Isabella on PR12 (12 + 0) [5]
  • (Q1, 0:12):  On 4th/4, he contained McSorley who forced throw to TE McBride which was intercepted by Fuller
  • (Q2, 1:31):  He was a little soft in coverage of WR Isabella PM9 (7 + 2) [4]
  • (Q3, 8:52):  He appeared to have good coverage on WR Isabella 38 yards [5] and tipped underthrown ball but twisted with right arm for DPI
  • (Q3, 8:38):  On 3rd/10, he made a quick tackle on a well-thrown comeback to WR Isabella PR16 (16 + 0) [5]
  • (Q4, 15:00):  On 3rd/7, he trailed WR Isabella on cross for PL6 (1 + 5) [2]
  • (Q4, 13:30):  He used the sideline well vs Isabella 25 yards [5] in end zone, incomplete
  • (Q4, 10:15):  on 2nd/19, he had tight coverage of Isabella 24 yards [5], incomplete

I think it’s probable we’ll see him in the final game vs the Commanders, but it’s not clear where his opportunity will come during the regular season.

Stone (0/+3):  Geno did not dominate the game as he did against the Titans, but he made the tackles he should have, contained well in the run game, and helped usher McSorley to the sideline for just 1 yard (Q4, 8:47).  He’s one of the players I am very interested to see how Macdonald deploys vs the Jets.

Urban (+1/+1):  Brent again retired after the third drive (8 snaps).  On consecutive snaps (beginning Q1, 14:34) he penetrated vs C Harlow to reroute RB Benjamin for RR3 and tackled McSorley with 1 arm (while held by RT Miles) for a 2-yard loss on a designed run.  Any residual question of whether he has a role with the team this season has been answered with the veteran handling, quality of his play, and departure of Derek Wolfe. 

Vereen (0/0):  He played 10 snaps, all in the 4th quarter and delivered a quick tackle of WR Kirklin on PR3 (Q4, 8:20).

Washington, Ar’Darius (0):  He returned to action, primarily at CB with mixed results:

  • (Q4, 7:01):  On 3rd/6, he was beaten by WR Kirklin for PL15 TD where he was unable to find ball
  • (Q4, 3:50):  He was close as Guarantano threw incomplete for WR Kirklin 15 yards [1]
  • (Q4, 3:45):  He appeared to deflect Guarantano’s pass for Kirklin 4 yards [3]
  • (Q4, 1:52):  On the Cardinals final play he had tight coverage of Kirklin deep along the right sideline and nearly tipped the ball

Washington, Broderick (0/+1):  He played 10 snaps, retiring after the second Cardinals drive.  He and Crawford combined for a pressure (Q1, 10:50) when McSorley overthrew the open WR Dortch.

Welch (0/-1):  He started the game next to Harrison at ILB and played 36 snaps but had just 2 tackles.  Williams played off his inside coverage to break on the football for his INT (Q3, 8:13).

Wiley (+1/+1):  Chuck played 31 snaps with the Ravens still very thin at OLB.  I scored him for contributions to 5 pass rush events:

  • (Q3, 4:01):  He bulled LT Jones to contain the front side as McSorley threw near INT tipped by WR Dortch
  • (Q3, 0:03):  He had tight coverage of RB Ingram by the right sideline to force an overthrow
  • (Q4, 10:15):  On 2nd/19, he bulled then shed RT Miles for a QH as McSorley overthrew Isabella
  • (Q4, 10:10):  He bulled RT Miles for pressure but McSorley escaped left for PM21
  • (Q4, 3:13):  He ripped past RT Coward for a fast S-7
  • (Q4, 2:40):  On 2nd/17, he was credited with half of Nichol’s sack despite being second to the play

Williams, Damarion (+2/+3):  Pepe played 39 snaps including both SCB and boundary CB, but did not have an extended trial at safety as he did in the first game.  To summarize:

  • (Q1, 0:53):  On 3rd/8, he drove back WR Dortch PR4 (4 +0) [5]
  • (Q2, 9:40):  He had tight coverage of TE McBride 22 yards [1] on a pressured overthrow
  • (Q2, 9:33):  He pursued McSorley after he was flushed right by Mack to force his OOB throw
  • (Q2, 0:44):  On 3rd/5, he was flagged for a ticky-tack DPI in coverage of WR Dortch in end zone
  • (Q3, 8:13):  He and Welch had a good horizontal bracket (5 yards, [2]) on WR Bolden and Pepe intercepted McSorley and returned 29 yards

Williams appears to have secured the starting SCB role and may make only a short appearance in the final preseason game.

Worley (0/0):  Daryl was targeted 3 times and surrendered a 23-yard completion to Bolden where he never found the ball despite tight coverage (Q2, 3:00).  He and Harrison combined to contain McSorley for a S0 by the goal line (Q2, 0:43).

Defensive MVPs:

  1. Williams
  2. Mack
  3. Wiley/Jones