Defensive Dominance

The depth-fueled defensive dominance can be summarized by metrics:

  • The Ravens played only 43 total defensive snaps
  • The Panthers went 3-and-out on all 5 drives in the second half
  • The Panthers gained only 189 yards, including only 18 yards after halftime
  • The Panthers had only 8 first downs and went 2/11 on 3rd down

Relentless Rotation

The Ravens Played an OLB rotation that included Ferguson, Hayes (entered 4th series), Oweh, Chris Smith from the 2nd series of the game until the end.  They similarly rotated Ellis, Madubuike, Smith, Swann (entered 3rd series), and Broderick Washington on the defensive line after the Monstars (Campbell, Williams, and Wolfe) retired after 1 series.

This is not the typical approach by NFL teams which often progressively retire positional groups during the preseason.  The Ravens willingness to rotate throughout the game is consistent with their in-season snap management.  The ability to keep a deep set of defenders fresh is an underappreciated component of the 19-game winning streak.

Joker’s Wild

The performance of DeShon Elliott isn’t graded below, because he’s a starter, but it deserves star treatment nonetheless.  To summarize:

  • (Q1, 11:09):  He drove TE Dan Arnold out of the back of the endzone making him ineligible, Darnold threw away
  • (Q1, 10:24):  On 3rd/Goal at the 1, he tackled RB Chuba Hubbard low with Queen for no gain
  • (Q1, 9:44):  On 4th/Goal at the 1, he slipped by TE Colin Thompson to tackle RB Hubbard RL-2
  • (Q1, 7:16):  He failed to evade LG Dennis Daley on RB Hubbard’s 29-yard screen catch and run
  • (Q1, 6:14):  He blitzed (delayed) through the left C-gap for shoestring S-6 of QB Grier

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.

Alaka (0/0):  DNP.

Averett (0/+1):  It was a mixed effort for Anthony.  He was one of several players with good coverage (of TE Ian Thomas) on Darnold’s throw away in the red zone (Q1, 11:09). He had a physical PD in coverage of WR Brandon Zylstra (Q1, 0:16).  On the flip side, he lined up on the wrong side of the formation (Q2, 13:14) on a play where it appeared he misinterpreted a motion by Levine pointing back at Geno Stone.  That left the Ravens with 2 DBs covering 3 receivers on the right side.

Board (+1/+1):  Chris entered at ILB alongside Kristian Welch and played the entire 2nd half, which means there was not much in terms of defensive stats for him to accumulate.  He took advantage of good push by Swann and Ellis to tackle RB Spencer Brown for a gain of just 1.  He also generated a pressure to force an incomplete when he blitzed through the right A-gap and bulled, then shed RB Brown on the Panthers last offensive play (Q4,7:56).

Crawford (-1/+1):  DNP after a fine game versus the Saints.  Crawford will need to play in order to win a battle for the last DL roster spot with Justin Ellis.

Ferguson (+2/+5):  Jaylon entered on the 2nd series and rotated for the remainder of the game. 

  • (Q1, 6:14): He drew a holding flag on TE Arnold (declined) as Elliott sacked Grier
  • (Q2, 9:01):  On a naked boot left, he was not fooled as backside defender and just missed a PD as Grier threw to TE Giovanni Ricci PL11 (0 + 11 YAC)
  • (Q2, 4:34):  On 3rd/8, he took a chokehold from RT Brady Christensen (unflagged)
  • (Q3, 15:00):  He was patient on the backside of zone right and collected RB Spencer Brown RM2
  • (Q3, 14:24):  He beat LT Martez Ivey outside for pressure and caught the foot of QB Grier who scrambled RM2
  • (Q4, 8:39):  He bulled TE Stephen Sullivan then shed him to tackle RB Darius Clark RR-1 with Broderick Washington

This was an outstanding game to stack with the opener vs the Saints.

Harrison (0/+1): Of his 4 tackles, 2 were solo defensive wins.  He and Queen both noticed Averett’s coverage gaffe (Q2, 13:14) and signaled to try to correct the alignment.  He left at halftime.

Hayes (+1/+3):  To recount the big plays:

  • (Q2, 5:43):  He beat LT Trent Scott inside to flush QB Grier left on what became PL0
  • (Q2, 5:10):  He shifted a gap left to tackle RB Hubbard RM2 while Queen and Harrison were both blocked well in L2
  • (Q3, 6:50):  He dipped under LT Ivey for a fast QH as QB Walker threw drive-ending incomplete

Houston (0/0):  He started and played on the first 2 series before retiring for the night.  While he did not generate a pressure or make the defensive stat sheet, it’s nice to see he’s cleared for competitive contact.  You will rarely hear such effusive praise from young players in the same position group.  That’s especially unusual when the elder stateman has been with the team for just 3 weeks.  I can only assume Houston is making a real effort to mentor some young players which could be substantial value added to anything he can do on the field.

Levine (0/-1):  He continued to play on the back end for 2 series to end the half. He blew up the FB Giovanni Ricci to help force RB Spencer Brown left for a loss of 3 (Q2, 13:52).

Oweh (0/0):  He rushed unblocked off the offensive right side (ORS) to force Grier to throw incomplete for WR Omar Bayless (Q3, 13:39). He then beat TE Ricci inside then overpowered RB Brown which forced Walker to overthrow WR Shi Smith for Odafe’s 2nd consecutive drive-ending pressure (Q3, 11:39). However, he was caught inside by LT Aaron Monteiro on Grier’s 35-yard screen pass to RB Chuba Hubbard (Q1, 7:16).

Queen (-1/0):  He played most of the first half with mixed results.  He made 3 tackles, 2 of which were against the run and defensive wins by the FO definition (Q1, 10:24—at goal line; Q1, 0:12).  The third was a quick tackle on a 6-yard pass where he minimized YAC (Q2, 9:33).  He was unable to get off a block from LG Pat Elflein on RB Hubbard’s RM9 (Q1, 12:23).  His coverage of WR David Moore contributed to Darnold’s throw away (Q1, 11:09).  Patrick was called out by Rod Woodson for not carrying coverage of WR Smith on the Panther’s 3rd-and-11 conversion (Q2, 6:25), but it also appeared one of Averett or Warrior was also out of position.  He also lost coverage of WR Smith earlier on the same drive (Q2, 8:30).

So far this preseason we’ve seen good downhill play from Queen and a continuation of struggles in coverage between levels 2 and 3.  I still believe he’s poised for a breakout with more time spent with Rob Ryan.

Smith, Chris (0/+1): Smith had another fine game, so this grade is more a function of the crowded OLB position than his own play.  He rushed unblocked by LG Dennis Daley (Q1, 12:35) for a drive-ending sack on a screen pass.  That was an odd play where it appeared WR Terrace Marshall was open on the left side, but QB Will Grier thought better of delivering the football (Tyus Bowser appeared to be in the throwing lane) and instead took the sack.  Chris also set the edge well vs RT Aaron Monteiro and shed him to take down RB Darius Clark for RR2 (Q4, 14:02).  He has the good size to kick inside on passing downs and will play somewhere in the NFL this season.  I can’t imagine he’ll go unsigned if he’s cut by the Ravens.      

Stephens (+1/+3):  He had drive-ending coverage of WR Shi Smith on an overthrow by the right sideline triggered by Oweh’s pressure (Q3, 11:39).  He also had a good bracket behind WR Ishmael Hyman on Washington’s PD (Q4, 7:56).

Stone (0/+3):  He was mistakenly flagged for defensive holding when WR David Moore ran into Nigel Warrior (Q2, 8:30).  He bulled RB Darius Clark for a drive-ending pressure (Q4, 13:23).  He didn’t otherwise impact the passing game that I noted, but like Earl Thomas said, that’s a good thing for a free safety.

Swann (0/0):  There is lots of credit to go around when the opponent runs 17 times for 33 yards (1.9).  Swann did not make the defensive scoresheet, but he had good push on LT Martez Ivey to help blow up RB Brown’s RL1 (Q3, 12:26).

Wade (0/0):  He entered midway through the third quarter and in a light workload (due to the Ravens defensive dominance), he did not make my notes while playing exclusively on the outside.

Warrior (+1/0):  Nigel played well and would have a higher grade were the CB position not so crowded.  To summarize:

  • (Q2, 13:52):  He rushed in to stop RB Brown stretch for RL-3
  • (Q2, 8:30):  He was flagged for defensive holding when he collided with WR David Moore but the flag was misassigned to Stone
  • (Q2, 5:43):  He made a quick tackle on RB Hubbard PL0 (-2 + 2) by the left sideline
  • (Q2, 4:34):  On 3rd/8, he was caught on a rub by WR Zylstra as QB Grier underthrew a TD opportunity for WR Hyman
  • (Q3, 13:39):  On 3rd/6, he undercut an out route by WR Omar Bayless for a PD
  • (Q3, 7:41):  QB Walker overthrew WR Shi Smith by the left sideline with Warrior close
  • (Q4, 9:08):  With ATS, Walker threw to WR Krishawn Hogan with Nigel soft PR8 (8 + 0) by right sideline

Washington, Ar’Darius (+1/+2):  He played the entire 2nd half at SCB.  He made a kickoff return tackle (Q3, 7:46) which pinned the Panthers inside their own 20 and will help his cause.  He also had the PD in coverage of WR Hyman on the Panther’s last offensive snap (Q4, 7:56).

Washington, Broderick (+1/+3):  He had a hand in 2 more tackles (both defensive wins, Q2, 7:08—screen pass; Q4, 8:39–TFL) and deserves as much credit as anyone for holding the Panthers run game in check.

Welch (+1/0):  He played the second half and didn’t have any sort of negative note.  He contained the left edge well on QB Walker’s 4-yard scramble (Q3, 7:37).  Fort’s injury dramatically increases his chance to play in 2021, although there is a chance he’ll be cut and resigned after the Ravens settle their IR.

Westry (+1/+1):  He was beaten over the top by WR Keith Kirkwood for a 34-yard conversion on 3rd and 8 (Q2, 15:00).  Chris used the sideline well and covered WR Shi Smith step-for-step on a ball caught out of bounds (Q3, 1:46). 

  • (Q2, 15:00):  On 3rd/8, WR Keith Kirkwood beat him over the top for PR34 (28 + 6) by the right sideline
  • (Q2, 13:14):  He and Oweh converged to tackle WR Terrace Marshall Jr. PR8 (-3 + 11) with Averett aligned on wrong side
  • (Q3, 11:46):  He used the sideline well and did not initiate contact as QB Walker threw for WR Smith approximately 35 yards caught out-of-bounds on the right
  • (Q4, 13:30):  With ATS, QB Walker threw for Smith 20 yards by the right sideline, Richards was credited with PD but Chris was also there
  • (Q4, 13:23):  On 3rd/18, QB Walker overthrew WR Bayless 10 yards by the right sideline as Chris again had tight coverage

Young (0):  DNP.  A cut of Tavon Young would have cap implications the Ravens will avoid.  However, if he is not healthy, it’s possible the Ravens would try to keep him on the initial roster then move him to IR to give the SCB role to the combination of Wade and Washington.  Young would remain an option for a return at some point after week 3.

Defensive MVPs:

  1. Elliott
  2. Hayes
  3. Ferguson