Likely’s Big Night

The Ravens offense went through Isaiah Likely when he was in the game.  He logged 100 yards on just 12 times in the pattern for a mind-numbing 8.33 yards per route run.

Let’s review each of Likely’s targets:

  • (Q1, 9:22):  He lined up stacked behind Victor wide right and took PR5 (4 + 1) [4] to convert 3rd/4
  • (Q1, 8:04):  On 2nd/9, he lined up as Z receiver wide left after James was beaten outside for pressure to flush Huntley left, Isaiah found space near the left side line to collect PL20 (8 + 12) [1].  He went high for the football then worked free of S Thompson who tried to rip the ball loose.
  • (Q2, 15:00):  He lined up slot right and took a slant for PR8 (5 + 3) [3] to exploit S Thompson’s off coverage
  • (Q2, 7:28):  He lined up slot right and sat down between LB Niemann and CB Matthew for PR6 (4 + 2) [4]
  • (Q2, 6:34):  On 2nd/9, he lined up slot left at the LoS.  With ATS, he settled directly behind and between the level two defenders LB Niemann and OLB Thomas for PM14 (11 + 3) [2].
  • (Q2, 5:34):  He lined up in line on the right side and sat down in space for PM8 (4 + 4) [3].  ILB Walker was closest in zone but missed the tackle.
  • (Q2, 4:48):  He lined up slot right on the LoS.  His out route beat S Wiggins for PR31 (5 + 26) [4].  Wiggins missed a tackle at 5, S Thompson was stiff armed at 17, and CB Whittaker received a second stiff arm at 27 yard but eventually brought him down.
  • (Q2, 3:17):  He lined up slot left at the LoS, Huntley threaded the needle between ILB Walker, ILB Niemann, and in front of S Wiggins and S Thompson for the TD PM8 (5 + 3) [3].

Some general thoughts on these plays:

  • Greg Olsen’s endorsement is a plus, but the reasoning is even better.  Likely has a great feel for sitting down in zones and doesn’t run a route as a line where presumably he would keep moving.  On 5 of the 8 catches he ran, he stopped to make himself available for Huntley as opposed to being hit in stride.  This trait has earned Mark Andrews trust and a connection with Lamar Jackson and should also serve Likely well.
  • In terms of finding space in zone, (Q2, 6:34) is the sort of play that has plagued the Ravens level-2 defenders for the past few seasons.  Likely correctly identified that the ILB and OLB were the lesser threat to the pass and positioned himself between them and 1-2 yards past them but 6-8 yards in front of the safety and CB.  In this case, “finding space in zone” didn’t mean “equidistant from all defenders”.
  • Only 2 of the passes in Sunday’s game were over 5 yards from the LoS (those were 8 and 11) and 54 of his 100 receiving yards were YAC.  The 6.8 YAC per play is outstanding and it’s a lot easier to accumulate such a number by beating the defense deep.  Per PFF, he’s forced 9 missed tackles on 12 receptions this preseason.
  • There is a key difference between Tyler Huntley Sunday night and Lamar Jackson.  Roman schemed for Huntley to deliver the ball quickly on Sunday but when Lamar is playing his best there are lots of extended plays which create opportunities for receivers who know how to make themselves available in atypical spots.  I think this will create opportunities for both Andrews and Likely to get some high-value targets on the margin as Likely did on Huntley’s escape left (Q1, 8:04)
  • Both Andrews and Likely seem to prefer wide alignments.  I don’t see that as a problem given the way Likely was used like both a wide (z) and slot receiver and I expect Roman will simply deploy Likely on the outside (in place of a WR) more often with Andrews.

This was a game where Huntley’s passes were on target and Likely collected them all cleanly without much needed to contest.  That said, I think this represents a subset of what Isaiah can accomplish with Lamar Jackson.

QB Controversy?

Backups Brown and Huntley have both played well, but neither will be taking Lamar Jackson’s job.  Given the fact Huntley is in year 3, would it make sense to trade him at the right price and give the backup job to the rookie Brown with 2 additional years of team control?

Huntley has had a terrifically accurate preseason and is 5th among all QBs with 20+ attempts with a 118.5 passer rating.  Anthony Brown is 11th at 101.5.  Snoop has 4 career starts and that experience would be considered in any trade.

I expect EDC will get some inquiries about Huntley both before and during the season as injuries occur.  To maximize the return, there ideally will be 2 or more bidders. 

What offer is too good to pass up when another viable backup may be available?

No Ravens fan wants the team to risk their contending status without a solid return, but I think the team would find any pick or exchange of picks netting the 70 to 90 range (mid-3rd) to be enough to move Huntley.

Since 2018, their picks in that range have been Orlando Brown, Mark Andrews, Jaylon Ferguson, Justin Madubuike, and Travis Jones.

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:

  • Powers continued to get the starter treatment at guard, but if he is to be the starting LG, you’d figure him for a series there.  He again moved to C for the second series and had a bad snap which busted a chance for an RPO read on 3rd and 2 and stalled the drive.
  • Mekari started at C and played just the first series.  If Linderbaum can’t return for the opener against the Jets, I expect we’ll see Patrick at C.
  • It’s difficult not to be worried with Ja’Wuan James’ pass blocking.  He contributed to 2 pressures in just 28 snaps, both to DE Dennis Gardeck.  Huntley delivered big plays on both his pressures, but it’s becoming scarier by the week that the Ravens do not appear to have a replacement for Ronnie Stanley if he misses time at any point this season.
  • Morgan Moses and Kevin Zeitler both sat for the 2nd consecutive week and I don’t expect either to play vs the Commanders.
  • Tyre Phillips again saw action at both LG and LT.  I have full scoring for him below.  A pair of false start penalties and an IDP flag put a big dent in his grading, but in terms of pure blocking, he was very good with only 1 shared pressure (Q1, 6:06) and none in his stint at LT. 
  • Daniel Faalele took a step forward in his 2nd game.  He did much less drifting backward without contact while mirroring and was generally faster out of his stance.  He still needs to use his hands more effectively and independently.  Full scoring is below.
  • Ben Cleveland sat out the first series and the last, but got another extended trial at both RG and LG.  He was the Ravens most impressive lineman with just 2 missed blocks and no pass rush events allowed.  Full scoring is below.  We will probably get a better idea of the LG starter from the order of entry vs the Commanders.  If Cleveland or Phillips gets a trial that is close to the entire game, he/they can’t be expected to start against the Jets.
  • Khalil McKenzie played most of the 2nd half with time at each guard spot.  He had a mixed run-blocking game, but I did not note any pass rush event in a 29-snap trial.
  • Jaryd Jones-Smith played 9 snaps at RT as the last tackle off the bench. 
  • Jimmy Murray played the last 3 possessions (9 snaps) at C but will best be remembered for forgetting the snap count.
  • David Sharpe played the final 3 series at LT after a series at RT.  He did not surrender a pass rush event and pulled effectively on Badie’s RL9 (Q4, 1:03).  That’s not much to go on, but he should see more action in the finale.

Roman again schemed primarily quick passes for both Brown and Huntley, but Tyler also did an excellent job escaping pressure to run or pass.

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 (0):  Tyler was the 3rd RB to enter and received an extended look after Nate McCrary left injured after just 2 plays.  played from midway in the 2nd quarter into the 3rd.  He had a results barbell with carries of -5, -4, -1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 6, 6, 6, 8, 9.  Like most of the offense, I expect him to be much more effective playing with Lamar Jackson and the starting offensive line.

Bateman (0/0):  DNP.

Bolden (0/-1):  DNP.  He was cut Tuesday.

Boyle (0/0):  Nick’s first action of 2022 wasn’t impressive from a receiving standpoint with 2 catches for 0 yards.  He did some solid run blocking after missing OLB Gardeck which led to Hill’s RM-1 (Q1, 7:23).

Bridges (-1/+2):  Shemar did not get much of a taste of the big nights from both QBs.  He caught just 1 of 3 targets for 8 yards over 31 snaps.  He entered on the third Ravens drive and continued to rotate in through the remainder of the game.  In fairness, Roman did not scheme much for the outside receivers and what there was primarily went to Webb.

Cleveland (+2/+4):  Cleveland may have been injured on his final snap (he did not practice on Tuesday) but managed to get to the sideline under his own power.  Here is how I scored his play:

Ben entered on the second offensive series and delivered a physical performance over 39 scored snaps between RG and LG.  He did not have any negative events.  He missed 2 blocks, neither of which was a loss at the LoS (he whiffed on OLB Sanders on a pull and had OLB Luketa blocked into his legs on his final play).  He connected on 4 of his 5 pulls, had 1 block in level 2, and 3 pancakes.  His highlight was a combination block on DT Jones followed up by a pancake of ILB Wooten in level 2 (Q3, 6:46).

Scoring:  39 plays, 37 blocks, 2 missed, 37 points (.95 per play).  That’s an A even before adjustment.

Cleveland gave very little ground as a pass blocker, which may have been a point of emphasis this week considering Faalele’s similar improvement.

Colon (+1/+1):  He played 5 series at C and returned for the final 4 plays at RG.  I didn’t score his play individually, but I don’t have a single note for a pressure or missed run block resulting in a loss.  He had a well-maintained combination block on ILB Niemann to help lead McCrary’s RM9 (Q3, 7:24).  The Ravens seem to have a surplus of quality interior lineman and Colon is a trade candidate if the depth holds up.

Davis (0/+1):  Davis had a nice draw where he did not give away the play early and worked off his blocks for RM& (Q1, 0:06).  When he plays with Jackson, we’ll get a better sense of his ability to handle mesh mechanics, but based on his point of entry, Roman seems to believe in him.

Faalele (+1/+1):  Daniel did a much better job of initiating engagement with the defender without giving ground in a phantom mirror.  That led to better space on the right side on pass plays.  Here is how I scored his play:

Daniel took a step forward from the Titans game.  He allowed a half share of one pressure (Q1, 6:06) when beaten outside by OLB Kennard.  He was not assigned to pull but had 1 block in level 2, and no pancakes. His highlight was a good stunt handoff with RG Powers from OLB Kennard to DE Dogbe on what would become a slow-developing sack (Q1, 4:01).  

Scoring: 40 plays, 33 blocks, 6 missed, 1/2 pressure, 32 points (.80 per play).  That’s a B after adjustment.

I would still like to see more nasty finishes in the run game where he either pushes the opponent 10+ yards or knocks him down.  Leaning on opponents like this will not only tire them but also intimidate and frustrate.  Opponents who are mad about being blocked to the echo of the whistle are far more likely to commit a reactionary penalty.

Gaither (0/0):  Bailey dug out a low throw for an 8-yard reception (Q3, 11:36) and took a slant for 10 yards (Q3, 10:48).  It’s good he’s back on the field, but I can’t project a practice squad spot based on those.  Edit: he was cut Tuesday as I write this.

Hill (0/+1):  Justice was the 2nd RB to enter and played a few additional snaps after McCrary’s injury for 15 total.   He had to cross Huntley to undercut OLB Gardeck to pancaked him (Q1, 6:48).  It was a best-case-under-the-circumstances block, but Gardeck yanked Huntley by the ankle after the pass was out for a QH I thought should have been flagged as illegal contact below the QB knees.

Huntley (+2/+3):  He had the game of his life with a combination of accuracy and escapability but he didn’t connect on any 20+ yard throws (his longest completed DOT was 18 yards to Polk).  See above for discussion of his trade value and the offsetting value of giving the backup role to Anthony Brown.

James (-1/-1):  See notes above.  To summarize, he hasn’t played in 3 years, he’s playing a position he’s barely played at the NFL level, and he’s off to a bad start against average pass rushers so far this preseason.  If he is expected to start the opener vs the Jets, I expect we’ll see less of him vs the Commanders, but it’s possible the team still does not know where Ronnie Stanley stands or has decided that Moses will be the LT in his absence.

Jones-Smith (0/0):  See notes above.  I didn’t like the fact he blocked a Cardinals defender into Cleveland’s legs (Q4, 4:46).  Edit: He was cut on Tuesday, which will put some strain on the tackle position for the final game.

Likely (+3/+3):  See analysis of his 12 targets above.  He took a role as a designated receiver in this game and was in just a couple of plays where he blocked for the run, including a nice block on ILB Niemann to help lead Huntley’s RR10 (Q2, 8:02).

Linderbaum (0/-1):  DNP.  The backups have had a variety of problems in his absence, including some off-target snaps.  He returned to practice Tuesday, but I expect he won’t play against Washington and it will be interesting to see his status for the opener as a better indication of how much time he is likely to miss.   

Mason (-1/0):  He lined up primarily as a FB and had a mixed bag of blocks with some good leads on run plays but also a holding flag.  He’ll be offered a practice squad spot and will take over at FB if anything happens to Ricard.

McCrary (-1/0):  He had a PM7 and RM9 on consecutive plays (beginning Q3, 8:02) which turned out to be his only snaps as he left with a leg injury.  The Ravens have been effective finding stylistic fits for RB but McCrary’s speed made him useful to threated the edge.

McKenzie (0/+1):  He failed to pick up ILB Wooten on Badie’s RM-5 (Q4, 5:36) and also failed to block Wooten (with Murray) when out in front of the screen pass to Badie (Q4, 4:46).  I did not note any pressure charges.

Mekari (0/0):  See notes above.

Moore, Jaylon (0/0):  He was released Tuesday as the roster was trimmed to 80.  

Moses (0/0):  DNP, see notes above.

Murray (0/0):  See notes above.  Aside from the late snap, he surrendered a pressure by bull rush to DT Ringo (Q4, 6:19).  He should see significant playing time vs Washington. 

Oliver (0/0):  I noted 3 positive run blocks, but his fate is entirely dependent on the health of the other TEs.  He might well want another opportunity, but he would be a reasonable practice-squad option.

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

Tyre had a fine blocking game marred by 3 penalties.  His only negative blocking event was a shared pressure (with James) when bulled by DT Jones (Q1, 6:06).  He connected on all 3 of his pulls but had no blocks in level 2, and 2 pancakes. The more impressive of his two highlights was a help block on OLB Dimukeje to bail out James on Likely’s touchdown (Q2, 3:17).  

Scoring: 44 plays, 40 blocks, 3 missed, 1/2 pressure, 2 false starts, 1 illegal downfield, 30 points (.68 per play).  That’s a C- after adjustment using a combined standard for G/T snaps.

Poljan (0/0):  He played 8 snaps but did not make my notes.

Polk (0/+1):  Makai found space in the middle of the field as Huntley escaped the pocket right and threw back across his body for PM19 (18+1).  Ideally we’d see some wiggle in his (and other’s) route running, but Roman has schemed the ball out so quickly, there is little chance for a receiver to lose a DB at the top of the route.

Powers (0/0):  See notes above.  He’s played only 16 snaps in each game, so there is little to judge in terms of blocking quality.  As of now, he still seems like the favorite to start at LG in the opener.

Proche (0/0):  DNP. 

Sharpe (0/0):  See notes above.  He’ll play extensively at LT vs Washington and is a good candidate for the practice squad.

Stout (+1/+2):  He received a gift on PR Dortch’s fair catch at the 3-yard line, but also had a punt downed at the 3 and another 58-yard bomb that landed a yard or so out of bounds.  He’ll need to continue to punt directionally to maximize his net, because he has significant risk to outkick his coverage.  He continues to use the 3 x 2 approach on kickoffs.  The Ravens did not cover kickoffs well in this game (27.0 YPR) and I’m not sure if Stout is giving up hang time with the odd approach.  He also made an extra point with Tucker holding.

Victor (-1/+1):  He was not targeted in 18 snaps.  Both he and Jaylon Moore played early when Likely was in the game and drawing many of the targets.

Wallace (0/-1):  DNP, but returned to practice on Tuesday.  Based on the return I expect him to be on the 53 for the opener, but he may not be active.

Webb (+1/+1):  Raleigh had one of the only targets of any depth, a perfectly-placed throw from Brown for PL38 (22+16) [2] and ran through a missed tackle by S Wiggins for the score.

Offensive MVPs:

  1. Isaiah Likely
  2. Tyler Huntley
  3. Ben Cleveland