(Image Credit: Jason Owens/ Yahoo Sports)
Written by: Connor Pelesh
The Ravens played their first divisional game of the season vs the Bengals and what a disappointment it was. Baltimore the week prior blew out another top 10 team in the LA Chargers, but it was clear the 4-2 Bengals came to play. It was a mixture of the Bengals playing great disciplined football along with the Ravens making a multitude of mistakes that contributed to their 24-point loss. This loss dropped the Ravens from 1st place to 5th place in the AFC and they now sit behind the Bengals in the AFC North standings as well. The Ravens were being discussed as a top 3 team last week, but it is clear now they have many flaws that maybe not even the talent of Lamar Jackson can cover for. This week I will go over players/ position groups that contributed to the Ravens having their worst game of the season so far.
Before I go into the doom and gloom that surrounds this past game, it is important to remember this is just one week in a 17-game season. There is time to fix mistakes, especially during the Ravens bye week, and return to the top spot in the AFC. However, there are some issues that might not be able to be solved this season and all of that will be discussed further.
Often the Baltimore Ravens best player on defense, cornerback Marlon Humphrey struggled greatly. He gave himself the task to cover Bengals rookie Ja’Marr Chase who went off for 201 yards and a touchdown. Humphrey has proven he can shut down some of the NFL’s best wide receivers in the past, but in this game, he was completely outmatched by Chase. Humphrey acknowledged his poor play in a post-game press conference and took the blame for the loss. He is a great player that the Ravens invested $100 million into to be a defensive leader. Marlon brings energy and a veteran presence to the secondary that is needed especially after the loss of Marcus Peters. It is tough to match up against an NFL team’s best WR each week with no breaks. Losing Peters puts an immense amount of pressure on Humphrey to be great each week or the Ravens defense will suffer. This game vs the Bengals was the worst of his career, and he has said that himself on Twitter and press conferences. I am confident that he will bounce back and work hard to improve and learn from this game. The bye week comes at a great time for not only Humphrey, but all players to work on their game and to rest their bodies.
Tackling is one of the basic fundamentals in football. It seems as if the Ravens are losing their identity as a physical football team when they tackle poorly. All of the big plays opposing offenses have scored this year have been from bad tackling. Thinking back to the Chiefs game when the Ravens gave up two huge touchdown plays due to bad tackling on short crossing routes. The same thing happened this game when Chase took a 10-yard slant route 80+ yards for a score. If a defense can put guys on the ground, then they can limit the offenses’ ability to make a big play. Baltimore’s main problem seems to be that there are not enough players flying around to make tackles. They seem to assume that if one guy is in a position to make the tackle, the play is over. This is a big flaw in the defense mindset that needs to be adjusted before the next game. It is not a matter of poor defensive personnel as it is just making the routine tackle and not giving up a big play.
Ravens Running Backs
Latavious Murray was out this game with an ankle injury, leaving Bell, Freeman, and Williams as the backs for this game. They all struggled greatly making plays for the Ravens offense. Between all three of them, they had under 30 yards rushing and averaged under 3 yards per carry. The Ravens are a run-first offense, but it appears that it is not the case this season. Baltimore is having no luck establishing the run except on teams like the Chargers who are terrible in run defense. Defenses don’t respect the Ravens run game anymore unless it is coming from Lamar Jackson himself. They can drop more players into coverage and make it difficult for the passing game to make big plays. The trade deadline is coming up and I would not be surprised if the Ravens pulled the trigger on another running back to help them this season. Whatever the Ravens decide to do, they need better production from the running back position moving forward this year.
Ravens Offensive Tackles
This positional group is probably the biggest concern for the Ravens currently. All-pro Ronnie Stanley is out for the year yet again in hopes of being 100% for next season. Right tackle Patrick Mekari has been a bright spot this season but now has a high ankle sprain and will be out for at least a month or so. The Ravens have left tackle Alejandro Villanueva who has been less than ideal as a replacement this season for Orlando Brown and has struggled against premier pass rushers. The Ravens now have Tyree Phillips at left tackle who, to say the least, will be a liability for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense. Lamar Jackson has taken great strides in the passing game this season. However, if his offensive line does not give him any time to throw, he will not be able to distribute the ball to his playmakers. Offensive tackle is the biggest hole on this Ravens roster currently and hopefully, a trade will be made soon for Lamar Jackson’s safety.
The Ravens have a much-needed bye week to get healthy and practice. I will be recapping the season up to this point and go through my predictions for the rest of the season in the next article.