Mon, 05 Dec 2022

Kevin Eck Were Ravens 'Exposed' in Ugly Win over Panthers?

Hot takes, hyperbole, overreactions, and recency bias are a weekly staple of the NFL season, and the 2022 Ravens are a prime example.

After the Ravens' convincing win over the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football" in Week 9, the Ravens entered their bye week being hailed as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

"Inside the NFL" analyst and former All-Pro wide receiver Brandon Marshall went as far as to proclaim that the Ravens are "the best team in the league and it's not even close" and perhaps "the best Baltimore Ravens team we've ever seen." FS1 analyst and former wide receiver James Jones said the Ravens "are a team that can beat the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. This team right here is going to be a problem in the AFC."

The conversation is vastly different this week. After Baltimore's ugly 13-3 win over the Carolina Panthers (3-7) on Sunday, ESPN's Bill Barnwell named the Ravens as one of four contenders who may have been exposed. The other teams mentioned (Vikings, Giants, Jets) all lost.

"While the Ravens won, their victory felt as discouraging as the losses we've discussed," Barnwell wrote. "At home against a Panthers team with an ineffective quarterback and an interim coach, Baltimore was expected to blow out lesser competition. The defense held up its end of the bargain, limiting [Baker] Mayfield to three points and forcing three takeaways in the fourth quarter. The Panthers didn't have a single drive top 40 yards until their garbage-time sequence on the final possession.

"The offense did not exactly hold up its end of the bargain. Despite getting tight end Mark Andrews back from an injury, Lamar Jackson's offense scored just one touchdown on 11 meaningful possessions. That score even required a short field, as the Ravens cashed in after recovering a Panthers fumble on the Carolina 31-yard line. The Ravens averaged minus-0.11 expected points added per play, the third-worst mark any team has posted against Carolina in a game this season."

Barnwell said there is reason to be concerned about the Ravens' offense because of the lack of a potent passing attack, which he noted is "not a new development." The Ravens have failed to score a touchdown through the air in two of their past four games.

"For an offense that can be so explosive on the ground, the Ravens have not been able to create those same big plays through the passing game," Barnwell wrote. "Jackson is averaging 6.1 yards per attempt [since Week 4], ahead of only Kenny Pickett and Mac Jones. Jackson's off-target rate (17.1%) is much higher than league average, and his 10.5 QBR on deep passes (20-plus air yards) ranks 29th in the NFL, with just Kyler Murray behind him.

"What's really disappointing to me is that the improvements Jackson and the offense seemed to have made against the blitz have fallen by the wayside. In 2021, Jackson's 46.5 QBR against the blitz ranked 26th in the league. Through the first three games of 2022, he had jumped to a 99.2 QBR versus extra pressure, which was the best mark in football. Since then, though? That QBR has dropped all the way to 33.1, which is 27th in the NFL and right in line with what we saw a year ago."

Barnwell said the deficiencies of the passing attack have him worried about the Ravens' ceiling.

"The Ravens have the defense to compete with most other teams, but can they do enough on offense to move the ball against the Bills? Can they catch passes against the Chiefs? Can Jackson march them up and down the field against the Titans?" Barnwell wrote. "I have faith in the star quarterback, but after watching them flail for 60 minutes against the lowly Panthers, I have to admit that I expected more. Even worse, it feels like the Ravens' offensive problems under Greg Roman are getting worse, not better."

Local Pundit Says Frustration Over Ravens' Double-Digit Victory Is 'Not Reasonable'

Count Press Box's Glenn Clark as one who isn't buying the "Ravens were exposed" narrative.

Clark said it's reasonable to wish the Ravens' offense was as explosive and aesthetically pleasing as the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs' unit, but it's not reasonable to be frustrated "with a double-digit victory in which the team you root for wasn't (really) threatened in any way."

"I would be more concerned about the offensive output had the team not come into the game as a top-five offense both via points and DVOA," Clark wrote. "Against the Panthers, the Ravens certainly appeared to be content to not force the issue. They looked like a team that wasn't going to take many risks because, A) the wind was insane, and B) they didn't think they had to. Against a different opponent or in different circumstances, perhaps they would have been a bit more aggressive. But in this game, it appeared as though they simply didn't believe it was worth taking ... any risk whatsoever.

"If that was the strategy (and to be clear, the Ravens would never confirm such a thing because it would be seen as them minimizing an opponent), it ... worked. The Ravens never trailed. Perhaps they weren't tremendously sharp offensively, but they outgained Carolina by more than 100 yards and had a roughly 6:30 time of possession advantage for the game. Maybe they could have been more aggressive (and we can debate if they 'should' have been), but their strategy worked."

Clark said that given the Ravens' personnel on both sides of the ball, dominating time of possession rather than having a quick-strike offense is their best path to winning the Super Bowl.

"Yes, they need to play 'better' offensively than they did against the Panthers. But I expect that. And the Panthers game is the outlier," Clark wrote. "And they're still set to get at least one of their top two running backs (if not both) back on the field in the coming weeks. And perhaps the emergence of Demarcus Robinson could prove to be even more significant down the road than the total points scored in one non-[hyphen]conference game.

"It would be great to look like the Chiefs. But the Chiefs have only won the Super Bowl once (so far) in the Patrick Mahomes era. I can't tell you with certainty that they're more likely to win this year's than the Ravens."

Patrick Queen Discusses His Critics, Chemistry With Roquan Smith

Inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who is coming off perhaps the best game of his career as he continues his Year 3 breakout, spoke to The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer ahead of that game about a variety of topics. Here are some highlights:

Clapping back at critics: "Rookie year, I feel like I played amazing. Yeah, there were times of ups and downs. But I feel like: I'm a rookie. You can't expect me to be a Hall of Famer right when I come in. And that's what I feel like you see when people on Twitter are always comparing me to Ray Lewis, me to Ray Lewis, me to Ray Lewis, what Ray did, what he's doing. And I feel like it's not fair because it took Ray time. He came in, and, yeah, he came in balling. But he wasn't a Hall of Famer the first two seasons. It took time for him to get to that goal. So I feel like now, it's just important to now be consistent. I've shown the strides. I've shown the steps, the leap. So now I just want to be consistent. And I feel like I've remained consistent."

Chemistry with Roquan Smith: "It might take a little time just to get the chemistry down, see how each other's playing, just knowing what we can do with each other and stuff. I feel like once we get that chemistry down, once we get down pat how each other plays, I feel like it's going to be that point where nobody's going to do nothing. We just played the [New Orleans] Saints on Monday night [in Week 9], and it was a great offense that we played, and I wouldn't say shut down, but we pretty much had the business. ... I feel like, as time progresses, just continue to have faith in each other and keep working with each other, and the sky's the limit."

Whether he's tried to recruit free agent and fellow LSU alum Odell Beckham Jr. and what his pitch is: "I haven't made my pitch yet. I probably will soon. I saw we weren't on the list [of teams reportedly under consideration]. I've got a problem with that, so I'm about to check in with him. ... Come be a Raven. We've got Lamar. Simple."

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