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Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 1 win over Cleveland

Posted on 15 September 2020 by Luke Jones

With the Ravens winning their fifth straight season opener in a 38-6 blowout final over Cleveland, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Calais Campbell made his presence felt on the opening drive, batting down a pass and then dropping into coverage to deflect another throw into the arms of Marlon Humphrey. The 6-foot-8 Campbell pounded his fist on the ground over not catching it, but he was terrific in his Baltimore debut.

2. Campbell and fellow newcomer Derek Wolfe will be effective chess pieces for Wink Martindale, but Week 1 indicated the Ravens will again need to rely on blitzing and numbers for a pass rush. You’d love to get home with a four-man rush, but a strong secondary makes up for it.

3. According to Next Gen Stats, Lamar Jackson was 11-for-13 on passes traveling at least 10 yards downfield and his 47-yard throw to Marquise Brown outside the numbers was gorgeous, but reaction to his performance surprised me a bit. He didn’t lead the NFL in touchdown passes by accident last year.

4. Jackson’s downfield pitch to Mark Ingram reminded of Willie Mays Hayes making the basket catch and being greeted in the dugout by manager Lou Brown in “Major League.” “Nice catch, Hayes. Don’t ever [expletive] do it again.” It was also clearly illegally forward, but Ed Reed had to be smiling.

5. Two touchdowns overshadowed J.K. Dobbins gaining a modest 22 yards on seven carries, but the rookie starting the second half over Mark Ingram felt notable and reflects there not being much of a gap in the hierarchy so early in the season. It isn’t great news for Gus Edwards either.

6. Jaylon Ferguson registered a tackle and a quarterback hit and had a fourth-quarter sack wiped away by a penalty, but he played the fewest snaps (22) of the five outside linebackers. This came on the heels of a quiet summer for the second-year outside linebacker. Baltimore needs a step forward.

7. All focus has been on the young receivers, but Willie Snead’s 64 receiving yards marked his highest single-game total since 2016. After dropping some weight and having a good training camp, Snead doesn’t appear ready to surrender playing time just yet.

8. The element of surprise can always be used as a defense, but Greg Roman choosing a third-and-1 from the Cleveland 7 to give Patrick Ricard his first career carry felt a little too cute. You wonder how long Ricard will wait for his next carry after the fumble.

9. John Harbaugh is correct that few NFL coaches pull their quarterbacks particularly early when leading big, but acknowledging the Ravens did that with Jackson a couple times last year made his argument less convincing, especially as D.J. Fluker was filling in for an injured Ronnie Stanley.

10. Beyond James Proche not catching a punt that rolled to the 1, special teams were solid with L.J. Fort’s hit on Cleveland’s fake punt standing out. Still, the kickoff team settling for touchbacks all seven times after doing that only 53.8 percent of the time last year is worth monitoring.

11. Which best reflected Cleveland’s ineptitude: that ill-advised fake punt, the disinterest of Odell Beckham Jr., or third-and-41? The benefit of the doubt is appropriate for teams that went through significant changes this offseason, but “the Browns gonna Brown.” At least they fixed their uniforms, which do look sharp.

12. We laugh about Justin Tucker and Sam Koch not having as much work in this new era of Ravens offense, but there were 19 missed field goals and five missed extra points across the league. The continuity provided by the “Wolfpack” is more important than ever with the pandemic restrictions.

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Ten Ravens predictions for the 2020 season

Posted on 12 September 2020 by Luke Jones

Instead of going through the exercise of making league-wide predictions, the following focus on the Ravens and the quest to win their third Super Bowl in the 25-year history of the franchise:

1. The offense will score at least 10 fewer touchdowns than a year ago.

Yes, Greg Roman is back, J.K. Dobbins joins a strong backfield, and a very young group has another year of experience under its belt, all reasons to argue the record-setting offense scoring 58 touchdowns a year ago could be even better. But reality suggests otherwise from a statistical standpoint as 30 of the 34 teams to score at least 50 offensive touchdowns in a season since 2007 saw their total drop the following year and 20 of those saw a double-digit decrease. For perspective, even Super Bowl champion Kansas City scored 20 fewer offensive touchdowns last year than in 2018. None of this is to suggest the offense will be anything but terrific again or that opponents will have “solved” it, but it’s a tribute to how remarkable and efficient the 2019 offense really was and an indication that opponents are likely to adopt more best practices to keep the Ravens from scoring 40 or more as often.

2. Lamar Jackson will once again lead the Ravens in rushing by going over 1,000 yards for the second straight year.

I fully expect Dobbins to cut into the workload of both Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, which will keep Ingram from going over the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. But the arrival of the former Ohio State star doesn’t change the fact that Jackson has the ball in his hands for the start of every one of those read-option plays, meaning the reigning NFL MVP isn’t going to suddenly see a sizable decrease in his number of carries over the course of the season. Make no mistake, Jackson can and will win plenty of games with his arm and Baltimore has very talented running backs, but the third-year quarterbacks’ athleticism remains the truly transcendent component of this one-of-a-kind offense, evident by his league-best 6.9 yards per carry average last year. That isn’t changing for now.

3. Jackson will improve his yards per attempt despite throwing fewer touchdowns than a year ago.

I expect Jackson to throw more passes than last year’s 401, but throwing a touchdown on 9.0 percent of his attempts again is highly unlikely. For context, Tom Brady has never recorded a single-season percentage that high while Patrick Mahomes (5.4 percent) and Russell Wilson (6.0 percent) were well below that mark last season. Where I do anticipate growth is Jackson pushing the ball down the field more often and making more throws outside the numbers, points of emphasis for him this offseason. Jackson’s 7.8 yards per attempt ranked 13th in the NFL last year, but landing in the top 10 in that category will be a sign of the passing game having a better ability to play off schedule and from behind. He won’t be quite as touchdown efficient, but adding more explosiveness will go a long way.

4. Mark Andrews will go over 1,100 receiving yards to lead all Baltimore pass catchers.

Improved health, a bigger frame, and no shortage of workout videos on social media have made Marquise Brown the popular choice for a breakout season. I definitely expect a sizable jump for the 2019 first-round pick who collected 584 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, but Andrews made the Pro Bowl and set team highs with 852 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns catches despite playing just 41 percent of the offensive snaps and dealing with a nagging ankle injury for a good chunk of the season. With Hayden Hurst in Atlanta and the Ravens carrying just two tight ends on the 53-man roster, Andrews’ increased snap count alone suggests more targets and production in his third season.

5. The run defense will rank in the top 10 in yards per carry allowed and efficiency.

Finishing an underwhelming 21st in the NFL in both departments last year, the Ravens added veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe as well as rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen to boost a run defense that proved too vulnerable in key matchups, none more obvious than the heartbreaking playoff loss to Tennessee. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will still need to rely heavily on the blitz to pressure quarterbacks, but these additions along with moving Brandon Williams back to his natural nose tackle spot should result in less handwringing about an inability to stop the run, especially if edge defenders show more consistency setting the edge against stretch zone rushes.

6. Marlon Humphrey will grab a career-high five interceptions to be named a first-team All-Pro again.

There is no shortage of talent in the secondary, but Humphrey is the most complete player after showing off his versatility last season by frequently moving inside after excelling as an outside corner in his first two seasons. With nickel corner Tavon Young returning from last year’s neck injury, Humphrey will again be able to thrive on the outside and strengthen his case as one of the very best at his position in the league. The 24-year-old tackles like a linebacker, covers at an elite level, and will solidify his status as the best player on this defense. Another All-Pro season will have him knocking on the door for a contract extension not far off from what the Los Angeles Rams just gave Jalen Ramsey.

7. A shaky November will cost the Ravens the top seed in the AFC.

Trying to anticipate what teams will look like from a health standpoint — which takes on a different meaning in the midst of the pandemic — in November is anyone’s guess, but a post-bye trip to play a talented Indianapolis team, a road game at New England the next week, and a Thanksgiving night trek to Pittsburgh four days after hosting the Titans? That’s easily the most challenging four-game stretch on the schedule and the biggest roadblock on paper to securing the No. 1 seed for a second straight year. Going 2-2 over that stretch would hardly be disastrous, but it may not be good enough.

8. Six Ravens players will be named to the Pro Bowl.

Jackson, Humphrey, Andrews, Campbell, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and kicker Justin Tucker will receive the nod, but the Ravens will hope not to be participating in that shoddy exhibition again.

9. A 12-4 record will give the Ravens their third straight AFC North championship.

No AFC North team has ever won the division in three straight seasons as you’d have to go back to the old AFC Central days when Pittsburgh won four consecutive division titles from 1994-97. The Ravens remain a clear favorite, but strong arguments can be made for all three division foes being better than a year ago. If Ben Roethlisberger looks anywhere close to his pre-injury self, the Steelers will be a formidable playoff team. The Browns should win more than six games and have a chance of sneaking in as a wild card with the AFC postseason field now expanded to seven teams. And Cincinnati should improve as the year progresses after handing the keys to first overall pick Joe Burrow. The Ravens won’t run away with this division by six games like last year, but they still own the AFC North.

10. The Ravens will defeat New Orleans 33-24 to win Super Bowl LV in Tampa.

After using much of this space to say the Ravens won’t be as dominant as last year, I’m picking John Harbaugh’s team to break through and win the third Super Bowl in franchise history. As memorable as the best regular-season team in Ravens history was, the winter was as cold as ever after the loss to Tennessee. The best record in the league and the No. 1 seed, an abundance of broken records and individual accolades, and, yes, plenty of national media love and respect — all things coveted by Baltimore fans for years — proved not as fulfilling as seeing the Ravens raise the Lombardi Trophy at the end of 2000 and 2012, two seasons with far more adversity. With Jackson taking a cue from Mahomes in winning the MVP award in his second season, why not continue the trend with a Super Bowl victory in his third year? The Ravens won’t find the 2020 regular season as easy or fruitful in terms of records and awards, but they’ll finally take down the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship. The electrifying Jackson will then get the best of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, fulfilling that promise he made the night he was drafted with the 32nd overall pick less than three years ago. Baltimore will be picking there again next spring because of him.

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Luke Jones checks in on the Orioles, Ravens, and Terps

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Luke Jones checks in on the Orioles, Ravens, and Terps

Posted on 15 February 2016 by WNST Staff

Our WNST All-Star beat reporter Luke Jones checked in this week to to discuss the state of the Ravens, Orioles, and Terps.

Will the Orioles end up signing Yovani Gallardo, and does Luke agree with their pursuit of him given his declining K-rate?

How will the Terps home loss to Wisconsin impact the rest of their season as they chase a Big 10 Championship?

Which route will the Ravens take in free agency? How much cap room do they have to potentially make some moves to upgrade the roster? Which of the Ravens own free agents will they prioritize as the offseason begins to heat up?

Get answers to all of those questions and much more!

Luke Jones on the Baltimore Orioles:

Luke Jones on the Baltimore Ravens:

Luke Jones on the Maryland Terps:

 

 

 

 

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Luke Jones talks Terps first loss of the season

Posted on 02 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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Luke Jones on Orioles acquisition of Mark Trumbo

Posted on 02 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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Luke Jones talks NFL and Ravens with Nestor

Posted on 09 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Luke Jones on the acquisition of Joe Morgan

Posted on 04 November 2015 by WNST Staff

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Turning out the lights in Pittsburgh…

Posted on 04 January 2015 by WNSTV

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 highs, lows of Orioles’ first half

Posted on 15 July 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles entered the All-Star break in first place for the first time since the 1997, creating plenty of excitement as they try to advance to the postseason for the second time in the last three years.

In honor of this, The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Tuesday Top 7 examined what things went right and what went wrong in the first half of the 2014 season. Luke Jones handled the positives while Drew Forrester took a look at the negatives as the Orioles own a four-game lead over second-place Toronto and are 52-42 on the season.

Luke Jones’ Top 7 Things That Went Right …

7. Kevin Gausman
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Even with the Orioles bouncing him back and forth between the majors and Triple-A Norfolk, the 23-year-old pitched to a 3.29 ERA in seven starts and will finally have a chance to remain in the rotation for good in the second half.

6. A 9-3 record in extra-inning games
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An incredible 16-2 record in extra innings was a trademark of the magical and surprising 2012 Orioles, but this year’s club has done almost as well in extra frames with one of the best bullpens in the American League.

5. The consistency of Adam Jones
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For all the handwringing over his plate discipline and inability to draw walks, Jones overcame a rough April to post a .301 average with 16 home runs and 54 runs batted in while teammates such as Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy struggled in the first half.

4. Steve Pearce
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Most wouldn’t have expected the 31-year-old journeyman to have even made the team in spring training, but Pearce has become an everyday player with a .316 average, 11 homers, 31 RBIs, and a .383 on-base percentage in 209 plate appearances.

3. Zach Britton
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The lefty entered the spring with no minor-league options remaining and no clear role, but he not only became a critical piece in the bullpen but eventually replaced closer Tommy Hunter to collect 15 saves and post a tiny 1.30 ERA.

2. Nelson Cruz
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A one-year, $8 million contract was all it took as Cruz is second in the majors with 28 homers and carried an up-and-down offense for large stretches of the first half while others battled injuries and inconsistency.

1. A 26-18 record in an underwhelming American League East
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The Orioles deserve full credit for taking advantage, but the weakest AL East we’ve seen in years has Baltimore poised to win its first division crown in 17 years with just one other team above the .500 mark at the break.

CONTINUE TO NEXT PAGE FOR DREW FORRESTER’S TOP 7 >>>>>

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D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction Orioles 9-Game Scorecard (Games 81-89)

Posted on 08 July 2014 by Luke Jones

During the 2014 season, Drew Forrester and Luke Jones of The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction will provide the “9-Game Scorecard” for the Orioles, evaluating the club in nine-game increments in a number of categories and looking ahead to how Baltimore will fare over the next nine games on the schedule.

To hear the full explanation of the most recent “Orioles 9-Game Scorecard” during Tuesday’s show, click HERE.

1. Should the Orioles have been better or worse than their 7-2 mark?
Drew: Worse
Luke: Better

2. Most Valuable Player/Least Valuable Player
Drew: MVP – Nelson Cruz; LVP – Chris Davis
Luke: MVP – Adam Jones; LVP – Brian Matusz

3. Biggest surprise
Drew: The Orioles going 4-1 during the Manny Machado suspension
Luke: The struggling Chris Davis falling below the Mendoza line

4. Best thing about the nine-game stretch
Drew: The Orioles bats coming alive during the end of the last homestand
Luke: Winning the series finale in Boston despite squandering a 6-1 lead

5. Nine games from now…
Drew: The Orioles will be ahead by five games in the American League East
Luke: A limited platoon surfaces with Chris Davis losing some at-bats to Steve Pearce and Delmon Young

6. Record in the next nine games (three with Washington, three with the New York Yankees, three at Oakland)
Drew: 9-0
Luke: 6-3

7. Stock rising/falling over the next nine games
Drew: Rising – Miguel Gonzalez; Falling – Ubaldo Jimenez
Luke: Rising – Manny Machado; Falling – Steve Pearce

8. Grading Buck Showalter in games 81-89
Drew: A
Luke: B+

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