Monday Morning Ravens thoughts

September 16, 2019 | Dennis Koulatsos

Here are my Monday Morning thoughts, as I was on the field with the players pre-game and up in the stands during the game.  Here is what I saw:

  1. QB Lamar Jackson was seriously awesome.  It was obvious that he still has some flaws in his passing game, some accuracy issues, but he also delivered the goods when it counted, and that is the biggest take away.  Facing 3rd and 11 with about 3 minutes to play, Jackson put a dagger in the Arizona Cardinals’ hopes for a comeback.  He threw an absolute dime to WR Marquise Brown, a pass that 41 yards later dropped in the bucket like a butterfly with sore feet.  That play salted the game away for the Ravens, and it was as epic as it was spectacular.
  2. Jackson showed wisdom, maturity and growth.  He ran out of bounds and went down sooner rather than later, all the while avoiding unecessary hits. He’s grown by leaps and bounds versus a year ago, when he was thrust into action mid-season without ever having the benefit of working with the 1s.
  3. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Mark “Mandrews” Andrews both came up huge. Brown had 8 catches including the one that clinched the game, while Andrews consistently kept the chains moving, converting catches time and time again.  It is obvious that both players have developed great rapport with Jackson.  What I like about Andrews is that he knows exactly where the first down markers are located, and makes sure that he works his way past them.  For his part Brown has come a long way from his Lisfranc injury.  I received some heat from fans when I mocked him to the Ravens in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.  I thought he was the best receiver in his draft class and he hasn’t done anything to change my mind that he wasn’t.  The scary thing about him is that he is still not 100% recovered from the foot surgery.  Once he is, look out!  The other receivers need to step up.  Where was Willie Snead, Seth Roberts and Chris Moore?  I’d like to see Jaleel Scott on the active roster and in the game.  He shined in the pre-season so it is time to get him off of the porch and put him in the game with the big dogs.  Hayden Hurst had a quiet game.  Jackson missed him down the seam early in the first quarter.  He connected to another receiver on an underneath route, but had he seen Hurst it would have been a huge play.  I was sitting with Ravens super sales rep Michael Wynne and we both saw it at the same time.  A huge thank you to Michael and the Ravens for their hospitality to me and my family during the game.  They were gracious hosts and we are very grateful for the outstanding and memorable experience they provided to us.
  4. The offensive line struggled, particularly the interior.  They failed to fire off of the ball and didn’t push back the Cardinals’ defensive line.  Guard Bradley Bozeman and center Matt Skura have to do better.  Bozeman is playing out of position, as he is more suited to play center.  I don’t know why Ben Powers isn’t starting at left guard.  I thought the rookie out of Oklahoma had a great first half in the final pre-season game against the Redskins.  He’s a mauler and a better run blocker than Bozeman, and the Ravens’ coaching staff should promote him to the starting line up.  Now!
  5. Where was Earl Thomas?
  6. The secondary was in position to pick off Arizona rookie QB Kyler Murray on several occasions, but failed to do so.  Murray threw several 50/50 balls of which at least 2 or 3 should have been intercepted.  Brandon Carr and Anthony Averett were both in position to make plays but mistimed their jump and/or got out jumped by Cardinals’ receivers.  Carr came back and was relatively solid overall.  The communication on the back end clearly wasn’t there, as they even lost track of future sure fire first ballot Hall of Fame WR Larry Fitzgerald.  How do you not account for him on every down? Jimmy Smith’s absence was noticeable.  He’s a player that a lot of us take for granted, until he is no longer on the field. He can’t back on it soon enough.
  7. Going for it on 4th and 3 early in the game was arrogant, disrespectful and irresponsible. In situation football, the Ravens should have punted the ball and pinned the Cardinals deep into their own territory.  They were facing a rookie QB who was making his first start on the road in an NFL game.  They should have made him go the length of the field, putting him into situation where he could turn over the ball.  Instead they not only gave him a short field, but they allowed him to get comfortable and find his rhythm.  He was given the opportunity to heat up and took full advantage of it.
  8. The players put on film plenty of mistakes that the coaches need to work with them on this week.  You can bet there’ll be some rough practices at The Castle.  Harbaugh, Martindale and Roman I am certain will all have some corrective measures to install immediately.  They can’t play like that and expect to take down the Chiefs this Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.  The Mighty Men of Baltimore have got to clean up their act, be it penalties, defending the pass or running the ball effectively and efficiently.
  9. The referees missed some calls as well.  I get they were trying to protect Brown when he was doing a 360 as he was fighting for yards.  They blew the play dead and the fans were unhappy.  They would be been a lot more unhappy had a 250 pound linebacker come in and taken out Brown’s ribs.  Now the non-call call on Byron Murphy was horrible.  He had Brown in a bear hug, making it impossible to catch the ball.  To say he got there early would be a gross understatement.  The refs had the benefit of reviewing the play in slow motion, and they still got it wrong.  I guess 70,000 pairs or eyeballs at the stadium and that much more watching the play on TV were wrong as well.  This morning ophthalmologists in the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area all should be very busy treating patients.
  10. If the Browns lose tonight, the Ravens will be in sole possession of first play in the division by two games.  If they win the Ravens will be up by one.  Before the Jets lost QB Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, I would have banked on the Browns losing.  With him out, I still think it’s a toss up game.  Le’Veon Bell is set to play, and Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is very familiar with the Browns’ personnel.  Not only was he their interim coach last year, but prior to his promotion he was the defensive coordinator, who matched wits daily with Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.  Williams got bypassed for the job which was given to Kitchens, so you can bet he’ll be bringing his “A” game to this one.  I also like the fact that Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. seems to be more interested in his right to wear a high dollar watch to games, versus on actually winning them.
  11.  Looking ahead to next week’s matchups, it would be great if the Ravens upset the Chiefs.  The Bengals travel to Buffalo to face the surging Bills, where I do expect them to lose.  The Browns host a very tough Seattle team, and they will have a tough time winning that one.  Which leaves the Steelers, as they travel to the left coast to face the Niners.  San Fran is off to a hot start, and regardless of whether Ben Roethlisberger plays or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers dropped that one (update: Roethisberger has been ruled out for the year – mark this down as a loss for the Steelers; they’re starting out 0-3).  Lots of things have to break right for the Ravens, but you never know.
  12. Bet Dez Bryant wished he had signed that 3 year $21 million dollar deal with the Ravens last year. He should be kicking himself right about now.  And how about the media who put out there that free agent wide receivers didn’t want to come to Baltimore because they didn’t want to play with Jackson and in this offense.  How does crow taste?  I for one would like to know.
  13. Shout out to Torrey Smith, as he has officially retired.  The NFL’s loss is Baltimore’s gain, and Torrey will get heavily involved in our community.  As good as a football player he was, he’s an even better person.  He’s a family first man, a spiritual man, and wants to be a difference maker.  And he will.
  14. Also a shout out to Ed Reed and his foundation.  Got a chance to attend his fundraiser at the Four Seasons in downtown Baltimore the other night, and it was great to see Ed giving back and doing great things for the community.  You can get involved/contribute at edreedfoundation.org.  I also want to thank John and Tony Minadakis from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood for the invite.