For more on this week’s defensive effort, listen to Locked on Ravens HERE.
I cannot recall the last time the Ravens entered a game with such an extreme shortage at linebacker.
Pees got creative to address it, but the deficiencies there were the primary contributor to the Jets’ 155 rushing yards as well as some of the big pass plays. Let’s review (note: The Jets ran 64 meaningful offensive snaps—excludes penalties, the fumbled punt snap, and the final kneel):
—Zach Orr started and played every snap as the defensive signal caller. He’s not the pass defender Mosley is, but he remains one of the team’s best defensive players and led the team with 11 tackles. He and Weddle were both caught on the wrong foot to begin the cutback on Enunwa’s 69-yard TD (Q1, 1:24). Orr was the closest defender on the 13-yard screen TD to Forte (Q2, 1:51). He took a bad angle and missed a diving tackle attempt on Forte’s 31-yard catch (Q3, 14:25). On 3rd and 6 (Q4, 5:27), Fitzpatrick found Anderson deep in the seam between Orr and Huff for a gain of 28.
—Albert McClellan played the other ILB spot and was on the field for 57 snaps. He’s clearly playing out of position there, but it’s apparent no one else (Correa or Onwuasor, for example) is ready. If Correa were able to handle the responsibilities of ILB, McClellan could provide much more value at OLB.
–Za’Darius Smith played every snap at OLB. His game was a mixed bag with some poor edge setting, solid pass rush contributions, and 1 glaring penalty. In total, I scored him for 5 pressures, 1 QH, and 1 batted pass. Of his pressures, 3 came on plays where another player subsequently recorded a sack. We’ll remember this game for the roughing the passer penalty that converted 2nd and 19 (Q4, 12:57). He also failed to stay home on the 30-yard reverse to Anderson (Q2, 1:59).
—Matt Judon recorded his first 2 career sacks among 29 snaps (16 pass plays). Judon was the complement to Correa (they were never on the field together) and played primarily passing downs. He beat RT Ijalana and hurdled the pressuring Z.Smith to chase down Geno Smith by the left sideline (Q2, 8:33) on the play that sidelined Geno. He also stunted through the right A gap past RG Winters block on Jernigan for a 5-yard sack (Q4, 8:30). He had 1 other pressure.
—Kamalei Correa started at OLB and played 30 snaps. All of his play came on 1st down, 2nd down (up to 9 yards to go), and 3rd and short. He had just 2 tackles, but he forced the fumble near the goal line recovered by Jernigan. That fumble was credited incorrectly to Guy in the Gamebook. He was only in the game for 10 pass plays, but he did not generate any pressures as I have it scored. I thought he did a reasonably good job setting the edge.
—Anthony Levine played 19 snaps, 18 of which came as the dime. He also played 1 snap as a safety in a 3-safety, goal-line defense, where he wasn’t replacing a LB. His highlight was a PD that denied a 3rd down conversion (Q1, 6:44).
—Brent Urban played 6 of his 13 snaps on the end of the line without an OLB on his side. Those included a 2nd-and-2 situation and 5 other 1st-down snaps. It was a good way to get some rest for an overworked group. On consecutive plays (beginning Q4, 14:03) Urban drew a holding call on the pulling LG Carpenter, then worked off LT Clady to take down Pope for a gain of 1.
—Patrick Onwuasor dressed, but did not play on defense.
—Kellen Davis, the 9th-year TE for the Jets, had a good run blocking game. I have a number of notes where he made a good block on a Ravens OLB in particular.
–I don’t know what the Ravens’ backup plan was in case of injury with the team spread so thin and snap counts elevated as they were.
Should I Stay or Should I Go—Defense at the Bye
With everyone talking teardown, I’d like to take stock of the talent the Ravens have on defense. To support the effort, I developed a broad categorization of value relative to cap, which sorts players into 5 categories.
Here is my bye-week assessment of the 2016 Ravens defense through 7 games. I’m including all players on IR. I plan to create a similar list for the offense with this week’s OL article.
These 6 guys, along with Weddle and Smith, are who I expect to be the playmaking core of the 2016 defense for the final 9 games.
Developmental (all young players we hope will quickly emerge in the above category): Kamalei Correa, Carl Davis, Will Davis, Willie Henry, Matt Judon, Bronson Kaufusi, Sheldon Price, Za’Darius Smith, Brent Urban
Of this group, Za’Darius Smith is the most difficult to place. He’s played well at times, but his inconsistent pass rush and sub-par edge setting leave him short of the “key contributor” category. Smith, Judon, and Will Davis are the 3 most likely to move up to “key contributor” by the end of the season. Correa, Carl Davis, Henry, Kaufusi, and Price are all likely to be in this category come opening day 2017. I’m not sure where Urban will end up next year, but he has done some things well in limited snaps in addition to his contributions on special teams.
A lot of money is being spent on this defense, but this group is providing value. Weddle and Jimmy Smith are 2 of the team’s best players. The other 3 have high value relative to cap. I’m a frequent critic of Albert McClellan’s play, but he’s a utility player who gets stuffed into roles he can’t handle, because he’s the only player capable of transition. As a special teams player and 2-down edge setter at OLB, he’s a tremendous value.
Suggs is a special case here. He’s played well and deserves to extend his career here or elsewhere should he choose, but not at his current compensation and risk of injury/decline. Part of me hopes he retires over the bye week, so he never has to wear another uniform and we can appreciate the fact he sacked a Manning on his final play. In any case, his last day as a Raven will be a sad one and I look forward to both his Ring of Honor induction and Hall of Fame speech.
Wright is the only player on this list whom I’d assign as much as a 30% chance of being a Raven in 2017. In a sense, this is good news. These players will create some dead money in 2017-2018, but also free up some cap.
Is anyone concerned that 7 of the 8 guys on this list are members of the secondary? Someone (or perhaps some two) will probably emerge from this group to move to one of the top 3 groups. Based on current role and opportunity Marqueston Huff and Jerraud Powers are the most likely. As many spit takes as this may cause, Matt Elam still has the highest ceiling.
One thing about this list in general…the status is a lot better than where the defense was after Week 2 a year ago. Here is my assessment of the defensive players on the same terms at that point.
Does that make you feel any better?