Mon, 21 Sep 2020

Late for Work 8/7: Ravens Defense Ranked No. 1 Entering 2020

Baltimore Ravens
08 Aug 2020, 05:25 GMT+10

Ravens Are No. 1 in The Athletic's Defensive Rankings

Much of the attention given to the Ravens these days focuses on their offense, which is to be expected with the league MVP at quarterback and most of the pieces back from a unit that led the league in scoring and set a single-season rushing record. However, don't be surprised if the Ravens have the NFL's best defense in 2020.

Baltimore was No. 1 in The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia's defensive rankings heading into this season. He credited Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's blitz-heavy scheme for the unit finishing as the No. 4 defense last season and said the combination of returning starters and key additions will propel the defense to an even higher level.

"The Ravens had the second-worst injury luck of any defense but were still a top-five unit," Kapadia wrote. "Martindale sent five rushers or more on a league-high 55.9 percent of opponents' dropbacks. He flooded the field with defensive backs - the Ravens were in nickel or dime 85 percent of the time - and called for a heavy dose of man coverage."

Kapadia cited the Ravens retaining outside linebacker Matthew Judon with the franchise tag, acquiring veteran defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, and drafting athletic inside linebacker Patrick Queen as reasons for the defense taking the top spot in his rankings.

He also noted that the Ravens have an outstanding secondary, featuring cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, safeties Earl Thomas III and Chuck Clark, and slot corner Tavon Young.

Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler contended that the Ravens have even more star power on defense than they do on offense.

"The Ravens have a star at every level of the defense," Schisler wrote. "They have the most star-studded secondary in football; Campbell gives them a headliner on the defensive line; and Matt Judon was worth the franchise tag. The defense isn't good because one person makes everybody better. The defense is good because there is so much talent on it top to bottom.

"The Ravens have a chance to be the most balanced team in the NFL this season. They have an offense that can put up 30 points on pretty much every team in the NFL. They have a defense that should be able to hold teams to 20 points or less."

On a side note, Campbell, 34, and Thomas, 31, both made NFL.com's list of the best players over 30, with Campbell at No. 10 and Thomas at No. 23.

Colin Cowherd Doubles Down on 16-0, Super Bowl Prediction

Fox Sports Radio's Colin Cowherd made a bold statement a couple months ago when he said it's not ridiculous to believe the Ravens could go 16-0. He made an even bolder statement on his show yesterday.

Cowherd no longer thinks the Ravens could go undefeated. He predicted they will go undefeated en route to winning the Super Bowl.

"I think Baltimore's going to go 16-0, and I think they're going to fly through the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. I've never predicted that," Cowherd said. " ... Ravens, 16-0. Count on it."

Cowherd cited two reasons for his conviction that the Ravens will achieve perfection: "Baltimore is the two scariest things in football - stacked and pissed," he said.

Cowherd said that the Ravens have the edge over the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC this season because of how motivated they are after going one-and-done in the playoffs the past two years.

"The AFC is a two-team race. One of them is holding champagne parties and parades. The other, in Baltimore, has been humiliated," Cowherd said.

Not only will the Ravens to a man be driven to exorcise their playoff demons, Cowherd said, but Jackson will be playing with an especially large chip on his shoulder to silence the critics who still question his skills as a passer and his ability to play from behind.

"It pissed him off. You listen to Lamar," Cowherd said. "The scariest thing in the world in pro sports is great people who have been humiliated. Get out of their way.

"Lamar Jackson is the only MVP in my life that we have said the following offseason, 'I think he'll regress.' Oh, is he old? 'No, he's just coming into his prime.' Half the league doesn't buy into Lamar Jackson. ... We didn't doubt a young Peyton [Manning], or a young [Brett] Favre, or a young [Patrick] Mahomes."

Cowherd cited second-year wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown gaining 23 pounds of muscle this offseason as further proof of Ravens players' commitment to winning a championship this season. Brown said Jackson set the tone.

"I feel like he's more hungry," Brown said. "Even with all [his accolades], he pressed the issue about the Super Bowl. That's his No. 1 goal. He wants to win a Super Bowl and he wants to win more than one. So it's our job to make sure that we're right to go out there and compete at a high level."

The 2007 New England Patriots are the only team to go 16-0 since the NFL expanded to a 16-game regular season in 1978. The only other team to go undefeated in the Super Bowl era is the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who were 14-0 in the regular season and went on to win the Super Bowl to finish 17-0.

Phil Simms: Ravens Don't Need Antonio Brown

NFL analyst Phil Simms weighed in on whether a Super Bowl contender such as the Ravens or San Francisco 49ers should sign All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, and he said the risk is not worth the potential reward.

"I think both of those teams do not need him," Simms said on his son Chris Simms' podcast. "They've got enough talent at that position and the football team overall. I don't know if he can add to the team. He just maybe takes away from other guys, and you've got guys that are growing and getting better. I don't think he fits either team in many, many ways.

"I think we've seen he's got to be a central part of your offense, otherwise he just can't handle it. If I was the general manager or the coach [of the Ravens and 49ers], I would not entertain the thoughts of Antonio Brown."

Brown has been linked to the Ravens this offseason after working out with his cousin, Marquise Brown, and Jackson, who said he hopes the team signs the veteran. Brown also tweeted a picture of himself in a Ravens uniform.

Brown is suspended for the first eight games of the season for multiple violations of the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio has reported that the league is still investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape.

Quick Hits

The Ravens' running backs were ranked No. 2 in the league by NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund.

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