The Baltimore Ravens ate a large slice of humble pie in Week 7, courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals. With a 5-2 record, there’s no reason for a full-on panic, but some red flags have emerged. Lamar Jackson has played like an MVP for much of the season. Still, not even he can correct a glaring problem that resurfaced against the Bengals.
If the Ravens don’t seal up a major crack, they can kiss their Super Bowl dreams goodbye.
Lamar Jackson promised a Super Bowl when the Ravens drafted him
The Baltimore Ravens secured the steal of the 2018 NFL Draft after they traded up into the first round to select Lamar Jackson at No. 32 overall.
On draft night, Jackson was visibly bothered by all the other teams passing up the opportunity to draft him. However, he delivered a bold declaration to the Ravens’ organization and fans.
Deion Sanders asked Jackson what Baltimore would be getting in the Louisville product. “Everything out of me,” said the young quarterback. “They’re going to get a Super Bowl out of me, believe that.”
While the Super Bowl hasn’t come yet, the Ravens have enjoyed plenty of success with Jackson under center. The former Heisman Trophy winner currently has an impressive 35-9 record as a starting quarterback.
Baltimore has made the playoffs each of the past three seasons. However, the team has yet to make it past the divisional round.
Lamar Jackson will need his regular-season dominance to carry over to the postseason for the Ravens to make a deep Super Bowl run.
The Ravens defense has struggled with tackling
Lackluster defensive play placed more pressure on Lamar Jackson’s shoulders in the blowout loss to the Bengals. It was one game, but a head-scratching problem reared its ugly head yet again.
The Ravens’ defense features plenty of talent on its side of the football. However, they got exposed by the explosive Cincinnati offense.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow torched Baltimore for 416 passing yards and three touchdowns. His dangerous connection with rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase was on full display. Chase caught eight passes for 201 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown.
The No. 5 overall pick highlighted one of the biggest weaknesses of the Ravens’ defense. On the play, multiple Ravens players had a chance to get Chase to the ground but failed.
Marlon Humphrey, DeShon Elliott, and Chuck Clark lead the secondary for Wink Martindale‘s unit. However, all three players whiffed on the touchdown. That’s not the first time the Ravens have given up a big play because of missed tackles.
Baltimore ranked second in the NFL in missed tackles in 2020. They currently lead the league with 55 missed tackles. They’ve also allowed 1,167 yards after the catch on completion, which also leads the NFL.
“Do we need to work on our angles? Yes. Do we need to finish some tackles? Yes,” said Martindale per the Ravens team website. “We’re constantly working on it. Every week’s going to be a new challenge, and this is going to be a big one.”
Tackling is fundamental to football. The Ravens cannot win a Super Bowl if they are undisciplined, which spells bad news for Lamar Jackson.
Injuries are starting to catch up with Baltimore’s defense
Injuries have plagued the Baltimore Ravens’ roster since training camp started. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards went down to season-ending knee injuries. The most significant loss on offense is tackle Ronnie Stanley, who underwent season-ending ankle surgery.
The Ravens’ offense has been productive despite the injuries. The unit just got a boost with the return of wide receiver Rashod Bateman, Baltimore’s first-rounder.
The injuries on the defensive side of the football are coming back to bite the Ravens, though. Marcus Peters suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice as Gus Edwards. No one can replace his presence on the field and in the locker room.
Baltimore is missing Peters’ playmaking ability in the secondary. His absence means more pressure on Marlon Humphrey to make plays, but those have been hard to come by recently.
The most underrated injury the Ravens suffered in 2021 was to linebacker L.J. Fort. Inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison have underperformed through the first seven games.
Fort was a sure tackler, and Queen has struggled with that at times. Teams have picked on Harrison in pass coverage, but that was never his strength anyway.
Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe is close to returning, which is good news because this unit needs to show some more heart.
If the defense can play more like they did against the Los Angeles Chargers, Lamar Jackson’s Super Bowl promise may have legs.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.