Is Macdonald making himself a head coaching candidate with this Ravens defense?

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As the Ravens defense continues to shine and improve, Luke Jones and Nestor discuss the multiple looks that have confounded mostly young quarterbacks this season led by defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and the all-world play of linebacker Roquan Smith.


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Luke Jones, Nestor Aparicio

Nestor Aparicio  00:01

Welcome back, WN S T, Towson, Baltimore. Baltimore positive we’re positively getting into a fresh week here at the Halloween everybody out there celebrating. I’m wearing orange and black for the Orioles and our friends at curio wellness and foreign daughter. I am touring their facility this week their grow facility so anybody interested in the cannabis space? We’re doing educational series that Wendy brown find and her partners over curio, a big part of that. We’re also getting a Maryland crabcake tour back out on the road next week. And it’s all presented by our friends at the Maryland lottery we got the governor Westmore got Mayor Brandon Scott putting together some dates put together something up the curio with an interesting crabcake as well. So the holidays are gonna be great around here. And there’s certainly a lot better around here when the Baltimore Ravens are six and two at the turn. We say at the turn. There’s turns halftime now the Seattle game this week. Look, Jones joins us now. He’ll be in Owings Mills all week long. They allow him in to ask questions. John Harbaugh all of the sort of in the postgame on Sunday was his his own worst critic and saying we didn’t play great, which makes it a lot easier for us to say that in play great. Look, Seattle coming in this week. The home cooking ahead. The fact that the defense packs the lunch pail every week. I wrote a book about this 23 years ago when this sort of thing happened and offensive. And this offense a lot better. Net offense was a lot more weapons for sure. And an MVP caliber quarterback from a week to week standpoint. But the defense, the defense, the defense, if we go back and look at the sins of the Peyton Manning era cold satellite offense, then Evanoff defense, defense wins championships, right? They put that on walls in places, right. I’m confident with this defense and how it’s coming together. And I know we have talked about it. But just in a general sense about it’s the halfway point if we’re really giving a report card out. A for the defense for the first I give him an A

Luke Jones  02:03

Yeah. What do you want me to say? I totally agree. I mean, it’s, again, despite the the final six, seven minutes of what transpired in Arizona, it was sloppy. And you could tell after the game ro Quan Smith and Marlon Humphrey, amongst others, were not really pleased with how they finished out that football game. But they’ve been the far more consistent side of the football and as much as people and in today’s NFL will push back on the notion of defense winning championships. And I would push back on that in 2023, doesn’t mean it’s not still very important. And let’s be clear about that, especially as we’ve looked at the last year or two in the NFL, where defense has made a little bit of a comeback scoring is down the last couple of years from where it had been for quite a while. So the ravens

Nestor Aparicio  02:51

are investing in ro Quan Smith in the middle and and on the back end and cornerbacks and how they’re playing it. And whatever advantages defense might have been a game, right. Well, I

Luke Jones  03:02

I think it’s much more about scheme, and how teams are playing now, then, you know about specific players. I mean, there have always been talented players of the Ravens have continued to have very talented players on defense, even the years where they haven’t been as great defensively. But the point is, it’s still very important, right? And you can go a long way with a good defense now, can you do it like the Ravens did in 2000? No, you’re not going to win a championship in the modern NFL. It’s not designed to reward you with that deep of Iran if that’s how you’re going to play. But if you have balanced if you have a defense that is opportunistic and is good in the redzone can take the ball away, get after the quarterback stop the run which this ravens defensive to a man if they told you that the thing they’d like to do a little bit better, it would be stopping the run not that the run defense has been bad by any stretch. But relatively speaking, it’s been a relative. I don’t even know if I’d say weakness, but just something that hasn’t been as dominant as other areas of the game. But it’s a really good defense. And I think it’s a defense that still has room for growth still has room to improve when you’re talking about the fact that adopt a always played so little has been on and off the field even the last week or so with that ankle. We saw it again on Sunday. Without David Jabo contributing much of anything to them. You know, you love the vets. You love what you Davey on clowny and Kyle van Noy have done and you want them to continue doing that. But you do want to add some more upside some more depth, some more intrigue to that pass rush as the year goes on. And I think they have the potential to do that. On the back end of the defense. We’re not seeing a Marlin Humphrey playing his absolute best football, I think. I think he would agree with that at this point as he’s still coming back from the foot surgery that he had in August but you know what he’s capable of doing? And as he gets more and more comfortable, that’s just going to make the secondary better. You know, you mentioned in our previous conversation about Marcus Williams Geno’s stones bleed in the NFL in interceptions, you know, I and look, Marcus Williams has played well, when he’s been on the field for the Ravens. This isn’t a case where he’s been a disappointment when he’s been out there. But he struggled to stay out there. But the good news is they really haven’t experienced drop off with the way that Gino stone has played. So it’s a defense that I haven’t even mentioned Michael Pearce who after missing most of the last three seasons because of either injury, or he was one of the individuals who opted out during the COVID season when he was a Viking. But he’s played really well. And just a matter be case played extremely well, you know, to the point where he might be pricing himself out of Baltimore, as he gets to free agency this offseason, but

Nestor Aparicio  05:52

Well, that’s why they’re good every year. Right? The ravens are good every year because they always have a guy like that that like whether it’s a Delos Thomas or whether it’s Matt, Jude on or whether it’s Darius, you know, there’s just always a guy, the offensive every year they were losing guys for $50 million on the offense. And we wonder why they couldn’t run the ball sometimes. I this is part and parcel of who they are. And I mean, at some point, we’re going to talk about trade rumors here this week and adding players but they certainly feel like if they were to do something drastic, but this is an all in kind of year knowing where the caps go on with Lamar, I think right? Like at this point this week. You don’t want to see Derrick Henry running against you somehow.

Luke Jones  06:34

Well, Titans aren’t gonna be in the playoffs. So I mean,

Nestor Aparicio  06:37

no, I mean, oh, sure. Silly.


Well, maybe

Nestor Aparicio  06:43

starting pay me so much. Right. And I know.

Luke Jones  06:47

The same thing is a starting pitcher starting pitcher

Nestor Aparicio  06:50

for a lottery pick linebacker, like they did last year. Hey, man, that and he and Lamar were rarely on the field at the same time. He’s been their best football player for 52 weeks now. He is their best football player. And you make the Lamar can be a difference maker going to phone booth and all that when a consistent week by week basis. Bringing the woods to the defense, this defense is great, because Eric de Costa made a trade a year ago this week.

Luke Jones  07:18

Fair enough. He’s position by position their best player Lamar is by far their most valuable,

Nestor Aparicio  07:24

their most important player. I agree with that. Yeah, well let go Quan Smith breaking arm two weeks from now. I mean, that would be devastating, dude. Sure, no

Luke Jones  07:32

question about it. But I guess the point I was trying to make is you know that the defense is deep, you know, they’ve got some depth. I mean, they have guys that you would not have counted on or expected a year ago at this time or two years ago at this time that are playing at a very high level. I mean, look at the guys that are in contract here. As I mentioned, Matt, a BK Gino stone is gonna make himself some money, whether it’s the ravens, deciding they need to keep them and maybe there’s a conversation to be had about Marcus Williams, at some point in the coming months, and we’ll get to all that. Well,

Nestor Aparicio  08:00

Hamilton is going to get paid for real.

Luke Jones  08:03

Yeah, yeah, I

Nestor Aparicio  08:04

mean, he said a second year but sure. I mean, he’s earning he’s playing. They’re gonna have to pay. Yeah, we’ve kicked off Patrick queen. Right shortly. He’s gonna be somewhere else already. You know that?

Luke Jones  08:16

Most likely. Yeah. I mean, unless Unless he’s willing to take a more creative, creatively structured deal that gets him back on the market in a year or two if he wants to hang around at a cheaper rate. No, I don’t think the doors completely closed. But yeah, if you’re gonna ask me to say, Patrick Queen back yes or no, I’m gonna say,

Nestor Aparicio  08:33

in our time, then the middle of the season, you’re talking about Stanley’s restructuring, or, you know, Mark Andrews given some money back at the end of the year, or, like, I don’t know, I mean, but they they’re back in Flacco land where the quarterbacks make it 21% of the cap. And, you know, keeping these played, you got to win now, I guess is my point. Is all summer long with the Orioles. It’s like, I don’t just think the ravens are going to be six and two again next year. They’re pretty good this year, they can win the Super Bowl. That’s that That’s for real, that now they got to keep everybody as healthy as they have them. And we’re all talking about that next step. But the defense is good enough right now. I would put this defense on the field and buffalo in Kansas City at next week. If it’s a playoff game for all the marbles and say let’s Cincinnati wherever you we won’t have to play there. I don’t have to lose a lot of games. I’m gonna have to win a lot of games. We’re gonna go to Cincinnati and play in January. But defensively this team’s gonna pack. I mean, it’s I believe that, despite however it went on Sunday out in Arizona, I think a healthy version and a full blossom version of this defense at Christmas time should be troublesome.

Luke Jones  09:42

Yeah, it’s why a lot of people were starting to talk about Mike McDonald being a head coach somewhere that they played at that high of a level and you know, especially when you look at some of the injuries that they had early in the year and they were still playing at a high level. So I’m with you on that and look, can you take a defense and let that be What’s driving your success in the modern NFL and you just mentioned whether it’s going to Kansas City or wherever, come January, of course, you have to have an offense that’s firing in a way like the Ravens did against Detroit a week ago. But the defense is absolutely for whatever you’re looking for your defense to be in the modern NFL, the Ravens check just about every box about the only thing you could say would be, they don’t have that game record that wins on the edge without being schemed up, right? I mean, their pass rush is very much been the product of playing games and running stunts on the defensive line blitzing people sim pressures, sending four but not knowing which four it is when you have seven guys at the line of scrimmage? Yeah, they used a lot of creativity. And, look, let’s be clear, that’s perfectly okay. That’s not a knock. If you’re asking me where they could improve, it would be acquiring that edge guy. I wouldn’t say miles Garrett, there’s one miles Garrett, but an edge guy that can win, just lining up and beating the guy that he’s lining up against. And yeah, they don’t do a whole lot of that. And they’ve had to use a lot of scheme and to be creative. And it’s worked because they have sacked the quarterback. And you know, they enter the week leading the league in sacks. So I mean, that’s, you know, it’s part of what they’ve done. It’s been, they’ve been very successful doing that. So you look at this defense, you got to stay healthy. That’s the same for every team around the league right now. And certainly, just because you’re playing at this level one week, 789 doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be playing that way in week 18 Or the wildcard round or the divisional round, but they’re on their way. And it’s a defense that has been really, really good. And it is a defense that coupled with an offense that is playing at a high level. You absolutely feel confident about going to Kansas City or Kansas City coming to Baltimore or buffalo or whoever Miami. Oh, even though that dolphins defense or that dolphins offense is very explosive. You feel that yeah, you’re gonna be able to make some stops and you’re gonna be able to hold those teams from going nuts. So it’s it’s a defense that from week one, even with the injuries has been I don’t even want to say playoff caliber. It’s way better than playoff caliber. It is championship caliber.

Nestor Aparicio  12:20

So you’re taking for granted week to week Right? I mean, and part of this and we talked about this in the last segment. They played a lot of backup quarterbacks, you know, they’ve had a chance to shine. They’ve had they played some offensive lines that have been sibs that have had a lot of backup players. You know, turnstile stuff that clowny away. You know, the Blitz packages when Kyle Hamilton’s running after the quarterback room, a ladder, whatever, all that stuff has worked. And beating up golf, the way they did was really impressive to me. That’s the most impressive thing they’ve done all year, it’s the most impressive thing they were given the opportunity to do. You can only be so impressive against Josh Dobbs and against guys, I can’t remember the guy kid’s name and from Cleveland honestly, like, I may never start a game again. And the fact that I thought Ross Tucker did a great job. I mean, I I still week after week, I want to let my audience and everybody in the community know I’m still I should have been at the game on Sunday, watching the game on television is different. But watching the game on television is different in that when you get Ross Tucker, calling the game, I thought he did a nice job. I thought I thought trying to define the defense, as what do they play Luke? What would you call their defense?

Luke Jones  13:35

I mean, it’s right. Yeah, it’s very often it’s been that way for years. I mean, you know, the idea of, if you look at their depth chart, and you say, Oh, it’s a three, four, that’s not really a three, four, they play. They play a lot of over the, the plenty of different things they do. It’s multiple and really, by design, when you look especially on the back end of their defense, they’ve really designed this thing to be, quote position lists where Okay, yeah, you do have two safeties. And yes, you have a nickel corner and you have two corners that are playing on the outside, but part of that pre snap disguise and it’s not just at the line of scrimmage in terms of okay, you have six or seven guys and you might rush four, but you don’t know which four it is and it might be a couple of defensive linemen to drop into coverage.

Nestor Aparicio  14:25

Arizona did that at the end of the game pretty well defensively sure at the end of the game, but but

Luke Jones  14:30

you also have on the back end of the defense so much disguise that goes on and that doesn’t show up on TV, TV, but if you’re watching the all 22 you’ll see that you know, we think about it in the simple, simplistic terms, especially if you’re not someone that’s a football X’s and O’s junkie and look, I’m not a big time junkie. I’m certainly not a defensive coordinator. I

Nestor Aparicio  14:51

wish they had an all 22 option. It’s maybe at some point in life have I can switch to the making of that.

Luke Jones  14:56

Have you have you checked it out for Are the Amazon Thursday night game, you can actually I forget what the setting is called. And look, I, my brother has a Prime subscription. That’s why I want my son by the watch to Thursday night games all year because I’ve been more invested in watching baseball now, obviously with the Orioles playing until the last two and a half, three weeks. But they actually have an option where you will see the alto, it’s the sideline, all 22 view. And so it’s no big deal. That’s a 50 yard line, you’ll see a big field and the other cool thing they do is I think, I don’t know, I don’t know if this as AI Exactly. But they do. They have the highlight guys at the line of scrimmage that based off of all this past data, they run simulations and they’ll say, Okay, we think this guy is blitzing. So it actually is a little bit as much as it can be in real time. A little more of a teaching tape so to speak in terms of watching the game

Nestor Aparicio  15:57

talker was great at that predicting plays, I mean, the way Romo say they’re gonna run it, they’re gonna throw it, you know, like, I like a broadcast that smart and, and they’re not all smart, and they’re not all engaging to me. I thought I thought Ross did a great and I know Ross and text them after the game, whatever. But I sit and watch the games every week. And you know, I have friends doing games, Kenny, Albert, whoever’s doing the games, that’s fine. But I really I thought the game was well called for being a one in six. I thought that, especially when the referee moved the ball back 18 inches. I thought that was kind of interesting.

Luke Jones  16:31

Well, that came from New York. I mean, that’s the they’re trying to do more and more of the real time correcting of things to not slow the game down. Because as much as everyone says, Oh, we want every call, right. We also don’t want the games to be four hours, 15 minutes long. So you’re trying to find the middle ground. But to go back to just to finish the point about the defense I was making in the back end of the defense. I mean, you have most of the time, five defensive backs on the field. I mean, the Ravens under wink Martindale pre roe Quan Smith had been very much a dime, defense and

Nestor Aparicio  17:06

dumping out of linebacker for a safety

Luke Jones  17:08

assessment. Right, exactly. To have six defensive backs, you know, you have a nickel and you have a dime. And but they’ve really gone away from that from the moment that ro Quan Smith arrived, they’ve gone back to being much more of a nickel defense. I mean, you very rarely see them play dime, because they trust having ro Quan Smith and Patrick Queen on the field. And that doesn’t always mean they’re both dropping into coverage. But they’re comfortable with that alignment, or one of those guys blitzing or both of them blitzing So, but with those guys in the secondary, they want guys who can do different things. That’s why Kyle Hamilton, as you mentioned a few minutes ago, is such a valuable chess piece for them. And it’s been a little more challenging, with the injuries they’ve had at safety, that they haven’t been able to move him around quite as much and played him at the nickel quite as much. But that’s what it looks like. I mean, that’s why you love someone like Marlon Humphrey you can play on the outside or the inside. So they’re going to that’s going to continue to evolve. And Mike McDonald was even asked about that this past week. I mean, you know, they’ve gotten good play from Arthur Mallette. At the nickel spot, but is he going to just be the nickel for the rest of the season? I’m guessing probably not. Because I think as they start to play some better offensive here over the second half of the season, and you know, the schedule is gonna get a little more challenging in that way. You know, you’re not going to be playing one in seven, Arizona. I mean, starting this week with Seattle, who, you know, Geno Smith has not been as good as he was last year. But certainly, a team that still has some skill set has some players that you have to be mindful of, you know, and they’re able to do some different things. But then you’re gonna have Cincinnati coming in in a couple weeks and Joe burrow. I don’t know if anyone, most Ravens fans did it because they’re watching the Ravens game, but that’s the best job ever. We’ve seen all year, including he was moving around. We’ve seen him just be a statue in the pocket. And we’ve seen how that really hasn’t worked all that well for them. But he was moving around and he looked like the pre calf injury Joe burrow

Nestor Aparicio  19:07

so healthy Joe burrowed Halloween is dangerous. I mean,

Luke Jones  19:11

it’s like it. And look, the ravens are. Bengals fans are saying the same thing about the Ravens at this point in time. Right. I mean, it’s you know, but but they certainly aren’t

Nestor Aparicio  19:18

healthy. I mean, the ravens are healthy. And we went through that. Yeah.

Luke Jones  19:22

And I mean, that that’s such a big part of this. I mean, look at what happened on Sunday, you see more quarterbacks going down, not that the Vikings were necessarily going anywhere, but they lose kirk cousins to an Achilles. I mean, it completely changes your season. You know, you go from having talks about being a playoff team or being a team that can make a run or win a Super Bowl to it feeling like preseason football and the Ravens experience at each of the last two years. If you

Nestor Aparicio  19:46

and I go back to our Halloween tapes from last year, and the year before that, and we’re talking about the ravens, we’re talking about them in this real sense, and then all of a sudden Tyler Huntley is playing one week. Two weeks is Lamar coming back. Where’s Lamar Lamar is not even on the field and Cincinnati. already, so last year, but I like yeah, the expectations should be through the roof for this fan base. Sure. And, and I talked about this all the time with empty seats and cheap tickets, and this is a six into team. People should be flocking literally to go watch this brand of football where they went a lot. And some weeks they even kicked the other teams asked like they did last week.

Luke Jones  20:27

Yeah. And I mean, I didn’t really touch on it too much. But you made mention of the trade deadline. And obviously, that’s coming up even as people are listening to our conversation right now. I mean, it’s tic tic tic, I mean, it’s right, it’s here. So we’re gonna see if the Ravens make a move based on Eric to cost US history as ravens General Manager, probably going to see something now that doesn’t mean it’s gonna be Derrick Henry, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a premier edge rusher. But, you know, there are certainly teams out there like a Minnesota like Washington, who could very much be sellers, you know, and there’s been some debate about that. So we’ll see how this plays out. But whether they make a big splash, or whether it’s a smaller move, or maybe a move doesn’t materialize, because you can only takes two to tango teams in really good position. And let’s be perfectly clear about that. They should feel as good as anyone in the AFC not named Kansas City because Patrick mahomes is the best quarterback on the planet. But even the Chiefs looked very mortal this past Sunday. So hey, the Ravens wasn’t perfect on Sunday. It was choppy, certainly the last seven, eight minutes were just weird, bizarre, but it was a win six and two, including a forum one road record, you will gladly take that as we are just about at the halfway point of this 2023 season.

Nestor Aparicio  21:48

He is Luke Jones. He is Baltimore Luke we’re gonna be getting the Maryland crabcake tour back out on the road next week and we’re doubling up. It’s going to be like a crabcake month in November. I spent the week in the south down Vega kick, get a crabcake out there. So I’m back at home. Coco has won this big competition this week. So we’re gonna have some fun with that with Marcela and Liz and everybody over there. I stopped out at the Carroll County Farm Museum over the weekend. Didn’t have a crab cake. But I did hear a little bit of of the music so that was fun. It was a beautiful day. Good weather. Now we’re going to chill out. We’re gonna play some home football. Seattle and town this week then Cleveland Cincinnati on the back end. Luke’s gonna be on the backfield out of Owings Mills and our crabcakes were also presented by our friends at window nation. 866 90 days when you buy to get to free five years. It’s 0% financing and Jiffy Lube, multi care around the corner from you. Lots of things going on around here. Lots crabcake tour dates, we have a new inner harbor that’s coming I saw the David Bramble thing and we’re going to be fighting him on the program as well. So get back after all of it after a couple days off around here. It’s Halloween. And yeah, the Ravens kind of scary. We are wn st am 1570, Towson Baltimore and we never stop talking Baltimore positive

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