Ravens get back to roots of bully defense

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After beating the Lions and Seahawks 75-9 at home this month, it’s time to talk about the legacy of Ravens bully ball on defense. Luke Jones and Nestor praise defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald and all three levels of the unit after punishing Geno Smith and Seahawks in another home rout and stuffing.


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Thom Loverro, Luke Jones

Thom Loverro  00:02

W and S T TAS Baltimore. And Baltimore positive it is November we must be in first place and the Maryland crabcakes we’re back out on the road. This guy joined me the last time we did it we were over at the truck sitting in the fountain Upstairs there in the tasting room. Look jokes. We’ll talk some football with us but I want to remind everybody the Maryland crab cake Tour is presented by our friends at the Maryland lottery I’m gonna be giving away ravens scratch offs, Lucky batch we’re gonna be at fade Lee’s why I’m wearing the fade Lee shirt. They were established at 87 but here in 2023. They’re still in the old Lexington market. We’re going to be on a Friday morning from nine until noon. At some point I’ll have some guests for that. Also the Maryland crab cakes we’re on the road all sorts of places. Costas in Dundalk next Tuesday the 14th going to be a Pappas in Parkville. That’s not valid. It’s not Glenburnie. That’s not Bellaire that’s Parkville the original location on the 21st will be a Coco’s and Laura Ville on the 29th gertrudes at the BMA in the Museum of Art now by Hopkins on the 30th. We’re going to be Hollywood casino in Perry Ville on the first of December from two until five and then state fair on the fifth of December in the morning. So really taking a tour of all the people who keep us in business, help us feed our families. Luke Jones has been with us for 15 years and he was out of the stadium. He was in the locker room after the game, fishing the sound out. They don’t let me go any more. You guys know that. But Luke was there working hard look, I think we’ve seen a lot of things. I don’t know that we’ve seen anything quite as impressive as the last two hours of football in the stadium that was standing Arizona and West Coast and they won and it’s fine but where the team sits right now we’re starting to discuss 2006 We’re starting to discuss 2019 And the better efforts and what Tony Romo Jim Nance, come to town and spend three hours talking about hosting AFC Championship games, and really, really speedboat, the lions and now the Seahawks, who looks to be pretty decent teams in the NFC. Cleveland and Cincinnati are on their way in I’m not annoying anybody anything. There’s a lot of football to be played. We saw Deshaun Watson, we’ve seen Joe burrow come back to life. The Steelers never looked like they come back to life but all they do is win. This This was impressive. Impressive in a way when I wrote Purple Rain one when they beat Troy Aikman up what you know, like this defense, and we’re going to talk Lamar and obj and Keith Mitchell and his pops coming on this week, Anthony Mitchell, but the defense and the the overall body of the work, it stands is very impressive. Yeah,

Luke Jones  02:36

I mean, I think we’ve grown accustomed Nestor in recent years to labeling good defenses in the modern NFL as what? Good for today’s NFL, right. You hear that all the time. And we’ve said that a number of times in recent years, because we just know how the league has worked, how it’s trended over the last 10 years or so. But I think when you look at what this defense has done, statistically, and I get it earlier in the year, they weren’t exactly facing a murderer’s row of offensive quarterbacks. We talked about Joe burrow back in week two and how he wasn’t right early on. But you look back over the last three weeks. Jared Goff two weeks ago, was coming into Baltimore, looking like a top five quarterback, at least at that point in the season, and had played well the previous year was a Pro Bowl quarterback in the NFC for whatever a Pro Bowl selection is worth. Apparently, right. Sure, exactly. Sure. We know that Jared Goff way more legitimate than Tyler Huntley in that capacity. But then you talk about the Seattle Seahawks and Geno Smith and let’s be very clear, even before Sunday’s game, Geno Smith’s not playing at the level that he did last year, which was fantastic story was was voted comeback Player of the Year made the Pro Bowl, great story, especially on the heels of the Seahawks trading, Russell Wilson, but you’re still a capable, solid quarterback. This isn’t some rookie some backup that you’ve never heard of starting a game. And the Ravens have not only beaten the lions and the Seahawks, as you mentioned, but they’ve beaten them by a 75 to nine margin. Very impressive on the offensive side of the ball, as you said, and we’ll get to that. But when you start to look at what this defense is doing, statistically, what you look at when you look at what they’re doing at every level, when you start to think about it and say okay, who won the defense? Forget about the guys that are doing great, because we’ll talk about them but who would you say on the defense is really having a down year and I think when you start to think about it, there are many names that come to mind. I mean, I think maybe guys aren’t having their best season like Marlon Humphrey, but he’s hardly been a problem or bad or anything like that. So we don’t sit here week after week and talk about Miss tackles. We don’t talk about recurring penalties in the secondary. We don’t talk about defensive holding penalties. We don’t talk about pointing our finger at one One guy because repeated flags repeatedly getting beat repeatedly maybe even getting picked on right? Because like Humphrey has been targeted less than anybody in the league, which means the other side’s getting picked on. Yeah, Brandon Stevens who as we remember was playing safety at the start of training camp and move to corner out of necessity because they had so many injuries way, way back when when we all thought that, oh, this team doesn’t have enough cornerback depth. But you just look at the numbers Nestor. They’re allowing 13.8 points per game. Best in the NFL. We know that. But as it stands right now, and we get it, it’s early November, as you pointed out, no one’s crowned right now. We don’t know what this team’s going to do the rest of the season and

Thom Loverro  05:43

we do know that it is an imposing schedule. It’s going to be a more challenging second half than it was in the first half of defense hold czar accounted for by the defense holds up the way like it looked in the first half. Because I will give you they they played some really crappy quarterback. They haven’t played a great quarterback burrow aside, he wasn’t right, they would play anybody great. I really did start to look down and I’m like, you’re gonna see six real quarterbacks in the next eight weeks, like six real quarterbacks, six quarterbacks that are gone at least as good as golf, right?

Luke Jones  06:21

Well, they’ve seen two quarter, two good quarterbacks in the last three weeks, or at least much better than they had faced, but 13.8 points per contest allowed. That right now stands to be at least on a pace and again, we have the rest of the season to go but third in franchise history behind of course, the 2000 ravens, and then the 2006 team that was 13 and three and had six players go to the Pro Bowl. So let’s keep in mind, this is a different era of the NFL then 2000 or 2006. So for them to be there statistically, sacks they lead the NFL they’re on pace to break the 2006 teams franchise record for sacks even if you just account for 16 games rather than 17. Just a matter PK on pace to be the first double digit sacks defender for the Ravens since Terrell Suggs six years ago, and Geno stone, another interception another week and he leads the NFL and he’s on a pace now to have the best interception season for a Ravens player since going all the way back to Ed Reed, when you’re mentioning defenses of that caliber in the history of this franchise, and you’re mentioning players of that ilk talking about a Hall of Famer, or in the case of Terrell Suggs, a future Hall of Famer, you’re doing some pretty special things. And I think it’s worth pointing out Nestor, and we’ve talked about this a little bit in passing, but scoring is down a little bit in the NFL, from where it’s been over the last 10 years ago. So I think that’s a small part of this. Sure. But this is a defense that is playing at a very high level. And it’s what I said a few minutes ago, not just oh, good for today’s NFL. It’s been superb. And no disrespect meant to the Cleveland Browns who blocked shut out a quarterback who I can’t even remember his name from Sunday, you know, for Arizona, considering they just traded Josh Dobbs. But this has been a really, really impressive defense through the first nine games of the season. And we’ll see how it’s gonna play out. Yeah, they’re gonna play some tougher opponents. And we’re gonna start thinking more and more about January when you’re talking about a team that’s seven and two for the first time since 2019. But this is a defense that is scary and looking more and more formidable, more and more intimidating and for them to do what they’ve done. Two of the last three weeks where that that’s taking an NFC division leader in two of the last three games, and not just beating them but embarrassing them. I mean, they may Jared Goff, look helpless. Geno Smith looked confused throughout the day, on Sunday. It was really, really impressive. So then when you couple that with an offense that runs for almost 300 yards, you’ve got something there, you’re talking about, at this point, a very legitimate, dangerous Super Bowl contender, if not the favorite at this point. And I’m not ready to go that far, because you still talk about the Kansas City Chiefs, at least I’m going to talk about the Kansas City Chiefs with a proper amount of respect with what they’ve done. But I’m looking around the NFL right now Nestor, and in early November for whatever that’s worth, which isn’t much in the big picture. I’m not seeing the team that’s better than the Baltimore Ravens right now.

Thom Loverro  09:33

Well, you share that with Tony Romo. Luke Jones is here he is Baltimore Luke you can find him out on the interwebs by the way, Clayton tune, Clayton, Clayton tune Gu ne was the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. So when you see the gaudy stats this week for the Cleveland Browns, they 127 enough and you’ll see that they beat Clayton tune. By the way I can’t remember the Browns quarterbacks name that we saw who played for them six weeks ago either It’ll be Deshaun Watson this week, before we even think about this week and what Sunday and Thursday of next week represents and certainly where the Bengals have come from. Let’s stay focused on this defense. And you can read my columnist and of course, Luke’s work up at Baltimore positive.com as well, where the defense and where to cost the pieces together, because you go out there and March and April and we do the liars luncheon. And we used to go out to Indianapolis, it was draft draft, draft, draft, draft, draft draft, and oh my god, the salary cap and Oh, my God, Lamar is 20% of the cap and where are they going to come up with money? It is amazing that Bella check in this century, sort of unearth this concept of bringing veteran players in who need a gig who wanted too much money elsewhere, who when you’re a good organization, you can recruit players to come and play for you who may play for less money. The pass rush roll, when we talk about underpaid players, they get all of this money on the free agent market, whether there’s a Darius Smith or Matthew Jude on, but once you get to be 13, and you’re in that case, whether it was pronounced McPhee a couple of years ago, I mean, we can go through all of the names of all of these sort of washed out bad need McCrary never got there bull were never got there. They weren’t, they just ended, right. But the guys who can get after the quarterback when you can still do it a little bit. And you know, Carl Van Noy comes in and two Super Bowls kind of quietly under radar, can he still do it? Nobody wanted him. Last guy standing kind of thing. That hasn’t always been the case when you’re getting through Merville. And you know, I guess Davian clowny would have had a job somewhere else in the way the class Campbell got a job this year. But it is amazing how maligned that role is and how significant it can become that a pro personnel director and a general manager can go out and really improve a football team. By being wildly with veterans mean clarity is not sneaking up on anybody was a one one. But the question is always gassing the tire. What do they have left? And that goes for pitching, whether it’s Scherzer or whether it’s Kyle Gibson or whether it’s you know, whoever the 30 Something guy that you’re trying to resurrect your your yourself with every fifth day in baseball, but the pass rush thing when you can get a Dwight Freeney late in his career a Chad Brown net and on his name and names are great, great players sobs with with a cheat sheet already mentioned him that I don’t know that doesn’t show up anywhere in April or May or June or July. It’s not a sexy thing they brought in another body with a really counting on was oh a and, and Jabo. And that’s what they drafted for. But then what really happens when the game takes over is the guys who know how to do this and shucksmith coaching them up. That’s really the difference maker because if you could stop the run, but if you can’t stop the past and you can’t get to the quarterback against these bad quarterbacks the first half of the year, that’s one thing. But I hold out some hope that they’re going to be able to beat Orlando Brown and get after Joe burrow. I hold that some hope that they’re going to make the Shaun Watson look like he’s been kind of on the pine for a year and a half or two years and hasn’t really looked great. At any point. I don’t expect him to look great. But the past rush and getting after the quarterback, it’s the reason Suggs is a lottery pick. It’s the reason that you’re always looking for that. Why that difference maker player, but to be able to find it in free agency, even if it’s 1012 1418 snaps a game. That’s a real thing. And that’s something that only teams like the Ravens can do. Because these jobs aren’t attractive to all of those guys. Those guys don’t want to go play for the Raiders. And do this at the end of their career. They want to play somewhere where they can be seven into.

Luke Jones  13:50

Yeah, it certainly helps. And we know how much pass rush is still valued around the league. I mean, just look at what the Chicago Bears did this past week and a season they’re doing nothing, nothing a season they’re going nowhere. They trade for Montoya not Montes sweat give up a second round pick, which is going to be very close to a first round pick. So you understand why Washington did it. And then they turn around and give sweat the deal they did and go look at his career numbers. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a really good player. But is he a 20? Sack 18 Sack per season kind of pass rusher. He’s not gonna

Thom Loverro  14:22

build your defense around him. The Ravens decided they were gonna build their defense around ro Quan Smith before they met him. Literally right. Sure, sure.

Luke Jones  14:30

And that’s not to say that the Ravens don’t value those players because the Ravens have they brought in Elvis Tuberville. You know, they tried to signs a Darius Smith. You know, they’ve drafted adopt AOA in the first round who are in Gok way, right? Yeah. Who, by the way, adopt AOA quietly because he’s missed time with the ankle. When he’s been on the field. He’s been really good. Go check out the spin move and sack he had on Sunday. So they’re even having some of that and they still had the upside with him and a job Oh, who’s still expected to be back but yeah, when you bring in so Someone like a Joe Davey on clowny when you bring in a Kyle van Noy who they talk to during training camp, but the reality was he and he hasn’t really even minced words about this. He wasn’t in a major rush to come into training camp in late July or August 3. He’s a vet, he’s been around, he knows what he needs to get ready for the season in the way that a 24 year old doesn’t necessarily, but he wanted more money, the Ravens didn’t want to give him that money at that point in time. They reconvene you know, a month and a half later, whatever it ended up being and you find a price point that makes sense for both sides, you know, you add in some incentives or whatever you tried to do, you know, as the case of what they did with clowny as well. So you bring in vets, you have a system that you really buy into and we’re going to continue to talk about Mike McDonald as a head coach candidate I mean, you’re not gonna be able to hide them the way this defense is playing but I’m glad you mentioned Chuck Smith, who has been talked about not just by the outside linebackers Who Who are the players that he coaches by title but it’s more than that, you know, he’s worked with Justin Matta BK he’s worked with Michael Pierce. So it’s not just the edge guys. It’s your interior defensive line. It’s your your your nickels are your inside linebackers when they’re blitzing. So, it’s really been a full blown ensemble effort. But as you pointed out, those veteran players that you can bring in at a value, you know, at a bargain compared to what you’re gonna pay a pass rusher at the age of 2726. It’s really worked out well for them. And it hasn’t been a home run every single time. You mentioned unique and Gotway Jason Pierre Paul was solid for them last year, but he didn’t move the needle from a pass rushing standpoint, but what they’re getting this year and again, it hasn’t just been those edge guys look at look at their roster. Look at their defense top to bottom. They have 35 sacks but Matt a BK is the one guy that has a got a gaudy total. The rest of these guys, you look at him, they say, oh, one and a half sacks two sacks. And he’s got three, you know, Vannoy had to work on Sunday back to back plays. And to me, what was the turning point of the game, as I talked to, or asked John Harbaugh about it after the game, but it’s just been a really, really impressive, collective effort for this defense. And let’s be clear, you always need that. I understand that. But the difference is you look back at that ravens defense 15 years ago, you knew that there were multiple future Hall of Famers on the field. Right now for this defense, you know, certainly some great players and Ro Quan Smith if he does this for another eight years, probably going to be in the Hall of Fame. Right, but that’s a long time. Still, Kyle van Noy is not a Hall of Fame player to Davey on clowny. He’s not a Hall of Fame player,


Thom Loverro  17:47

Marlon Humphrey yet

Luke Jones  17:48

at this point, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Fame player. So, you know, you talked about that defense from 15 years ago, legendary, right. This defense, it’s just it’s, it’s been really good across the board really doesn’t have a major weakness. You know, I don’t even know if what I would say the relative weaknesses. Okay, they haven’t stopped the run at a 2000 like level, but they still are really good against the run. So well, they don’t

Thom Loverro  18:14

miss glaze. Campbell. I mean, which is happening. Right,

Luke Jones  18:17

right. Right. Exactly. And it’s not as though I thought that their defensive line was going to be a liability. But Claire’s Campbell was still playing at a high level.

Thom Loverro  18:25

He was your best player. Last year, a row Quan showed up on

Luke Jones  18:28

their front, you know, on their front, certainly, but I mean, it’s just it’s been an outstanding defensive effort across the board. And again, I credit coaching, I credit the front office for bringing in depth pieces the way they have, I think you look at for me, what really jumps out is the 2020 draft. I mean, look at that draft, which was not viewed through the most vapor favorable lens even a year ago, year and a half two years ago, certainly. But you have Patrick Queen who’s on his way to making some money, most likely not in Baltimore. But Justin Mata BK continues to ring the cash register every single week. I mean, he’s got at least a half sack in six straight games. Now. You have Broderick Washington who’s already been paid Malik Harrison, who has been a depth piece for them Geno’s stone, who’s not just a great story for the ravens, one of the best stories in the NFL this year. I mean, the guys leading the league in interceptions, and he’s a backup. I mean, think about that. I mean, they haven’t had Marcus Williams, who is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. He’s played quite well when he’s been on the field. But now that’s a $70 million contract you invested who hasn’t been on the field, and yet they haven’t missed a beat because their backup has played at a Pro Bowl level. So it really it really feels like an embarrassment of riches even at some spots where two months ago, we were talking about concerns that corner to fast forward to

Thom Loverro  19:50

now. Clark got out of here right I mean, you know, the guy was wearing that were on the helmet. You know, he’s gone and Coleus Campbell gotten and they’ve hearts Rance planted this defense they really have. I mean, Ro Quan Smith wasn’t here at we are, you know, 18 games ago, right? So like, it really is amazing that we’re talking about it in this way. Because nobody talked about this in the offseason I did a little bit in August, I thought the defense would be the better side of the ball. I said that. Once we got into June and July, I felt like the defense was quietly going to be better than advertised. And I don’t I don’t know that I could sit here and say that I thought we’d be talking about them doing special things in November.

Luke Jones  20:33

Yeah, yeah. I mean, you’re right on that. But I will also say to the point that you just made, if I had told you back in July, that Brandon Stevens would be a starting corner for them. If I had told you that David Jabo would barely play, if I would, if I would have told you that adopt AOA would have missed more games that he’s played into this point, or at least parts of games. You know, if you count those, you would have said, well, I have concerns about corner, which we did back in July, and especially in August, because they were so banged up. And concerns about the pass rush, which we were talking about that throughout the offseason. And yet you see how it’s played out, you know, their anticipated strengths had been strengths. And areas that there were concerns about have also been strengths. I mean, think about it. rakia seen was drafted or not drafted was signed right after the draft to be the starting outside corner opposite Marlon Humphrey. He’s not even playing. Ronald Darby was signed in late August, as a guy that you know, with Humphrey mitt missing the first quarter of the season with the foot surgery was expected to be playing a lot. He’s not even playing, you know, Brandon Stevens has played so well. Transitioning from safety to corner that he’s, he’s earned that job permanently, or at least for the foreseeable future until he potentially struggles at some point or gets hurt or whatever. You never know, but they’ve just had so many guys step up. And you know, to your point, you know, coleus, Campbell moves on Chuck Clark, they were gonna move on from the moment that they drafted Kyle Hamilton, I think we all knew that. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t an important part of what they did in recent years. So

Thom Loverro  22:11

he kept moving on from Jimmy Smith. But they kept resigning. I mean, he kept playing, right. I mean, so when it when you get guys that you like that are your guys in your system? You know, he’s a guy that they may sign in week 11 of next year, because they like him. And they have injuries they had, you know what I mean? Like, they bring guys back they do and they bring guys back that that know the system and can play the system for now McPhee already brought his name up. I mean, once they fall in, in like with you, they they like you coffee. I know it was a guy, they want to draft it. They loved him.

Luke Jones  22:42

Sure, sure. No question. Another guy that falls into that category. Tony Jefferson was someone they brought back, who by the way, is now in their front office or you know, oh, well on the, in the pecking order, but learning how to be a scout and things of that nature. So I’m sitting in the press box on Sunday. So, you know, it really is so impressive what they are doing, because it’s not as though the plan has played out how they would have envisioned it back in April. I mean, if you had said in April, if you told Eric to Costa, John Harbaugh, Mike McDonald, Chuck Smith, that the defense will be doing what it is right now. They wouldn’t have been saying that. Oh, Brandon Stevens must be starting opposite Marlin Humphrey. And they wouldn’t have been saying, Oh, well, Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle van Noy are leading the way on the edges because while a job Oh hasn’t been on the field and and always been on and off the field. So the

Thom Loverro  23:31

man is leading the team in sacks and chinos stones leading the league in interceptions. Yeah, they

Luke Jones  23:37

might have found that a BK because that I mean, there’s been a lot of talk the last couple years. I mean, if you recall, Peter King two years ago, you know, named Mata BK as a dark horse, defensive player of the year candidate, and it looks silly at the time, but you look at it now. I don’t know if I’m putting them in that category. But he’s certainly gonna make himself some money, whether it’s gonna be in Baltimore, or whether he’s pricing himself out of Baltimore. But it’s just been such an impressive, impressive performance. And I’ll leave you with this because we’ve rattled off some of the other statistics. They gave up six first downs on Sunday. Six, this isn’t 2000 this isn’t the 1999 ravens defense playing in an era where you can crush the quarterback and you can be no Hanzi with wide receivers down the field and things of that nature. This is 2023 where we know that most of the rules are catered towards the offense. They held the Seattle Seahawks to six first downs on Sunday. I mean that that’s that’s reminiscent of the Ravens going up against Spurgeon when and the Cleveland Browns back in 2000. So really, really impressive. Yes, they need to keep it going. But I think the most impressive thing coming away from the postgame locker room Nestor defense isn’t satisfied yet. You get the sense that they feel like they can be even better and you add in. You add in a healthy version of a Javo and OA and in that rotation. You add in Marcus Williams and you can move guys around and Kyle Hamilton can slide down to the nickel. I mean they have so there’s more meat on the bone for this defense. And I think that’s what’s exciting. Understanding. Yeah, the competition is going to pick up especially when you start thinking about January but boy, this defense playing at a very high level and no, it’s not just well, pretty good for this era. No, it’s a darn good defense in any era right now. Gotta

Thom Loverro  25:23

stay healthy. Bring him on to the field ravens after the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Stadium Luke will be in Owings Mills all week long. I am back on the Maryland crabcake Tour presented by the Maryland lottery conjunction with our friends at window nation as well as Jiffy Lube multi care we’re going to be at faintly somewhere my faintly shirt we’re gonna be likely to market on Friday. And then we are taking the tour out on the road all sorts of places. Costas next Tuesday, the 14th Pappas in Parkville on the 21st Coco’s pub over and Laura Ville on the 29th gertrudes at the BMA on the 38th Hollywood casino in Perry Ville on December the first and then State Fair in Catonsville on December the fifth also doing some stuff with curio, I did a tour of their grow last week. just mind blowing science going on right over here. antimonium I’ll be talking to Wendy brown fine about that. This week. It is our 25th anniversary for all things we do around here. We’re counting things down, including your participation in our road trips over the years. So we get down to number 2221 and 20. You can find all of that and Luke’s work up at Baltimore positive I am Nestor we are wn st am 1570, Towson Baltimore and we never stop talking Baltimore positive

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