Twelve Ravens thoughts ahead of Week 6 clash with Los Angeles Chargers

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With the Ravens looking for their fifth straight win in a Week 6 showdown with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. We’ll see the first showdown between Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert, who “can throw a strawberry through a battleship” in Wink Martindale’s words. Thrown into the fire out of necessity in Week 2 last season, Herbert has done nothing but shine. He’ll be a major challenge for a struggling defense.

2. All eyes will be on the quarterbacks, but the Chargers run defense ranks last in the NFL in yards allowed and yards per carry surrendered and 31st in efficiency. Do the Ravens try to get their ground game back on track to keep Herbert on the sideline?

3. I’m done speculating about the running back position with players not named Jackson combining for 156 yards over the last three games. This is feeling a bit like the old quarterback adage suggesting if you have two, you really have none. The Pro Football Focus grades seem to agree.

4. Mike Williams is off to the best start of his career and is a very difficult matchup for outside cornerback Anthony Averett, but the 6-foot-4 receiver has missed multiple practices with a knee issue this week. That could be pivotal in a game with such great shootout potential.

5. Jackson provided a very veteran answer when asked about building chemistry with Rashod Bateman. “Things always look good in practice. I’ve got to see it in the game once we’re actually out there. I can’t really tell you off that right now.” I could almost hear Joe Flacco saying that.

6. I’ll have more on the inside linebackers between now and Sunday, but John Harbaugh rarely ever criticizes the individual performance of players beyond something obvious like committing a dumb penalty. Based on his comments on Wednesday, it’s becoming apparent that Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison are on notice.

— John Harbaugh on what he’s been seeing from Baltimore’s inside linebackers

7. Alejandro Villanueva continues battling through left knee soreness, which is bad news with Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa lining up against him. He’ll need help, and Greg Roman alluded to that by saying, “If you treat [Bosa] like an average player, bad things are going to happen to you.”

8. Coming off a career night against Indianapolis, Mark Andrews faces a Chargers defense ranking 29th in pass coverage efficiency against tight ends. That’s surprising with the talented Derwin James at safety, but opposing tight ends have accumulated 406 receiving yards and four touchdowns in five games. Andrews could feast again.

9. I remember injury concerns surrounding Keenan Allen entering the 2013 draft, but the 6-foot-2 receiver — taken 44 spots after Matt Elam and 20 picks after Arthur Brown — has 43 touchdown receptions and is approaching 8,000 receiving yards for his career. He remains a big challenge in the slot.

10. Though Martindale likes to say turnovers come in bunches, Baltimore enters Week 6 tied for 17th with just five takeaways. By this point last season, the Ravens had already forced nine fumbles. They have only two in 2021, both by Odafe Oweh.

11. The Ravens occasionally draw criticism for placing too much emphasis on special teams until you see it pay major dividends like in Week 5. The Chargers rank 29th in special teams efficiency with kicker Tristan Vizcaino having already missed four extra points. That could loom large in a shootout.

12. Rather than weigh in on the “foolishness” of Bart Scott’s Marquise Brown criticism, I’d rather compliment Chargers coach Brandon Staley for his comments on Jackson. Time will tell whether he’s a successful NFL head coach, but Staley has come across as very thoughtful this week.