Four Downs with David: An Unkindness of Ravens
Welcome back to “Four Downs with David.” In this week’s article, we are going to break down four key players from the Baltimore Ravens that should be a focus for the Bills.
Slowing down Lamar Jackson is obviously going to be priority one for the Bills, so we’ll instead focus on four other players (two on offense, and two on defense) that could cause the Bills issues on Sunday.
1st Down: Earl Thomas (FS)
On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens have welcomed veteran safety Earl Thomas III into the fold, and he has been a solid contributor thus far in 2019. He is still a savvy veteran who can play an excellent centerfield on the backend of a defense. The Ravens may decide to have Thomas help over the top on the side of the field where John Brown lines up on obvious passing downs.
Graded out as Pro Football Focus’s 14th best safety through week 13, Thomas is still playing at a high level in what is now his 10th NFL season. He has done a bit of everything for the Ravens this year, and the statistics show as much. Thomas has recorded two interceptions, a fumble recovery, and has even chipped in with half a sack…which is actually the first sack (albeit just a half) of his entire career.
He is a player that rarely comes off the field, as Thomas has played at least 93% of Baltimore’s defensive snaps in all but one game this season. Thomas is also bringing some of his Super Bowl swagger to the Ravens locker room.
2nd Down: Mark Andrews (TE)
Steller seasons from Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Oakland’s Darren Waller likely leave Mark Andrews as the first reserve for a Pro Bowl roster spot. Andrews trails only George Kittle in Pro Football Focus’s tight end rankings through week 13. As we enter week 14, Andrews is 4th in the NFL among tight ends in receiving yards (693), but is first in scores with an impressive seven touchdowns on the year.
He has become Lamar Jackson’s go-to weapon in the passing game, as he is leading the Ravens in targets, catches, and receiving yards. To their credit, the Bills have been fairly stingy against tight ends this season. The Bills held Evan Engram to under 50 receiving yards in their week two win against the Giants. In a week eight game against the Eagles, the Bills held two-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz to a measly 20 receiving yards. The 20 receiving yards by Ertz are his lowest in a single game so far this season.
With the Bills linebackers likely keying in on spying and chasing Lamar Jackson, they will need to make sure they provide safety help down the seams, which is where Andrews does most of his damage.
3rd Down: Matthew Judon (LB)
Matt Judon leads the Ravens in sacks through 12 games, which puts him on pace for just under double digit sacks for the season. He has been a disruptor on the edge in the Ravens 3-4 defense, adding an additional 12 tackles for loss to his resume. His TFL totals are good enough for a T-5 ranking among individual defenders in the entire NFL. Trailing only Aaron Donald, Cameron Jordan, Nick Bosa, Shaquil Barrett, and Myles Garrett in this category, Judon is making a Pro Bowl case for himself in 2019.
Cody Ford has held up reasonably well in pass protection in the absence of Ty Nsekhe, but Judon is a player the Bills can’t afford to overlook. After not recording a sack last week at home against the 49ers, Judon will be looking to wreak havoc on Josh Allen and the Bills backfield on Sunday.
Judon has the ability to corral athletic, running type quarterbacks as well. Surely, practicing against Lamar Jackson each week has helped him hone his craft…Judon recorded two sacks on Deshaun Watson in the Ravens week 11 trouncing of the Texans.
4th Down: Mark Ingram (RB)
Although Lamar Jackson can seemingly do it all, it’s not without a little help from his friends. The Ravens boast the league’s first ranked rushing offense, led in large part to Jackson and former New Orleans Saint, Mark Ingram (6th highest rated running back per PFF). After spending his first eight seasons in New Orleans, Ingram signed with the Ravens this past offseason.
Ingram is on pace for only his third 1,000 yard rushing season of his career, and has a strong chance to set career highs in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He has already matched his career high in combined rushing and receiving touchdown (12). Ingram’s current 5.0 yards per carry would represent his second highest season total in his career. The Bills have been more vulnerable on the ground than they have in the air. With so much attention likely focusing on slowing Lamar Jackson, it could setup Mark Ingram for a very nice day on the ground.
Prior to allowing Dallas to barely squeak over 100 yards on the ground, the Bills had held Miami and Denver to a combined 108 rushing yards the two weeks prior. The Bills will need to be at their best on Sunday defending the run to keep this game competitive.