Welcome to Ravens Reality Check, where we tell the Monday morning hot takes to take off their sweatshirts and cool down.
Turns out beating a middling Titans team by eight points is not great fodder for the hot take shows. But for our first item, let’s tackle something former Raven Bart Scott said last week that had a bit of a rumble:
Trading for a high-priced running back hoping to land a big contract is not exactly a popular move these days for NFL teams. But there are some pretty obvious draws to this idea, actually, if you entertain the argument.
J.K. Dobbins, a rushing and receiving threat, lasted just a half of a game, and his contract future is looking pretty cloudy. The Ravens have been banged up in the backfield all year, resorting to Melvin Gordon and Kenyan Drake at times. Although the Ravens boast a top-five rushing attack by yards, they don’t generate a lot of yards after contact. They have fumbling issues, and besides being a three-time 1,000-yard back, one thing Barkley does is protect the ball. Scott suggested it would be like the 49ers acquiring Christian McCaffrey last season.
OK, those are the arguments for. The arguments against are pretty numerous: Barkley has a dicey injury history and has missed games this season with an ankle injury. He’d likely be a rental, because the Ravens would have to extend or tag him next season if they didn’t want him to become a free agent. The explosiveness that was so awe-inspiring in Barkley’s rookie year has been curtailed slightly: His yards per rush (3.9) and yards per rush after contact (1.2) are both declining, and honestly not that much different than Gus Edwards and Justice Hill.
The most compelling argument for Barkley would be that he could do more with the Ravens blocking than Edwards or Hill can, and I actually agree. However, the best argument for not making the trade has nothing to do with the running back position, but the opportunity cost. The Ravens probably should make use of their best trade assets in a position of greater need, and I can think of no greater need than edge rusher at the moment.
The secondary is starting to get healthier, but with Odafe Oweh still making his way back and David Ojabo on injured reserve, the edge rush is a little shorthanded. Jadeveon Clowney has been playing above what a lot of folks probably expected. Still, there are a lot of good edge rushers on bad teams right now (Carl Lawson of the Jets, Danielle Hunter of the Vikings), which saturates the market and helps lower the price. If the Ravens are looking for a rental, it might make more sense there.
A great running back would make the Ravens a better team, but they’re a pretty good rushing team as is. If there is an either/or choice, shoring up the defensive front seems like a smarter bet.
2. The NFL came down too hard on Kyle Hamilton!
It felt extremely significant when Kyle Hamilton was ejected by the NFL on review of his helmet-to-helmet hit on wide receiver Chris Moore. “That’s a new one, as far as I’m concerned,” John Harbaugh said.
That doesn’t mean the call was incorrect.
Intent is not something typically measured by the NFL in penalties because it’s so hard to determine. What the replay shows is Hamilton making helmet-to-helmet contact with Moore. NFL rules were changed not long ago to draw a flag with any part of the helmet making contact with the opponent’s helmet, and these penalties are always subject to review by the league office.
It may have been a first for Harbaugh and the Ravens, but a player being ejected for helmet-to-helmet is hardly a first for the NFL. The Chargers’ Derwin James Jr. was tossed last year, and the Broncos’ Kareem Jackson was tossed this year.
Hamilton may not have intended to hit Moore in the helmet, but the video shows him lowering his head slightly and ramming into him in a no-no zone. Maybe he was trying to hit Moore lower, but you can’t really tell from the tape. Getting ejected for that is something that can happen in the NFL now, and it’s not really unexpected at all.
Wow, did not expect to see this one in The Ringer after a game that many people reacted to in a blasé fashion. But Ben Solak points to rushes Jackson had in the game as key for the Ravens pulling this one out.
Personally, if I had to pick an MVP of the game, it would be Justin Tucker and his six field goals. But I appreciate a point Solak has that I’ve made a few times in this space: The only reason this offense works to the level it does is Jackson, and the threat of his legs doesn’t only generate yards, it creates hesitation and fear in defenses, which generate opportunities for other players — or even Jackson himself.
Defenders can get frustrated trying to stop him: How much better of a window can you get to sack a normal quarterback than Tennessee’s Jack Gibbens gets in the video below? But Jackson simply freezes him, then takes advantage of the momentary indecision and gets the first down.
Jackson is the bedrock of the scheme in the same way that, to cross sporting boundaries here, Steph Curry is for the Warriors. His playing style is so unique that you can build a system around the threats of the things he does.
Still, as Jackson and his teammates are aware, the offense couldn’t convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, which is something they’ll need to improve on in the weeks ahead.
I don’t know if I agree that Jackson was the most valuable player in the NFL this week, but he consistently demonstrates why the Ravens made him one of the highest paid players in the league.