Thursday, May 26, 2022

As Mike McDonald takes the reins of the Ravens defense, here are six pressing questions he faces.

The Ravens will hand their defense to the NFL’s youngest coordinator, the 34-year-old football obsessed who has impressed John Harbaugh with his intelligence and ambition since joining the team as an intern eight years ago.

Mike McDonald has proven he can improve his college defense in his only season as coordinator in Michigan, but he will have a tough task ahead of him when he returns to Baltimore. In 2021, the Ravens fell short of their proud defensive tradition, finishing 25th overall and last after the transfer. As several key veterans consider retiring or moving to free agency, their staff will change significantly. They will need returning stars like Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Tyus Bowser to fully recover from their injuries. McDonald will try to take the place of Don “Wink” Martindale, a popular and innovative coach who often performed miracles in his first three years as defensive coordinator.

With all these issues in mind, here are the most pressing questions McDonald will face.

Can he find the right level of tactical aggression?

Martindale was criticized for his devotion to blitz, which was not entirely fair. He never had an elite pass rusher, so he had to use players from all over defense to create pressure. Now we seem to have forgotten, but it worked: The Ravens were ranked fourth, fifth and ninth in defensive effectiveness in their first three seasons, according to Football Outsiders. Martindale slowed down in 2021 when it no longer had a top secondary tier providing back-end security. He was not inflexible.

McDonald worked alongside and then for Martindale, so it will be interesting to see how much of his former boss’s style he carries over. The Ravens immediately moved from the middle of the group to the league leaders in blitz rate when Martindale replaced Dean Peace. What will those numbers look like with a new coach at the helm?

It’s hard to say too much about McDonald based on one college season, but at Michigan he emphasized versatility and adaptability. He departed from the approach of his predecessor, Don Brown, who was known as “Dr. White”. Blitz.

“We’re going to do everything, baby,” McDonald told reporters ahead of the Wolverines’ biggest game of the season against Ohio State.

Will the Ravens be able to increase their pass rushes without throwing too many punches?

The playoffs featured teams that constantly threatened the opposing quarterbacks, but did not go crazy with the blitz. The Ravens have achieved the unfortunate reverse; according to the Pro Football Reference, they ranked sixth in blitz percentage and 24th in pressure percentage.

It helps a lot to have a blue chip pass rusher like Nick Boza, Aaron Donald or TJ Watt. Arguably, the Ravens haven’t had such a player since 2014, when Elvis Dumerville and Terrell Suggs hit 29 sacks together. If they don’t create a windfall in the off-season market, McDonald won’t have anyone to start his tenure.

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Martindale made up for this by scoring more goals in the first three seasons from 2018 to 2020 than any other coordinator in the league. His approach paid off with three top 10 pass defenses. It’s hard to say if that streak would have continued if Martindale had worked with a healthy minor player in 2021.

If McDonald is more conservative, will the Ravens be able to create pressure with the available talent? One of his notable accomplishments in Michigan was the revealing talents of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, who combined to 25 sacks after hitting just 3 ½ in previous seasons. Both are expected to be selected in the first round in April, with Hutchinson being a candidate for the top spot overall. Can McDonald find the same spark in Odafe Ove, who showed great potential in his rookie season? Can Justin Madubuke’s speed make him the pass rusher the Ravens have been missing for years?

How will they refresh the front without sacrificing reliable protection?

Despite struggling in other areas, the Ravens still finished second on run defense, which is an impressive feat considering injuries that have shattered their veteran defensive line. McDonald will almost certainly be working with another team in 2022. The team’s top lineman, Calais Campbell, is considering retiring and will become a free agent if he decides to keep playing. Longtime tackle Brandon Williams is also set to become a free agent after the worst season of his nine-year career. Derek Wolfe is currently under contract, but his future is up in the air after not playing at all in 2021.

They’re looking at further changes at the edge, where veteran Justin Houston is moving towards free agency, Pernell McPhee is considering retirement, and Bowser is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.

The Ravens have a couple of young linemen in Madubuke and Broderick Washington, both of whom performed well in season two at times but have a lot of work to do in the draft and in free agency. Will McDonald influence the types of players they target, perhaps with an eye to revitalizing an internal transfer that has done little in recent seasons? Will they try to get Campbell to play another season or get modest one-year contracts with Williams and Houston?

What role will Patrick Quinn play?

The Ravens selected Quin as their next great middle linebacker, but removed him from the role at the start of his second season after he seemed overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the position. Queen played better after he switched to the weak side, eventually taking the lead in tackles and tackles by losing, but his struggles with lighting continued and it remains an open question how he could have performed without a calming and organizing presence. like Josh Bynes next to him. .

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With the same approach, the Ravens could have gone another year. Bynes, 32, said he would like to return and that he still has gas in the tank. It would be an affordable insurance policy. They could also consider reuniting with LJ Fort, who should have been their trusted veteran inside linebacker until he tore his cruciate ligament in August.

McDonald has coached all of these players, so it’s not like this scenario was unfamiliar to him. His appreciation of Queen and his approach to positional grouping, which used to be his specialty, can tell us a lot about where he’s headed as a coordinator.

How can a minor player get back his style of playing for high stakes?

In 2021, the Ravens have given up on too many explosive plays. They finished fourth in yards allowed and yards after the catch, a deadly combination. And they did not compensate by forcing speed. Their minus 11 differential ranked fifth worst in the league, putting them in company with hopeless teams like the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and Chicago Bears.

What can the coordinator do to change this? After all, under Martindale, the Ravens were in the top 10 by rev difference in 2020 and 2019. Perhaps the answer is as simple as praying that Peters, one of the NFL’s greatest ballsmen, doesn’t break his knee next season.

The Ravens will almost certainly pick one or more cornerbacks, but can they find a natural center fielder who can connect with jack-of-all-trades Chuck Clark safely? Can Jeno Stone grow up to this role? How will McDonald use Brandon Stevens, who has shown promise in many places as a rookie?

On its own, better health will likely lead to better performance, but it’s also an area where the Ravens need to make the biggest leap for McDonald to call his first season a success.

How many Macdonald’s employees will turn over in the next few weeks?

Much of McDonald’s coaching connections stem from his time in Baltimore, so that doesn’t mean he’s treading on unfamiliar ground. But he could face immediate upheavals as he locks down his staff over the next few weeks.

Chris Hewitt, who coordinated the pass defense at Martindale, and Anthony Weaver, who coordinated the running defense, were both candidates for the top job. Will they want to work for a younger coach who beat them? Weaver did not work with McDonald in Baltimore, he has experience as a coordinator and could be an attractive candidate for several teams as the league’s coaching landscape shakes out.

Will the veteran coach naturally help McDonald adjust to his new position? Inside linebackers coach Rob Ryan, a former four-team defensive coordinator with 21 years of NFL experience, could be a candidate for the role, but the Ravens could also be looking for an experienced outside hand.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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