Baltimore Ravens: 3-headed monster could be the key to advancing

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 22: Mark Andrews #89 of the Baltimore Ravens scores a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter in the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 22: Mark Andrews #89 of the Baltimore Ravens scores a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter in the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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The Baltimore Ravens possess tons of offensive weapons, but the key to victory vs. the Tennessee Titans will be in their three-headed monster at tight end.

If you’ve been a Baltimore Ravens fan for any amount of time, then you’re familiar with Dean Pees. And if you’re familiar with Dean Pees, well, it’s probably safe to assumer you have an opinion on the former Ravens defensive coordinator.

Unlike many, I thought Pees did a nice job with the Ravens. Oh, he would make that strangely-blue vein on the side of my forehead dance to the Macarena when he would go to his three-man rush packages when the Ravens had a lead. And there were times when it felt like the other team’s play-callers had something figured out on Pees, and it appeared like he either struggled to adapt or was too stubborn to change his original game plan. But, overall, I thought he did a nice job with the Ravens, particularly in presenting different looks in coverage on the back end and when the defense was in the red zone.

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I wondered if that was still holding up with Pees at his current stop with the Tennessee Titans — his bend-but-don’t-break philosophy on defense —, so I looked up a few key numbers on the Titans defense. Sure enough, the Titans finished the regular season ranked 21st in yards against, allowing 359.5 yards per game. But the Titans were 12th in scoring defense, only giving up 20.7 points per game. That is important to consider for this coming game — the Ravens will have to convert their scoring drives into touchdowns against the Titans, or risk keeping a team around all game that the Ravens should be able to handle if they are on their game.

Of course, there was another little thing that used to bug me about Pees’ defenses. In an article written after Pees left the team following the 2017 season, the Sun’s Mike Preston wrote about Pees, “Tight ends looked like John Mackey and Kellen Winslow against the Ravens this season.”

Indeed, it certainly seemed like tight ends had their way with the Ravens defense for much of Pees’ tenure, particularly up the seam against zone defenses, and on crossers when a linebacker would find himself in coverage. Again, that is a trend that has continued for Pees. According to Pro Football Reference, the Titans have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. For comparison’s sake, the Ravens have given up the fewest in the league under the leadership of Don “Wink” Martindale.

This would seem to be a game for the Ravens three-headed monster at tight end to flex its collective muscles. Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, and Nick Boyle have combined for 125 catches, 1,522-yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. It will be imperative that the three make their marks both blocking and receiving, as they do every game, but even more, so that they can exploit the seams in Pees’ zone concepts.

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Teams get wary of going man-to-man against the Ravens because quarterback Lamar Jackson can exploit a defense with his legs if the entire backside is running away from him in coverage. Though he has proven to be effective hitting the tight ends and receivers Willie Snead and Seth Roberts in zones, it is still infinitely more palatable to defensive coaches to keep the quarterback in the pocket as much as possible, despite his remarkable growth as a passer.

Jackson will make plays in this game because, well, he’s Lamar Jackson. It’s my opinion that he should use those tight ends as much as he can to keep things on schedule between those big plays.