For contending teams, there’s one player available who can potentially be the final chess piece for a Super Bowl run, and it’s Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey is an elite talent, someone who would give a contender a Deion-Sanders-to-the-49ers boost with his premium cover skills and swagger. He was hard to miss in the things I noticed while reviewing Week 2 of the NFL slate.
Ramsey has not made any game-changing plays yet this season — he dropped a pick in Week 2 in which he showed excellent burst and athleticism — but he has continued to play hard while showing a chippy side against the Texans and Chiefs, finishing tackles with an insane amount of zeal:
It’s reasonable to understand why Ramsey is frustrated by the way the Jaguars are using him, with so much zone coverage. As a phenomenally gifted cover man, he wants to play man and shadow opponents’ best receivers. And even if a team leans toward playing more zone, there’s a good argument to be made that Ramsey is a player a coordinator should change his proclivities for.
His man coverage ability could wipe out any No. 1 receiver in the NFL. A team could even put him on the opponent’s No. 2 receiver and devote extra resources to a No. 1 guy, like the 49ers did with Deion at his zenith.
And if the risk of the trade was lessened somehow — Jacksonville reportedly wants premium compensation (two first-round picks) while Ramsey, who is still on a cheap rookie deal, arrived for training camp in a Brinks truck and rightfully wants to be paid — teams would be foolish not to jump into the fray.
Allow me to be very, very clear, guys - the Chiefs have had discussions with the Jaguars about Ramsey, and a team does that if there’s legit interest. But like I said yesterday, there are major cap considerations and draft capital to consider. https://t.co/4MtA7UtDRU
— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) September 18, 2019
The man is highly quotable and outspoken. He may have worn out his welcome in Jacksonville (and vice versa), but there’s only a handful of men who are 6-foot-1, 208 pounds and can run a 4.3 40 while sticking close with the world’s best athletes.
Ramsey is also a fierce competitor, someone I’d argue might be a good soldier on a winning team, especially one with a coach and quarterback he respects and a looming payday down the road for acclimating himself on the field and off with little drama.
Amid the trade request drama, he is currently slated to play for the Jaguars on Thursday night against Tennessee. If any contender who fits the criteria listed above — here’s looking at you Chiefs, Eagles, Patriots and Seahawks — can mitigate their risk and feel comfortable with Ramsey’s ability to fit into the locker room, there’s lots of potential for him to be a Super Bowl-swinging game changer.
2. The Ravens, Lamar Jackson might keep destroying teams with play-action
After beating up on the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, two of the NFL’s worst teams, the Ravens will face a tougher test Sunday, when they take on one of the favorites to win the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs.
If Jackson and the Ravens plan on taking the next step and vaulting themselves into the “contender” discussion, the first thing I noticed while reviewing film is their play-action game.
The Ravens’ heavy (and successful) use of play-action has been a revelation (as you can see in the video above).
Football Outsiders has the Ravens using play-action at a rate of 48 percent — the second-highest in the league — with the league-wide average sitting in the neighborhood of 26 percent. What’s more, they’re averaging 10.2 yards per play-action play, which ranks a solid 11th in the league, considering how much they use it.
The Ravens have been able to lean on these concepts thanks to the spryness of 29-year-old running back Mark Ingram and Jackson’s improved accuracy. And when the Ravens are feeling frisky, they even incorporate run-pass options — plays where Jackson can hand off or throw — to add an extra layer of difficulty for the defense.
Expect play-action to again play an important role in the Ravens’ gameplan. As I detailed in the video above, the Chiefs’ play-action defense has left something to be desired, as it’s surrendering 16 yards per play on such concepts, the fifth-most in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
3. Daniel Jones’ biggest concern in Week 3
With Daniel Jones getting the nod at starting quarterback for the New York Giants, he’ll face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that has been ornery over the first two weeks of the season, currently ranking eighth in total defense after facing the Panthers and 49ers and making both team’s quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo and Cam Newton) look bad.
A big reason for the Bucs’ success in their 20-14 road win last Thursday was defensive end Shaq Barrett, who hounded Newton all game long, earning NFC defensive player of the week honors by racking up three sacks and four QB hits with a pair of gorgeous rip moves, a pure bull rush and an unblocked free rush.
Barrett also provided stout defense at the goal line, setting Christian McCaffrey up to be stuffed short of the marker on fourth-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 2 with 1:28 left.
Here’s a video of these highlights (look for No. 58 in white, working against the left tackle):
Barrett, 26, is second in the NFL in sacks with four and is tied for third in the league in QB hits with five. The fifth-year pro signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Buccaneers this offseason after tallying 18 sacks in four years with Denver. He is on pace for the best season of his career, and if he keeps it up — he’ll have another opportunity to pad his stats Sunday against a rookie making his first career start in Jones — Barrett will earn a whole lot more than $4 million on his next deal.
4. The merciless Mercilus
The Los Angeles Chargers have struggled to protect Philip Rivers on the edge this season, which is hardly a surprise considering they’re missing starting left tackle Russell Okung.
The Chargers will need their current bookends — Trent Scott and Sam Tevi — to be on point on Sunday against the Houston Texans, and it isn’t just because of J.J. Watt.
Texans edge rusher Whitney Mercilus has been in Watt’s Texas-sized shadow for a long time, but the truth is, he is a very good player, someone who deserves more respect as he has never made a Pro Bowl.
And Mercilus, the AFC’s defensive player of the week, was a menace in the Texans’ 13-12 win over the Jaguars in Week 2, racking up a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles, including one on one of the best pass-rush spin moves I’ve seen this year. He had another via a sweet outside rip (look for No. 59 in white, working against the left tackle):
Mercilus was also a factor in Week 1 vs. the Saints, racking up five tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass deflection and an interception.
Hopefully he keeps it up and earns his first Pro Bowl nod.
For more film analysis over the course of the week, check out my Snapchat (Terez_Paylor).
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