In fact, the first of the “Things I Noticed” while reviewing the Week 6 games was the way the Bengals seemed to pick on any Ravens cornerback not named Marlon Humphrey.
While Humphrey, the Ravens’ underrated third-year corner, took care of business Sunday, the trio of Maurice Canady, Brandon Carr and to a lesser extent, Justin Bethel, seemed to be on the receiving end of Bengals coach Zac Taylor’s game plan.
Canady, in particular, surrendered 10 catches for 109 yards on 14 tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, many of them against the Bengals’ Auden Tate, a massive 6-foot-5, 228-pound seventh-round pick from 2018 who caught only five of his 12 targets Sunday but made them count, racking up 91 yards on the day.
Many of them were of the contested variety:
So yes, this trade could be a home run for the Ravens, who surrendered only a fifth-round pick and backup linebacker Kenny Young for a corner who can help them now.
Peters is a fearless zone corner with good ball skills and advanced football IQ that allows him to routinely gamble on routes and make plays on the ball:
And while he needs to be protected with safety help — he’s no burner — when you consider that the Ravens run a healthy amount of zone (unlike the Rams, who prefer man but used more zone to accommodate Peters) it’s a good fit.
“To me, he’s one of the top corners in the league,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday. “He plays the way we play. When I say that, you know the coverages we play. You watch us every day. So, he fits in really well that way and gives us another weapon back there so we can do the things we want to do, defensively. That’s what I’m excited about.”
Peters also brings discernible negatives to the table, but they’ll likely be negated due to the situation he now finds himself in. While he is not shy about sharing his opinion about the scheme or coaching — something that can be exacerbated by losing because he’s so competitive — the Ravens, at 4-2, are the early favorites to win the AFC North, so that risk should be mitigated.
What’s more, Peters, 26, is also in a contract year, which means the Ravens could dangle the possibility of a new contract this offseason in front of him as an additional motivator, even if they have no intention of fulfilling it.
Safety Earl Thomas, a respected, strong and accomplished locker room voice, could help indoctrinate Peters into the Ravens’ culture. Peters cares about football and winning, a trait they both share, and Peters will get a chance to see how much the game matters to Thomas this weekend, when the Ravens travel to Seattle to face Thomas’ old team, the Seahawks.
I’d bet on the super-intense Thomas — who flipped the Seahawks’ sideline the bird while being wheeled off the field after a season-ending injury last October — recording an interception, forced fumble or fumble recovery this weekend, just like I’d bet on Peters doing the same when the Ravens travel to Los Angeles to face Peters’ former team, the Rams, on Nov. 25.
Speaking of the Rams ...
Jalen Ramsey doesn’t fix Rams’ primary problem
Please check this out in the finely made video above — once again produced by my main man Ron Schiltz — but the Los Angeles Rams’ decision to ship Peters out to clear room for Ramsey won’t necessarily cure their Super Bowl hangover.
After racing out to a 3-0 start, the Rams have lost three games in a row, which includes a ridiculous shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in which the Rams, quite plainly, got their butts kicked on the offensive line.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like the trade for the Rams … in a vacuum. Any time a team can acquire an All-Pro 25-year-old corner with elite physical traits and an aggressive demeanor, it has to do it — even if it’s going to cost a boatload of money and premium draft picks.
But the Rams’ offensive line is beat up, and the 49ers exposed some physical limitations they have up front Sunday. Los Angeles couldn’t run the ball the same after their opening drive, and when the Rams’ run game is middling, the play-action is less effective for quarterback Jared Goff, who then has to sling it as a drop-back passer. The New England Patriots proved in last season’s Super Bowl that is the exact thing an opponent wants Goff to do.
The Rams should get back on the winning track soon as they face two of the NFL’s worst pass defenses in the Falcons and Bengals in the coming weeks, but we’ll see what they’re really made of in Weeks 10 and 11 against the Steelers and Bears, who rank third and ninth in the NFL in sacks, respectively.
Here’s how you know Sam Darnold is good
Oh, those were nice — Darnold was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after completing 23 of 32 passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the Jets’ shocking win — but it was the way he did it.
Darnold not only made some nice plays in the pocket — throwing some outright dimes, which you’ll see in the highlights below — he also showed creativity by avoiding the rush, keeping his eyes downfield and making the defense pay:
Here’s another feather in the cap of the Darnold Truthers: if you believe the No. 1 way to evaluate any quarterback is to judge whether he elevates his teammates’ play, then Darnold absolutely passes that test.
The Jets looked lost and abysmal offensively while he sat out for a month with mono — they went 0-3 and converted just five of 40 third downs during that span — but the moment he returned, they immediately became so competent they massacred Vegas in the process.
Of course, Monday’s showdown against the New England Patriots, the undefeated Evil Empire of the NFL, will present a much greater challenge for Darnold and the Jets.
While the Cowboys’ defense ranks a disappointing 25th in DVOA, the Patriots — who rank first — boast a strong run defense and pass defense guided by the NFL’s best defensive mind in coach Bill Belichick.
If Darnold can still move the ball this weekend behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines and a league-average supporting cast, you can consider the NFL on notice.
While other quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL draft class like Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and even Josh Allen have gotten more hype over the past 18 months, the super-competitive Darnold remains a high-ceiling quarterback whose development bears watching.
Could Aaron Rodgers have a new favorite target?
Anytime a young receiver is good enough to get the Green Bay Packers’ notoriously picky Aaron Rodgers to suggest more playing time, he is someone you should pay attention to.
And when you throw in the fact that Allen Lazard — a 23-year-old who went undrafted in 2018 — delivered down the stretch in the Packers’ narrow 23-22 win over Detroit after Rodgers advocated for him, well, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
Lazard caught four of five targets for 65 yards and a touchdown against the Lions, and he looked big, strong and reliable while doing it, using his 10-inch hands to pluck the ball out of the air and his size (6-5, 227 pounds) to run hard after the catch:
Lazard, a former top-50 player nationally as a prep senior, was productive at Iowa State but he was dinged during the pre-draft process for a perceived lack of on-field explosiveness, despite measuring out as an above-average tester during drills.
If he has really earned Rodgers’ trust — and two of the banged-up receivers ahead of him, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison, remain out — don’t be surprised to see Lazard surprise in a tasty matchup against a vulnerable Oakland Raiders secondary.
You remind me of …
Charles Woodson will soon be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as he’s up for election in 2021. I’m not about to compare Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson to him in every sense, however, the way Jackson — a 31-year-old former cornerback who moved to safety this year — moves and plays at his new position, he reminds me a little bit of how Woodson looked during the twilight of his career.
Woodson, who also moved to safety in his 30s, continued to impact the game beyond his prime as a lithe playmaker. Jackson made a few plays in the Broncos’ 16-0 shutout of Tennessee on Sunday that reminded me of some of the things Twilight Years Woodson used to do:
Jackson seems to be aging gracefully like Woodson did. He’s on pace to finish with a solid statline of 72 tackles, 11 passes defended, three forced fumbles and three interceptions this year. He regularly seems to make plays that help the Broncos win games.
Jackson has never made a Pro Bowl, but if he keeps playing like this, that might change this season.
Keith Jackson Call of the Week
When it comes to NFL play-by-play announcers, CBS’s Kevin Harlan is fantastic. He’s so good that he can make a *nice* 23-yard catch-and-run sound much more exciting than that:
Keep it up, Kev.
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