Cooper Kupp is on pace to pass Calvin Johnson’s single-season passing record by ONE YARD! Not only does Kupp lead the league in receiving yards, but he also leads in touchdowns, first downs, and yards after the catch. He has had 10 100+ yard receiving games and only one game with less than 90 yards. Kupp averages just under 12 targets per game. The next best receiver’s average is just under 10. So what this means is he is getting thrown at a lot every game regardless of who is covering him. He has had some of the best corners covering him but is still able to rack up a historic season.
This weekend Kupp will have a chance to make up a lot of ground on Megatron when he lines up in the slot against Tavon Young. Young is Baltimore’s primary nickel corner and at the moment is their best coverage corner left on the depth chart. The Ravens lost Marcus Peters before the season to a torn ACL and lost Marlon Humphrey to a torn pectoral in early December.
The Ravens secondary has struggled this season. John Harbaugh elected to go for a two-point conversion because his secondary was unable to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. According to Pro Football Focus, the Ravens are graded 27th in coverage grade and they are ranked 30th by DVOA per Football Outsiders. So While Young may be the best defensive back on the Ravens, that bar is not very high at the moment.
That said, Young has had some of his best performances against teams with dynamic receivers. He has had good showings against the Vikings and two solid games against the Bengals. He isn’t a flashy corner in that he doesn’t create turnovers or bat away passes. He wins by playing physical. He also doesn’t allow slot receivers to make big plays. Young is fourth among slot corners in receiving yards allowed with 276. That averages to just 18.4 yards allowed per game when in slot coverage.
On a whole, the Ravens will likely struggle to stop the Rams passing game, but it would go a long way for them if they could limit Kupp’s explosive big gainers. Three of the Rams four losses have come when Kupp has been held to under 100 yards.
Mark Andrews is having the best pass-catching season of his career. Not only that but he is also having his best pass blocking seasons as well. He and George Kittle are the only two tight ends to be graded by PFF in the 90’s for receiving and in the 70’s for pass blocking. Not only is he among the best tight ends in the league, but he is also the best (and most reliable) receiver on his team. He has been targeted only three more times than the next best Raven, Marquise Brown, but has 234 more receiving yards. He has also caught 9 of the teams 21 passing touchdowns.
The inside linebacker spot for the Rams has been a difficult one for them to navigate. They have rotated players in and out of that spot until landing on Ernest Jones. Jones seemed to be the right fit but landed on the injury/reserve with a high ankle sprain last week. When he left the game against the Vikings, one time starter Troy Reeder and special teamer Travin Howard filled in for him. Reeder had a good game against the Vikings. He came up with four big stops and more importantly he didn’t miss any tackles.
What makes this a key matchup is that Reeder struggles in coverage. Andrews primarily lines up in the slot and Jalen Ramsey has the Rams most snaps at nickel corner, but the Rams rarely pair him up with tight ends. Tight end coverage has primarily been the duty of the various inside linebackers. Jones has been the most consistent of them and Reeder has struggled down right when in coverage. Keeping a linebacker on Andrews could prove to be deadly.
What makes the Ravens offense particularly hard to defend is the combination of Andrews pass-catching and Lamar Jackson’s ability to run the ball. When the inside linebacker is engaged in coverage that gives Jackson more room to run. And we all have seen what can be done when that happens.
Ramsey is often paired with the team’s number one receiver. It will be interesting to see how the Rams handle a team whose number one just so happens to be a tight end.
Patrick Ricard vs Whoever is in front of him
For those of you who haven’t heard of Patrick Ricard here is a brief introduction. Ricard is 6’3” 310 lbs and played his college ball at the University of Maine. He was picked up by the Ravens in 2017 as an undrafted free agent. He is a “fullback” who has caught five touchdowns and has recorded a sack and a forced fumble. How does a fullback get a sack and a forced fumble? Well, he has also played 225 snaps at defensive end in addition to his 1,516 offensive snaps.
But since Jackson has joined the team, Ricard’s primary duty is as a bulldozer that clears the path for Jackson and the rest of the Ravens run game. The result? Ricard has had three straight trips to the Pro Bowl, including being elected to the 2021 Pro Bowl.
Ricard’s combination of size and speed makes him a unique force to be dealt with. Jackson has plenty of talent when scrambling for yards, but it helps that he has a battering ram as a lead blocker and one that can get out of the backfield quickly. He is relentless when pushing defensive linemen down up the field, so much so. he has earned the nickname “Pancake Pat.” If the Ravens are running the ball there is a good chance that Ricard will be the lead blocker for that runner. He blocks everywhere, from up the gut to around the edge, so no defender is safe.
This means that there will be an incredible matchup between an immovable object and an unstoppable force if the Ravens try to run at Aaron Donald.
The dynamic duo of Jackson and Ricard have missed the last few games which coincide with a four-game losing streak. Both have been limited in practice this week, but Ricard is on track to return to the lineup before Sunday, but Jackson’s return looks to be a game-time decision.