Our Interview with the Enemy series continues this week with Spencer Schultz from Baltimore Beatdown. Spencer joins us to answer a few quick questions before the Baltimore Ravens face the New Orleans Saints at home in Caesars Superdome for MNF.
TH: Let’s talk about Lamar Jackson. He is the face of the franchise, fans seem to adore him, but he is in the last year of his rookie contract so what has been the holdup on signing him to a long-term deal? Do you think that it will get done and soon or will there be complications that could jeopardize the relationship between the Ravens and Jackson?
SS: Two factors have drawn this process out to an uncomfortable position. One — Jackson doesn’t have an agent. Two — Deshaun Watson’s contract with the Browns. The Ravens were happy to exceed Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray’s contracts for Jackson. That would’ve left them the ability to manipulate the cap annually as they continue to build around him a touch. However, it’s reported that Jackson isn’t happy with second best. It’s tough trying to explain to a player, as opposed to a player’s agent who is a medium to soften the blow, as to why they aren’t worthy of the contract they desire. Jackson has reportedly used the NFLPA as his advocates in negotiations, who will certainly advocate for a fully guaranteed contract to prove Watson’s contract isn’t an outlier. Ravens owner Steve Bisctiotti expressed frustration with Watson’s contract in Cleveland at owner’s meetings in March, “I don’t know that he should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me, that’s something that is groundbreaking, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.” Clearly, it has.
TH: The Ravens just traded for LB Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears. Did this trade surprise you? Do you think he will play Monday night and how much of an impact do you think he will make in this game?
SS: It didn’t surprise me, as the Ravens were all in on Bobby Wagner during the off-season. Baltimore loves them some linebackers, General Manager Eric DeCosta has spoken glowingly of Smith in the past and the Ravens also have a history of trading for defensive playmakers ahead of the trade deadline (Marcus Peters and Yannick Ngakoue.) Smith will make an impact in this game. He had 11 tackles, two TFL’s and a PBU when the Bears played the Saints in 2020. He’s one of the few players who can somewhat deal with Alvin Kamara in the open field to a degree and is adept in coverage.
TH: What is the biggest obstacle that the Ravens will face in order defeat the Saints on Monday night?
SS: The biggest obstacle the Ravens will face is running the football on Dennis Allen’s defense. The Saints currently rank 12th in DVOA against the run. They’ve finished first, second and fifth over the last three years.
Allen is an elite mind at thwarting opposing rushing attacks, and the Ravens could be without Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman in the pass game which will allow Saints defenders such as Demario Davis, Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Shy Tuttle to square off on stalling out blocks.
At the same time, the red rifle, Andy Dalton, has been a grim reaper against the Ravens for over a decade. While Dalton is 8-10 against Baltimore with a 78.3 passer rating, he’s consistently had standout performances when least expected. The most recent coming in 2021 once the Ravens knocked Justin Fields out of the game and Dalton promptly led a touchdown drive then threw a deep bomb with less than a minute remaining to take the lead.
TH: Is there a Ravens player who was not on many people’s radars, that has really stood out to you so far this season and why?
SS: There are a litany of under-heralded Ravens players who have made an impact this year. Devin Duvernay has been one of the most efficient receivers in football ranking fifth in EPA/target and hasn’t dropped a catchable pass this season per Sports Info Solutions. Oh, and he’s the best returner in football. Patrick Queen has been one of the best linebackers in football over the last month. Justin Houston is averaging a sack every 15 pass rushes and is ranked fourth in the league with six sacks. Ben Powers has been a brute as a pass protector. Justice Hill has ran the ball with a purpose despite coming off of an Achilles injury in 2021 and is an elite special teamer. Justin Madubuike has blossomed into a demon against zone blocking concepts while already setting a career high in sacks, he’s on pace for 7.5. Calais Campbell is still an absolute force up front, and Geno Stone has been a marvelous backup in lieu of the injured Marcus Williams.
TH: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Ravens are currently 3-point favorites. Do you think they cover the spread and what is your final score prediction?
SS: I believe the Ravens do cover the spread depending on if the Saints are at full strength or not. The Superdome is an incredibly rowdy place to play but the Ravens have been playing complementary football with an efficient offense, a defense that gets off the field and the best special teams in football in every facet. The only way that Baltimore doesn’t cover is if they get blanked in the red zone and don’t generate an explosive touchdown.
Thank you again to Spencer for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check out his work on Baltimore Beatdown
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