Jump to content
ExtremeRavens: The Sanctuary

Ravens Insider: Mike Preston’s Ravens observations on new NFL rules, pass rush concerns, Lamar Jackson and more | COMMENTARY


Recommended Posts

NFL owners made the right decision by approving a drastic change to the kickoff rules this week, potentially putting a game-changing play back on the field.

The call was made after kickoff returns dropped to a record-low 23.7% in 2023. Now the kicking unit will line up at the opposing team’s 40-yard line with at least nine players on the receiving team lined up in a “setup” zone between their own 35 and 30 and two returners in a “landing zone” between the goal line and the 20.

Only the kicker and returner(s) will be allowed to move until the ball hits the ground or a player in the landing zone. No fair catches will be allowed, and touchbacks will be marked at the 30.

There will be some other minor changes, but now the kick return can have a major impact like a long pass or an interception returned for a touchdown.

One of the most demoralizing aspects of any game is for an offense to go on one of those run-dominated, 12-play, 85-yard scoring drives, which can crush the psyche of a team.

But on the next play, the opponent can return the kickoff for a touchdown and change the course of the game.

The NFL might get some new stars, such as former game-changing kickoff returners Mel Gray, Gale Sayers, Devin Hester and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.

Even back in the late 1960’s, the Green Bay Packers had a top-flight kickoff returner in Travis Williams and the Dallas Cowboys answered with Bob Hayes, who were two of the fastest sprinters in the world.

In football, there needs to be as many big plays as possible. The NFL finally returned one of the biggest to the game.

Hip-drop conundrum

Owners also decided to ban the hip-drop tackle, in which a defender grabs a ball carrier, twists and then drops his hips onto the player’s knees and/or ankles.

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson used one on Ravens tight end Mark Andrews in a Week 11 matchup, and the three-time Pro Bowl selection was sidelined with an ankle injury for seven games.

The hip-drop tackle, which now results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down, will be as subjective as pass interference and will vary from official to official and game to game.

Some defensive players are already squawking because a lot of the rules are already in favor of the offense. But when a ball carrier is near the goal line, like Andrews was when he was tackled, defenders aren’t concerned about legality. They just want to bring the player to the ground by any means necessary.

That’s why the interpretation of the rule will vary, like we see with pass interference. In the postseason, some officials will let defensive players virtually mug receivers down the field compared with the soft approach during the regular season.

Bring back Van Noy

The Ravens need to keep pursuing pass rusher Kyle Van Noy now that fellow outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney reportedly agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. Last year, the veterans combined for 18 1/2 sacks.

Even if Van Noy re-signs with the Ravens, they still need to pursue another pass rusher, perhaps in free agency or the draft.

The Ravens would like to build their hopes around current young linebackers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo, but they did that at the beginning of training camp last year and it didn’t work out well.

Oweh started 13 of 17 regular-season games but had only 23 tackles, including five sacks. Ojabo was placed on injured reserve Sept. 30 with a partially torn ACL. He missed his entire rookie season in 2022 with an Achilles tendon injury.

The assumption here was Clowney was going to sign a lucrative deal because he played so well with the Ravens. Van Noy might not sign a contract until after training camp starts, and at age 33, he won’t be in any hurry to get there. Clowney, though, had a better season.

“Yes, I think David is going to just break out,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at the NFL owners meetings. “I think he and Odafe are going to be partners in crime. I think those guys are going to play great together. They are ready to roll, man. Every time I talk to them [and] every time I see them, they are brimming with enthusiasm. They are working hard, and [David] is healthy. They are both healthy. I can’t wait to get to work with those guys.”

From good to great?

I love the Ravens talking about quarterback Lamar Jackson’s possible new role in the offense, but it won’t change much.

It can’t.

After six years, Jackson is a running quarterback, and if the Ravens take that element out of the offense then he becomes just an average passer.

The Ravens signed running back Derrick Henry to a two-year contract worth $16 million on March 12, and he’ll be able to handle most of the loaded offensively. This will not be the same Henry who has rushed for 9,502 yards throughout his eight-year career, but the Ravens should be able to get at least one more good year out of him.

It will come down to offensive coordinator Todd Monken — again. Entering his second year, he has proven he can make an average offense good, but can he make a good offense great?

Best of Beckham

The Ravens aren’t bringing back veteran receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for another season, but they got exactly what I expected from him on his one-year, $15 million contract.

He appeared in 14 regular-season games and had 35 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns.

He was a leader, a positive player in the locker room and completely opposite of all the foolishness we’ve heard about him during his five-year stay with the New York Giants and three seasons in Cleveland.

He could still run slants and had some explosiveness, but he wasn’t going to beat the best cornerbacks on the outside. His experience will be missed in the classroom and on the field.

Calling out Kolar

Message to tight end Charlie Kolar: Get strong in the weight room during the offseason. With Andrews coming back and Isaiah Likely ready to step up after a strong season in 2023, Kolar’s only chance to get on the field is as a blocker.

He is 6 feet 6 and already weighs 270 to 275 pounds. Andrews doesn’t really want to block, even though he has improved in that area, and Likely has shown he wants no part of mixing it up. Time for Kolar to step up.

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...