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Baltimore Ravens

Ravens’ Don Martindale on depleted defense: ‘I don’t know if we are playing football or the Squid Games’ | NOTES

Things have been unsettling for Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. From injuries to COVID, the team has been forced to make adjustments on the fly while players are thrown into unexpected roles.

The Ravens will head into Sunday’s pivotal divisional matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals with 11 defensive players on the injured reserve and nine on the reserve/COVID-19 list. All Martindale can do is look at the roster and be amazed about how much has changed since training camp.

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“If you go from the beginning of the season with our roster to right now, I don’t know if we are playing football or the Squid Games,” Martindale said, referencing the popular Netflix show that features contestants competing in children’s games with deadly stakes. “I mean, It’s crazy how things have changed so much.”

In the Ravens’ 31-30 loss against the Green Packers on Sunday, they were without their entire secondary, as safety Chuck Clark landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list a few days before the game. Clark’s absence prompted safety Geno Stone to call the defensive signals on the field despite never playing more than 28% of the defensive snaps before the game.

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With the AFC North title hanging in the balance, the Ravens’ defense will possibly be depleted even further with defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, inside linebacker Kristian Welch and outside linebackers Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Martindale thinks the players who tested positive are in a tough spot because they want to compete with their teammates in a high-stakes game. However, for the ones who can play, they have a “next man up” mentality.

“Everybody knows the standard when they walk in this building,” Martindale said. “Like I said before, the personnel department led by [general manager] Eric [DeCosta], [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis] and [director of player personnel] Joe [Hortiz], I think they selected the right guys to be here. We just got to play catch up with them.”

Defending Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase

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Martindale said he doesn’t plan to implore the same defensive scheme he used to combat Packers receiver Davante Adams on Bengals rookie Ja’Marr Chase, who made eight catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in his first matchup against the Ravens.

“To sit here and have you think that we’re gonna run the same plan against Ja’Marr Chase like we did Davante Adams and [Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers, we’re going down the wrong street,” Martindale said. “Like I said last week Davante Adams is a two top receiver in the league and he’s not number two.”

The Ravens held Adams to six catches for 44 yards and touchdown by implementing a defensive package called “17 Bulldogs” that involved a ton of double coverages. Rodgers said it was one of the most interesting defensive schemes that he had seen “in a long time.”

Martindale said the Ravens will have to do something different because Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow is not Aaron Rodgers and the Bengals have three talented receivers and tight end C.J. Uzomah.

“Aaron Rodgers is a Hall of Fame quarterback and I don’t think we’re ready to buy a gold jacket for Joe,” Martindale said. “But it’s going to be a tough challenge because you know of the three-headed monster they have a wide receiver and everybody sleeps on [Uzomah].”

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Extra points

>> Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said the Ravens “definitely want to be more productive” on 2-point-conversion attempts. The team is 2-for-8 this season, including crucial fourth-quarter misses in each of the past three weeks. “I don’t think we’re very happy with our production,” he said. “So that’s something that we’re certainly working at, to improve that to, get it to where we want it to be.”

>> Special teams coordinator Chris Horton said the Ravens “put a lot of work” into wide receiver Devin Duvernay’s growth as a punt returner, where he had no experience before joining the Ravens in 2020. Duvernay, who leads the NFL in punt return average in his first season as a full-time starter, was named to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday as a return specialist. “It was all hands on deck with him,” Horton said. “And once we realized what we had, we knew, if we took care of business and we helped him make great decisions, we would get him to where we want to get him to. We’re very humbled. We’re very excited about what he’s done. But quite honestly, he’s just getting started.”


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