After all the clamor over the Ravens’ defensive losses this offseason, coach John Harbaugh has made this much abundantly clear to the unit: To succeed, they also need to make noise. Real, actual noise.
In his first meeting with reporters after organized team activities last month, Harbaugh said, “We always say, ‘A good defense is a loud defense.’ ” After last week’s second open practice, he reiterated the same message: “A loud practice is a great practice on defense.”
In a conference call last week with holders of personal seat licenses, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said too much is made over who relays defensive signals to the team before the snap. But with the departures of signal callers C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle to the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams, respectively, Bisciotti said that for inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor, “This is his time.”
“Now I feel like I have to step up in that role and communicate a lot more,” Onwausor said after practice Thursday. “Be loud, vocal, get a couple players lined up, adjust the front and do a lot of different things that we really had C.J. do. I just used to play fast and play off of him. But now, I have to step up into that role and just make certain communication calls a lot quicker.”
The soft-spoken Onwuasor, entering the final year of his rookie deal after signing a restricted-free-agent tender, will not have to talk like Steve Smith Sr. to command the defense from the middle of the field. Mosley, his mentor, was a laid-back locker room presence who, teammates knew, spoke up when necessary.
But this is an important transitional period for Onwuasor. He said he still talks often with Mosley, whom he had peppered with questions as he prepared for the possibility of succeeding him. Now there’s a role reversal: As a returning starter, “everybody turns to you for direction if they need to know where they need to go.” He said he likes it that way.
“I’m not going to put over-importance on one guy communicating in our defense. Our defense is a communication defense,” Harbaugh said last week. “But Patrick is in the middle of the defense. He understands the defense inside and out right now, and he’s communicating exceptionally well. Our offense makes checks, I see him making checks, so he’s been directing those guys back there really well, and I expect him to have a great season.”
As a junior for the Sooners in 2017, Andrews led all Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends with 958 receiving yards. Only one teammate finished with more: Brown, who had 57 catches for 1,095 yards and seven touchdowns.
“I was ecstatic,” Andrews said Thursday of the Ravens taking Brown with the No. 25 overall pick in April’s draft. “Marquise is, first of all, a great teammate, something I remembered from playing with him. But he’s an electric player. He’s a guy that’s going to change a game in a blink of an eye.
“I remember being on the field a couple of times, and we ran one play and it was a touchdown — then I’d get to run off and rest some more. He’s a guy like that. He’s going to change games. He’s so fast and so electric that it’s going to be tough for defenses to stay over top of him.”
Brown, who had 1,318 receiving yards last season, has been sidelined throughout OTAs while recovering from surgery he underwent in January for a Lisfranc (foot) injury. He’s expected to return for the start of training camp.
“He’s been good,” Harbaugh said last month. “He’s been rehabbing and training, trying to learn the offense. Other than that, that’s all I’ve seen. We haven’t seen much, but he has a great attitude. He’s always in good spirits, just a good dude.”
With road games against the Seattle Seahawks and Rams (both approximately 2,300 miles as the crow flies), the Ravens are one of just seven teams with multiple road games requiring one-way travel of 2,000-plus miles this season.
The team had a relatively light travel load last year, racking up just 11,548 miles, seventh fewest in the league, according to CBS Sports. The team didn't play a game west of the Mississippi River until Week 14, when it narrowly lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime. Two weeks later, the Ravens beat the host Los Angeles Chargers on short rest, 22-10.
The Oakland Raiders, who play in London and will go 49 days without a home game this year, lead the NFL with 32,023 travel miles in 2019. Among AFC North teams, the Cincinnati Bengals are 12th overall, followed by the No. 16 Pittsburgh Steelers and No. 22 Cleveland Browns.
Four of the best
Four Ravens players had performances that rank among the NFL’s 100 best since 2006, according to Pro Football Focus’ single-game ratings.
Guard Marshal Yanda turned in the highest-rated game, at No. 74 overall: According to PFF, his career-best run-blocking grade in a 2014 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been surpassed just once.
Behind Yanda was cornerback Corey Graham (No. 77), who, on just three targets, had two interceptions and a pass breakup in 2013 against the New York Jets. Safety Ed Reed's performance in the Ravens' 2006 AFC divisional-round playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts (two interceptions, one pass breakup) was No. 78 overall, while guard Kelechi Osemele was No. 98 for the best game of his Ravens career, in 2015 against the visiting Cleveland Browns.