The one weak spot in the Ravens’ generally outstanding pass defense has been coverage of tight ends, where they rank 25th in the league in efficiency, according to the analytics web site FootballOutsiders.com.
That could be a problem this Sunday when they’ll face arguably the most dangerous tight end in the league in Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.
Kelce is the favorite target of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and has caught 79 passes for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games. He’s the rare tight end who demands to be covered like a No. 1 wide receiver.
“He’s very fluid, unique, athletic in his route-running,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. “That’s what separates the great ones from the good ones, is just the fluidity of the routes, not being so robotic — ‘get to 10 yards, stop, turn.’ [He] puts some sauce into it. And it makes you think, ‘All right, what is he doing? Is this the route he’s going to do?’ I love the way he plays — a playmaker. He’s obviously a tough challenge for us, but we have guys that can cover.”
Might the Ravens react by shadowing Kelce with one of their fast, physical cornerbacks, Marlon Humphrey or Jimmy Smith?
“I didn’t think about that,” Smith said with a sly grin. “I don’t know, maybe our coaches might think of something like that. That would be something for them to look at.”
Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said the answer does not lie with any one defender.
“I don’t think that you stop him,” he said of Kelce. “I think you just try to eliminate the big plays — not eliminate but limit the big plays that he makes, because he’s playing at such a high level right now. I think you have to keep things changing. You have to keep things rolling on both he and [Tyreek] Hill at receiver, and also with [quarterback Patrick] Mahomes in the coverage. I think you just have to keep revolving your coverages around it and how you play it, and just try to give them different looks all the time. If they know what you’re in, they will slaughter you.”