Former Ravens wide receiver and Super Bowl champion Qadry Ismail, now an analyst for WJZ, joined Glenn Clark Radio March 17 to discuss the Ravens’ offseason, including the acquisitions of defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers and the lack of activity on the other side of the ball. Here’s what he had to say.
PressBox: The Ravens have clearly prioritized stopping the run, interior pressure and defensive line in general. Was this, to you, what the priority should’ve been in the open of the NFL league year?
Qadry Ismail: Well, I think if you look at what stopped them from continuing on in the playoffs and shocked the heck out of everybody was the fact that they got Derrick Henry’d. So if you see that, yeah, the back end of your defense looked amazing but the front end suffered. The 49ers, I think that was a game where it was like, “Whoa, boy. If you have a team that can run the ball on you, you’re going to be in trouble.” And while the offense did its thing and Lamar [Jackson] did his thing and they won the 49ers game, I think for what the Tennessee Titans needed to do, they recognized that there’s an opportunity there to steal a victory on the road in the playoffs by running the football. I think that was the weakness that Eric DeCosta and Co. had to address.
PB: Are you at all concerned about the specific edge rush? Calais Campbell might be able to help in the edge rush department, but as far as not knowing exactly how this is going to play out with Matt Judon and coming into this thinking they needed even more maybe than just even Judon, is that a concern to you still?
Ismail: Not really. I think there’s always the veteran presence that you need. I think what Wink Martindale can do is figure out what a guy does best and have at it. Setting the edge has really been the biggest glaring weakness for this ballclub. Gosh, once [Terrell Suggs] left it was, “OK, we’re just going to run and run at will. We can run off tackle.” I think that’s something that Calais Campbell, as far as his presence on one side, and then we’ll see what happens as far as getting a long-term deal or whether they’re going to do some crazy trade again with regards to Matt Judon, but I think overall the defensive front, you need to have guys who can beat one-on-one matchups and at the same time have a level of setting the edge. If you can’t do that, you’re just not going to be successful on defense.
PB: They haven’t yet addressed the offensive line or receiver/tight end, and they’re now a tight end down with Hayden Hurst being gone. Marshal Yanda retired, and now there’s some confusion about what’s going to happen with Matt Skura as they didn’t put a second-round tender on him. He could be available, although he is coming off a knee injury. The money’s gone at this point. They don’t have more money to spend after the moves they’ve made. They do have draft picks. Are you at all apprehensive about what they haven’t done on the offensive side of the ball?
Ismail: Not necessarily. What people forget is there’s a thing called development. You look at Lamar and you saw what he did in his first year. You saw that he had difficulty throwing a spiral. You thought that he was a good runner of the ball and the charismatic way in which he led the team into the playoffs, but clearly the Chargers had his number, but you didn’t go into the offseason saying, “We’re going to have to spend a whole heck of a lot of money getting an upgrade at quarterback.” You were like, “All right, we’ve got to allow him the opportunity to develop.” I think the same thing is to be said across the board with your team, period, when it comes to, say, receiver. I think [Miles] Boykin is in a scenario where he has to develop, and you’ve got to give a guy a chance to develop. For Marquise Brown, I think what he did was to play strong, show off what his gifts and his strengths were, but he has to be consistent as far as number one, healing himself, but number two, his ability to add more tools to the toolbox for himself. And then yes, use the draft picks wisely to foster up an offense. I think at the same time, offensive line is the same way. You have some guys that you feel strategically — you’re not going to break the bank on every single guy, but you’re hoping that you can develop the guys to understand their position on the team and create a level of continuity within that and let the stars be the stars, let the role players shine in their role on the team.
PB: This is a team that we believe is a Super Bowl contender, that we all believe might have a specific window before they pay Lamar Jackson where they can most excel. And anywhere that becomes a question mark in trying to figure out, “Hey, are you going to be able to beat the Chiefs next year? Are you going to be able to beat the best teams in football?” there’s this need to want to have every single thing figured out in the best possible way and leave as few question marks as possible, and maybe that’s just not practicable in the National Football League.
Ismail: This is what I love about the offseason. We start playing fantasy season. This is our fantasy season. “If we do this, then this is just going to solve everything. We’re going to the Super Bowl, it’s over.” All right, well, plug in the Cleveland Browns and tell me how that’s been working out for you. You’ve got to have patience. You’ve got to recognize that there’s going to be things that you didn’t factor in. We don’t know what other teams are going to be doing or not doing. You don’t know who’s going to come available. What you do is you do what you feel right now currently and try to make moves and maneuvers that best helps your team. I think that’s the main priority that I see right now as far as what the Ravens are trying to do.
To hear more from Ismail, listen to the full interview here:
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