The Baltimore Ravens suffered a heartbreaking 33-27 loss on “Monday Night Football” against the Las Vegas Raiders, but former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is not worried.
Nolan had a coaching career in the college ranks and the NFL that spanned nearly 40 years. He was with the Ravens from 2001-2004, serving as the wide receivers coach in 2001 and the defensive coordinator from 2002-2004. Nolan parlayed that into a head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers (2005-2008).
After his stint in San Francisco, Nolan bounced around in the league for the next decade-plus. This summer, Nolan, 62, called the Ravens’ three preseason games alongside play-by-play man Gerry Sandusky and former Ravens safety Rod Woodson.
The Ravens’ defense put forth a concerning performance against the Raiders, allowing 409 passing yards and 82 rushing yards in Las Vegas.
“The Ravens just couldn’t get in a groove defensively,” Nolan said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 14. “I know early in the game, they didn’t even bring any pressure. They just went with a four-man rush to start the game, which was a little bit uncharacteristic. … Some of the blitzes backfired on them — even the last play of the game, that was an all-out blitz.”
Nolan is referring to Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones’ game-winning touchdown. During the play, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey was bumped by teammate cornerback Chris Westry, giving Jones separation from Humphrey.
Nolan doesn’t think the blitz call was a questionable one.
“Everybody else needs to be off and allow [Humphrey] to work through and then they can pick up their man from there. And that’s not what happened,” Nolan said. “… I don’t question the call whatsoever. They were committing people to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. They have a good secondary to challenge those receivers. It was not a mistake. The execution got them in trouble in the bunch [formation].”
That wasn’t all. Throughout the game, Ravens slot corner Tavon Young struggled against Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow. Young also had two pass-interference penalties, one of which helped lead to a Raiders touchdown in the second quarter.
“Those things are going to happen in the NFL and you’ve got to prepare for those,” Nolan said. “I don’t think that cost them the game.”
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens’ offense tallied 406 total yards (217 in the air and 189 on the ground). However, the offensive line had trouble protecting quarterback Lamar Jackson. Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby had two sacks, five quarterback hits and 13 hurries on his own. Right tackle Alejandro Villanueva struggled in his Ravens debut, but he will reportedly move to the left side for now due to a setback suffered by Ronnie Stanley.
“I think they’re going to give it time [with Villanueva], which is the right thing to do. They’re going to be patient,” Nolan said.
Nolan believes the running game game is in need of major improvements. The Ravens turned to second-year running back Ty’Son Williams and veteran free-agent signing Latavius Murray to run the rock. Nolan says the lack of cohesiveness in the backfield forced the Ravens away from what they’ve traditionally done in the read-option game with Jackson.
“The biggest issue with the running back situation going forward is going to be ball security, and I’m not talking about necessarily the guys dropping the ball themselves,” Nolan said. “In the option game, that’s a sensitive kind of a deal with the quarterback — when to keep it, when to give it, when am I clamping down on it, when am I not.”
The Ravens are without running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards all season, but Nolan believes the team only needs a serviceable back. He thinks Murray can fit the mold that they’re looking for.
“He’s a big, strong guy that runs hard, runs downhill, so he fits their power running game that they do so often,” Nolan said.
Nolan remains optimistic about the Ravens this season. Even with the Raiders loss and the Chiefs looming Sept. 19, he expressed a positive outlook for fans.
“It’s certainly not time to jump off the bridge with this team. The Ravens are an excellent football team,” Nolan said. “… There are 16 more games to come, so I think that’s all going to be fine. They’ll get back on track [and] everything will be great.”
For more from Nolan, listen to the full interview here:
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