Talking Ravens with Dan Bryden of Baltimore Sports and Life


June 25, 2013|By Matt Vensel | The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore sports scene is blessed with a bunch of talented bloggers who bring their unique perspective to the conversation. Each week, I hope to chat with one of them in a regular feature called Blogger on Blogger. This week, I exchanged emails with Dan Bryden, who blogs about the Ravens for Baltimore Sports and Life.

MV: The Ravens overhauled their front seven in the offseason and there could be as many as five new starters there this season. How do you see them utilizing the newcomers and do you anticipate any schematic changes?

DB: As we all know, Dean Pees will move players around to many spots with various responsibilities. But the new guys I see making an immediate impact are Chris Canty, Arthur Brown and Elvis Dumervil. At a towering 6 feet 7, Chris Canty showed the ability to penetrate as an interior pass rusher as well as maintain gap integrity in the lateral run game. Many are high on Arthur Brown and, although expectations should be tempered based on his youth and offseason injuries, I see Brown as a welcome addition in many ways. His fit at the weakside linebacker spot is ideal because he can accentuate his ability to sift through the “trash” and scrape to make tackles on lateral runs while minimizing head-on impacts, which were a weakness of his. I don’t expect a sack-per-game year from Dumervil, but provided Pees’ scheme can reduce his run-down snaps, he fits extremely well as a rush specialist away from the offensive strength.

MV: What about linebacker Daryl Smith in particular? He flew under the radar for many years in Jacksonville. If he is healthy, what are your expectations for him?

DB: Daryl Smith has quietly had a very productive career as a Jaguar. Smith played each linebacker spot in their 4-3, but his home position was on the strong side. I think he was miscast in this role, as he often used every bit of strength and positioning he could muster just to stalemate bigger lineman and fullbacks in the run game. Smith does his best work when protected from bigger bodies (i.e. ILB in the standard 3-4 or weakside in a 4-3).  What concerns me most about Smith is his cover skills. Entering his 10th year, he still has impressive straight-line speed to stick with tight ends up the seam, but his hips no longer have the flexibility to change direction, especially in the horizontal plane. I expect to see the Ravens run more of a traditional 3-4 this year allowing the D-line to eat up space and keep the larger blockers away from the smallish linebackers Smith and Brown.

MV: Matt Elam was all over the place -- in a good way -- during the mandatory minicamp a couple of weeks ago. Having watched him in college, what do you expect his role will be and how will he mesh with Michael Huff?

DB: Elam’s versatility was likely a huge selling point for Ozzie and Co. during the draft. Elam played all over Florida’s secondary, including slot corner, deep half safety, single-high safety, and outside corner. That said, I think Huff is the biggest free agency addition this offseason, and I can see him and Elam playing off each other in many unpredictable ways. I expect Elam to play near the line of scrimmage more often as an outside run support guy or QB Spy/Robber. Any mistakes that Elam makes due to his attacking nature can be covered up by Huff’s above-average range on the back end. Elam and Huff are an improvement over Pollard and Reed in my eyes, but Pees won’t need to revamp his strategy. Huff and Elam will fit very well into a scheme that leans on Cover-4, Cover-3, and disguised outside blitzes. My biggest concern about Elam (besides his hyper-aggressiveness) is covering tight ends or taller wide receivers. The scheme can only hide the fact that he is 5-10 for so long.

MV: The Ravens cut All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach two weeks ago, leaving Kyle Juszczyk as the only fullback on the team, though there are questions about his ability to be a lead blocker. How might the Ravens adapt without Leach?

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