Divisional standouts – the top-graded players in AFC North play - Daniel Rymer
2. MARSHAL YANDA, G, BALTIMORE RAVENS
Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 82.6
Although Yanda only played two games last season, he met the 50-snap qualifier and made the list at number two. Yanda allowed a pressure rate of just 2.4% in the two divisional games he played in last season, which ranks first overall among the division’s guards in AFC North games. Yanda also made an impact on running plays, as he earned a run-blocking grade of 77.6, ranking second out of 11 qualifying guards in divisional play. Look for Yanda to reclaim his spot as one of the league’s best guards as he makes his return this season.
2. MICHAEL PIERCE, DI, BALTIMORE RAVENS
Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 88.2
Michael Pierce made his presence known in the AFC North last season by being a force in the trenches. His 86.2 run defense grade in divisional games ranked second among AFC North interior defenders, and his 14 run stops were the most. With his overall grade making a big jump from year one to year two, Pierce is on track to be mentioned among the best interior defenders in his third year.
Fullback Patrick Ricard, safety Anthony Levine and defensive tackle Brandon Williams earned honorable mentions for their play against the divisional foes.
32 Notes, 32 Teams: Welcome to the 2018 NFL Season - Albert Breer
Baltimore Ravens: Much of the Ravens hopes for a revival rides on a crew of defensive draft picks selected from 2016-18. Coaches raved early about third-year LB Matt Judon, and they’ve been buzzing about sophomore rusher Tim Williams of late. Both look like the kind of explosive bookends they’ve been looking for opposite Terrell Suggs.
The development of their young edge rushers, coupled with coordinator Martindale’s aggressive playcalling, could enable the Ravens to lead the NFL in sacks. Pittsburgh’s 56 sacks were the most in the league last season.
QB Index, Week 1: Aaron Rodgers poised for MVP run - Gregg Rosenthal
20. Joe Flacco QB Ravens
I’m probably being swayed way too much by a preseason in which Flacco looked healthier than he has in years. When he’s right, Flacco has proven he can make more plays on his own than guys below, like Ryan Tannehill.
2017 stats: 16 games | 64.1 pct | 3,141 pass yds | 5.7 ypa | 18 pass TD | 13 INT | 1 rush TD
Flacco is sandwiched between Andy Dalton (19) and Tyrod Taylor (21) in Rosenthal’s rankings.
Ravens’ secret weapon? Lamar Jackson ‘absolutely’ ready to play - Jamison Hensley
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh declined to say earlier in the week whether quarterback Lamar Jacksonwould be active in Sunday’s season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
If called upon, would Jackson be ready to take the field for a handful of specialty plays?
”Absolutely,” Jackson said with a smile. “I’ve been preparing for it through the OTAs, rookie minicamp. I’m just ready.”
“It’s difficult practicing against the kid,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “When you have an explosive and phenomenal talent like that, it’s very fun if he’s on your team, and it’s not fun to prepare against him.”
One area where the Ravens could utilize Jackson is in the red zone. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, Baltimore has ranked No. 28 inside the 20-yard line, scoring touchdowns on 51.5 percent of its trips there.
Harbaugh may opt to save the specialty plays they devised for Jackson until Week 2 against Cincinnati. Regardless, adding an electric playmaker such as Lamar to the field would be beneficial. Besides John Brown, the Ravens do not have many bonafide game breakers on offense while Hayden Hurst is injured, as Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead are possession type receivers.